Lack of funding undercuts effort at Oregon school

Lack of funding undercuts effort at Oregon school

By Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

Teacher Tim Taber shows students how to use AppleWorks design software in the Harriet Tubman Middle School's computer lab in Portland, Ore.

Two determined teachers in Portland, Ore., are sharing their self-taught computer knowledge with students, but say their efforts are often hampered by a lack of technical support and funds.

A grant from a federal agency fueled their technology education efforts at Harriet Tubman Middle School.

U.S. Energy Department officials at the nearby Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is operated by Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio, were concerned that by 2015 there would be a shortage of scientists, said Craig Moore, computer coordinator at the school.

Give and take

Energy officials asked teachers to develop a comprehensive program that would attract minority and female students to science and technology.

The department donated $75,000 to the school to set up the Science Technology Applied Research Lab, which was modeled on an Energy lab.

But the Energy program, called Options in Science, was eliminated because of budget cuts, Moore said.

Moore and his teaching partner, Tim Taber, persevered. The STAR Lab shines on, but money for software and hardware upgrades is scarce.

Moore and Taber said they learned their computer skills on the job.

'There's just been no time set aside for technology,' Moore said.

In 1994, the voters of the Portland district passed a $70 million school technology bond, but there was no money allocated for support, Moore said.

'So we have lots of hardware in the school now and a pretty good budget for software. But if you ask me, they skimped on maintenance and support,' he said.

Moore said he sometimes gets frustrated by the school's older systems. Some computers are 5 years old, and the lithium batteries are running low.

'The technical problems can overwhelm you,' Moore said.

In 1997, school officials wired each classroom to a 10Base-5 Ethernet network. The STAR Lab has about 25 Apple Macintosh 580 PCs with 68LC040 processors. The school has a couple of iMacs that Moore uses as servers, Taber said.

Sharing apples

Taber has been teaching at Harriet Tubman for 14 years. He took a Hypercard program class his first year there and began noodling around on an Apple IIe, typing up his lesson plans.

'But most of what I know I learned from Craig,' he said.

The AppleShare network is the core of the program, Moore said. Teachers recently started taking attendance over the network. Students have their own private folders on the network.

The STAR Lab simulates a real research laboratory, Moore said. Students are 'hired' and paid in the lab's own currency.

Taber uses AppleWorks design software with sixth-graders. Each student designs a business card with a logo and personal slogan.

Seventh-graders do structural engineering in AppleWorks, Taber said. They build bridges, then model what happens to them when an earthquake strikes.

Interaction Counts

'Technology is just such an awesome force,' Moore said. 'Who knows how far the Internet is going to go? Soon people are seriously going to wonder why students have to go to a bricks-and-mortar school. I think schools are going to have to respond to that. Schools are here to teach kids how to be human.'


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