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N.Y. Educators Urge State Coordination

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About 7,000 microcomputers are now in place in schools across New York State, according to a recent survey. Conducted by the Statewide Instructional Computing Network (sicn), an organization of school districts in New York that share information, the survey also found that by the end of 1984 the school districts surveyed plan to triple the availability of hardware and increase teachers' and students' use of computers by 80 percent.

The school districts reported that computers are used predominantly for drill and practice at the elementary level and for courses in programming and computer literacy at the secondary level. The survey sample represented responses received last July from 76 percent of New York's 726 school districts, according to a spokesman for the network.

The survey's findings were presented during the concluding session of last week's computing conference in Albany. Involving representatives of the state legislature and state department of education, as well as other participants, the session included some sparring over the quality of state leadership in directing the development of school systems' capabilities with computers.

Several members of the educators' computing network criticized the state education department for what they termed its failure to coordinate computer-based learning statewide.

Last January, an education department official responded, the department announced it would establish a center for learning technologies, an idea authorized by the Board of Regents, to improve the state's coordination efforts. A 15-member regents' advisory committee, he said, is currently developing a document that will define the role and responsibilites of the state education department regarding the use of learning technologies in the schools.

Participants were also critical of a legislative proposal, announced at the gathering by an aide to the chairman of the state Senate's education committee, to provide $5 million to enable the state education department to develop a comprehensive plan to deliver high-quality computer-based instructional programs to districts and to help them improve their capacity to utilize computers.

Burton Ramer, chairman of the Statewide Instructional Computing Network, said that $5 million would not be enough to provide the needed services, including inservice education, in schools statewide.

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