Mon Schools tapped into technology

Back in the prehistoric technology days of the year 2000, West Virginia Network for Educational Telecomputing had to pull the plug on WVU.

Not that it wanted to, necessarily.

It was just that students then were enthusiastically partaking of Napster, the old music-sharing service that used miles of computer code, and countless hours to download even one album.

By February of that year, usage was so pronounced that WVNET was nightly losing 25% of its entire bandwidth to Napster.

That was massive for the network on Chestnut Ridge Road that continues to provide internet and other computer avenues for public entities across the Mountain State, such as colleges and hospitals.

Either nudge Napster, or suffer disruptions or at least glacially slow transfer times in that delivery, the network said.

Chris Urban, who directs technology for services for Monongalia County Schools chuckled as she appeared before Board of Education members at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Now, 24 years later, Napster has gone the way of the old 8-track tape deck in your great-grandad’s sedan.

The technology, though, remains.

It’s just bigger, Urban said.

Mon’s students are now issued Chromebooks on the first day of school every year.

Chromebooks are those personal laptop computers for their digital day-to-day.

Save for the occasional dings, beverage dumps on keyboards and the time that goat ate the one kid’s battery charger – difficult to top, the director said – the transition has been basically free of tech-turbulence.

That was even at the height of the pandemic, Urban added, when Mon’s district, and everyone else, had to pivot to total remote learning after schools were shuttered.

And when some teachers, honest about their decided lack of tech savviness as Urban allowed, had to suddenly start using old skills and attributes in unfamiliar ways.

“That’s where the team comes in,” she said.

She’s talking about the people who in the schools, making sure all the blips and keystrokes are doing exactly they’re supposed to do.

“It takes people,” she said. “It takes time, skill and knowledge.”

That’s because the team, she continues, has to deal with vandalizing squirrels, copper wire-stealers and that motorist in that car who knocked down the tree in Ravenswood – only to cause computer outages in Ridgedale Elementary.

“I’m blessed with a great team,” she said.

And a school and a district that’s just as visionary, as, say, the old television shows “Star Trek” and  “The Jetsons.”

“Look at all the technology those shows correctly predicted. We’re living the future.”