Opinion

Why our schools need computers

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Computers enhance student learning. I don't know who wrote that

sentence, but it drives me crazy! Fixing a light bulb enhances student learning.

Computers can do things for our schools we never thought possible.

The problem in our schools is that we keep making kids with

different abilities. If every kid understood every subject at the same time,

there would be no problems. But they don't. The time needed to adapt every

subject to each of the 25 or so children's abilities and locate the proper

work and homework for each child is impossible without computers.

Believe me, the teachers are trying … but in

a single third-grade class, you can easily have kids who cannot read at

all, to kids who read at a sixth-grade level. The same holds true for writing

and math, and they are not even the same kids, so you can't even separate

them by ability. Suzie may be a math whiz, but she stinks at reading.

So let's start with reading. There are two things teachers need to

know about reading: at what level are students reading and do they

understand what they are reading? Historically this was done with "readers."

You know what I mean, the "see spot run" books that taught us to despise

the written word. [These were used] so that a single teacher could test 24

students on a regular basis. There is not time in the day for every kid to read

a book they actually like and for a teacher to quiz them. At least not

without a computer. You see there is a wonderful program called

Accelerated Reader (AR). In AR there are tests for every book in the library. After a

kid reads a book, they answer questions about that book. (They are

expected to get at least 80 percent correct.) Imagine learning to read with

books they like!

How about math? Kids need to master math skills, and one of the

most effective methods is practice. Teachers try to include all abilities, but

because kids' skills vary all over the map, it is a difficult task at best. With

computers, each kid can spend as much time practicing as they need. If

Bobby needs help adding 7 + 8 then he can practice single-digit addition until

he understands it as well as Pokeman. But if Jennie understands

single-digit addition and is bored stiff doing it

over and over again, a computer can automatically move her into

double-digit addition. She doesn't have to wait until every kid in her class is ready;

she can go when she is ready. Teachers teach concepts and practice is tied

to the kids' level of understanding. This allows the teacher to effectively

target their energy in helping the kids who do not understand or those

that are ready to move forward. Computers also catch the kid who had

brain- lock in one area. This reduces the number of kids who get way behind

in school because they were afraid to ask questions in second grade.

Writing: If you want to write well, you need to go through a process.

Many people skip steps because it is so hard to write longhand. A

computer helps at every step. Brainstorming:

I can type way faster than I could ever dream of writing longhand.

Research: If you want to know who all of

the Pokeman are, then go to the World Wide Web. It is impossible for

school libraries to keep reference material current. Encyclopedias are out of

date the minute they are printed. The Web provides access to good

information so anyone one can properly study a subject.

Rough Draft and Revision: I can move the ideas I

brainstormed around without the drudgery of having to rewrite everything over

and over. Or, we can use the old way, scissors and tape. Jeez, I used to end

up looking like the mummy by the time I was done.

Final Copy: Ask anyone I know. My handwriting is

completely illegible. Computers have saved my family and friends hours of pain

trying to read my tirades.

Not every kid is going to go to college. If you want little Emily

or Josh to ever get a job, they have to know how to use a computer. One

finger typing will not make it in this world. I can bet that in ten years

kids who cannot type proficiently will be seen as illiterate. We need to teach

our kids how to type without getting hurt. Repetitive stress injuries, like

tendonitis, are caused by improper hand position on a keyboard. Kids need to

use computers in school and they need to start typing correctly as early as

second and third grade in order to develop good habits.

So what do we have in the Riverview School District? What

computer labs we have are filled with the Model - T's of the computing world.

This is because the only way we have gotten computers in the school

is through wrapping-paper sales or donations. Everything is a mix of

brands, abilities, and styles. Trying to make all of these work is like trying to put

a Chevy transmission on an Audi frame with a Honda engine. We need

the same type and ability of computer throughout the school district. Just

the time and energy alone saved in standardizing is worth passing the levy.

It is time to vote yes for technology.

Kate Russell lives between Carnation and Duvall. You

can reach her at Katemo1@msn.com

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