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Schools need to speed up on information superhighway

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Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013 12:00 am

The Internet and digital technology change everything about delivering information. That is a challenge to any traditional institution that informs or teaches.

Every newspaper knows that.

And we know that the sooner you start to learn something new, the sooner you reach mastery.

You would think everybody in education would know that.

But we are starting to worry about our public schools, starting with Lodi Unified School District.

Last summer, trustee George Neely proposed that his fellow board members study creating an all-digital campus — just look at it.

A week later, the idea was put aside.

Late last month, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey made a splash on the 'Net and on our front page by telling young people they should "learn to code" — think about computer programming as a career. They released a video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU1xS07N-FA) entitled "What most schools don't teach."

Turns out Lodi schools are no exception. Most top officials we spoke to about the video sort of talked around the issue of schools not teaching programming. At least LUSD president Ralph Womack was honest enough to say he didn't know of any classes in coding at LUSD. He did say: "We're always looking ..." for new high-tech career classes.

Something tells us the search could be accelerated.

The Internet and popularization of information technology challenge schools in two ways. First, of course, schools have a duty to teach subjects that give students a chance to succeed in a changing job market. But the bigger challenge is how to teach all subjects in an era of nearly unlimited access to nearly unlimited information.

Kids learn all sorts of things on the Web, but they don't learn must of it in school.

This challenge affects schools at all levels.

This week, we ran stories about the faculty of the University of California being skeptical of online courses offered by private tech schools and other universities. The next day, we ran a story about college students struggling to balance 30- and 40-hour a week jobs with the demands of school.

Some school leaders seem to miss the fact that a traditional education is very labor intensive, and therefore increasingly expensive. Online courses are not only much cheaper, but evidence is also mounting that they are just as effective ways to learn.

Many of the California Community Colleges have embraced online classes and distance learning to the benefit of their students.

Schools need to be smart about adopting improved technology, yes.

But schools also need to be leaders in adopting better information technology and teaching methods — not fearful followers.

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