Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools and the nonprofit group Cable in the Classroom are teaming up to give teachers in the county’s school system improved access to internet training.

Cable in the Classroom donated 24 state-of-the-art computers with multimedia capabilities for a new internet training center at George Mason University, the first of its kind in Northern Virginia and the third in the Washington metropolitan area.

In August, the GMU training center will offer free internet workshops to the region’s public school teachers, who otherwise might not know enough about the internet to use it for planning curriculum and integrating computers into their lessons.

Irma Moke, fifth-grade teacher at Wakefield Forest Elementary School in Fairfax, was one of the first to take advantage of the training.

Moke attended the recent opening of new internet training center, where she made a quick run through several educational web sites and found several new ideas to bring back to the classroom.

“These kids are such techies,” she said of her students. “The internet is what appeals to them. They like action-oriented education.”

Many of Moke’s pupils have home computers and surf the internet every day. Some of them know a lot more about the web than their teacher does, even though she’s used the internet herself for nearly four years.

On the History Channel’s web site, Moke discovered a wealth of information about the making of the American flag that prompted Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812 to write the poem that later became the words to the National Anthem.

She even watched an internet video clip recreating the sewing of the massive flag in a Baltimore brewery.

Such cutting-edge technology is not yet in all of Fairfax County’s classrooms, but it’s the technology of the future, said Megan Hookey, director of Cable in the Classroom, and teachers need to know how to use it.

“Most frequently, they’re frustrated in trying to locate resource materials for their lesson plans,” Hookey said of classroom teachers. “Our goal is to help streamline teachers’ time on the internet so that they can find valuable teaching tools.”

The workshops, taught by Cable in the Classroom instructors, will range from beginning-level training to more advanced instruction on using the internet, with workshop subjects building on each other, said Peter Dirr, the organization’s director of professional development.

The training center already is used by GMU students. For several weeks, educators taking graduate-level classes at the university have benefited from the training center, said Gary Galluzzo, GMU’s dean of education.

Eventually, the center also hopes to offer free classes to senior citizens and parents who want to learn more about internet filtering and sites geared toward children.

The focus of the training center, however, is on teachers. Katherine K. Hanley, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, attended the center’s opening and said all county teachers could benefit from such training.

Hanley, who taught history at George Mason Junior High School in Falls Church, Va., during the 1960s, said back then teachers needed help operating overhead projectors and filmstrips.

But today, she said, it’s imperative teachers learn to navigate the internet so students without home computers don’t fall behind.

“It’s important that our schools erase the digital divide,” Hanley said. Through the public-private partnership with Cable in the Classroom, teachers will be given the tools they need to accomplish this, she added.

Fairfax County Public Schools

Cable in the Classroom

George Mason University

History Channel