Writing turns out to be one of the areas in which computers can make a big difference in education.
In the business world, word processing was long considered an underuse of a $2,000 to $3,000 machine, but it nonetheless became one of the most important computer applications. In the classroom, teachers have discovered that children write more and better when they can easily edit their compositions and then see a clean printout.
At Sir Francis Drake Elementary School in an impoverished section of San Francisco, the computer lab is a simple affair, with old Apple II computers as standard equipment. The children are enthusiastic, especially about writing--and especially about a project in which they fax letters to business executives in faraway places.
"It's a way of relating to what the rest of the world is doing," said Ray Porter, computer consultant for the city's public schools.