By Paul Leach, Correspondent
BENTON, Tenn. -- Computer technology, both as a subject and a tool for study, is taking a leading role in Polk County classrooms.
The county school board this week approved adding computer classes on programming, graphic design and video production as a core path of study at Polk County High School.
The board also approved the purchase of nine high-end desktops capable of handling memory-intensive imaging software for those classes at a cost of $10,620.
The new computer focus area -- similar to a minor course of college study, but for high school -- will give students "a broader exposure to a field that is pretty open," said Dewey Esquinance, information technology instructor at the school.
Before the board's vote, the closest computer-based focus area for the school was website design, but it included no programming classes, Esquinance said.
He said the computer classes already exist, but only as electives. As part of a focus area, students will take three related computer classes in sequence.
The new computers were requested to accommodate the growing number of students interested in taking information technology and digital graphic art classes, Esquinance said.
Technology has affected not only what Polk County schools teach, but how they teach.
Interactive multimedia whiteboards have proved popular with many teachers, according to Laura Burnett, supervisor of technology for Polk County Schools.
The whiteboards offer a way to engage students and provide a "wow factor," said Dr. James R. Jones, director of Polk County Schools.
The county bought 17 of the interactive devices last year with federal Race to the Top money, and the system will buy 30 more this year through a variety of funding sources, according to Burnett.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.