Tech smart is forward thinking

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— It is the night before a research paper is due, and it's too late to go to the library. But that's OK, because the Internet has books on it, too.

The textbook for a history class is too old to have recent events. But that's OK, because the Internet has newspapers on it, too.

A science teacher needs his or her students to watch a new documentary on whales that the district doesn't own. But that's OK, because the film is streamed on its Web site.

A student has access to more information through the Internet - and it's cheaper - than ever before, and that's good for their education, said Joel Sheridan, Moffat County School District assistant superintendent.

"The advantage is that students have access to video or any kind of information that is much more current than any other source," Sheridan said.

The School District wants to use some of the money from the bond proposal going before voters in the Nov. 6 general election to ensure students have 21st century access to information.

The district should ensure that its students have access to recent strides in technology so they learn to use it in the workplace, said Katy Gray, a teacher at Moffat County High School for 24 years.

"Everything has become so technical," Gray said. "If you don't have students that are tech smart like they are in other districts, then they're at a disadvantage in college, in getting a job."

Some of Gray's students had been able to find jobs while in college because they learned to use Quark Xpress in their high school journalism class, she said.

The School District plans to spend $1.4 million of its bond budget on technology in two ways, Financial Director Mark Rydberg said.

The first is to replace the old computers in classrooms. Those computers are ones taken out of the computer labs because they were deemed to be too old for lab purposes, Rydberg said.

School District officials also believe it is necessary to upgrade the network servers and routers that link the different campuses to one another and the Internet.

"A lot of educational institutions are taught with increased use of software and through the Internet. The instructional model is more and more Web-based," Rydberg said. "We've reached the point that our broadband is no longer able to handle the load."

The Internet provides services to the classroom that were unfeasible before, Rydberg added.

"It goes to everything. Access to current technology gives them access to different ideas," Rydberg said. "Instead of one textbook that's written whenever, take for example a history book: the students can go out and research more than whatever (point of view) the textbook has taken."

The School District does implement certain restrictions to student access to the Internet. It uses a filtering program called WebSense that blocks certain Web sites based on subject matter.

Filtered subjects include adult material, entertainment, gambling, weapons, racism and hate, shopping and Web chats.

The district also uses a program called i-Safe, in which a teacher from each school teaches students about how to be safe on the Internet.

MCSD has used filtering software for several years and implemented i-Safe last year, said Marlene Knez, who handles software and staff development for the district.

It is impossible to guarantee students will not access any objectionable material on school computers, but the district combines several methods to come as close as they can.

"There's not 100 percent filtering even created, so we combine filtering with teacher monitoring in the classrooms and the i-Safe program," Knez said. "I think we have a quite complete program to ensure children's safety."

Some high school students feel the restrictions against certain Web sites unduly hinder their access to information. Moffat High School junior Jaimi Gorley, 16, could not research a project for history because the subject matter was too violent, she said.

"I was doing something for history, and project on the Salem witch trials, and all the sites were blocked," she said. "I think as long as it doesn't show nudity, most of the students here are mature enough to handle it."

Danielle Guinn, 16, a sophomore, doesn't see the point in filtering the Internet because students can find the material anyway.

"Most of us have the Internet at home, so it doesn't stop anything," Guinn said. "Or even on our cell phones."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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