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Windows 98 is not enough (?)

June 2nd, 2005 · 6 Comments

According to an article Cathy Nickum wrote and published on Bainbridge Buzz, study team members who recently visited Bainbridge High School as part of the accreditation process were shocked and appalled at the state of the technology, facilities and capabilities. One of the team members was the principal of Bishop Blanchet High School, Kent Hickey, who pointed out that his high school does not have any computers still running Windows ’98, which is in use at Bainbridge. He also expressed concerns that Bainbridge High School may not be properly preparing students for post-graduate opportunities due to lack of adequate technology.

This report comes days after our $8.9 million technology levy failed to pass. What’s curious to me is that I did not see this exact angle of this story presented in either of the two newspapers on the island in the past week. Did I miss it? Perhaps the accreditation team was shocked on their once-in-seven-years visit to the high school, but I was also surprised to hear that the lack of technology and facilities may be affecting the students and the school so adversely. Was this publicized prior to the levy? From an opposition perspective, it would be easy to say that the images presented with the levy seemed luxurious: electronic white boards and remote-control-like clickers, for example, as well as extensive training costs for teachers. This report on the Buzz instead presents a desperate picture, one that would have helped levy proponents promote their position powerfully.

I would wonder whether the comparison to Blanchet High School is appropriate. We do compete against them directly in athletics, and of course, graduates compete against each other for positions in employment and post-high school education. However, I don’t think it is fair to compare a private high school to a public one, unless we want to start charging tuition. I’d be curious to know how many other public high schools are still running Windows ’98. For example what are the statistics at Mercer Island High? Or Bellevue?

Yet I’m also surprised that Windows ’98 is not enough for post-high school opportunities. Until I switched to my new PowerBook last month I was using Windows 98 on my ThinkPad. Are the differences between this operating system and subsequent ones significant and sufficient to discourage hiring? On the one hand, as someone who trained to be a science teacher, and as a parent and community member, I want our students to have the best opportunities. On the other hand though I wonder whether a difference in operating systems is important enough to warrant the extra funds and education. For one, given the average income and housing price on the island, I would guess that a majority of island families already own updated computers and many teens may already be using current versions of Office for their homework.

More importantly though I would hope that employers and educators value abilities and character over explicit experiences. Operating systems and software will always be changing. Specific skills come and go. I believe it is better to know how to learn a new system, to be curious and courageous, flexible and eager to adapt to changes. It is the principle that is more important that the details of the practice. Are our kids curious? How do they respond to new situations? Can they figure out what to do if they don’t know what to do? A person who knows how to use the latest systems will soon be a useless employee if he or she is not able to adapt to changes and learn new ways of using computers.

It’s important for our kids to have the best and to be prepared. However, it’s also important to examine what kind of preparation is best.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 paul // Jun 2, 2005 at 10:04 am

    When you hear the whining and handwringing over a lack of technology in classrooms, ask yourself what version of Windows you had in your classroom?

    Seriously, if anyone is making purchasing decisions on what office software will be in the marketplace when today’s kids graduate, they either have one heck of a crystal ball or they should be kicked off the technology committee sooner than quicker.

    As we have wrestled with school closures and funding issues over here in Seattle, the fundamental reasons for public education become more important. Training office workers isn’t on the list. I don’t see anyone demonstrating a familiarity with the great ideas of history and philosophy in PowerPoint.

    Technology is a good servant but a poor master. I am surprised to hear someone from Blanchet mixing up education with vocational training. My kids’ school is less than a mile from Blanchet and we have their kids in as tutors a couple of days a week: if I was a parent reading those comments, I would be wondering if I was getting my money’s worth.

    You hit it on the head: “It’s important for our kids to have the best and to be prepared. However, it’s also important to examine what kind of preparation is best.”

  • 2 Chris // Jun 2, 2005 at 11:41 am

    I’d be asking why they are using Windows at all. For the kind of stuff schools need to be teaching (basic transferable skills) Linux is more than sufficient and it is, of course, free as in speech and free as in beer.

  • 3 Julie // Jun 3, 2005 at 1:06 am

    Thanks Chris and Paul. Good points.

    Oh, I was corrected. I was using Windows 2000 not 98. Makes a big difference, eh?

  • 4 Eric Eggertson // Jun 4, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    I’m not sure the age of the operating system is as much an issue as the ability students have to try out the tools and learn the basics of manipulating data, formating text, using a spreadsheet, using e-mail. Having been in a hiring situation, I can say that computer skills are assumed by most employers. Anyone without computer skills need not apply at most jobs I’ve seen.

    On the other hand, I don’t anyone’s that worried about someone taking a week to get up to speed on the newest version of Windows/OS X/Linux. The comfort with using a computer is what they’re looking for, not necessarily mastery in Quark Xpress (unless it’s a publishing company).

  • 5 Ed // Jun 6, 2005 at 10:04 am

    I just got my “Notice of Change of Value” in the mail. The market value upon which my 1980 built home is calculated went up 18 percent. Wouldn’t that result in the school system getting more money? Where does the money go?

  • 6 Ed // Jun 6, 2005 at 10:07 am

    Sorry, Monday morning…

    That should have been “The market value upon which the TAX for my 1980 built home is calculated…”

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