Up to speed

Published 10:17 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

The problem with preparing youth for the future is that sometimes, the future catches up to the present too quickly. What was once thought of as a learning tool of the future is now a commonplace device, and keeping up with the nuances and needs of classroom technology can be a mega-problem and lead to kilo-headaches.

Sherry Feller, technology coordinator for Demopolis City Schools, applied for a 21st Century grant to bolster the school system’s computer supply and technology, further helping the students of today prepare for life in the future.

“We are using the technology of NComputing,” Feller said. “You buy one tower, you beef up the memory on it, then you can buy a box, and you can add three more computer systems to that one tower, using the hard drive off of that one computer. You’re buying one tower, three monitors, three keyboards and three mouses, and that brings in four computers to the classroom for about $1,700, whereas one tower would be between $800 and 1,000.

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It’s a good way to get more into the classroom for the students to use without the expenditure being too high.”

Being able to find inexpensive ways to bring in new technologies helps Demopolis’s students gain an advantage.

“This year, we will have the access grant at Demopolis High School,” Feller said. “The state is trying to connect all Alabama classrooms. We are in Phase II right now, which will probably be out after October. It will be a video conference lab, involved with long-distance learning. We have the room at the high school, and once the grants are implemented, then we’ll have the tables with about 30 tablets and all of the equipment for the video conference.

“Say, for example, we have a very good Spanish teacher here, and another school doesn’t” she said. “She could be the teacher for our classroom, and that school could join in and use the same teacher through the video conference. We also just ordered 40 projectors for Westside Elementary, and we’ve ordered the ceiling mounts, and they should be coming in the next week or two. We are making strides.”

Those strides can be seen in how students use the technology, like Demopolis Middle School students learning modern graphic arts.

“We are using the computers in our graphic arts class,” said Demopolis Middle School teacher Meggin Mayben. “We are learning how to use Adobe PhotoShop. We hope to be able to create art to put up in the school and use it to make posters and publications.”

Adobe PhotoShop is used to modify and use photographs as graphic art in things from newspapers and magazines to advertising on things from billboards to game programs.

Jeremiah Dial, the network administrator for Demopolis City Schools, worked hard throughout the summer, setting up the new technologies the schools reaped and getting them ready for classroom use.

“Sherry Feller and I were at the STI conference at Port Clear last January, and we heard about this technology,” Dial said. “Another company had it on display, and I could see how it worked. We talked it over, and were able to get better prices with more memory than what we had before, so we were able to cut our costs there.”

Schools that don’t have a lot of funding resources — especially in trying economic times like this — rely on state and federal grants to help keep their students up-to-date with the latest technology and how to use it.

“My goal is for every student to have a computer,” Feller said. “That’s not likely to happen, so I need to get my thinking cap on and figure out how we can make that happen. Other grants and funds from other sources helps.”