Middle school has new iMac lab

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 2/23/00.

iMac lab Middle school students this year have had the opportunity to use 30 new iMac computers in their computer lab. Last year, the lab had 25 Macintosh Classics, which were old and slow, according to Wally Erickson, who teaches key-boarding to sixth graders and computer applications to seventh graders in the lab.

Middle school principal Deb Gillman used $35,000 in compensatory revenue to purchase the new computers and disk drives. Compensatory revenue is federal funding, based on the number of students who qualify for free and reduced meals, that goes directly to the respective school building.

Gillman said she spent a full year's worth of compensatory revenue on the new computers. Compensatory revenue has also supported summer school at the middle school for the past several years.

The computer lab became a priority, according to Gillman, "because the business department identified our lab as the most outdated lab in the school."

The business and vocational departments had their turn to purchase this year under the buying cycle; however, all these classes have considerable equipment needs. "I could see," said Gillman, "that the middle school lab, even though it was a priority, there was no way we could get it."

The lab was a fitting project for compensatory revenue, Gillman thought, because it benefits all the grades in the middle school and all the subject areas.

There was some sentiment to switching to IBM-compatible machines, which dominate the business world. The deciding factors in sticking with Macintosh computers were because it gives the school flexibility to move computers around if one goes down and because most of the school's educational software is written for the Macintosh.

Erickson likes the new iMacs. "We were really due for new computers in here, so this is great," he said.

In sixth grade, every student takes one quarter (nine weeks) of keyboarding, where they learn about good keyboarding habits, the location of keys, and the basics of how to type.

In seventh grade, all the students take a quarter of computer applications. After reviewing their keyboarding skills, they learn about word processing, drawing, spread sheets, and data bases. The final assignments require integrating these skills to produce reports.

"For what we're doing," said Erickson of the new computers, "they're really user friendly for the kids."

"They are extremely fast compared with what we had," agreed Polly Jaeger, who spends two hours each day as the computer lab assistant. She has other duties the rest of the day.

The computer lab is available to students during study hall and after school until 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

When the computer classes aren't in the lab, regular classes may use the lab for word processing or research. The new iMacs are Internet compatible, which is an improvement from last year's computers.

"In comparison with what we had," said Jaeger, "the kids really do like these."

The old computers were dispersed throughout the classrooms of the middle school, based on requests by teachers.

Future technology upgrades in the middle school include an iBook lab. These laptop computers could be moved from classroom to classroom to accommodate curriculum needs. A proposal to buy 30 iBooks has been included in a grant request the school district has made to the state.

The total grant request was for $160,000 district wide.

Gillman said their goal is also to have 15 computers in the middle school media center. For classroom research, figuring 30 students per class, this would allow one computer for a pair of students.

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