Schools bridging digital divide

By 2000, every classroom in the U.S. will be wired, educators told.

NEW YORK -- The coolest thing in the classroom these days is the Internet.

Speaking to educators here at the second annual School Tech Expo, Linda Roberts, director of the U.S. Education Department's Office of Educational Technology, said 51 percent of all schools now have Internet access -- and that number is rising.

According to Roberts, the United States is closing the gap on the haves and have-nots.

While more than half the nation's schools are now online, she said close to 90 percent of classrooms have access -- and, by the year 2000, every class in the country will be wired.

More than 4,000 people are attending the School Tech Expo to hear from federal agencies, as well as private sector companies that are making education a priority.

Educational products
A range of new products are making a splash this year in educational circles. The startup company, Social Express, says its Rainbow Hoppers CD-ROM is a first for educational technology. A 3-D CD-ROM, Rainbow Hoppers helps kids in grades K to 3 with reasoning, respect, responsibility and manners -- all by following a bunch of elves on an adventure through a make believe forest.

Another product released at the Expo -- Stagecast Creator -- is being called the software no teacher should be without. Stagecast president Larry Tesler said the combination of interactive education and graphics with games actually helps kids learn.

Finally, the simplicity of the iMac and its cost seems to have caught the eye of teachers. Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL) is saying 18,000 have been shipped to schools -- and that's just in New York.