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Case Studies Suggest Best Ways To Use Technology

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As part of its full report to Congress on "Informational Technology and Its Impact on American Education," the Office of Technology Assessment (ota), undertook seven case studies to learn about successful applications of technology to education.

The case studies were intended to include examples from across the country in rural, suburban, and urban school settings.

"The most important" observation from the case studies, ota's report says, "is that information technologies can be most effectively applied to educational tasks when they are well integrated in their institutional environments."

'Extensive Development and Involvement'

Dorothy Linda Garcia, an ota staff member who worked extensively on the report, said the case studies showed that "where you actually have extensive development and involvement at the local level, this tends to overcome many of the institutional barriers" identified in the case studies.

The ota performed case studies of:

The Computers in Education program of the Lexington, Mass., public-school system. Lexington, an affluent, middle-class, mostly white suburban area near Boston, is located in the heart of the state's high-technology area. Many of the district's parents are employed by nearby technology industries, and 90 percent of Lexington parents send their children to the public schools.

Computer-Using Educators (cue) and Computer Literacy Programs in Novato and Cupertino, Calif. ota chose to study California's Silicon Valley region because, as "the center of the nation's semiconductor industry," the area provides a "critical mass" of educators, schools, students, and parents involved with technology.

cue is a group organized by and for K-12 teachers interested in computers in education. Started by 12 teachers in 1978, the organization reported 3,500 members in 48 states and 13 foreign countries at the time of the case study.

The Novata Unified School District is one of the "more rural and less affluent" districts in Marin County.

Apple Computers Inc. is located within the limits of the Cupertino Union School District, in California's Silicon Valley. "The boys that designed the Apple grew up here," says a Cupertino educator in the report.

Technology, Education and Training program of the Oxford, Mass., public schools. This program was selected as an example of how a small, rural school district with limited resources can offer up-to-date technological education and training through partnerships with private industry and other school districts, the report states.

The Computer Literacy Program in the Lyons Township Secondary School District, La Grange, Ill. ota selected this program, located in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, because it is a system-wide application of computing that involves the district's entire student population and most of the district's professional staff in all curricular areas.

Minnesota Schools and the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (mecc). This case study deals with a state agency that provides a centralized system for computing and support services, in the state that ota believes leads the nation in educational computing activities.

The state has a computer hardware inventory of approximately $44 million, according to 1981 figures, and Minnesota classrooms are expected to have 10,000 instructional computing stations by 1984. Minnesota offers "the world's largest general-purpose, educational, time-sharing system," ota reports.

mecc was established in 1973 to provide computer services to students, teachers, and administrators. The program offers access to large computers through a telecommunications network, with state subsidies of the communications cost to provide equal access to all systems.

Instructional Computing in the Houston Independent School District. Houston was selected for study because it is "a recognized leader in urban education," and because it provides an example of "districtwide leadership and coordination through a newly created department of technology and the nation's first associate superintendent for technology."

Information Technology and Education in the State of Alaska. Alaska is significant, the report says, because it is providing extensive applications of computer and communications technology in education, including the instructional and audio-conferencing system known as learn/alaska.

Work on learn/alaska began in 1980, and by December 1981, according to the report, 85 Alaskan communities were receiving instructional-television programming via satellite dish antennas.

The statewide instructional-television channel broadcasts nearly 18 hours of programming every day for audiences ranging from preschool to adult, the report says.

ota also completed case studies of educational technology in the corporate instructional programs in three companies and in libraries, museums, and the military.--ah

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