Reading, Writing and RAM

Few schools have embraced the digital revolution like St. Andrew’s Priory.

July, 2001

From time to time, Ron Weaver feels like an ancient Greek. The St. Andrew’s Priory High School librarian hasn’t been reading too many of his books. It is just that things have been changing so quickly around campus lately. “Now I know how the Greeks had to convert their writings from scrolls to books,” says Weaver. “But we have such nice nooks now, we have to build shelves for these new things. But change is good.”

Weaver’s library won’t likely go through such a traumatic physical transformation anytime soon but the coming transition to on-line resources will be just as profound. The librarian is planning on spending between $2,000 to $4,000 for subscriptions to on-line periodicals, journals and other resources, and he is contemplating whether to order a new edition of hard-bound encyclopedias. On-line versions are available and they are easier to access, cheaper and take no shelf space.

“I realized back in the ’70s that computers where on their way. I bought an Apple 2-E and was working on that,” says Weaver. “But over the last couple of years things have really come together.”

“Studies show that students using computers score better on tests. They also tend to do better quality work because they spend more time on their assignments since they have accessibility to a computer,” says Landgraf. “We also want to include parents as much as possible, so we will be offering evening computer classes for them.”With schools across the country racing to keep pace with the information age (Quality Education Data, a research and database company focused on education, estimates that in 1998 to 1999, $6.7 billion was spent on wiring classrooms to the Internet, up 25 percent from the previous year), arguably no other school in Hawaii has embraced the digital future with the fervor of this all-girls’ school in downtown Honolulu. Three years ago, the Priory wired its campus, putting an Internet connection in every classroom at a cost of more than $100,000. This year, the school’s New Technology Coordinator Tedd Landgraf installed a wireless Internet network with six access points, which can accommodate a total of as many as 180 users. By year’s end, Landgraf hopes to have four additional classrooms go wireless. And next year the school will begin an ambitious three-year program to furnish the middle and high school students with laptop computers. Eventually, the school hopes to also provide laptop computers to its elementary school.

This isn’t a matter of giving students the ability to surf the Net for research and check e-mail. Using a Web-based program called Power School, teachers will post individual lesson plans and school administrators will file their records and store other data on the school’s own intranet system. The change will enable students, faculty and staff the freedom to work from home if they need to.

“In this age computers are tools for learning, not unlike pencils were to us,” says Dr. Kathleen Carstensen, principal at St. Andrew’s. “And it should be a seamless tool. We didn’t have to go to a lab to use a pencil and today’s students shouldn’t have to go a lab to use a computer.”

Although the school’s computer timetable has been clearly mapped out, Carstensen is anticipating that things will be moving a little faster than planned with many parents already purchasing laptop computers for their high school children.

“Three years ago, we were hooked on this internal wiring and look where we are today,” says Carstensen. “Who knows what will happen in five years?”

 

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