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Harford parents urge more computer classes 5 to present case to school board


Kyriakos Gary Ambridge believes his daughter and other children are being shortchanged by what he says is Harford County's lack of emphasis on computer literacy.

The school system has no computer curriculum and no long-range plan for teaching students computer literacy, Mr. Ambridge said. And that hurts all students, including his 8-year-old daughter, Susan.

"Every school needs the latest technology in computers. We have to start teaching our children now," he said. He said students who don't get the instructional technology they need will be at a disadvantage when they compete against better educated children -- whether that competition is for college admission or jobs.

He and four other parents, who make up the instructional technology focus team at Ring Factory Elementary in Bel Air, will make a presentation to the school board at its May 10 meeting.

"What we want is for the school system to develop a long-range plan, from kindergarten through 12th grade, that we can hold them accountable for. They could take the outline we wrote and use it for a background, we have done the legwork for them," Mr. Ambridge said.

Computer equipment and training would be uniform in schools throughout the county, under the Ring Factory plan. Also, teachers would be trained to use the computers and software, he said. Some school systems, like Baltimore City, have a computer curriculum in place, he said. Mr. Ambridge works with computerized library media services in the city.

"Harford County is falling farther and farther behind the longer we wait," he declared.

John F. Mayhorne, supervisor of business education and instructional technology, said Harford County does not have a computer curriculum and doesn't plan to implement one. Rather, "computers and software are offered as a tool, a resource that teachers are encouraged to use in various disciplinary areas," he said. On the elementary level, for example, it's up to each teacher to decide how and where the computer will be used. A wide range of software is available to help teach everything from math to language arts, he said.

Some elementary schools have computer coordinators who help schedule computer time for students and present ideas to teachers. The school system says it has 1,774 computers in the 46 schools for about 35,000 students.

The number and quality of computers and software varies from school to school. Mr. Mayhorne said most computers were bought with school system money but many were donated through PTAs or bought through a grocery store receipt program. One of the most popular is the Giant Food Inc.'s Apple IIe program, where receipts are traded for computers.

But parents like Mr. Ambridge and Carol Ellis, president of Ring Factory Elementary's PTA, said the school system needs a standardized program so that students can learn the same information.

Mrs. Ellis, a mathematician at Aberdeen Proving Ground, wants computers taught like reading, or any other subject, and not left to chance. And she said randomly buying equipment, some from PTAs and some from school funds, means the quality of computers and software can vary drastically from school to school.

The school system, as part of its first long-range plan, has formed a 20-member instructional technology committee that is looking at how computers should be used in the schools. The school system expects to release a five-year plan of goals for every department, from transportation to technology, said Albert Seymour, school spokesman.

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