Teaching the teachers
Increasingly, schools are going online. More students will be using the Internet as a learning tool. This summer, many instructors are learning how to guide their classes.

By Martha Woodall

   Next month, Linda Madron, a first-grade teacher at the Mary D. Lang Elementary School in Kennett Square, will start her 30th year in the classroom.

   Cathy Raymond, a language-arts instructor at South Brandywine Middle School in East Fallowfield, is just beginning her teaching career.

   Both women spent one recent Saturday morning in AT&T's Learning Network Academy at Cheyney University, learning how to use the Internet with students.

   ``Computers are going to be a part of everyday life, and schools are going to have to start working with the kids,'' said Madron. ``Even kindergartners and first graders are going to be exposed to computers. They are going to be using them. We are going to have to teach how to use them, and I can't teach it unless I know it first.''

   While teachers often take courses during the summer, the training increasingly centers on technology. Besides the free Internet workshop the AT&T Learning Network Academy offers to educators at Cheyney in Delaware County, Pennsylvania school districts from Abington to Unionville-Chadds Ford are offering computer workshops this summer. And in New Jersey, where a statewide system of educational technology training centers is being launched, classes already are being taught in several of the facilities, including those in Atlantic, Salem and Essex Counties.

   The Atlantic County center, based at Richard Stockton College in Pomona, last week began a series of classes for superintendents. The four-week course is offered on Wednesdays and covers everything from introduction to computers to publishing on the Internet.

   Thirteen of the county's 25 superintendents participated last week. Center director Anu Vedantham said some of the more technologically savvy superintendents skipped the introductory class but planned to attend the others.

   ``If we are going to move forward with New Jersey's curriculum core standards, then technology has to be used as a tool in the classroom to make that happen,'' said Bill Flynn, superintendent of the Atlantic County Vocational Technical School, which received the state grant for a countywide consortium to establish the center at Stockton. ``Getting the superintendents involved and providing them with access to the Internet and the World Wide Web and showing them how to use that in the classroom will begin the whole creative process, and they will be supportive of their staff getting the training.''

   The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District is holding full- and half-day sessions this summer on several subjects, including introduction to the Internet and creating multimedia presentations. Richard Hug, technology director, estimates that 75 of the district's 350 educators are participating.

   In Abington, which has just embarked on a $6 million technology initiative, nearly half the district's 550 teaching and administrative staff members signed up for half-day weeklong classes. Courses were offered over six weeks and included beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. Most classes were led by Abington teachers, although the instructor for the advanced-level course was drawn from Pennsylvania State University's Abington campus.

    Although Abington has offered computer workshops for teachers in the past, officials said this summer's program was the most extensive the district has offered.

   ``This is an amazing amount of training when you consider we have 21 one-week half-day courses,'' said assistant superintendent Amy F. Sichel, who completed the advanced Internet course.

   As part of Abington's technology program, the district is installing lines to provide 200 Internet connections at the junior and senior high schools.

   Nancy McGinley, principal of Abington Junior High School, has been using the Internet for some time. She elected to take the advanced course to fill in gaps in her background so she will be prepared to guide the expansion of instructional uses of the Internet at her school.

   ``I think the principal has to be the lead person,'' McGinley said.

   For those just beginning to explore cyberspace, AT&T set up its learning-academy program to introduce Pennsylvania educators to the Internet. In addition to the center in Cheyney, which debuted July 26, AT&T has an academy at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for educators in the western part of the state.

   AT&T announced the program earlier this year in support of Gov. Ridge's Build PEN initiative to form a statewide system of community networks linking classrooms, schools and libraries. Pennsylvania is the first state to have the AT&T academy program.

    The corporation's commitment of $200,000 at each site has provided the academies with 20 new computers, Internet access, curriculum, training and salaries for instructors, and reference manuals for class participants.

   ``The academy is a nonintimidating environment for teachers to learn about the Internet and how they can use it and apply it to their curriculum when they get back to the classroom,'' said Connie Dean, vice president and general manager of AT&T's Pennsylvania and Delaware division.

   The four-hour workshop, conducted on Saturdays, is open to teachers at public and private schools and will be offered through the end of the year.

   AT&T officials say the academy program is part of the corporation's broader Learning Network, a $150 million effort to help put the nation's 110,000 K-12 schools ``on the information superhighway by the year 2000.''

   They also say the academy makes business and marketing sense. Teachers in the academy's computer lab reach the Internet using dial-up connections via AT&T's Internet service - WorldNet Access. And information about AT&T's marketing programs, including one that gives schools technology-purchase credits when parents choose AT&T for long-distance service, is described in the workshop and manuals.

   But although the AT&T academy is free and has been praised by teachers who have taken it, corporate officials are a bit disappointed that attendance has not been higher. They said a total of 115 educators had participated in the academy at both sites through last week.

``We know we have a successful course,'' said Dean.

    She said 96 percent of the Pennsylvania teachers who have participated in the academy have rated it a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

   Officials said teachers may not have heard about the program at Cheyney from their districts because the official opening was held June 24 and many districts had already closed out the school year.

   ``We think this is a grand opportunity for teachers in this region to take advantage of this type of training,'' Cheyney president W. Clinton Pettus said last week. ``Many of those who are not fresh out of school are not particularly prone to using some of the modern techniques. This gives them the opportunity to hone their skills, if they have limited skills, or to be introduced to the possibilities of the Internet as a teaching tool.''

   On the Saturday when Raymond and Madron visited the academy at Cheyney, the course was taught by Susan Bentley, a faculty member from Cheyney's math and computer-science department who had completed special AT&T training for academy instructors.

   Bentley led a class of 14 teachers and administrators through a session that began with an explanation of the Internet and covered e-mail, newsgroups and search engines. And she introduced them to educational Web sites arranged by academic subject they could use in their classrooms.

   ``I was very pleased with this,'' said Raymond, who said the academy session was more helpful than a general introductory Internet course she had taken at the University of Delaware that had cost $200. ``It was a lot more logical in the way she went about presenting things and a lot more pertinent to what I will be using the Internet for.''

   Madron said the workshop had given her the confidence to try things on her new computer at home.

   ``I have done a little experimenting,'' she said. ``But I have been very hesitant because I don't want to destroy my computer. I gained enough confidence now to maybe go home and try these things. . . . I know now I am not going to destroy anything. I think that's what this course did for me more than anything else.''

For More Information
   * Educators interested in the AT&T program can call 888-269-4202 for information.