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Plugging In Parents, Too

June 07, 1997|KAY MILLS

When Mirian Gomez's oldest daughter, Juliana, was in prekindergarten at Corona Avenue Elementary School in Bell, she told her mother that her class was going to the computer room. Gomez wanted to understand what her daughter was learning, "but I didn't even know how to turn a computer on." Teacher Jack Baumann offered to teach some of the parents the basics of operating computers, and Gomez was hooked. Now she and another mother, Lila Martinez, teach other parents about word processing, spreadsheets and e-mail while their children learn graphics and play computer games.

The response from parents, many of whom cannot afford home computers, has been so strong that Gomez and Martinez offer the 10-week course three or four times a year. The women developed their own teaching materials in Spanish. "We start with the simplest things," Martinez said. "This is how you turn the computer on and off. This is a diskette. This is how you put the diskette into the computer."

Friends of Bell, a community group, donated money to pay the two teachers. Through a project financed by the U.S. Commerce Department, parents in the class can get e-mail accounts.

Most of the parents say they are taking the class to help their children. Patricia Fernandez wants to help her husband, who is starting a trucking business, by keeping his files on a computer. "It's a lot better than having a stack of papers," she said.

The class represents "a wonderful example of how much difference parents can make if they take the plunge and learn about computers," said Wendy Lazarus, director of the Children's Partnership in Santa Monica and coauthor of "The Parents' Guide to the Information Superhighway: Rules & Tools for Families Online."

"It's exciting to be a teacher," said Gomez. "This is the future."

For more information: Call the Children's Partnership at (310) 260-1220.

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