Tahoma schools launch technology programs
The school district has started a new laptop-computer program that will allow dozens of high-school students to have personal laptops.
Times Southeast Bureau
Spending $10 million
The Tahoma School District will collect about $2.5 million each year for the next four years to spend on technology. Here's where the money will go this year:
Building and system upgrades: Wireless Internet access at all schools, upgraded wiring, more network storage capacity.
Support and training: Workshops for teachers, options for courses outside of regular work hours and money for four technology coaches and a coordinator.
Updating equipment: Software upgrades, new computers for staff and students; classrooms will be stocked with document cameras and LCD projectors.
Technology pilot programs: Tahoma launches three pilot projects this school year, including a laptop program at Tahoma High School for students enrolled in the Endeavor Program, a mobile-laptop lab in middle schools, and interactive white boards for middle-school, junior-high and high-school math programs. Teachers and individual schools will test projects for classroom and school use.
Source: Tahoma School District
Dozens of Tahoma Senior High School sophomores will receive individual laptops this year to use in the classroom and at home.
The laptop-computer program, used in classrooms and districts nationwide, begins in November for about 80 students. It is one of two dozen pilot technology programs the Maple Valley school district will unveil at all of its schools in the coming weeks.
District officials will spend much of this year studying whether personal laptops should be offered to all students at its high schools.
Students in Barry Fountain's social-studies class will be issued the computers for the school year and will have to pay the insurance deductible if damage occurs.
Ideally, the laptops will allow immediate access to online research, forums and each other. Currently, if Fountain wants his students to use computers at school, he must book the computer lab months in advance.
For example, Fountain plans to use laptops while the class studies stem-cell research. Computers would allow scientists and ethicists at the University of Washington to talk to the class online or by video conference.
"Now our speakers won't have to drive all the way to Maple Valley," Fountain said.
The high school also will be equipped with wireless Internet service and a slew of improvements, including new LCD projectors, software upgrades and interactive white boards.
It's a significant boost for the district of 7,000 students, which has struggled to maintain aging, inadequate technology equipment. In 2005, the district added to its classroom old computers from another school district.
"We were buying another district's [left over] computers," Tahoma Superintendent Mike Maryanski said. "That gives you an indication of where we were a few years ago."
The new technology is being paid for with a $10 million levy that voters approved last year.
Maryanski said the district will watch closely to see if the program could have potential throughout the high school and in other grade levels.
Other districts throughout the area have included laptops in their technology budget, but few public schools have launched programs where students take home the computers they use in the classroom.
Renton School District provides 60 laptops to each of its high schools and junior highs and 50 laptops to each of its elementary schools.
Students aren't able to take the computers home, but Bill Hulten, the district's chief technology officer, hopes to be able to provide computers to more students in the future.
In Kent schools, the Technology Academy has for several years given computers to students to take home. The program started at Mill Creek Middle School with 90 seventh-graders in 2003 and has expanded to include 180 middle-schoolers and 125 high-school freshmen.
Kent followed models in the Shoreline and Northshore districts, said Dennis McClellan, director for instructional technology in Kent.
"Students live with a lot more technology outside of school than they do inside the classroom," McClellan said. "The skills they need are different going into the 21st century."
McClellan, who called the computer program a success, said he hopes to see the program expanded to include all Mill Creek students later this year. Further down the road, the district hopes to provides laptops for all high-school students.
In Tahoma, district officials say they plan to start small with technology upgrades.
"Just like buying textbooks, you don't buy them just in case," Fountain said. "You have to jump in, but we need to analyze the best way to spend our money."
Karen Johnson: 253-234-8605 or email@example.com
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