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Texas Group To Test Interactive-Video Curriculum

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The Texas Learning Technology Group, a research arm of the Texas School Boards Association, is negotiating with school districts in Indiana, Washington State, and West Virginia to test what may be the first curriculum designed to employ microcomputers linked to videodiscs.

The group last month completed a pilot test of the two-semester, 160-hour program of instruction in chemistry and physics that it is developing in conjunction with a dozen secondary schools across the state.

The system, said Paula Hardy, director of the T.L.T.G., allows teachers to supplement their lectures with simulations stored on the discs and accessed through the computer. The simulations are designed to demonstrate the complexities of such phenomena as nuclear reactions and the structure of genetic material.

Some lessons, including one in which a used-car salesman demonstrates the properties of steam, rust, and electrical charges in a "sales pitch'' aimed at the student, are presented in the form of stories or games.

Ms. Hardy said the reaction from students, who can answer questions by touching the screen, and teachers, who can evaluate student progress with an "electronic gradebook,'' has been enthusiastic.

Researchers at the University of Texas, she noted, are evaluating the educational effectiveness of the $4-million courseware-development effort among teachers and high-school students in 17 Texas classrooms.

The learning-technology group hopes to test the curriculum in as many as 10 states before marketing it nationally in the fall of 1989, she said.

Used extensively by industry and the military as a training tool, videodiscs are employed in only a fraction of the nation's 14,600 school districts, according to a report by the National School Boards Association's Institute for the Transfer of Technology to Education.

Explanatory Videotape

To help educators grasp the teaching potential of interactive videodiscs, the nation's leading manufacturer of the electronic storage devices recently mailed copies of a videotaped documentary featuring successful applications of the technology to 26,500 precollegiate "media coordinators'' at public and private schools with enrollments of more than 500 students.

Pioneer Communications of America Inc., a subsidiary of the Pioneer Electronic Corporation of Japan, commissioned and underwrote production of the seven-minute documentary, which presents case studies of three schools that use interactive videodisc technology in instruction.

Free copies of the videotape may be obtained from Pioneer Communications of America, Department EDOC, 600 E. Crescent Ave., Upper Saddle River, N.J. 07458.

The company is asking principals and administrators to inquire whether a tape already has been received by their schools before requesting a copy.--P.W.

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