School aims to give youngsters a leg up in computer skills

September 14, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

When he talks computers, Bob Cancelliere likes to use this analogy: "If the automobile industry had made the advances of the computer industry, an automobile would get 1 million miles per gallon and cost less than a dollar."

In other words, computer technology has advanced at lightning speed over the past 25 years, and "prices have come down phenomenally," he said.

Because those advances likely will continue and computers will become even more common in the work place, Mr. Cancelliere, a Severna Park resident, is starting the county's first private computer school for youngsters.

It's never too early for children to start learning their way around memory chips, floppy disks and megabytes, the retired IBM executive figured.

"Children are easier to train on computers than adults," said Mr. Cancelliere, who began training his 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son when they were toddlers. "Adults have preconceived ideas and a fear. If a kid can play a video machine, a kid can use a PC."

The president of Severna Park-based Automation Associates builds computers, acts as a consultant and teaches classes to adults at his company's Computer Education Center on Benfield Road. This fall, the center also will offer after-school, introductory and advanced classes to students age 8 to 18.

Mary Ostrye, of Severna Park, said she plans to enroll two of her sons, ages 9 and 11, in the school. She and her husband bought a computer to help the boys improve homework and reading and writing skills.

"When the boys found out they could do homework on the computer, homework became very easy," Mrs. Ostrye said, adding that the courses should help her sons become proficient in computer language.

"In the future, probably every business you go into, you'll have to use computers," she said. "This is when their interest level is real high. Kids like pushing buttons. It's more fun than sitting down with pencil and paper."

Mr. Cancelliere or one of four other instructors starts with the basic components of computers, copying, loading and writing programs and programming in BASIC.

"We show students what a hard disk is and what a floppy is," he said. "We tell them, 'The computer is your personal slave. It will do what you tell it to do, and it will do it fast. If you tell it the wrong way, it's going to do it fast and wrong.' "

The classroom is equipped with 12 IBM-compatible personal computers and state-of-the-art software programs in Microsoft DOS and Windows.

Each 20-hour course costs $150. The center has scheduled open houses from 7 to 9 p.m., tomorrow through Thursday and Sept. 22-24, at 517 Benfield Road, where visitors will be given $50 discounts.

Once they understand how to use computers, children can advance to software packages that promote learning through games.

"You can sit at a computer and learn anything from one and one is two, up through geometry and

trigonometry and calculus," Mr. Cancelliere said. "The computer paces itself to the student as the student progresses."

Becoming computer literate often encourages, rather than discourages, reading, added Scott

Justice, Automation Associates' systems engineering manager.

"There's a lot of reading to be done in the computer," Mr. Justice said. "Reading is reading, whether it's on a computer screen or in a book."

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