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SCIENCE MAGNET PLUGGED INTO COMPUTERS

Christina Caruana's fourth-grade class at the Science Magnet School was learning about the migration of animals and birds, and she wanted to converse with someone who has seen caribous.

No problem. The 10-year-old jumped on the Internet, sent an e-mail inquiry and got a response from a child living in Alaska, who offered a description of the caribous that frequent her front yard.

Sure beats going to a battered encyclopedia.

Of course, when Christina does turn to an encyclopedia, it's an on-line version that's bigger and more current than the print version -- and includes sound and video in addition to text and photographs.

The city's newest school, adjoining the Museum of Science, is a high-tech heaven.

The school has some 250 computers, more than any in Western New York. Pupils in Christina's class spend up to two hours a day on them: writing, researching, creating artwork -- and conversing with the world.

"It gives the children a great feeling of success," said Melinda Long, Christina's teacher.

Getting a pupil to sit down at a keyboard isn't a problem.

"There isn't much trouble motivating kids to use a computer," said Joseph Parana, a computer resource specialist at the school. "There is a sense of power I think kids experience."

Technology is not a cure-all. But David Lanz, the district's director of instructional services, said it can help pupils develop.

Among other things, computers are especially useful in teaching pupils how to research and analyze information. That not only fosters lifelong learning skills, but also develops talents that are in increasing demand in the workplace.

"No matter where you go, you're turning on, plugging in, punching up," Lanz said. "Our kids need to be prepared to enter that work environment."

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