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N.E.A., I.B.M. Launching Effort To Link Schools With Computers

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Washington--A computer network that will enable teachers from across the country to share ideas and concerns about school-based reform and restructuring was scheduled to go into operation this week, according to a spokesman for the National Education Association.

The People Sharing Information Network, developed for the n.e.a. by the International Business Machines Corporation, will link 50 schools and research centers where experiments in school-based reform are taking place.

"I think that one of the problems with this five-year school-reform movement is that people have not been able to work with each other to share their knowledge," said Robert McClure, director of the n.e.a.'s three-year-old Mastery in Learning project.

Twenty-six of the schools engaged in the pilot program are members of the project, which encourages teachers to experiment with reforms in such areas as instructional techniques and staff development.

The remaining test sites include both federally funded research laboratories and schools that belong to the National Network for Educational Renewal and the Coalition of Essential Schools.

If "PSInet," as the computer net4work is to be called, is successful, Mr. McClure said, teachers will be able to communicate more efficiently than they can through the mail or over the telephone.

PSInet will allow teachers to send individual messages through an electronic mail system or contribute ideas to "conferences" about specific topics in school-based reform.

"We'll have 10 times the amount of knowledge in one-tenth of the time," if the project is fully successful by the end of its two-year trial period, Mr. McClure predicted.

The PSInet software is a refinement of a program that was sucessfully tested at the nea's Symposium on School-Based Reform last year, said Shari Castle, the project coordinator.

Mr. McClure noted, however, that the software is still in the experimental stage and not yet available to the general public.

Ibm is providing the software as well as microcomputers and printers at no cost during the trial period, Mr. McClure said.

Coordinators from each of the network sites were scheduled to be trained in the use of the machines during the Mastery in Learning project's annual conference here this week.--pw

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