The pilot program McAndrew is pushing would test a computer curriculum, using a language called LOGO as a base, in one of the district's 10 elementary schools. Federal computer-education funds would provide about $29,000 to
purchase 28 Apple computers, complete with color monitors, software and numerous printers, and train the chosen school's teachers on LOGO. The district will have to pay for a teacher's salary for the project.
Findley, who works as an executive overseeing computer telecommunications with British Telecom, argued that skills in using computers should be taught throughout the regular curriculum as a tool in each discipline instead of the discipline itself.
"Computer programming in the elementary schools is stupid," Findley said. The focus should be on giving children a chance to use computers as word processors and as math and reading tools, rather than on studying how to program computers, he said.
But McAndrew said this pilot project would help children transfer the programming skills they learn to other classwork.
Willingboro schools now offer mandatory computer-programming literary courses in the eighth grade, some advanced programming courses in 11th and 12th grades and data processing in the business-education curriculum.
"A portion of elementary students go to the high schools without any exposure to computers," McAndrew said, because of the paucity of computers and the absence of a curriculum in elementary schools. "I think we're doing them a disservice."
McAndrew said she does not expect to make "programming geniuses" out of kindergartners but wants to make children comfortable with computers.