In this program, veteran PBS Newshour Education Correspondent John Merrow – AKA the "School Sleuth" – is back, determined to get to the bottom of another classroom caper. The Peabody Award winning character, last seen in 2001’s The Case of an Excellent School, is a hard-boiled detective who investigates schools, searching for the best and exposing the worst. This time he’s hired to find out how technology is used — and misused — in education. To solve the case, the Sleuth goes inside schools around the country to uncover what happens when schools get wired.
During the course of his investigation, the Sleuth interviews Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy; Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning; and Richard Culatta, director of the USDOE Office of Educational Technology. He visits “cyber schools,” where over 300,000 kids take all their classes online at home, and he takes viewers inside a school where students spend half their day on the computer. He takes a hard look at Ed-Tech companies looking to strike it rich and examines the grim question of access and the “digital divide.” He joins third graders as they sing songs with children in Uganda over the internet, meets sixth graders who are using video games to design their own civilizations, and talks to seventh graders who are building LED screens and programming computer chips.
However, it’s high school senior California Rios, the first in her family to graduate from high school, who teaches the Sleuth the importance of access: “I need internet to get assignments done, to get projects done, to contact teachers for extra help. It’s a huge part of getting my diploma ... ”
The program exposes the glaring dangers of using technology for the wrong reasons, while showcasing the wondrous things that can happen when teachers find the right blend of learning, teaching and technology.