Northwest NEWS

May 10, 1999


Give children the power of the computer

   I wasn't always such a staunch supporter of computer technology. Every few years, my husband would insist that we needed a new computer. I thought, well, that's money down the drain.

   Can't we just wait a few more years and buy a cheaper computer? Besides, I used to hate it when we'd get a new computer and my husband would disappear downstairs to work on installing it. He seemed not to re-emerge for weeks at a time.

   Then suddenly, about six years ago, I realized the power of those little compact disks (CDs) that hold so much information. My attitude was transformed when I saw what it was doing for my children

   Suddenly, there were awesome graphics and photographs and sound, and the access to encyclopedias containing these features was right at my children's fingertips. My kids could play games that caused their minds to expand, such as The Incredible Machine, where they learned about logic and mechanics as they pieced together levers and pulleys and other devices to create tremendous machines; like Reader Rabbit, where they learned to read by going on adventures as they picked up clues; like Geometry Blaster, which taught them math skills; and Where In the World is Carmen San Diego, which taught them world geography.

   Unfortunately, however, modern educational software requires great quantities of memory and a CD-ROM drive, and there are very few computers in our district (Riverview) that can accommodate that. The computers are just too old.

   I remember when my youngest son was in second and third grades. I forced him every day to sit down at the computer with the Mavis Bacon Teaches Typingg program and learn to type. It was a fight. It was like trying to make a child do flash cards. But then, suddenly, his fingers started to fly across the keyboard with lightning speed, just like when the words started to roll out when he first began to read. He could type almost as fast as he could talk. He was on his way.

   I still occasionally get irritated with this state-of-the-art stuff, like this free video conferencing to anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet hookup and the proper software and equipment. Why? Because there goes my husband again, staying up to all hours of the night talking to some strange Frenchman or someone who only speaks Chinese, practicing his language and international diplomacy skills at my expense. But now, unlike before, I see the value.

   Five years ago, I saw my oldest son, then about eight, do his first computer presentation in front of his class in Arizona. It was more polished, in many ways, than any presentation I had ever made in my entire professional career. Why can't it be like this in Riverview?

   Do the children who live in this district have to be the "have nots?" Right here? So very close to Microsoft?

   We never know which child will be the next Thomas Edison, the next Albert Einstein, or the next Benjamin Franklin, but we can bet that whoever he is, he will need the tools of lightning speed for communication, research, computation, and creativity that are provided by the computer. My children will always have these tools at their fingertips.

   But what I say to you is this: It is not only what you do for your child that matters; it is what you do for another child that makes a difference. Give our children the power of the computer, the speed of light at their fingertips, and the spirit of adventure in their hearts. For our future, as well as for the children's future, Vote for Technology.

Cecelia Horkin, Carnation