Sherrie Edmonds has grown used to the technical expertise her 11-year-old daughter picks up at junior high school. But yesterday, she was still a little amazed. She was in a room with a video game machine -- and she actually thought it was useful.
"I wouldn't have it in my home" in the past, she said. "But if they can make it an educational tool, I'm all for it."
Scenes like this were playing out all over the University of Baltimore's business school yesterday, the first of the two-day Maryland Technology Showcase. Featuring hundreds of exhibitors and classes, the second annual show is drawing thousands who come away excited -- some by new technology, and others, like Edmonds, by the idea that the second wave of the information revolution is making the first wave of inventions more useful.
"You can learn more in a fun way," said Edmonds' daughter, Gervais, who says she uses a computer at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington. "They make it more realistic, but you still learn," the budding marine biologist said, eyeing CD-ROM pages on whales.
And you didn't have to be 11 to get the feeling. The building was filled with everyone from software vendors to teachers and their children, for an event that is equal parts blatant commercialism, education for an expected 2,000 students in attendance, and evangelization for a high-tech future in a relatively wealthy state whose slow 1990s job growth has fed a pervasive pessimism about what lies ahead.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening said a working grasp of technology was essential to many of even the most basic jobs, a fact he told a lunchtime audience of adults he learned partly from a visit to a Montgomery Ward warehouse in Southern Maryland.
"I've always thought anyone could get a good job" at a warehouse, the governor said. But modern distribution works with robotics, and some goods move through Montgomery Ward's warehouse without ever being lifted by human hands and a strong back.
"We only have one thing we can do for our children, and that's prepare them for the future," the governor said.
But William Kennard, general counsel for the Federal Communications Commission, said many fear that poor people and poor neighborhoods will get cut off from the emerging economy if states don't make sure educational technology is available to children from all walks of life.
"Already in our country there is a very troubling gulf," Kennard said. "The challenges we face now with technology and education are no less important and no less daunting than when Horace Greeley first championed universal public schooling, or when Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated the schools."
Away from the speechmaking, however, there were hundreds of things to see.
"They have developed a technology to [process] so much data they can almost instantly receive total CAT scans and medical information," Glendening said, musing for a minute about how that could mean better care and lower costs. "Change in technology is rushing at us. It really is."
True, but it doesn't mean kids aren't kids. To know that, all you had to do was stop in at the lecture on the history of cocaine in an upstairs classroom.
The class was being taught at the University of Maryland's medical school in Baltimore and was designed to highlight the educational uses of advanced teleconferencing communications. In the room at UB were screens showing the classroom at UM and classrooms in a Dundalk high school and Anne Arundel Community College.
And in each class, kids waved to the camera and passed notes, far from the watchful eye of the teacher in downtown Baltimore.
Pub Date: 12/11/96