Are Our Kids Computer Literate?

Have you visited the computer lab at your kid’s school recently? If not you should. Technology has become such an integral part of our everyday lives.  In order for our children to succeed in the 21st century workplace it is critical that they have the computer skills necessary to compete or at the very least survive. There are quite a few computers at my kids’ school, Brookside Elementary, that are stacked in the corner of the computer lab waiting for maintenance just to become functional again.

I have been disappointed for some time about Beaumont Unified's policy of purchasing technology hardware on the state contract. In 2007, the first year I became involved in Brookside’s School Site Council, our school purchased, off the state contract, a Dell laptop for $1,500.  After getting a copy of the California Public School State Technology Contract, I priced the same laptop with similar specs on Dell’s website for around $700. When I brought this to the administration’s attention I was told it was necessary, but not required, to purchase from the state contract in order to get the support and training they needed. I argued they could go to a local vendor like Best Buy and get the hardware and support at a much better price.

So, now we pay twice the commercial price for our computers in order to get the “support and training”. Where is the support?

It has also come to my attention that Beaumont High School’s computer classes are using old, outdated, almost obsolete machines. I am sure if any of these computers were scheduled to be used in the new Taj Mahal, they would quickly find their way to the district’s list of “obsolete” and retiring computer equipment.  It is disheartening that many of our kids whose families do not have access to computers and the Internet, are missing out on the opportunity to get the skills they need from our schools.  At least our high school should be able to provide each of our kids with the opportunity to work on a computer system similar to what they will encounter in today’s work force. For many of these kids, this is their last and only chance to get the skills they need to succeed in the working world. Isn’t preparing our kids to succeed, what our schools are supposed to be doing?  

The administration and school board love to brag about all the new "smart boards" they recently finished installing in every classroom. They boast about being the only school district in the area with this level of commitment to technology. There's more to this story. For the rest of the story, watch for my next post on technology.

Our schools may be getting some of the best test scores in the state and we may have our first Blue Ribbon School but the state tests don't measure computer literacy. What good are high test scores, a 15 million dollar sports complex, a 10 million dollar technical training classroom extension and a 12 million dollar district headquarters, if our kids are unable to get a job?