kids at computer

Governors push to put PCs in every classroom


March 27, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Brian Jenkins

NEW YORK (CNN) -- At Public School 280 in New York's Bronx borough, disagreements are almost as often about computers these days as anything else. (61K AIFF sound or 61K WAV sound)

The principal has been able to buy only 10 personal computers for his 450 students, so computer time is a precious commodity.

In contrast, across the Hudson River at Christopher Columbus School, in a district no better off financially than the one in the Bronx, there are few such disputes. (123K AIFF sound or 123K WAV sound)


There is one PC for every two students at the school in Union City, New Jersey, thanks to a program set up three years ago by Bell Atlantic Telephone. The school buys more floppy disks than it does reference books.

Principal Bob Fazio said his students may come from disadvantaged homes, but they enjoy a tremendous advantage at school.

"I feel that when they go to college, they are going to be on par, on an equal playing field, with the suburban students that went to the best private schools," Fazio said.


Leveling the playing field, as well as raising overall education standards, is the goal of this week's summit of U.S. governors and business leaders in Palisades, New York. At the meeting, there are displays of the kind of hardware and software every governor would like to see in every school.

But all the equipment in the world, the governors agree, is of little value unless both teachers and students know how to use it. Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said he was surprised that children often know more than the teachers. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)


Teacher training, then, is vital in the effort to bring technology into the classroom. Also key is linking the machines to the worldwide Internet. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said his state will have every school wired to a statewide network and the Internet by the year 2000.

"It means kids in rural, small schools can take Russian or Japanese, or microbiology or astrophysics courses that were never available before," Branstad said.

Despite the hoopla of late and the gushing of such officials, not everyone is impressed with the PC-in-every-classroom mantra.

kid and computer

"The effect of computers and CD-ROMs and multimedia systems is to show lots of glitzy computer graphics," said author Clifford Stoll. "It discourages kids from coming up with their own creative solutions to problems around them."

The advocates counter that the PC's advantage over the printed page can't be denied, especially when it comes to science.

"Not only can you read about it, you can also do science" with computer technology, says Robert Kozma of the Center for Learning and Technology. "You can run simulations, you can run data and you can analyze that data."

The problem facing the governors is to stretch those tax dollars and corporate donations as far as they can, and to avoid the problem facing New York schools -- creating a gap between technology haves and have-nots.

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