School Bells… and Whistles

The Philadelphia School District has teamed up with Microsoft Corp. to plan the development of a $46 million high school scheduled to open by September 2006.

According to reports, the school will be fully outfitted with wireless, mobile technology to assist every function — from taking attendance to managing textbook inventory. While the promise of a high-tech high school is exciting, I’m curious how this project will differ from the late ’80s and early ’90s explosions of donating PCs to schools. Without training and dedicated staff, the technology can’t always ably support the pedagogy.

Luckily, it seems the district and Microsoft are already considering that: “Microsoft’s contribution will not be monetary, but in services worth millions of dollars, including a full-time on-site project manager, planning and design expertise, staff training, and continuing technology support.” Which leads to my next question: Will the corporation get involved in the curriculum?

Elementary and secondary schools are already being privatized to some extent. And companies have long partnered with community colleges and other educational institutions to develop a skilled workforce. What would a Microsoft-influenced or -inspired curriculum look like? To what end would it be a mean?

But all in all, I guess it comes down to this. With all the brouhaha over Blaster and SoBig, what is Microsoft going to do to ensure the health of the new school’s students? If the flu hits Philadelphia, will the virus shut down the city — much less the school?