The Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education, a program of the National School Boards Association, will soon ask the National Science Foundation for $15 million to underwrite the cost of developing a science laboratory that uses interactive video technology.
According to James A. Mecklenburger, director of the itte, "the intention is to use interactive video technology to solve a genuine public-school problem: a shortfall of teachers and equipment to teach science at a time when we want to teach more science to more students."
The technology of interactive video, Mr. Mecklenburger said, "blends all the capacities of microcomputers with all the capacities of recorded videos."
"Short of taking a trip to Antarctica," he added, "you can bring the experience of going to Antarctica to the student."
Mr. Mecklenburger said the project is expected to assemble courseware that "would make it possible to teach the laboratory portion of high-school chemistry, biology and physics."
Two to three years from now, he added, the cost of installing such a science lab could be about $150,000.
The itte is also working on a proposal to establish a "Model Centers Project."
Up to 10 schools, Mr. Mecklenburger said, would participate by using "technology-intensive classrooms" for instruction.
What happens in those classrooms, he added, would be compared with what happens in control classrooms, where conventional teaching takes place.
"In education, we never ask the productivity question," Mr. Mecklenburger said. "We have rarely said, 'Here is one model of instruction and there is another model of instruction. Which one works best, or is cheaper, or both?"'
Accordingly, Mr. Mecklenburger concluded, "we're proposing a high-visibility, nationwide study."
Eli Douglas, superintendent of schools in Garland, Tex., says his community has passed a $7-million bond issue to install a plato/wicat computer-assisted-instruction system "to develop higher-order thinking skills, especially among our gifted students."
Norma Johnson, computer curriculum coordinator in the Port Heuneme, Calif., school district, reports that 96 percent of the students at Blackstock Junior High School, where a similar system was installed, are "happier" with their studies now that there are computer laboratories.
These developments are discussed in "Reaching for Tomorrow," a new film produced by the plato/wicat Systems Company under the auspices of the National School Boards Association. The film was first shown at the nsba's annual convention last month.
wicat was formed five years ago to market a new computer-education system to elementary and secondary schools. United School Services of America Inc., a subsidiary of the Control Data Corporation of Minneapolis, has developed plato computer-based education programs for more than 20 years.
Earlier this year, the two companies signed a joint-venture agreement to form plato/wicat Systems Company to "address the entire educational process, including computer-based instructional courseware, testing and evaluation, and classroom management and administration."
The system discussed in the film involves a central computer, which supports up to 30 student work stations. Students can work on programs provided by the company or those developed by the teacher on the system.
The system also includes management software that keeps records of reports, grades, and tests. And it provides teachers with a "learner profile" on each student.
The profile, the script of the film says, "can break down an individual's learning style into its components: How much does the child learn by seeing, and how much by listening? How much of what they comprehend reflects what they interpret and infer, and how much is rote memory?"
"Taking this and other information," the narrative continues, "the profile then can adapt lessons to reflect the individual's strengths and work at overcoming any weaknesses."
The first 10,000 teachers who apply by June 15 will be eligible to receive a $100 microcomputer-training scholarship and a "certificate of professional achievement" from Apple Computer Inc.
The only stipulation is that the teachers attend an educational institution approved by Apple. Information packets outlining the program have been sent to about one million teachers nationwide. Call (800) 345-7500 for an information packet or a list of qualifying institutions.
The International Business Machines Corporation will make "Writing to Read," its popular computer-assisted education system, available to 250 South African schools.
Company officials estimate that when the five-year program is fully implemented, more than 37,000 elementary-school children will be served.
A new software guide prepared by the editors of SchoolTech News, a newsletter on technology for educators, finds that there are "only 113 programs, out of more than 8,000 available, that receive high grades from three or more evaluation services."
"Software evaluators agree that educators should not buy software on the basis of just one favorable review," said George W. Neill, editor of SchoolTech News. "They need a stronger basis than that when they are spending the limited resources available to schools."
Copies of the guide, "Only the Best: The Discriminating Software Guide for Preschool-Grade 12," are available for $15.95 from Education News Service, P.O. Box 1789, Carmichael, Calif. 95609.--lck