Computer Firms Offer Aid to Schools
Washington--Standing beside Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, the chairman of the board of the Tandy Corporation last week announced at a press conference a plan to offer free computer instruction to teachers and administrators from every school in the country.
The program, which John V. Roach said would cost the manufacturer of Radio Shack products "in excess of $100 million," will offer one teacher from each public and private school 23 hours of instruction in programming and other classroom computer uses, as well as in the use of audio-visual materials and books.
To schools that express a more serious interest in computers, Mr. Roach said, Tandy will offer free lessons to an additional five teachers and more advanced instruction to the first teacher involved in each school.
The biggest problem both for schools that own computers and for schools that are considering buying computers, Mr. Roach said, is finding teachers with a knowledge of the technology.
He said the company was asking school officials to respond within two weeks to the project, which will be administered at 400 sites across the country.
Although "I don't want to sound like a commercial," Secretary Bell said, he enthusiastically endorsed the initiative because, he said, it was more "extensive" than other private industry efforts in the field.
Also last week, the International Business Machines Corporation (ibm) announced in New York that it would donate 1,500 microcomputers to secondary schools in California, New York, and Florida. Training sessions on the computers will be offered starting this summer.
ibm officials said the program would cost the company $8 million.
"I'm here because a high priority of the Education Department is instructional technology," Mr. Bell said. "We're concerned about productivity, and about math, and about science."
Many experts say that instruction in computer programming and data-processing will better prepare the future workforce, but they question the value of "computer-assisted instruction" programs, which will be part of the Tandy program.
But Mr. Bell said that using computers to deliver lessons can lead children to think more logically and help them to determine their academic weaknesses more easily.
"Computers need to be used much more extensively than programming," Mr. Bell said. "Interactive computer use has enormous potential for us. We can't hold that back any more than we could have held back the automobile."
Tandy and other computer manufacturers have sponsored several programs in education in recent years. In the last year, Tandy officials said, the company has provided instruction to 125,000 teachers.