Mississippi students take
a byte out of the future
Schools launch ambitious computer-training program
March 20, 1996
From Correspondent Dick Wilson
Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EST
ABERDEEN, Mississippi (CNN) -- For decades, Mississippi has
ranked near last among states in the field of education.
Poverty in both rural and urban areas has held back progress.
The state still ranks 49th in number of computers per student
in the public schools. But Mississippi is trying to leap into
the age of technology.
Lawmakers earmarked $30 million this year for computer
technology, about 2 percent of the total education budget.
The funding has allowed for the creation of an ambitious
computer training program for teachers. "We're trying to
reach those teachers that don't even know what a mouse is or
how to use a mouse," said Betty Lou Pigg, of the Mississippi
Department of Education. "We've had very good response so
Just down the street from the State Capitol building in
Jackson, teachers are learning computer basics. Nearby,
another group is learning the intricacies of the Internet (170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound).
The idea is for the teachers to take their training back to
their schools, with the eventual goal of training every
teacher in Mississippi in computer technology.
All that teacher training pays off in places like Aberdeen,
population 7,000. Computers are becoming a part of daily
life for hundreds of school children (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound).
At the Aberdeen elementary school, kids in kindergarten and
first grade are working up to an hour a day on computers in
their classrooms. Teacher Annette Jones says learning to use
computers is a natural progression for kids who have grown up
playing video games at home (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound).
Federal education officials say Mississippi is making an
important commitment to technology and that other states
could learn from its example and its willingness to innovate.
Education experts say technological training is important
-- not only for itself, but as a tool to teach the ideas that
children need to know.