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Jan. 22, 2004
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Giles School shifts focus to computer lab


Last year, Giles School shuttled its small stock of computers from classroom to classroom on mobile carts. This year, most of the school's computers are stationary, and the students are traveling to them. The school has its own T-1 line, so its lab is wireless.

Thirty-two new Gateway flat screen computers have been installed in Giles' newly created computer lab, formerly the school's board room. A similar number have been hooked up at Leigh School, too. Every student in the two schools is using them. Later, teachers will incorporate the labs' new scanners and digital cameras into the curriculum.

Computers for new labs at Giles and Leigh schools were purchased with $93,000 from Norridge District 80's technology fund, said John Jobe, director of technology.

"Between the two schools, the district has about 350 computers. Every classroom is equipped with two or three computers. We also have a mobile laboratory, with a cart loaded with 20 laptops," Jobe added. "We're using a curriculum that aims for a flow from kindergarten through eighth grade."

Giles students are using TechWorks, a program that runs from kindergarten through grade 12, said Principal Kerry Leiby.

"First students are introduced to a skill by TechWorks," Leiby explained. "Then they master it and extend it."

Kindergarten students begin learning basic computer skills - turning computers off and on, for example - during their second half year in school. By first grade, pupils are acquiring general technical information. They are introduced to concepts such as hard drives, networks and floppy disks, and they are practicing keyboarding and mouse skills. They get experience with drawing tools including paint brushes and erasers. They work with KidWorks, a word processing program, to put their spelling words on computers.

Fourth graders are learning renaming skills and mouse manipulation. In keyboarding, they are working with "home" and "upper row" keys. They're beginning to create presentations with graphics, Jobe added, and they're learning word processing functions like cutting, editing, moving and spell check.

"With PowerPoint, our fourth-grade students are doing electronic presentations, creating and deleting slides," Jobe explained, "and they're resizing columns and changing formats with spreadsheet programs."

Sixth, seventh and eighth graders are exploring their computers' possibilities - and applying them to hypothetical situations. Junior-high computer/language arts teacher Joy Timperley began the year by honing her students' keyboarding skills. Now, they're working on word processing, spreadsheets, Excel and PowerPoint.

"There are still a few students who don't have a computer at home," Timperley said, "but most kids seem to catch on rather easily."

Timperley's students have been doing research on baseball players Pete Rose and Mark McGwire. Their research will lead up to PowerPoint presentations on the pros - and cons - of inducting either or both into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So far, the students have come up with a "mixed bag" of opinions, Timperley acknowledged.

"They can't simply look at statistics for Rose's and McGwire's careers," she said. "They have to deal with ethics, too. They have to decide whether Rose's association with gambling and McGwire's use of steroids should affect their choices."

McGwire seems to be the students' early favorite, even though he's not eligible for the Hall of Fame yet. Inductees have to be retired for more than five years, Timperley said.

"They'll present their findings to me," she said, smiling. "I'm the 'Hall of Fame' committee.

"They really seemed to take off and run with the Hall of Fame project. I'm amazed. There's even a possibility of showing their presentations on closed-circuit television."

Next semester, Timperley has more projects in store for her kids. They may be doing a PowerPoint music video. They'll try a business unit, too - creating business cards and letterheads for a hypothetical firm.

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