Superintendent’s Message: Embrace Technology Tools
In 1983, my family purchased our first computer for a grand total of $5,000. It was a tremendous investment of several months’ salary. We were excited to finally get all the wires connected and humming together. One floppy square piece of cardboard and plastic contained the word-processing program and a second one saved the document for a college project to begin my quest for an administrative license.
In 1985, I began my first administrative job as a junior high school principal. The school had just secured a classroom set of Atari “computers.” I distinctly remember the course outcomes: take the computers apart, learn the names of all the parts and put them back together. At that time, we thought it was important for students to know what a “byte” was.
In 1992, I moved into my second principal position. The business manager called to inform me that every new principal got a new chair. What kind did I want? She was astounded to learn that I didn’t want a chair at all. I asked for a computer (the kind with a floppy disk of course). I still remember her reply, “What will you do with a computer? Your secretary already has one.”
In 1993, I was transferred to a high school principal position. The superintendent told me that his goal was for our high school to be attractive to a higher proportionate share of 8th graders than the local private school. He asked what I would need to make that happen. I told him I wanted my building networked so the computers could talk to one another and reach out to the World Wide Web. He was stunned. After all, didn’t I know that things like that would inevitably cause kids to get into mischief? He supported my wish, but it meant that I also became the network manager for my school, and eventually, for any others that chose to join the district network.
In 2001, I accepted my first job here in Emporia as assistant superintendent of business. One day shortly after I arrived, I was wandering through the maze downstairs at 501 Merchant Street trying to find the only meeting room in the building. I happened upon three “tech guys” who served the technology needs for the entire district. At first, they didn’t know what to think about this “girl” who thought she could speak “tech,” but somehow, amidst the budgets and bond construction projects, we pieced together the wireless network that was updated just last year.
We’ve come a long way from those first Atari computers, but even today, we are still trying to move beyond learning about computers as a subject to using computers as tools for learning. We’ll take one step closer this month when district administration asks the board of education to approve the lease of browser-based mobile computers for every student. This will be a giant step from the expensive, clunky computer dependent on a floppy disk for its function and brain power to the small high-speed mobile devices with nearly infinite operating capacity — each for less than the cost of a textbook.
Just as it was for my family in 1983, it will be a difficult decision for our board – especially given the current fiscal environment and the multitude of priorities that loom before us. Certainly with this initiative, we will face challenges and obstacles. Yet, where once proficiency in the use of computers set candidates apart from the rest, tomorrow’s jobs are being designed around technology. It is imperative that every student becomes comfortable operating current technology as a tool for learning and problem-solving. This move will be instrumental in assuring that every student can develop the skills necessary to navigate the 21st century head on! It will be a brave move that propels Emporia Public Schools forward in our mission to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities!