Blown To Bits

Montana Bits

Monday, June 30th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

I spent the last week on Harvard business on the west coast, and managed to work in talks about Blown to Bits at Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Hal joined me at Google, and at Amazon I proudly showed off page 180, where we asked the question, “Does Amazon even have a physical location?” (This is part of the explanation of why public key cryptography is so important, as it enables strangers to agree on an encryption key without meeting.)

I then headed for the hills of northwest Montana to hide from it all. I stopped at a market to pick up the local paper, which usually leads with a story about bears or shootings or the water level on the lake. Wouldn’t you know it, this week it’s a bits story.

Virtual High School closer to reality at BHS,” goes the headline. Bigfork High tends to lose top students to the bigger district in Kalispell, where they can take more advanced courses. This year they are going to pilot¬†Virtual High School, a Maynard, Massachusetts-based initiative. (If they can get past the various teacher and curriculum certification hurdles.)

Educational technology has had so many failures over the years, starting with educational TV in my youth, that skeptics about Internet-based education should be forgiven. But good for Bigfork for giving this a shot. It may well prove to be the equalizer that rural school districts need, a germ of Internet-enabled enlightenment — and with gasoline more than $4/gallon, a smart way to deliver information to the people rather than transporting people to the information.

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