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MCI to back Web-based learning

MCI announces a program to fund the creation of educational Web sites for schools.

At every level of government, officials are working to get schools plugged into the Net. Today MCI (MCIC) will launch a plan to deliver curriculum over these digital pipelines.

MCI will fund programs to create and provide access to Web sites and customized search engines that give teachers of science, economics, English, history, philosophy, and foreign languages materials for their K-12 students. The programs will be developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Council on Economic Education.

"Partnerships such as these, pairing the strengths of America's leading corporations with the expertise of some of our finest educational organizations, are critical to bridge the 'learning gap' that now exists between having the technology available in our schools and actually using it as a learning tool," said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.

Left unanswered are issues such as whether the program will reach rural and poor areas, which recent studies show may be falling through the cracks when it comes to Net access. The plan also doesn't offer specifics about how teachers will be trained, another potential pitfall when wiring schools.

Still, the move makes good business sense for MCI, because the company's customer base will grow as Net savvy children become adult consumers.

After politicians jumped on the Net bandwagon to wire classrooms though events like Net Day'96, some teachers complained that they didn't have time to use the new equipment or to integrate it into their teaching. MCI and partners say their program will address some of these issues through teacher training, and encouraging parents to participate.

"We'll work closely with teachers so they'll know exactly how to reach content and effectively incorporate it into their individual lesson plans," said Timothy Price MCI president and COO. "

MCI's program wants to serve millions of teachers and students. For example, the National Endowment for the Humanities/MCI site alone will reach 250,000 teachers and 5 million students through Web sites about history and foreign languages curriculum, MCI said.

MCI is not the only company in the technology industry helping schools transition into the Information Age. Pacific Bell, America Online, Netcom, Apple Computer Netscape, Microsoft all participated in the Net Day '96 initiative, among other education efforts.