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Sharing the Web

A trendy high-tech topic and the prospect of individualized instruction have drawn scores of students to L'Ouverture Computer Technology Magnet School this winter.

No matter that the students are adults and the teachers are 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders at the Wichita, Kan., elementary school.

The adults are flocking to the school for free lessons on how to search the Internet's World Wide Web and to create Web pages.

And the children are sharpening their Web skills in the best way--by teaching others--and getting a boost to their self-esteem, says Principal Howard Pitler.

L'Ouverture began offering classes to parents five years ago, Mr. Pitler says, so they would be familiar with the software their children were using.

Two years ago, Mr. Pitler rolled out an Internet program. Even kindergartners use the Internet, and by the end of this school year, all students in grades 3-5 will have a personal Web page. And the Web lessons for adults were a natural complement.

The adults are grouped according to experience and assigned to student volunteers. About 35 students have been tutors this school year, Mr. Pitler says. Depending on their skills, the students teach such things as basic use of a Web browser, use of Web search engines, and creation of home pages.

Attendance typically has been about a dozen adults, but it swelled to almost 90 two weeks ago after the program began getting newspaper coverage.

"That was overwhelming," Mr. Pitler says of the turnout. He had to call in teachers to help, which didn't please some adults, who said the children's explanations were easier to understand.

Daniel Holmes, a 5th grader, says teaching the adults has been fun. The 11-year-old, who maintains a Web site for the Wichita Symphony, says he learned something about teaching when he watched adults become impatient at their slow progress. "Now I more understand how teachers get frustrated and mad," Daniel says.


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