Piedmont, Alabama, gives a laptop computer to every student, has built a city wide wireless network, and has added online classes..

[imgcontainer] [img:17327cc00.jpg] [source]Photo by Jackie Mader[/source] Piedmont, Alabama, gives a laptop computer to every student, has built a city-wide wireless network, and has added online classes.. [/imgcontainer]

The Atlantic reports on the efforts of a small Alabama town to climb out of poverty by giving their students access to technology.

Piedmont had relatively strong academic scores before its technology boom, but disparities still existed among student groups. In the 2010-11 school year, only 31 percent of Piedmont’s third-grade students living in poverty received the highest-possible score on the state reading exam, compared to nearly 78 percent of non-poverty students. On the state’s fifth-grade math exam that year, only 36 percent of black students scored the highest achievement level, compared to 61 percent of white students.

The district’s new personalized learning approach hopes to target both kids who perform below their grade level and those who do and might be bored, [Jerry Snow, principal of Piedmont Middle School] said.


New York became the first state in the nation to ban natural gas fracking. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced the ban Wednesday, to cheers from environmentalists. There were also cheers in Pennsylvania, where industry supporters say the New York ban will be good for Pennsylvania business. 

Cuomo cited health concerns in his decision to stop fracking, which some have seen as part of economic renewal for rural areas while others have called the practice destructive.


Susan Crawford debunks three myths about broadband connectivity in the United States in her “Backchannel” essay.

Her first myth is especially relevant to rural residents – that everyone who really wants broadband access has it.

Wrong, Crawford says. While it’s true that there’s a lot of wire running past American homes, not as many households are subscribing to broadband.

Why don’t people tap into broadband? Expense is the most-cited reason, Crawford says. “We pay a lot more than people in other countries do, for service that is worse.”


Everyone, from the government to Facebook, deals in personal data these days. So it may not come as a surprise that there’s a battle of data collected by farmers as they go about their business. Who should own that data? The farmer? The seed company? The tractor company? Whoever’s making the data-collection device?  

In November a group of major industry players—from the National Corn Growers Association to Deere, Dow, DuPont, and Monsanto—established principles to clarify the issue. Farmers shall own and control the data, they agreed, and tech providers must receive explicit consent to collect, access, and use it. 

it sounds clear, but we bet this isn’t the last word on the subject.


President Obama recently announced the exemption of Alaska’s Bristol Bay from oil and gas drilling, reports the Guardian.

“It’s something that’s too precious for us to be putting out to the highest bidder,” Obama said.
Bristol Bay had supported Native Americans in the Alaska region for centuries, he said.
“It supports about $2 billion in the commercial fishing industry,” Obama said. “It supplies America with 40% of its wild-caught seafood.”
The bay is north of the Alaska peninsula, which juts out west from mainland Alaska at the start of the Aleutian Islands chain.


Time Magazine has named Matt Black their 2014 Instagram Photographer of the Year (we didn’t know that was a thing, either). Black has been doing pretty great work, though, using the social media platform to raise awareness about poverty in California’s Central Valley.

“The Central Valley is this kind of vast unknown zone,” Black says. “These towns, these communities are right in the heart of the richest state in the richest country in the world. It’s halfway between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and yet, you still have conditions like these,” where poor communities are left with bad roads, dirty water, crummy schools and polluted air.
Black’s work might be new to Instagram, but the 44-year-old photographer has spent more than 20 years exploring issues of migration, farming and the environment in the area. That was never his intention, though. “When I first started in photography, my goal was to get out of the Central Valley,” he says. “But it quickly became clear to me that if I had a significant thing to say, it would be about the place I’m from.”

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