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Microsoft has helped build a high-tech high school in a Philadelphia community that serves low-income families. Students at this state-of-the art facility incorporate the latest technologies throughout their curriculum.
TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:
West Philadelphia has the reputation of being a rough part of town, not the kind of place that most cities would use to test out a new approach to public education. But this is where the school district has chosen to build what it calls the school of the future.
It's a gleaming $62-million edifice constructed on former park land. It's just down the street from the modest row house where ninth-grader Littleton Hurst lives with his mother, Eleanor Shockley.
ELEANOR SHOCKLEY, Parent:
I think everybody here is excited about it, everybody. And the students that have been offered the opportunity to go there has been excited, as well.
One thing that has a lot of kids excited, every learner — they don't call them students — has a city-supplied laptop computer that they can take home. The laptops connect to the school's wireless network for high-speed Internet access. Littleton Hurst and classmate Quasan Baker are thrilled to have them.
LITTLETON HURST, Student:
You can do everything faster. And if you do everything faster, that means you get more assignments. And the more assignments you do, the better your grade comes out.
How about you? How do you use yours?
QUASAN BAKER, Student:
Well, it's, like, the same. Work, work and more work. That's all I do. I stay up late nights typing on my computer, finding out new stuff about it.
We spoke with the ninth-graders in the Interactive Learning Center, a library with very few books. Nearly all the reference materials are online. Shirley Grover is the school's principal, although she calls herself the chief learner.
SHIRLEY GROVER, Chief Learner, School of the Future: This is an opportunity to take technology, harness it, and harness the energy of adolescence by engaging them in relevant and meaningful learning. That's more lifelike, and we hope that we'll maximize their individual potential so that they can be those top scientists, those top mathematicians, those top problem-solvers.
Is the laptop that each kid has the key to all of this?
That's the portal?
Yes. It's actually the lifeline, I think, to learning.
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