It’s rare to walk into a business, or have any type of transaction, that doesn’t involve technology today. What might be surprising to many is that just five years ago, you could walk into nearly every one of the 37 schools in Evergreen Public Schools and not see technology except for in an isolated computer lab. Even the school office computers were outdated and still running on Microsoft XP.
Today, that has changed dramatically for students and staff. In Evergreen’s schools, for those in grades 3-12, there is a computer for each student. In Kindergarten through 2nd grade, there is a computer for every two students. And even the office staff have new workstations.
As technology has become an important way to navigate in both personal and professional settings, Evergreen knew it needed to weave it into student learning, but as a learning tool, not a standalone device. That’s why you will find students accessing up-to-date digital curriculum, conversing with students in other states and countries, working collaboratively on group projects and learning what it means to become responsible digital citizens, all using a computer as they would have previously used paper and pencil. It’s also why Evergreen is running its first ever technology levy on Feb. 12 to ensure its schools, and more importantly, students, stay current.
Local employers are taking notice of the strides Evergreen has made in incorporating technology into the school settings. Jason Irving, a principal at MacKay Sposito, explains: “Exposing students, our next generation of workers, to new technology at an early age develops workers ready to contribute and that bring a mindset of continuous improvement through the application of technology. The importance of exposing and teaching students early will only increase over time as we continue to lean more heavily on technology to perform our jobs.”
Vector Solutions Project Manager Michael Reese says while his company focuses on technology-based products, any employer, regardless of the industry, needs individuals who are comfortable using technology.
“There is no getting around it. Not only is technology all around us, but it also runs our everyday lives. Students need to know that there is no single method to get from point A to point B. Technology is just a tool and those tools are evolving rapidly. Being comfortable with adapting and having the ability to switch tools depending on the needs of the company will make students extremely valuable no matter which industry they choose to be in,” Reese said.
The Technology Levy represents a dedicated funding source for school-based technology, which is not currently state funded beyond a very basic amount. For 37 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, the Technology Levy will help ensure students have the current digital curriculum and tools needed to perform in school, plus be competitive after graduation.
The Technology Levy is not meant to fund all education materials and functions. Schools will continue to use a mixture of “tried and true” learning tools as well as technology. Just as LSW Architects’ Kyle Rogers points out in his profession: “While hand sketching will always remain a vital step in our creative process, technology plays a critical role in the building industry and influences how we communicate, collaborate, and create the models and documents necessary for construction. To prepare the next generation of architects, engineers and contractors, students should be engaging with technology throughout their education in ways that will translate to success in their future careers.”
Evergreen Public Schools’ vision is that, “Students will graduate prepared for personal success in their choice of career and/or post-secondary education, committed to contribute to the common good and motivated to continue the pursuit of knowledge throughout their lives.”
Whether this path includes college, technical training or direct entry into the workforce, the ability to utilize technology will be a critical part linking their individual futures to today.
Dr. John Steach is the superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools – the largest school district in Southwest Washington and the sixth largest in the state with 26,000 students; and is the third largest employer, with 3,300 employees, in Clark County.