The next generation Classrooms gear up for a new century BACK TO SCHOOL


September 01, 1993|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

A caption on the cover of yesterday's Today section incorrectly identified one of the Pine Grove Middle School students pictured. Lori Mitchell was the student on the right.

The Sun regrets the errors.

When Baltimore students enter the George Street Elementary School today, they will be greeted by an abundance of new IBM and Apple computers and a gung-ho teaching staff ready to show how they can be used to learn math, science and language arts -- and to have fun.

When Baltimore County eighth-graders show up at Pine Grove Middle School's technology education lab next week, they will plunge into a hands-on study of biotechnology, electronic mail, fiber optics, magnetic levitation, computer-aided manufacturing and other high-tech fields.


In Howard County, even kindergarten students will work with computers, using the Logo language to draw a square and a triangle.

The 21st century is just a blink away and Baltimore area educators are hustling to get pre-school through eighth-grade students on line as soon as possible. Technology, defined in one junior high textbook as "a strategy for survival of our species," is the new key to the classroom.

The computer -- as an essential tool for students as well as teachers -- is the obvious centerpiece of technological literacy. No longer are students asked, "Are you interested in computers?" says Bill Hermann, technology education teacher at Pine Grove Middle School. "You don't have a choice, they've just taken over."

Today, computers are commonly integrated into the classroom as one of several instructional tools used to enhance learning. While computers have been widely used in high schools for some years now, educators are introducing students early to the tools they'll be using the rest of their lives.

At George Street School, for example, first-graders gathered around five classroom computers will be able to connect literature and math in a lesson that involves a story about a little boy who capriciously spends all his money. As the story is read by the teacher, students will follow on a computer, using a mouse to subtract pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from their screen. Later they will move to other non-computer work stations where they will learn to make change and write a story about how to spend $2.

For teachers, staff and parents at George Street, the new computers, purchased with federal funds earmarked for underprivileged students, offer exciting potential for the West Baltimore elementary school.

Instead of becoming passive and bored parties to a teacher's lecture, students working on computers and at other work stations "take responsibility for their own learning," says Gareth Brown, a staff specialist in Baltimore's office of compensatory and funded programs.

"The goal is to improve attendance, achievement and [to create] an atmosphere conducive to learning," says Barbara Hill, George Street's principal.

Jean Hailey is a grandmother of two children enrolled at George Street and a regular classroom volunteer who took a week-long computer training course this summer. She is glad that her grandchildren will be exposed early to computers. "With everything geared toward technology now, it's going to be a great asset in the future, because they'll be able to deal with it now. They won't be behind," she says.

Baltimore City elementary and middle school students also are learning how to use technology as their own personal tool. They will be simulating a chemistry experiment, writing a report using the WordPerfect software program or plotting data on a spread sheet.

Links to information

Computers also link students to vast amounts of information. "There is too much for kids to learn. It is far better for us to help them learn where to access information more than learn or memorize information," says Maurice B. Howard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Baltimore.

Other technological tools complement computers. At Roland Park Middle School, students can plug an electronic DTC encyclopedia stored on a CD-ROM into their computer to look up a map of Baltimore or watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

At Baltimore's Southeast Middle School, students make use of satellite technology to track the weather, clouds and other global changes. At Northeast Middle School, students produce a daily news show in an in-house television studio which is broadcast to classroom monitors.

Instructional technology also in use or in the works includes distance learning systems -- the delivery of instruction from a central site to one or more remote locations -- laser discs, VCRs, and the capability to combine multimedia into a single presentation.

Teachers, as well as students, are using computers to improve their work. In Baltimore, all middle school teachers will eventually have their own computers, programmed with a full curriculum outline that they can follow and embellish with original lesson plans and projects.

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