Nineteen months ago, the Electronic Learning Exchange (tele), a computer bulletin board for California educators, was established to track the rapid movement of computers into state schools.
The impetus for that growth was a tax-credit law signed by then-Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Under the short-term law, which ended in June 1984 after 18 months, companies that donated computer equipment to schools were eligible to receive a tax credit equal to 25 percent of the equipment's fair market value.
As a result, California schools received $25.2 million worth of hardware: 9,000 Apples, 54 Ataris, 320 Commodores, 640 Hewlett-Packards, 450 Kaypros, and 420 ibms, according to Judith Hubner, director of the computers-in-schools project of the National Commission on Industrial Innovation, a nonpartisan group headed by Mr. Brown.
In addition to the hardware, California schools received about $4.1- million in teacher training, technical support, and cash grants for software, Ms. Hubner added.
Though the tax credit is defunct, tele--available through CompuServe, a nationwide on-line database--continues. What started as "a local, specific network," Ms. Hubner said, now handles about 300 messages a month.
"Teachers are coming on, professors are coming on, and computer coordinators are coming on," Ms. Hubner said. "People are discussing policy, they're discussing equipment needs."
A major expansion is planned for the network this year, but details are not yet available, Ms. Hubner said.
To use computers effectively in traditional instructional settings, teachers must organize their classrooms "with simultaneous multiple centers of attention," according to the sixth and final report of the National Survey of School Uses of Microcomputers.
Teachers, the report notes, "must engage students who are waiting for their turn at the computer in profitable--not merely time-consuming--activities."
The report, which focuses on how teachers organize their classrooms when they have more students than microcomputers, completes a January 1983 survey of 1,082 schools using microcomputers. The study--which was intended to describe, not prescribe, patterns of computer usage--was directed by Henry Jay Becker of the Center for Social Organization of Schools at The Johns Hopkins University with a grant from the National Institute of Education.
According to the final report: "Students work at computers individually more often than in pairs or groups, but some form of mutual assistance is more common than strictly solitary activity"; "social arrangements for using computers are more common at the junior-high level"; and "seatwork is the primary activity of students in a classroom when other students are engaged at the computer."
A previous report by the group based on the same survey noted that as of January 1983 more than half of all schools that owned computers located them in classrooms. The remaining schools with microcomputers placed them in laboratories or libraries. About 86 percent of the elementary-school teachers and nearly 50 percent of the secondary-school teachers who had microcomputers had only one or two machines in their classrooms.
A second national survey on the instructional uses of school computers will be launched later this month with funding from the nie and the National Center for Education Statistics.
Minority children from low-income homes who were given home computers last summer showed significantly improved study skills and attitudes toward learning as a result of the experience, according to a recent New York University study.
In addition, the children's parents, who were required to participate in computer training, "had tremendous hope for and faith in the fact that the computer would somehow uplift their kids and their future lives," according to Margot Ely, the nyu professor of education who conducted the study.
The Summer Computer Equity Project, a camp sponsored by Community School District 9 in the Bronx and the Police Athletic League, introduced 46 low-income minority students to microcomputers for the first time. The nyu study compared the impact of computers on 22 students who used the machines only in the camp's classrooms with their impact on the other 24 students, ages 7 to 14, who were also given microcomputers to work on at home.
Those who received home computers had an appreciably higher attendance record than those who did not. But, Ms. Ely noted, the students who did not receive home computers might have lost interest in the camp.
Nevertheless, Ms. Ely said, "our study documents the positive impact the home computer can have on low-income, minority children and families."
The board of education for the Los Angeles Unified School District has allocated $3 million to launch a program to make computer instruction available in all district schools.
The money will allow one-third of the district's 538 K-12 schools to begin the "Computer Education Foundation Program" this spring, according to Marty Estrin, a district spokesman. The school board, he added, is expected to allocate $6 million over the next two years to phase in the remaining schools.
According to Mr. Estrin, the three-phase program will provide each 5th-grade class with a computer and every five classes with a printer. Each secondary school, he said, will receive a laboratory of 30 computers and six printers.
While there are more than 2,500 microcomputers now in use in the district, the foundation program "is the first effort to establish a minimum program at all schools," according to Roy Nakawatase, the district's director of computer instruction.--lck