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COMPUTERS 2000: GETTING FAMILIES WIRED!

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by Hillary Needleman

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For those of us slowly becoming computer-savvy, conquering word processing and email may seem like a major accomplishment. Designing your own website? Forget about that!

But for one New York City mom, website design (yes, anyone can do it) is the basis for the business she runs, focused on families. Linda Talisman conceived of TechnoFacture Project while at NYU completing her Masters thesis. She saw website design classes for parents and kids as a way to present the fast becoming commercialized Internet as "a two-way grassroots medium², a means of "empowering children to become producers as well as consumers.² Her classes, she hopes, will help provide a central meeting point for parents and children. Instead of kids sitting behind a closed door at their computers for hours on end, the computer becomes a Œtoy' families can enjoy together, says Talisman, who suggests that the Internet should be seen as a form of play along with the more customary ones, such as crayons and action figures.

Talisman is the mother of a computer-savvy two-year-old daughter, and stepmother of two teenage boys. While she teaches all ages, she enjoys focusing on children for two reasons. First, she says, "I've always loved children,² and has worked with children in numerous settings - from a computer camp, to a daycare center, to the West Side YMCA. Second, she realized that it is children who will witness the future of the World Wide Web. And it is children, rather than adults, who are usually "less anxious and more enthusiastic² about computers and technology as a whole.

TechnoFacture Project's programs are constantly evolving, says Talisman. "Let's Make a Web Site!² teaches classes of up to six children how to design and build a World Wide Web site.² "Mommy & Me-Wired!² classes are designed for parents with children five and under. "The focus for the children,² she says, "is play with age-appropriate educational software (or care, depending on age), while parents receive more formal instruction.² Another program offers computer instruction for parents while toddlers are in preschool. The "Family Instruction² course allows parents and children ages five and up to participate in the learning process together. "People really seem to like this,² Talisman says. "I work with the parents and also with the children, each at their own level.²

Today more than ever, it is important for both children and adults to feel comfortable using computers. Talisman hopes that the view of technology as an external force uncontrollably impinging upon our lives will be replaced with the notion that "You're in charge.² "Technological fluency², she says, should mean more than simply using a word processing program; it should mean losing the fear and anxiety of the unknown. "It might mean learning how to take a computer apart and put it back together again,² she suggests, "or simply not being afraid to explore all the menus of the software you regularly use, to try each option and find out what it does.²

For more information on Technofacture and its upcoming programs, contact Linda Talisman at (212) 995-2176 or www.technofacture.com.


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