Students given chance to ride Internet waves

June 18, 1995|By Traci J. Mathena | Traci J. Mathena,Special to The Sun

Jim and Anne Brown are introducing Carroll County students to a new form of summer recreation: surfing the Internet and catching a few rays of knowledge.

The couple operates "Reading, Plus Math, Plus Computers Equals Growth," an academic and computer literacy tutoring service, from their Davinda Drive rancher in Deer Park.

The Browns, who also teach computer classes at St. John's Catholic School in Westminster, began their home summer session Monday with 22 students who are working on comprehension and tangents while their friends work on their tans.

"We're really just teaching them the basics," said Mr. Brown, 59, the self-taught computer enthusiast who handles the computer skills part of the tutoring. "It's a lot like practical uses for word processing."

"I help them with reading and math," said Mrs. Brown, 61, a retired reading specialist who tutors in the traditional academic subjects. "I do it because I love children and I want to see them succeed. God didn't give me children, but he did give me children to work with."

Mrs. Brown was tutoring students in academic subjects before she retired from the Baltimore County school system in 1983. About six years ago, she and her husband combined efforts to enhance students' experience with computer applications.

Since 1990, the couple has taught kindergarten through eighth-grade students about 1 1/2 days a week at St. John's.

"St. John's asked us what kind of computer they should buy," Mrs. Brown said. "After I recommended that they buy it [an Apple II GS], they said they didn't have anyone to teach the class."

The Browns were just right for the job. Five years before, while some people their age were looking at computers as a technological evil, the Browns embraced the medium and decided to learn everything they could about the technology that they said makes them feel 10 years younger.

"I got into it just by having to learn the programs, trying to figure out what do you do next," Mr. Brown said. "I guess by doing it and talking to friends, I found out."

Mr. Brown took a basic computer course at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, then used some of what he learned to develop the lesson plan he and his wife use to teach the computer class at St. John's. Since then, the Browns have been making ample use of their knowledge and the educational programs at school and in their home business.

"I do show the seventh- and eighth-graders how to manipulate the text," Mr. Brown said of his school lessons. He cited one example in which he gives the children a paragraph that has sentences misplaced and words misspelled. "They will have to use the spell-check to correct it or use the functions to move the text."

He said he uses the same lessons at home, in the basement computer lab where he teaches students the fundamentals of computer operation, typing, word processing, data bases, video book report preparation and other computer skills.

"I am confident that they are learning the skills they can use, not only for their own benefit but as tools above and beyond the typing ability," Mr. Brown said.

At school, Mrs. Brown works with students in reading and math as well as computer skills. In one activity, the children used computers to create storybooks.

At home, Mrs. Brown spends a 50-minute session guiding one child through work in a subject he has found difficult during the school year. Each child has an individualized lesson plan structured to fit his or her needs.

Computer time also is given to students as a reward, she said.

"We're using the educational programs [on the computer] to help them with their reading, math and spelling," said Mr. Brown. The couple said games such as "Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?" help kids remember geography, history and social studies information, and another program rewards students with game after they solve five math problems.

The Browns also teach telecommunications, which allows students to "talk" to other computers. The METNET on-line service for educators lets them gather information, read books and correspond with one another by e-mail.

"I think by bringing the students into METNET you bring them back to writing skills," Mrs. Brown said. "In order to communicate on the METNET, you have to write, and all of a sudden writing is not a chore. It seems fun."

Going on-line also gives students the opportunity to expand their knowledge. The Browns connected a computer skills class at St. John's to a class in Wicomico County. The next week the students connected to the biology department at the University of Illinois.

Such communication helps the students organize information and improve their writing skills, Mrs. Brown said. "For this, they have to follow a sequential style, and that's what they are having trouble with."

Academic tutoring costs $25 a session and computer skills tutoring costs $18 a session. For more information, call Reading, Plus Math, Plus Computers Equals Growth at 876-1844.

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