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Technology lessons changing in ISD 192

The opening of a fifth elementary school next fall is giving the Farmington School District a chance to rethink they way they teach students about computers and technology.

Weekly lessons that focus specifically on computer education are out. Computer and technology curriculum folded into day-to-day learning is in.

When classes start next September the school will do away with its computer specialists -- teachers who, like art or music teachers, see students once or twice a week. At least three of the four current computer specialists will return to regular classroom teaching.

It's a move assistant superintendent Christine Weymouth said last week will save the district about $250,000, but she said there are reasons beyond the budget to make the change. While students won't have time set aside each week specifically to work on computers Weymouth believes they will spend more time developing computer skills.

How does that work? Say students have an essay to write. They'll do it on a computer. A paper to research? Map it out on the computer. Teachers can work computers and technology into lessons on everything from math to social studies to library skills.

Weymouth said she expects the district's media specialists to take a more active role in teaching students how to use the computer, especially for things like finding books in the library.

"The art teachers, I'm sure, do a lot of different art on the computers depending on the software they have," Weymouth said. "What it really does is, by not having the computer labs used all day, actually assigned, it provides classroom teachers an opportunity to get in and do the kinds of things they want to do."

Ultimately, the goal is to give students a chance to learn computer skills by putting those skills to use, rather than having a teacher lecture to them periodically. None of the district's current computer specialists has any special training to qualify them for the job.

"It's clearly a better way to do things," she said. "If you look around at a lot of neighboring districts, a lot of districts don't really have teachers full time in computer labs."

The district is in the process of developing a curriculum that will bring computer skills into the classroom, but Weymouth said many teachers already use technology in at least some small way.

School board surprised

Two school board members expressed dissatisfaction last week not so much with the change but with the way they found out about it. Julie Singewald and Tim Burke said they were left with few answers recently when parents called them upset because their student's computer class was being canceled.

"I felt like this somewhat was a bilndside," Singewald said. "I would like at least a heads-up."