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New York Regents Approve Plan for Technology Uses in Education

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The New York Board of Regents has approved a far-reaching "strategic plan" for the integration of technology in the state's classrooms, libraries, museums, and other educational and cultural avenues.

The plan, which represents one of the most comprehensive statewide efforts in the country to harness technology for education, attempts to address five key issues that have emerged with the growing influence of technology on the delivery of instruction.

They are the training of teachers and administrators; the development of high-quality instructional materials; the use of electronic networks for the equitable and enhanced delivery of information; research and development on the applications and evaluation of current and emerging technologies; and the integration of technology in the content and program areas of educational and cultural institutions.

According to Peter Stoll, assistant director of the New York Center for Learning Technologies, these issues were identified by participants at3the first national technology leadership conference held last summer in Albany, N.Y. Education officials in charge of technology in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and six other jurisdictions were invited to attend the conference, which was sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers with funding from the National Institute of Education.

A second leadership conference is scheduled to be held in Oregon in October, Mr. Stoll said.

The Center for Learning Technologies was established by the Board of Regents in 1982. Its primary charge was to develop a comprehensive plan for the integration of technology in the state's unified educational system. The system, which is governed by the regents, includes public and nonpublic schools, libraries, colleges, universities, professional schools, museums, historical societies, proprietary vocational schools, nursery schools, hospital nursing schools, and public television and radio stations.

"The principal reason I supported the creation of the center and the development of this long-term plan is that technology is certainly changing the way in which skills and knowledge are being taught," said Emlyn I. Griffith, a regent and member of the Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Education, a 20-member council that advises President Reagan and the Congress on educational issues.

Future Instructional Systems

"I believe that most people in public education are thinking in terms of instructional systems of the past, rather than instructional systems of the future," Mr. Griffith added. "It is absolutely essential, from kindergarten through postgraduate school, that the educational community not only adapt to the current technologies, but anticipate the developing and emerging technologies."

According to Gregory Benson, director of the Center for Learning Technologies, New York now has "the policy direction that can provide a rationale for building legislative and programmatic initiatives. Prior to having a policy statement, we had evidence and indications as to what was major. Nothing is more powerful than a major policymaking group agreeing that these are the issues, these are the goals, and these are the directions that should be taken."

The plan unanimously approved by the Board of Regents includes 15 "action recommendations" that address the key issues in the context of three broad goals--"equity, efficiency, and excellence."

Focusing on Equity

"The most pressing goal is the one relating to equity," Mr. Stoll said. "When it relates to technology, it can range from the unequal distribution of hardware and software to the needs of rural schools that may face declining enrollments and do not have enough students to create a gifted-and-talented program."

Equity issues also include, he added, biases and stereotypes that might be contained in commercial software products, and "internal" equity issues, such as in a school where most of the girls learn about word-processing and most of the boys learn about robotics.

According to state education department data, the number of microcomputers acquired by public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools in New York increased from slightly more than 25,000 in 1982-83 to nearly 70,000 in 1983-84.

The survey also shows that "schools of higher wealth have significantly more microcomputers per school and higher percentages of6students regularly using them compared with schools of lower wealth."

For example, in the fall of 1984, in the 88 schools that enrolled no students from families that received public assistance, there were 16 microcomputers per school and 28 students per microcomputer; 62.3 percent of the students used the machines regularly.

But in the 155 schools where 81 to 90 percent of the students came from families that received public assistance, there were only 8 microcomputers per school and 98 students per microcomputer; 23.5 percent of the students used the machines regularly.

Initiatives Undertaken

Many of the recommendations approved by the regents stress the need for planning, training, and the development of private-/public-sector partnerships.

In some instances, Mr. Stoll said, initiatives have already been taken.

For example, the state has sponsored meetings between educators and software publishers to address the issue of developing programs that meet curricular and pedagogical needs, he noted.

"This is a major departure from other states," Mr. Stoll said. "Our premise has been that rather than have the state produce high-quality software--as Minnesota does through the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation--we would work with the private sector to influence the development of their products to reflect our standards before they were actually marketed and produced."

State officials have also identified at least 18 pilot projects that address the full range of telecommunication capabilities. With $3.5 million in aid from the legislature, 44 "teacher-resource and computer-training centers" have been established. A $2.5-million increase in that aid, Mr. Benson said, will support another 10 to 15 such centers.

Over the past two years, the legislature has also approved $21.6 million for hardware acquisition and $22.5 million for software acquisition, Mr. Benson said. The education department is considering legislation that would provide an equivalent amount for the acquisition of software and hardware for postsecondary institutions, libraries, and other cultural institutions, he said.

In addition, Mr. Benson said, education officials have drafted propos-als for $5 million to $7 million for planning, staff development, and hardware and software acquisition for low-wealth and minority school districts, and another $5 million to $7 million for planning and staff development in postsecondary and cultural institutions.

"A common tendency is to be enamored with the technology itself and buy the things and then find that it's difficult to integrate them effectively," Mr. Benson said. "Basically, we want to make sure the purchase of hardware, software, and other kinds of interactive telecommunication systems and technologies are targeted to specific student needs rather than to what happens to be on sale, in vogue, or next door.

"Careful thought," he added, "needs to be given to how technologies are applied to instruction, management, or any of the other functions in our institutions. In fact so careful that we think it requires a deliberate, comprehensive planning process."

For a copy of the learning-technologies plan, write to the Center for Learning Technologies, Suite 9A47, CEC, New York State Education Department, Albany, N.Y. 12230.

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