DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At Waipahu Intermediate School, Isel Marievic Barba and Kathryn-Joy Banday learn about computer technology in Gayle Loui's technology education class.
Isle students can now officially become computer savvy
WHEN 13-year-old Kathryn-Joy Banday finishes the computer course she is taking at Waipahu Intermediate School, she will get more than a grade -- she can earn a credential that is globally recognized.
Starting in January, eighth-graders at nearly every public middle school in the state can take tests to receive national certification that they are computer literate.
"It's really good because you can use it on your resume and jobs that you go for," said Banday, sitting in front of a sleek flat-screen Dell, one of 25 new computers her classroom got this year as part of the digital literacy effort.
A $298,940-a-year contract between Certiport Inc. and the state Department of Education covers the training and testing of 14,000 eighth-graders annually, along with their teachers. Of Hawaii's 54 public middle schools, 49 are taking part, making this the broadest statewide effort to date, according to Certiport officials.
Students like Banday are learning the basics of computer hardware, software, networks and the Internet -- skills that will help them in high school, college and the work force. They will be able to manipulate spreadsheets and create graphic presentations, as well as use the Internet without getting into trouble.
"Kids these days are familiar with technology because they can download songs on iPod and learn very quickly the latest computer games," Chris Yandow, Certiport's senior manager for Hawaii, said in an interview.
"But if a history or a science teacher asks them to graph the results of an experiment they've just done, it doesn't work the same as the Sony PlayStation," he said. "They need to know the specific tools of communication that are in education and the workplace."
The state focused on eighth-graders because the federal No Child Left Behind law recommends that students be technologically literate by the end of eighth grade. The elective course allows students to earn "Internet and Computing Core Certification," or IC3, credentials that will be posted by Certiport on a digital transcript that colleges and employers can check.
"Our students are going to graduate with more than a diploma," said Assistant Superintendent Katherine Kawaguchi. "They will have portable certification."
"The need to be computer literate is a given nowadays," she added. "It's like you need to know how to use a pencil."
In Banday's class at Waipahu Intermediate School, students work at their own pace, listening to a narrator through headphones and silently sliding their mouses to click on the right spots.
"They can see it visually as well as hear it, and after the narrator explains, the computer actually shows you what you're supposed to do," said Gayle Loui, their technology teacher. "Right after that, the student demonstrates it. There's more than one way to catch the information."
Eighth-grader Isel Marievic Barba said the course is more engaging that way, better than listening to lectures.
"When it's just the teacher teaching, we get bored sometimes," she said. "If you do it yourself, it's more exciting. You get to learn more."
The Department of Education covers the cost of training and two certification tests, "Key Applications" and "Living Online." A third certification is available, "Computing Fundamentals," but the student must pay for that test.
"Hawaii's commitment to global technology standards distinguishes it among other states seeking ways to develop a competitive work force for the future," said David Saedi, president of Utah-based Certiport.
IC3 credentials lay the foundation for more advanced certification such as Microsoft Office Specialist for desktop skills, or CompTIA A+ for computer service technicians.
Adele Wada, state resource teacher in advanced technology, likened the digital literacy effort to learning to drive.
"They are basic things you should know, like filling up gas and changing the oil," Wada said. "You don't have to know how to fix the car. You need to know the rules."
"As parents we've kind of just let our kids go on the Internet," she said. "We didn't get them trained. We would not even think about that if they were learning to drive a car."