The L’Ouverture Computer Technology Magnet school in Wichita, Kan., named in 1912 for a Haitian military leader, represents the wave of the future when it comes to technology assisted instruction, especially with respect to computers and video.

Even so, Principal Howard Pitler is quick to stipulate that, “Computers are not magic. They don’t teach kids.” What they are, he says, is a tool that allows teachers to enrich, enhance, and remediate.

Computer-assisted instruction is an integral part of the education of every L’Ouverture student. Because L’Ouverture is a magnet school with a high percentage of gifted and talented students, the teachers offer numerous enrichment experiences and field trips. The student body is approximately 45 percent minority, with a similar percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals.

All L’Ouverture students leave fifth grade with the capability and experience of doing multimedia presentations, participating in TV productions, and demonstrating keyboarding skills. To make sure they also leave with skills in math and language arts, the school is using the programs offered by Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) to maintain and monitor progress.

Pitler reports that every child spends a half hour every day on the computer, which keeps records so carefully and reports progress so effectively that grades have become obsolete.

The principal is helping his students create and construct a virtual reality CD of an art museum. He’s also helping his teachers steer their students through skill rotations and regular regrouping. This ensures they can punctuate and calculate as well as work with a computer, he says.

Pitler knows all of the 380 students attending L’Ouverture’s K-5 program. He’d like to have them for three more years, through eighth grade.

L’Ouverture uses CCC’s “Math Investigations,” “Reading Investigations” and “Science Discovery,” which are designed to teach critical thinking, writing, and other complex skills through exploration and problem-based learning.

“Criterion-referenced test scores have improved every year,” says Pitler.

But he does not attribute all the gains to these programs alone. “We changed our whole instructional design when we brought in computers (200 computers for 375 children). We can’t say our performance is due to one factor.”

The secret, Pitler sugggests, is the total package.

“We’ve found that computers are most effective in improving student achievement when the role of the teacher is transformed,” he says. “We incorporate cooperative learning, outcomes education, television broadcast, and computers in a total package. All teachers in the program believe in the vision. No one piece on its own would be as effective as the total package.”