New Technology Center Created at Harvard
Washington--The National Institute of Education has announced the creation of a $7.6-million research center at Harvard University for the study of the instructional uses of computers in mathematics, science, and other subjects.
Although its proposal was the highest bid, Harvard was selected over two other colleges and universities that were finalists in competitive bidding for the five-year grant. Manuel Justiz, the director of the n.i.e, said the Harvard proposal was selected because it was more "comprehensive" than other proposals.
The National Educational Technology Center will be the first research center or laboratory to be established under the nie's new competitive-bidding process. It will be the only center designated specifically for the study of classroom uses for computers.
The center's annual budget will be slightly more than the average budget for an nie center or laboratory. An nie official said the budgets for the 16 other laboratories and centers range from about $820,000 to $2 million annually--or an average of $1.4 million. The Harvard center will receive an average of $1.6 million annually.
The new center was authorized by the continuing resolution passed last year by the House of Representatives. Representative Silvio O. Conte, Republican of Massachusetts, wrote the provision, which stated that the center should be located in the Northeast part of the country. The Harvard center will be the first nie center in New England.
The Harvard center's main task will be to study the way computers and other technological devices can be used in schools, particularly to teach mathematics and science. The center will also create a list of topics involving educational technology that deserve further research, train graduate students, and distribute the findings of its studies.
The scholars and computer experts involved in the project probably will begin observation of students in four Boston-area school districts within three or four months, according to Judah L. Schwartz, who, with Gregory Jackson, will serve as co-director of the center. The researchers will closely monitor from 20 to 50 students in each district, Mr. Jackson said.
Mr. Schwartz, who is a professor of engineering science and education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a visiting professor of education at Harvard. Mr. Jackson is an associate professor of education at Harvard.
One of the main goals of the research will be to identify the mathematical and scientific concepts that most often stymie students and to develop ways that computers can be used to explain those concepts. Mr. Schwartz said the center will probably recommend the development of computer software to teach problem-solving, concepts in geometry and algebra, and abstract scientific ideas.
In addition to studying the microcomputer's influence on education, the center will investigate the use of four technological innovations that can be used in conjunction with computers: advanced television sys-tems, voice-recognition systems, videodisks, and word processing.
Officials of the center said they would consider the computer primarily as a "tool," rather than as a means of delivering instruction. Mr. Jackson said that although the center probably will recommend development of specific pieces of software, it will not promote computer-assisted-instruction programs that could be used by students without a teacher.
The school districts of Cambridge, Newton, Ware, and Watertown will be the first to take part in the research. Another district will be added next year, and by the end of the project 10 districts will be involved.
Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Jackson said the districts were chosen because of their close proximity to Harvard, their demographic diversity, and their differing approaches to using computers.
The center will be administered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The dean of the school is Patricia Albjerg Graham, a former director of the nie
Some of the center's work will be subcontracted to other organizations, including the Educational Testing Service, the Children's Television Workshop, the WGBH Educational Foundation, the Educational Collaborative of Greater Boston, and Interactive Training Systems.