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Technology updates education in schools

By Greg Gelpi

Gone are the days of reading, writing and arithmetic, replaced by days of clicking, calculating and computing.

Southern Crescent schools are riding a wave of technology taking them into the future, aiding both instruction and administration.

The Clayton County school system was recognized as one of the top five technologically advanced systems in the country about five years ago and it's preparing to continue to lead in technology, said Steve Holmes, the system's executive director of technology.

"It's not probably," he said. "It's the most advanced school system in Georgia."

There is one modern computer with Internet access for every 6.1 students in Henry County schools and every four students in Clayton County schools.

Processing about 30,000 to 35,000 emails and about a million web pages each day, the Clayton system provides a massive network of high-speed Internet access, one of the first of its kind in the country, Holmes said.

Some teachers use electronic chalkboards to present to their classes and the system has about 1,200 PDAs on order for elementary teachers to facilitate classroom instruction and testing, said Ernie Bowen, Clayton's academic software support administrator. Test scores can be uploaded, processed and shared within classrooms, schools and the system.

"Basically, it sends it up to a Web site so the information is available immediately," Bowen said.

Through a continued use of technology, the Henry school system will offer more nontraditional classes, including staff development online, Henry Schools Superintendent Jack Parish said.

"The way we see technology is that it should be used as a tool for learning," Parish said, rather than "technology for technology's sake."

The Henry system "maximizes technology use to maximize student learning," he said.

Clayton's technology extends outside the classroom with Web site features that enable vendors wishing to do business to file online and prospective employees to apply online, system webmaster Randy Godwin said. Online job applications are also available through the Henry school system Web site.

A feature that is in the works will allow parents to type in their address and determine which school their children attend and which bus they ride, Godwin said.

Since the Clayton school system's computers were purchased with one-time only funds, the system is hoping to replace many of those aging computers as well as provide wireless networking to all schools with an extended Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Holmes said. The tax extension would also fund the construction of a new building.

"The most expensive equipment the system owns is in here, and this is the oldest building," Holmes said.

A majority of classrooms in Henry and Clayton have only one or two modern computers, according to documents filed with the state Department of Education. In Henry, 64 percent of the classrooms have at least one modern computer, and in Clayton that number is 71 percent. More than a quarter of Henry's classrooms have no modern computers.

Although Henry classrooms may not have modern computers, Parish said it's important for students to have access to modern computers, whether it be through portable computer labs or other ways.