Problem-Solving With the World Wide Web

Net Log John Makulowich

Problem-Solving With the World Wide Web

An issue that keeps cropping up in the Washington region is the shortage of skilled technology professionals.

While that's the current situation, it makes sense to look ahead, and there are numerous ways to do this. One approach is to gather data on the number of World Wide Web sites hosted in public schools. Presumably, this reflects a level of interest and exposure to technology. It could also represent an opportunity for local companies to work with students in public schools on improving their computer skills as well as in finding summer help.

Solution. Over the last four years, Gleason Sackman, Internet Scout Project staff member with the Computer Sciences Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has studiously collected data on the use of the World Wide Web, telnet and gopher in the nation's elementary, middle and high schools (www.gsn.org/hotlist/).

According to Sackman's most recent data (Feb. 26), Maryland had a total of 47 home pages in its K-12 population. This included 20 in elementary schools, four in middle schools and 22 in high schools.

Intuitively, this seems low. A cursory view of data on education from the Statistical Abstract of the United States 1997 (available on the Web through the U.S. Census Bureau) shows 65 percent of public elementary and secondary schools enjoyed Internet access in 1996.

How are we to verify Sackman's figures? One way is to look at the Web page for Maryland. Here's a searching tip. Most state Web pages are available with this template: www.state.2-letter-code.us. Thus, Maryland might be at www.state.md.us. That works.

Probing the site, we come across data for Montgomery County at www.mcps.k12.md.us/schools.
html, which can serve as a sample. We find 123 elementary schools with some level of Web presence, 32 middle schools and 23 high schools.

Thus, Sackman's figures are clearly wide of the mark. Noteworthy is that all the sites are hyperlinked, that is, you can view the work of the webmasters as well as get a sense of the school from the home page.

Further Research. One item I came across in the course of my research was a study done by the National Center for Education Statistics (nces.ed.gov/pubs/96040.html) in 1996 titled "Out-of-Field Teaching and Educational Equality."

The study presented national data on "the extent to which students in the nation's public secondary schools are taught by teachers without basic qualifications in their assigned teaching fields."

Stunningly, it found that about 25 percent of all public school students enrolled in mathematics classes in grades 7-12 were taught by teachers without at least a minor in mathematics or mathematics education. The results were worse for the life sciences and the physical sciences.

This data would be relevant to research on technology understanding and preparation.

John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at john@journalist.com. His Web address is http://www.cais.com/makulow/.


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