Computers a necessity for students

Published 7:12 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
When I was younger a friend of mine down the street had an Apple computer. I really never saw the practical use of a computer back then, but we used to like to play a game called Zelda. It was a lot different from the software games of today. It was simply a question-and-answer-type adventure game. It would put you in the middle of a dark forest or in a damp orc dungeon. Your job was to tell the computer what to do, such as "look around," "follow path," or "pick up sword." It was only sentences, so if you wanted to see the path or dungeon you had to have an imagination. Pretty boring now, but cutting edge at the time.
A couple of years later, when computers were introduced into schools, the same type games were still in style, in the form of Zelda II and so on. The game is still a hit on modern video game consoles.
But, what used to be an enjoyable luxury for families and children has become a near necessity. While most families do not consider it a necessity to own a computer, it is certainly a necessity for students to learn how to use them.
With the growth of personal home computers during the 90s and the world-wide saturation of new technologies, most notably the internet, computer literacy is now near the top of most employers' skills list. The more familiar students are with computers and various softwares, the better off they will be when they go out to look for a job.
In the early and mid-90s, although most upper-middle-class and upper-class families had desktop computers, it became obvious that most students did not have access to a computer. Since then, computers labs are as important a part of a school as the library and cafeteria. Many school systems provided computer labs as early as the late 1980s.
But, these labs provide students with only a limited amount of time in which to familiarize themselves with the machines. Despite the efforts of schools everywhere, there is a large segment of today's students who do not have the much-needed access to computers and modern technology.
Some other folks are beginning to see the chasm between the haves and have-nots. The Beaumont Foundation of America is looking to provide school systems, community organizations and individuals with computers with hopes of closing the gap.
The foundation, based in Jefferson County, Texas, is using funds granted as part of an historic $2.1 billion nation-wide class action lawsuit to help provide these computers. The lawyers who make up the foundation have introduced a model to use class action litigation for the pubic good and it seems that some Alabama children will be the benefactors.
The foundation's purpose is to grant state-of-the-art, internet-enabled, wireless computer hardware to Americans who do not have access to the vast educational benefits of modern technology. They say they are dedicated to the principal of digital inclusion and to provide the educational advantages of technology to everyone, everywhere, at anytime.
A program of this nature is long overdue. The obvious advantages to those who have access is undeniable and the costs of providing such tools to children are often more than families can give. Other parents won't buy a computer for their family because they see it as a luxury and figure that schools are providing them with the knowledge they need anyway.
For many adults, a computer is a luxury … having equal, or even less, value than a television or stereo. But, for children it is a necessity a tool for life. The more they know about computers the better their chances in the job market as adults. Parents can no longer assume that their children can survive with the skills of the past. Even traditional vocations are utilizing modern technologies and computers.
Sure, kids are going to play games and 'surf the net.' But, as they grow and utilize the technology, they will grow more confident and learn new software, making them more attractive to employers as adults.