The magic of “E-mail” — an electronic way of sending letters and messages by computer — has linked two little girls from Orono to new-found friends in France, Iceland, and Russia, as well as Florida and Hawaii.
Ana Blagojevic, 6, zips off letters, electronically, to Jeanne-Pierre Cerquant, a journalist in France. Cerquant replies quickly with descriptive letters about his country, his work and other topics of interest to a 6-year-old girl.
She would like to meet the journalist some day, said Ana. She pictures her electronic friend as “nice, smiling,” she said.
Ana’s sister, Nadia Blagojevic waxes enthusastic when she talks about Roostam, a 5-year-old boy from Moscow she is getting to know through E-mail.
Roostam, whose last name is not known, likes soldiers and is learning English by reading the “Three Little Pigs” fairy tale.
Roostam’s father helps the Russian tyke type on his computer. Roostam once regaled his computer friends in America with a story of how Moscow children refer to their wintertime creations as “snowwomen” rather than “snowmen.”
E-mail has expanded the world of the two Blagojevic sisters. They are the daughters of Bonnie and Milos Blagojevic of Orono. Their computer link-up to Internet, a sophisticated system that spreads their words across the globe, allows them to play educational games with pupils in a New York Elementary School. Last spring, the girls and their mother started writing a story and then asked computer buffs in Florida and other states to finish it.
Computers are valuable learning tools and are considered cutting-edge equipment for early childhood education. Elementary schools use computers, but they are not used very often in Maine preschools or day-care settings.
Mrs. Blagojevic said she wants to enhance computer use for young children. She said computers help children realize the world is bigger than their back yards. Blagojevic wants to expose children to E-Mail and other computer programs at a new, public day-care center she directs at the Talmar Wood housing complex off Route 2 in Orono. Blagojevic is applying for grants to buy computers for the project. She also is looking for donations of MacIntosh computers, she said.
The Blagojevics were introduced to E-mail last winter after University of Maine staffers helped them make connections from their home computer to Internet through a main-frame computer system on campus.
Internet is an information “superhighway”, according to Vice President Al Gore who, in 1992, wrote about the computer network in the preface for a book called “Internet Companion” by Tracy LaQuey and Jeanne Ryer.
“In the past few years, we have witnessed the democratization of the Internet. Today the network connects not only the top research laboratories and universities, but also small colleges, samll businesses, libraries and high schools throughout the country,” Gore wrote.
“If you want to stay current in the ’90sand even into the next century, you need to learn about the Internet,” wrote authors LaQuey and Ryer in the same book.
Computer linkups to Internet are available to interested educators in Maine. Further information on Internet may be obtained by contacting John Lunt, who is affiliated with the Maine Center for Educational Services, P.O. Box 620, Auburn 04212-0620. Lunt’s business telephone number is 783-0833.
The Blagojevic family got connected by telephone lines to Internet after Bonnie successfully pitched an idea to the UMaine staff to set up a worldwide computerized exchange of picture books for her home day-care operation. Picture books are a type of early reading book for young children. Mrs. Blagojevic also started a computerized discussion group called “Early Childhood Education On Line.” The group includes about 150 people worldwide, she said.
Ana and Nadia discuss children’s literature with another discussion group called “Kidlit.” They hooked up to the Russian boy through connections made in a computer network called “Kidlink.”
The Blagojevic family is also linked to computer discussion groups on infants and geography education.
The world has come to the doorsteps of the Blagojevic home on Myrtle Street. Last year, children in Bonnie’s home day-care business also used the computers a bit to expand their connection to the world.
Blagojevic closed her home day care after accepting the position as director of the public Daycare Center at Talmar Wood which opened this fall.
Her daughters, however, have continued their computer contacts and have also been introduced electronically to computer buffs in Uruguay, Germany, Florida and Hawaii.
Jeanne-Pierre, the French journalist, contacted Ana through “Kidsphere,” a young children’s network.
In his Sept. 9 letter, which came over the computer, Jeanne-Pierre asked Ana about going back to school.
“French children started on Tuesday. I saw many of them walking in the street, wearing brand new clothes and they were having a lot of fun.”
The journalist expressed surprise that his computer pen-pal relationship would be the topic of a news story.
“I hadn’t expected to become that much of a celebrity in Maine and I sure am proud of it,” he wrote through the E-Mail system.