Computers Inspire New Creativity in Classrooms

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President Clinton took on the role of poster boy for a statewide educational event called "NetDay96" on Saturday. He was photographed stringing computer cables to enable a public school in Concord, Calif., to tap into the data flow available on the much-discussed information superhighway.

Meanwhile, folks at Walt Disney Elementary School in Burbank celebrated the event by installing equipment that enables them to publish electronically and contribute to that flow.

As far as schools are concerned, cyberspace should motivate students to be creative. In addition to providing the riches of the Library of Congress on every kid's desktop screen, it can do more.

On Saturday, computer teacher Pat Carman will give a public demonstration at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on what's happening at his school. "Our (computer lab) is not a tutorial center but [a place] for children to originate their own material," he says.

Wired to the Internet since last year, Principal Linda Reksten said the school isn't just surfing the Web for educational material. She says the faculty is training kids as young as 8 to originate their own programs.

Last Saturday they installed a Cisco Router provided by Walt Disney Co. as a contribution to the NetDay96 effort. There had been only an informal connection between Disney and the school, said Reksten, so she welcomed the call from company headquarters offering to get involved on the occasion--and on an ongoing basis.

With the new equipment, Carman said he wants kids to see "we can do something with it."

At the television academy event, Carman will be part of a panel discussion entitled "Computers in the Classroom: What's Working, What's Not," moderated by Valley-based educational computer expert Sue Marrone. Carman plans to display some stories written and animated by children. A preview for The Times revealed several accomplished works, as clever as some commercially available computer-published material aimed at children.

"Kids edit with the teacher and then publish," he says of the process. They quickly learn about rewriting and redrawing. And with the new equipment, they'll be able to collaborate electronically with each another.

Carman is not the only educator in the Valley working this way, although he may be unique in that he puts such a heavy emphasis on story structure. Panel moderator Marrone convenes monthly meetings of computer educators on behalf of a professional group, the International Interactive Communications Society.

There's a growing trend among teachers to emphasize training kids to originate, not just absorb computer-borne material, she said, as are resources for teachers committed to this approach. They've discovered, she said, that "the Internet flows both ways."

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DETAILS

* RESOURCES:

For educators teaching children how to be creative with computers:

* CUE (Computer Using Educators): To obtain information on their programs in Southern California, including their annual spring convention, call (510) 814-0195.

* TELA (Technology Enthusiasts of Los Angeles): This is a clearinghouse for information on programs for children who are creating software. Call Doris Berlan Mirman School, (310) 476-2868.

* IICS-SIG (Educational Software Group): Meets Tuesday, led by Valley-based computer expert Sue Marrone. For the next monthly session, call International Interactive Communications Society hotline, (310) 313-5664.

* AnimAction Workshops: This company conducts animation workshops at Valley schools, with and without computers, to develop self-esteem and talent in children. For more information, call (310) 260-4888.

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FESTIVAL/SEMINAR: Children's Interactive Media Festival, presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, offers demonstrations and seminars aimed at educators and media professionals who want an inside view of emerging trends in children's interactive media. The event is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Academy Plaza Theatre, 5230 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Minimum participation costs about $100, slightly less for teachers. For information, call 754-2894 or log on to http;//www. emmys.org/activities/festival.html.

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