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Education is the focus at high-tech high

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January 20, 1997 Web posted at: 11:55 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Greg Lefevre

NAPA, California (CNN) -- One of the most technologically advanced high schools in the nation looks like one big computer class.

It's not. Computers are not the focus here. Education is.

"We want a high school that would teach the regular subjects," says Robert Nolan, a school district consultant, "but we want to use technology as the tool."

The problem was how to get computers in the classroom of New Technology High School here without having the computers take over.


The Napa school district designed the courses first, then called in teachers like Deborah Aufdenspring, experts on using newfangled means to teach the standard courses.

Says Aufdenspring, a teacher of American literature and American history, "Teaching is teaching. For me, having access to the technology is a bonus."

The textbooks are CD-ROMs

There are other bonuses, too: happy kids and happy parents.

"I love it," says Michael Bates, a junior at the school. "I love it here."

"It really kind of propels him forward," says Michael's father, David. "He's more into school."


The literature classroom looks much the same as the multimedia classroom. And, as Mark Morrison, director of the school says, "They take a math class. They take a multi-media design class. They take a computer applications class. They take a history class that is also an English class."

They also take a college course off-campus, and the library is on the Internet. The textbooks are mostly on CD-ROMs, and tests are online.

"Students can e-mail me their assignments," says Aufdenspring. "I can grade them on the computer and e-mail them back to them."

Money came from donations and industry

Napa is not a wealthy district. Nearly all of the money to build the school came from donations and private industry.

"The first two months into the project, we didn't even talk about products," says Mark Riller of Hewlett-Packard. "We wanted to know what they were trying to achieve."

"It's preparing then so that when they get out of school, they're kind of on top of the pile instead of just shuffled around in the middle somewhere," says David Bates, Michael's father.

"If I already know the material the teachers give me options," says Devina Whitley, another student. "It lets you make a lot of your own choices."

Her father, Robert, is impressed that his daughter can work in Apple or PC format. "It's a new experience for me," says Devina, "and for my parents. They're learning right along with me, too."


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