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Issues in Educational Technology

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In its final report on a two-year federally funded project designed to give technical assistance to state officials involved in educational technology, Education turnkey Systems Inc. identified these emerging issues and trends:

For every computer in public schools, there are more than 10 in the homes of students. As a result, school officials are faced with equity concerns; opportunities for closer relationships with parents; possibilities for schisms between community, schools, and parents; and an increased demand for individualized instruction, particularly among children who come from computer-using families.

The electronic-learning industry, unlike the textbook industry, is "ever-changing and volatile."

"Traditional textbook publishers plan a life-cycle of approximately five to seven years for a textbook, pay developers relatively low royalties, and produce in large volume to reduce cost," the report notes. "Electronic-learning publishing, on the other hand, is characterized by high royalty payments, courseware life-cycles of two years or less, low production volume and cost, and significantly higher marketing and distribution costs."

As a result, alternative strategies for software distribution, which "are truly revolutionary," are being considered by state officials. They include the transmittal of software over existing telecommunications systems and the development of electronic-software libraries for use by students, parents, and local school officials.

More than 35 states are developing computer-literacy and related staff-development policies for teachers and administrators at the local level. State officials, the report notes, "must decide the appropriate balance between inservice and preservice training."

In 35 states, programs are being planned or have been implemented for software evaluation and dissemination.

Nine states rely heavily upon the services of the epie, the Education Products Information Exchange, which, in conjunction with Consumers Union, evaluates educational software.

More than 30 states are members of formal or informal evaluation networks involving the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium (mecc) and MicroSift.

North Carolina has an in-house laboratory operated by the state education department.

In Maryland, local education officials review courseware and submit their findings to the state education department, which uses an electronic database to transmit the information to other local officials.

The report also notes that Utah has provided a grant to Utah State University for courseware review, and Kansas has issued a grant to Project micc (Microcomputer Information Coordination Center) for the same purpose.

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