Enter the Net: Not so fast — Benton wins!

By David Hughes

One thing to which so-called “social media” excels is allowing the initial opinion of one person to take fire and influence hundreds or thousands of others in a relatively short period of time. It’s the rough equivalent of the personal newspaper column of just a few years ago.
Back in that day local, national and regional papers hired editorial and “op-ed” writers to opine about issues which affected readerships. They were powerful men and women in their communities because of the exclusive bully pulpit newspapers provided – that is – a venue to sometimes realign community thinking about ideas and issues.
Now, that pulpit is open to lay persons. If they are respected individuals in their communities chances are their writings on social media such as Facebook are “liked” –which is the equivalent of an old newspaper subscription. In other words, on social media almost anyone can be the “editor” of their own personal opinion letter.
Such is the case of one Saline County man – Sam Steuart. I went to school with Sam, as did hundreds of others, and through the years he retained that friendship base and added other friends because of his years in education … and as is the case with Facebook, those friends have friends who have friends … you get the idea.
One of the larger water cooler/coffee break topics the past week or so has been the score of the Salt Bowl and Benton’s seeming “snake bit itis” of not coming out on top of our next-door neighbor the past few years. That one game is the source of a lot of chest pounding and braggin’ rights by the blue man/woman group of Bryant.
Well, after this year’s addition to the record books following the game, Sam went online and suggested “Not So Fast ………”
After the games over and the pom poms are put away for another year there are other standards by which to judge school systems beyond football and other sports.
Sam said in his Facebook posting “I was saddened by the Salt Bowl score, but here are some scores that even things up. They are the district scores on the state tests. The scores were obtained from the State Dept of Ed.
* - Algebra I :Benton composite 274 Bryant Composite 253
* - Biology Mid-Year Benton 211 Bryant Composite 192
* - Biology Spring Benton 218 Bryant Composite 209
* - Geometry Benton 258 Bryant Composite 239
* - Grade 11 Literacy Benton 217 Bryant Composite 214”
“ Our teachers are the best asset we have. If you scan the Benchmark scores from all over the state, you know what a fine district we have and that is largely due to the fine teachers. Bentonians, we need to blow our horn more. So pass these scores on to others. Copy and paste 'em.”
After his posting, Sam received a few “atta-boys” from friends and other readers. I made the suggestion online that perhaps the district needs to create its own “brain bowl” trophy to tangibly honor the achievements of the district’s academic athletes. I’ll bet if someone really tried there would be enough donations from the community to pay for such a trophy. It could be prominently placed in the trophy case along with other dusty mementos of “glory years.” The problem is how to honor the real heroes of these great scores – the teachers.
So – the next time a Bryant sports fan brags about the Salt Bowl by all means be gracious. But, then ask him/her if they would rather their students brag about a football game or their grades … Which will mean more over a lifetime?

As I was putting together my thoughts about this column and my pride of how well Benton’s students are doing, I wondered to myself if there wasn’t some way to capture the magic our teachers have. One of the things I kept coming back to was how inexpensive it would be to digitally record the daily classroom lectures, experiments and atmosphere of classes and put them online.
Think what a boon it would be for students to not only have the ability to listen to specific parts of a lesson, but also what this library of skill could mean for literacy in general in Benton and elsewhere. Imagine being able to call up a discussion of Hamlet or a laboratory experiment in chemistry or biology,
Back in the day this would be a nightmare of thousands of video tapes, but today, each lesson is just a file on a hard drive which gets less expensive by the day.
Putting together these classes could be within the prevue of the school’s television students who could learn on the job how to shoot the teachers and students in an unobtrusive way and then edit the finished product. Think of it this way: Back when my generation went to school the “Projection Club” was led by guidance counselor Bill Hahn. His students ran the projectors and set up audio equipment for the teachers.
Today’s PC kids don’t need to do much of that because the school is already wired for video, etc. Today, they could be the video crews helping teachers spread their magic.
The possibilities are unlimited … and the benefits are manifold. Hooking that treasure trove of knowledge to the Internet could help thousands for literally pennies apiece.
The idea could also be expanded to help distant learning for students who can’t attend school for whatever reason …. Make the live classes available online using today’s off-the-shelf technology.
It may sound far-fetched, but it can be done with enough money spent in the right budgets.
A final congrats to Benton’s academic athletes. You are all winners.