Classroom Miss Is a Computer

Article excerpt

IT'S the school where every pupil has their own personal tutor.

Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic School in Old Oscott, Birmingham, has led the way in using new teaching technology.

It has installed an innovative computer system - which provides the sort of individual help only children of the very rich can otherwise afford.

Called Success Maker, the scheme measures each youngster's ability in maths, spelling and English comprehension.

Then it tailors lessons and homework to their needs.

As the students' skills improve, it will set them harder tasks.

And if there is no progress, it will inform teachers that something is wrong.

The electronic educator, made in the USA, is a far cry from the traditional image of computers and children.

Parents are often warned about violent video games, or the dangers of youngsters viewing pornography from the Internet.

But teachers rave about the fantastic results this system has achieved.

And the children love it so much they give up their lunch-breaks, or stay late after the final bell goes, to have another go.

Now Birmingham City Council's education department is ordering the system in all 444 counciun schools, at a cost of pounds 2.5million - paid for by the Government's Single Regeneration Budget scheme.

In Cardinal Newman's special Success Maker classroom, youngsters sit quietly at the 15 terminals.

Each one has their own screen and keyboard, and wears head-phones.

They choose from a menu of activities.

These include spelling tests, where a computerised voice says a word over the headphones and they have to type it in correctly.

There are also maths tests, ranging from the simple adding up to complicated algebra.

And comprehension exercises tell the pupils to read a passage, before asking questions to see if they understood it.

Every time a youngster gets a correct answer, they receive a word of praise over the headphones - such as "excellent" - and a gold rosette appears in the corner of the screen.

If they get it wrong, the computer gives them a hint about the right answer - and another go.

Pupils can even read whole books on the computer screen, one page at a time.

Then they might be asked to pretend they are one of the characters, and write a letter to a friend, or pen their own short story. …