The Internet enters Malibu classrooms


National “Cable in the Classroom” representatives gave Juan Cabrillo Elementary School high marks on its high-tech computer lab during a visit to Malibu last week.

The program is designed by the cable industry to make cable television available in the classroom as part of the education process.

“From what I’ve seen so far the computer lab seems to be very nicely set up,” said Peter Dirr, director of the Professional Development Institute for Cable in the Classroom. “The computers are networked, and there’s a nice projector so that everybody can see what the instructor is doing. It’s very easy to get lost on the Internet without that type of facility.”

Teachers at Cabrillo got a taste of the latest technology to integrate opportunities on the Internet into the school curriculum during the training session. Hosted by Falcon Cable, the session brought programmers with specific information to enhance the computer learning at the Malibu school.

“We know that cable in the classroom has now gone from a magazine that is like a TV Guide for educational programming to now being on the Web,” said Falcon Cable Programming Director Jeanette Scovill, who is particularly excited about ZDTV, the first 24-hour-a-day computer channel. “We will be placing in the schools as part of our partnership with ZDTV video cameras that attach to the computers and allow kids to go on the Web with moving video.” Youngsters will actually go on the air to ask the instructors questions and solve problems, according to Scovill.

“A whole new world of creativity opens up for them,” said Pat Cairn, principal at Cabrillo. By being able to access information on the Internet, Cairns said, the result on the learning process is remarkable. “We have second-graders who have come into our lab, for example, who use the Internet. They downloaded all this information about whales. They have created all kinds of reports. They’re doing power-point presentations. They’re printing up their programs. They create this piece of information that is relevant to them. It’s a very exciting thing. And these are 7-year-olds.”

Cairns said this work is equivalent to what seventh-graders have done formerly, reflecting on the dramatic change in the educational process and the role of the teacher in the midst of the wealth of information that can now be accessed as a result of the new technologies. “Teachers for so many years in the past have been deliverers of information. Most of us were taught that way. Times have changed so dramatically that our job now is to assist children as they become learners and as they really access their own learning. That’s what’s going to make brighter students and students who are more broadly educated. When they know where to go to search for information themselves.”

Dirr said the entire system of academic standards is shifting in sync with the new technologies to accommodate the evidence that children have become more intuitive in the learning process. He adds this comes as a result of the technology not just in the school but outside as well. “It’s an eye opener to see how much kids intuit about the structure of the game without knowing the rules. They learn where different things are hidden, what shortcuts there are, and so on. Their learning is much different than the way I learned. It’s important to understand that.”

In addition to Juan Cabrillo, children at Webster and Point Dume schools will benefit from the new offering by Cable in the Classroom presenters, said Cairns, who added that while the new technologies are opening up exciting learning opportunities, education is not all about high-tech. “One of the things that bothers me about technology is we live in a world of flash and soundbites. I do think there needs to be quiet time when children can read a book. We need to develop all sides of their brain and thinking.”