Itís an understatement to say that computers have revolutionized the way the world operates. From recreational pursuits to the world of business, computers have for a majority of the industrialized world assumed the dominant role in how people study, work and play.

But technology has now moved beyond a curious gimmick with the capability to surprise and amaze. Itís evolved into a tool to handle tasks, a necessary component of communication and a means to entertain ourselves. In education, computers are not just something to learn; they are something to use to accomplish learning.

This month, the boards of trustees at both the Brownwood and Early school districts underscored that fact in different ways. In Brownwood, board members heard a report from Superintendent Reece Blincoe about school systems that have provided a laptop computer for each of its secondary level students. Older students are even allowed to take the computers home, extending the usefulness of the devices and making education a day-long proposition. Byproducts of such a program include improved self-esteem among students, improved attendance rates, fewer dropouts, and increased numbers of students graduating and going on to seek higher education. It also levels the field for students whose families donít have the means to provide a family computer and Internet access. No decision was made concerning if or when Brownwood might be able to consider such a program, but most who offered an opinion agreed that this is the direction in which public education is headed.

In Early, Superintendent Brett Koch unveiled the districtís network that allows school board members ó as well as the public ó to access reports and data all posted on the districtís Web site. Instead of sorting through a stack of papers, trustees clicked on laptops to follow the agenda, read reports and examine documents. A bank of laptops was also provided for school district staff members attending, as well as the news media.

Some of what those looking into the future are predicting is seemingly a long reach. But that is the nature of technology as the world has seen it in the closing decade of the last century and the first decade of this one. Donít bet against any of it becoming a reality, and of it happening sooner than any of us think.

Brownwood Bulletin