Reposted from the Hechinger Report:
Unlike many school districts with technology programs, Piedmont has a broader goal than creating high-tech classrooms. The district hopes to resuscitate a dying rural town, according to Matt Akin, the superintendent of Piedmont City Schools. “That’s always been the bigger picture,” Akin said. “What can we do to revive a community?”
It’s an ambitious goal for a district of 1,240 students in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, about 15 miles west of the Georgia border. In recent years, several major factories have shut down operations in Piedmont and relocated elsewhere, taking hundreds of jobs with them. The modest downtown area is lined with abandoned buildings and empty storefronts, with a few businesses, like a café and a clothing store, clustered together on the main street.
“Technology allows people in rural areas to reap the benefits of a rural lifestyle, while not sacrificing access to learning opportunities,” said Karen Cator, president of Digital Promise, a nonprofit that helps schools integrate technology. In rural areas, access to technology helps students become “digitally literate,” she added. And it’s not just about formal education. “If you’re in a rural area, it doesn’t mean you have less varied interests than students in other parts of the country,” Cator said. “If you have access to technology, it’s much easier to … pursue your interest, whether it is computer coding or technology or photography.”