Students will learn their lessons on-line Linked: Bell Atlantic to help provide Logan Elementary School teachers and children with computers in class and home.

March 23, 1996|By Michael Dresser and Marego Athans | Michael Dresser and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

When third-graders and their teachers at Logan Elementary School in Dundalk report for school next fall, they won't just be getting new textbooks and chalk. Each will receive a free home computer.

The Logan students' windfall is the result of a showcase project to be announced Monday by Bell Atlantic Corp. and the Glendening administration.

The program will place six computers in each of 17 classrooms in grades one through five, school district officials said. In addition, each classroom will receive a teacher work station, copier, printer and cellular telephone.

Francine M. Schaffer, principal of Logan Elementary, said the program "has been a dream of mine."

"We're not the Towson crowd," she said. "Given some of the advantages that some of the other children have, computers in their homes, our children can perform as well as other children. I think that's going to happen. I know it will happen."

The groundbreaking experiment in the use of high technology in education is the direct result of an unusual public challenge in December issued by Major F. Riddick Jr., Gov. Parris N. Glendening's chief of staff, to Bell Atlantic Chairman Raymond W. Smith in Baltimore.

Mr. Riddick had just heard Mr. Smith describe in a speech at the Maryland Technology Showcase how Bell Atlantic had outfitted a middle school in Union City, N.J., with computers in classrooms and students' homes in 1993, resulting in improvements in the students' test scores.

Mr. Riddick seized the opportunity to publicly ask Mr. Smith to do the same in Maryland, and Mr. Smith promptly agreed.

The three-year, $2.9 million project will be funded through corporate contributions, with 60 percent to 70 percent of the money coming from Bell Atlantic, said Mr. Riddick, Mr. Glendening's point man on technology issues.

Mr. Riddick said yesterday that Logan had been chosen by state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick largely because of its demographic balance, the school's track record of partnerships with business and the strong interest shown by Ms. Schaffer.

Third-graders were chosen for the most extensive use of computers so the state will be able to conduct a study of the effect the program has on students' test scores, Mr. Riddick said. The Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test is administered to third- and fifth-graders.

Logan has an enrollment that is about 65 percent white and 35 percent black and other minorities. Its students, mostly from working-class families, post test scores that are below standards but moving up, Ms. Schaffer said.

As of now, Logan's staff is projecting that 104 home computers will be distributed 97 to students and seven to teachers.

Mr. Riddick said the computers are expected to be IBM-compatible models equipped with modems so that teachers and students can communicate with the school and each other via e-mail.

Each classroom and the library will be connected through a network providing access to on-line encyclopedias and libraries around the world on the Internet. The school will be able to post homework and school calendars on the network. No longer will a snow day, a sick day or a weekend be an excuse for learning to stop, Ms. Schaffer said.

The governor's budget includes a $100,000 appropriation for the project, while the rest of the cost will be borne by other corporate partners. They include Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile, which will provide cellular phones, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., Xerox Corp. and Lucent Technologies, the electronics manufacturing spin-off of AT&T Corp.

The private contributions drew praise from the governor, who has sought corporate help in technology-related initiatives.

"This public-private partnership will bring the information highway right to the front door of these students. We are providing opportunities that may not have been possible but for the generosity of our business partners," the governor said in a statement yesterday.

Daniel J. Whelan Jr., president of Bell Atlantic-Maryland, said yesterday the project will be the second such effort undertaken by the company and the first at the elementary school level.

"We saw wonderful results from it in New Jersey at the middle-school level, and we're confident that the same thing is going to happen on the elementary school level," Mr. Whelan said.

"The business element is that we want to show the world that using information technology is a good way of improving education, and there are some obvious business benefits that flow from it," Mr. Whelan added.

Abraham Antun, president of the Union City Board of Education, said the program there contributed to a significant rise in test scores, parent involvement and an improvement in the students' attitudes toward school.

"With the computer being in the home, the parent was able to get involved in the lessons and could help act as a resource for the child," Mr. Antun said. "You could see the entire attitude of the child change and, as a result, learning improved."

The Glendening administration hopes that Bell Atlantic's example will motivate other companies to make similar contributions, Mr. Riddick said. He said Maryland will also be seeking federal grants for similar school projects.

In a related matter, Mr. Riddick said the Glendening administration expects to try to organize an effort similar to California's widely publicized Netday96, which drew about 17,000 volunteers from across that state to help wire some 2,600 schools to use the Internet. That so-called "high-tech barn-raising" drew about 1,100 corporate sponsors, as well as a visit from President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

Mr. Riddick said plans were not firm but that he hopes that the state will be able to sponsor such an event when the next school year begins.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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