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W.Va. school a showcase for computers

March 24, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nearly $2 million may be directed to West Virginia public schools to help officials improve what is described as an already impressive computer education program.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, in Martinsburg Monday morning to see how Berkeley County students are putting computers to use, said President Clinton has earmarked about $500 million in his 1998 budget to help public schools across the country expand computer-assisted learning programs.

Under Clinton's budget proposal, about $1.9 million would go to West Virginia to expand computer learning in public schools, Riley said.

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Riley was invited to North Middle School by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

Berkeley County Schools is one of the first districts in the state to use Bell Atlantic World School, a $9.7 million computer education initiative between the telephone giant and the state of West Virginia, officials said.

Bell Atlantic World School is a computer system that allows multiple computers to access the Internet as opposed to the typical one computer-per-line dial-up arrangement on most systems, according to Rockefeller.

Riley said computers are vital to education because the natural fascination with the machines encourage students to learn.

Riley, Rockefeller, Gov. Cecil Underwood and state Superintendent of Schools Hank Marockie watched several students use the Internet to read up on subjects such as the Hale-Bopp comet.

"Education and technology are one in the same these days," Riley told a group of local and federal officials in the library of North Middle School. "Technology now is not an option, it's a necessity."

Computers are being used to teach Berkeley County students from kindergarten to sixth grade basic skills such as math, language, reading and spelling, said Gary Kilmer, elementary teaching specialist for Berkeley County Schools. School officials are working to expand that program to grades seven through 12, Kilmer said.

From kindergarten to sixth grade, there are four computers in each classroom, and some elementary schools have up to 100 computers, according to Kilmer. By comparison, some schools in other districts may have only one computer, officials said.

But it's just not the numbers of computers, officials said.

Riley said what makes Berkeley County Schools unique is the computer training that teachers receive. Teachers initially receive between three and five days of training on how to use computers in the classroom, and they are offered continuing computer education programs, officials said.

Three years ago, the district formed its own Department of Technology to oversee computer use in classrooms, said Superintendent of Schools James Bennett.

Rockefeller said computer education is important because by the year 2000, an estimated six out of every 10 jobs will require some computer literacy.

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