Does Not Compute

Dillard High School's Emerging Computer Technology magnet program is missing just one thing: emerging technology

While the G3-6500 is a good computer, with a two-gigabyte hard drive and 233-megahertz processing speed, it's nothing mind-boggling, says Kunkel. "Dillard has no better computers than any other school," she says. "If they wanted a real kicking computer, they should get the G3-333, which has a 333-megahertz processor, one of the fastest."

To recent Emerging Tech graduate Shawn Farmer, the most useful thing about the magnet wasn't the classroom experience but the chance to intern at area high-tech companies that maintain partnerships with the program. After graduating Farmer got a job with one of those companies, Motorola, and now serves as a mentor for the next crop of Dillard students.

School board member Bob Parks promises that things will be getting better at Dillard as a districtwide process called "retrofitting" gears up. Retrofitting is designed to redress the inequities between older schools, such as Dillard, that have languished over the years as the district has directed most of its budget into building new schools in the western parts of the county. At Dillard this will mean an influx of as much as $40 million, he said.

But all this new money won't necessarily mean that Emerging Tech students get the newest equipment available. It simply means they'll get more of the same types of computers that can be found in every school in the district.

To advocates like Eggelletion, that's not enough. "Dillard is supposed to be the magnet high-technology program," he says. "It's not supposed to be the same as other schools in this regard; it's supposed to be far superior, so that it serves as a drawing card that makes kids want to come to this high school."

To Noland the answer is fairly clear: The district should give her the flexibility to ensure that Emerging Tech students are first in line for new hardware and software. That could mean experimenting with leasing arrangements, shopping outside the "approved" list, or creating a "pilot program" in which her students would be charged with evaluating hardware and software the district is considering purchasing.

Don't look for any of those ideas to see the light of day, says Joseph Kirkman, director of educational technology services for the Broward School District. For one thing, "I already have a professional staff that evaluates technology," he says. Moreover, "in order for leasing to be a viable alternative, you have to have a product that will still have a residual value at the end of the lease. When you're talking about computers, there is no useful life at the end of the lease."

Kirkman has another kind of solution in mind. "If you used left-brain logic, you might not think you wanted a technological program at Dillard at all," he says. Especially given that the trend has been to consolidate high-tech education at adult vocational centers such as McFatter Vocational in Davie or Sheridan Vocational in Hollywood. "If you look at the name 'Emerging Technology,' this was a name somebody picked out ten years ago," Kirkman says. "I'm not sure that's right anymore. Maybe we should change it."

Contact Paul Belden at his e-mail address:
Paul_Belden@newtimesbpb.com

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