Today’s schools are not what they used to be

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was walking through the halls of a high school as a student. But, time passes faster than we realize and it’s now more than two decades later.

The school, of couse, is still there, although it has experienced some physical additions, the removal of some artwork in the hallways and a few changes in administration.

Sitting at last week’s special meeting of the Hancock County Board of Education, I also heard some of the ways education has changed in the last 20-plus years.

In the 90s, there usually were only a couple of places you would find a computer for students to use. There would be one or two computer labs, and then maybe some in the library. Everything was found in your textbook and teachers would write on a chalkboard.

Today’s classrooms are being outfitted with digital technology such as whiteboards for teachers and Chromebooks and tablets for students. Eventually, textbooks will be a thing of the past, with all of the lessons available through a website or download.

Multi-media centers are taking the place of libraries.

These days, they are talking about a greater emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), with grants obtained to have in-class experiments and even some after-school clubs and programs established.

The idea of basic web design was just starting to make its way into some classrooms when I was in school. Now, kids are learning about programming small robots.

In Brooke County, the high school has a type of robotics club, which has competed across West Virginia and even against teams from other parts of the country.

The county also has an annual Science Saturday, where guests are brought in to work with students on fun, science-based activities away from the regular school day.

I can remember thinking it was really cool when our school’s astronomy teacher arranged for the class to meet up in the high school parking lot to use his telescope to find Jupiter and Saturn.

I never could have imagined what today’s students get to do.

The idea of career education also is different. Before, the most we might see was courses focusing on carpentry, autobody, maybe some welding or even childcare. These days, there are more business-prep classes, media programs and a wide variety of other tracks set to give students an idea of a career they may want to pursue.

Teachers are coordinating, not only with their colleagues across the hall, but with those in other parts of their state and even across the country. They are networking through various conferences to learn new techniques that might not have made their way to the Ohio Valley for several more years.

All of that is aimed at improving educational systems and opportunities, and that will all allow students to be better prepared for the future.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)