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When Teachers Learn

August 08, 1993

Computers, Students Will

* Pat Becker (Valley Commentary, July 11) makes the recommendation that all schools should copy the computer setup at Sierra Canyon Elementary school in Chatsworth, which places four to six computers in each classroom.

Perhaps for the uses she envisions for computer technology in schools this is the most appropriate arrangement. Becker says that this number of computers works well for teachers who integrate computers into their existing curriculum and utilize programs such as the "Carmen Sandiego" series.

However, the most effective use of computer technology lies not in drill and practice software or even the more entertaining "Carmen Sandiego" software. The most effective use of computer technology is when students use software to actively create multimedia products which demonstrate students' abilities to synthesize, organize and present information.

Students don't learn these skills watching others sit at the computer. Multimedia projects require hands-on time at the computer, time which can be only be had in a lab setting where there are ample computers, laser disc players and other multimedia equipment. None of this comes inexpensively, and to divide this up among teachers who may not know how to utilize it is poor policy.

Computer labs are not the problem. In the case of multimedia projects, they provide a solution in a time of limited resources. Becker rightly points out the real problem in computer education: lack of teachers who know how to utilize existing technology. Teacher training and follow-up is the key to providing students with the opportunities they deserve to demonstrate their technical prowess.

Without teachers who are knowledgeable and willing, the technology already in schools will gather more dust, whether that technology be in a lab or in individual classrooms.

CHRIS DAVIS

Burbank

The writer is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District .

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