Northwest NEWS

February 22, 1999


Technology in the Riverview School District

   A formal proposal for a technology levy has been submitted to the Riverview School Board for their approval. While such a proposal has been discussed for over two years, the Board has not officially put it on their agenda until recently. During this time, they have put the Fields Bond on the ballot four times.

   Will the Board, gunshy after the most recent fields' bond failure, approve the tech levy? Only if you let them know how you feel about technology for our children.

   First, let's look at the state of technology in the district. The district computers are a patchwork of older computers that are very costly to upgrade and support. The computer labs in the three elementary schools still rely primarily on computers that are over 11 years old. These are so antiquated that the only software that can be run on them dates from the mid to late 1980s. The best computers at the high school are in the vocational training areas and are not generally accessible to the rest of the school. Of the 15 computers in the high school library, none are Internet accessible.

   Over 76 percent of all the computers in the Riverview School District are at least 5 years old, with 16 percent over 11 years old. Most of the older Macintosh or PC systems (over 60% of all the machines in our district) contain only 8MB or 16MB of RAM with processor speeds in the 16 to 33 MHz range, all of which severely limit the software these machines are capable of running. The hard drives on most of these machines are wholly inadequate, with 80 MB to 200 MB capacities.

   Another severe limitation is the lack of CD-ROM drives in perhaps 80% of all district computers. This poses a significant problem, since most software today is installed or runs from CD-ROMS.

   Computers capable of running recent software make up only 24% of all computers in the district. Yet we are one of the few districts that has never run a tech levy. Technology, except in a very few cases, is not integrated into the curriculum.

   What does the 1998 Seattle Times Guide to Schools say about the computers at Tolt Middle School? It says the ratio of multimedia computers to students is 1 to 724. What do the middle school students do in their short introduction to technology? They learn to type.

   Now let's look at the current technology proposal. It depicts technology as an essential tool across all curricula and across all grade levels. The proposal has three important components: Curriculum, Hardware/Software, and Training.

   The teachers and staff would receive extensive training on the integration of technology into the classroom in specific skill areas such as reading, writing, math, communication, science, and information literacy. The computer-to-student ratio would be upgraded from 1 to 5 which is the lowest ratio of all Eastside districts. (Note: this ratio is considerably overstated when considering the minimal capabilities of the current district computers).

   The proposal includes six multimedia computers in each classroom (where there is currently only one), updates all computer labs, and provides audiovisual resources, including digital cameras, scanners, televisions, LCD projectors, and yes, even telephones in the classrooms at the middle school.

   "We all must look to our future, and our future is dependent on our children. We need to live life like quarterbacks. This means learning to throw the ball not to where the receiver is, but to where the receiver is going to be." (From Technology and Learning, January 1999.)

   As John F. Kennedy said, "Change is the law of life; those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."

   The Office of Education Research in the US Department of Education concluded in 1995 that educational technology has demonstrated a significant and positive effect on achievement within all major subject areas in K-16, that it has positive effects on student attitude, and that it increases student-student and student-teacher interactions without decreasing traditional forms of communication.

   A basic understanding of computers is essential for our youth in order for them to survive in the world today. It's our job as citizens to prepare kids for their future, rather than our past or present.

   Technology is their future, so please stand and be counted at the technology working group meeting on Tuesday, March 2, and be there when your school board votes on the technology proposal on March 9th.

   Both meetings are at 7 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Office behind Carnation Elementary. If you are unable to attend, make your views known by calling the superintendent or the school board at the district office (425-333-4115). We need to retool the minds of our school board and our community.

Cecelia Horkin, Duvall