Plugging the computer education gap Loan program: Goal is for teachers to become as technologically literate as their pupils.

September 29, 1997

WITH EVERY ADVANCE in technology, Maryland teachers face a new dilemma. This generation of students is typically more knowledgeable about the world of computers then their older, and supposedly more experienced, instructors.

Computers are being integrated more and more into the schools, with the help of efforts such as Maryland's "Net Weekend" in the past few days. Educators and volunteers have wired hundreds of classrooms throughout the state in the style of an Amish-barn raising.

But even as these classrooms go "on-line," many teachers lack the time and resources to learn what their students may already know. This computer knowledge gap creates discomfort for the instructors, who sometimes cannot answer questions posed by their computer-literate pupils.

To assist these teachers, some school boards have introduced programs to help them buy computers for personal use. By making computers more readily available, school boards hope to boost teacher confidence and knowledge. This alone won't make for better technology instruction, but it will help.

Under one program recently approved in Carroll County, teachers can choose from a list of computers offered, at manufacturer's price, by Apple and Gateway. They can pay for their purchase over one to four years through payroll deduction. Union National Bank of Westminster is offering loans for the program at an annual interest rate of 8.9 percent.

Besides boosting teachers' technology competence, this program aims at simplifying a raft of teacher tasks via the computer, from letter-writing to lesson planning.

Once teachers gain familiarity with the Internet and the World Wide Web, they could gain knowledge in their fields from colleagues and experts from around the world.

A similar computer loan strategy has been productive in Anne Arundel and Howard counties. In Anne Arundel, one-tenth of the faculty members, including the school system's director of financial services, have taken advantage of a program to buy a personal computer or update an older model. An instructor familiar with computers through practice and experimentation makes a better teacher than one who must gain his computer knowledge from students.

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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