The Little Red Schoolhouse Goes Virtual

In a world where nearly everything can be done in a virtual setting, it seems no surprise to me that someone has come up with the concept of taking the one-room schoolhouse online. It's all the brainchild of Billy Hudson, a biochemist who directs the Center for Matrix Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The whole idea is to connect rural kids to advanced learning via laptops and Webcasts that enable them to tap in to the vast global network of knowledge that can be much more accessible to 21st century students who just so happen to live in urban areas. So on April 10, Hudson and his team of science educators will launch the Aspirnaut Initiative, a unique science education program where a number of "high ability" middle and high school students who "aspire, seek, and achieve" will get laptops and board a bus equipped with broadband Internet access via cell phone towers to a location where they'll be able to participate in a two-way Webcast organized by the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach. During the Webcast they'll be able to engage in all manner of advanced scientific inquiry despite their rural surroundings. Eventually the goal is for them to log in to sessions during their usual lengthy and circuitous bus rides, and meet at their local church to do so on Saturdays, at night or during the summer when school's not in session and they lack access at home to the broadband capabilities needed due to their remote location. According to Hudson, "By improving K-12 education in rural areas the initiative can help the United States retain its stature as a math and science powerhouse." And with a much needed boost in the understanding of basic science being quite the needed thing in the U.S., let's hope he and his Aspirnauts succeed.

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