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$4.9-Million Federal Grant Launches New Technology Center

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Washington--The Education Department has awarded a $4.9-million grant to the Bank Street College of Education in New York City to create a new national Center on Technology in Education.

Bank Street officials say they will use the five-year grant in a collaborative effort with Brown University, Harvard University, and Bolt, Beranek & Newman Inc., a private computer-research firm based in Cambridge, Mass. The research-and-development center's mission is to use new technologies to assess and improve the way that students learn.

"Although the number of computers in schools has grown dramatically in the 1980's, these machines have not significantly improved student learning or increased school productivity," said Chester E. Finn Jr., former assistant secretary of education, in a statement announcing the award to the college.

"We expect the new center to change that pattern by pinpointing the most effective ways to integrate technology into the schools," he said.

According to Bank Street officials, the work of the new center will be "significantly different" from that of the Educational Technology Center at Harvard, which was supported with a grant from the department's office of educational research and improvement up until this year.

Dispute 'Ancient History'

The decision by the National Institute of Education, oeri's predecessor, to give Harvard the $7.6-million, five-year grant for that center in 1983 was harshly protested by Bank Street, which also bid for the award.

The General Accounting Office subsequently rejected the college's claims that its proposal was less expensive than Harvard's and had received a more favorable rating from a peer-review panel. (See Education Week, Aug. 22, 1984.)

The two institutions are said to consider the dispute "ancient history" and it is not expected to affect their new working relationship.

"Our issue was not with Harvard," said Karen Sheingold, the new center's director. "Our issue was with [n.i.e]."

Harvard officials, meanwhile, said their center will continue its work in spite of the loss of federal funding. They said they did not bid for the new grant because the mission statement prepared by the department was "incompatible" with the work the Harvard center has been doing in the areas of science and mathematics instruction.

Ms. Sheingold said the new center, which will be housed in the college's Center for Children and Technology, will focus on "interactive technology, computer-based technologies, but not just on microcomputers."

C.c.t. already has initiated several research projects in the use of educational technology, including the "Palenque Project," a prototype of an advanced videodisc-teaching system. It has also conducted studies on how to attract more women and minority teachers into the field of educational technology.

One "refreshing" aspect of the grant, according to Ms. Sheingold, is that it encourages research into the use of technology in a wide array of curriculum areas, such as history, literature, geography, and biology. She noted that microcomputers traditionally have been used to teach mathematics and science.

Ms Sheingold added that the five-year funding period is "very significant" because it will allow researchers to perform longitudinal studies on the effects of technology on children.

"One of the assignments we're going to take very seriously is to have more conversations with the policymaking community," Ms. Sheingold said. "Whatever we do that's valuable to [them], we want them to know about it."

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