Students in the Prince George's County, Md., school system have been given computers to take home as part of an experiment to determine if having a machine in the home boosts academic achievement.
Under the auspices of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, students in the 5th and 7th grades at an elementary and a middle school have been given computer work-stations equipped with full-color computer monitors, 70 megabyte hard-disk drives, printers, modems, and the unlimited free use of dedicated telephone lines.
At&t is "of course, looking at this from a business point of view in regard to the marketability of computers as extensions of schools," said Brian J. Porter, a spokesman for the suburban Washington district.
"We're also looking at it from the point of view of possibly improving the knowledge about the use of computers in instruction," he said.
The a.t.&t. link allows students at home to employ the same software they use daily in their studies of science, language arts, algebra, and word-processing.
"We have the potential here for a massive explosion of curiosity and learning simply because of the convenience of being able to tap into that simply by pushing a button in your living room," Mr. Porter said.
A "control" group of students was not given the home computers, but is using identical equipment and software in computer labs at school.
In a separate initiative, the district is placing computers in 2nd- and 3rd-grade classrooms at 69 schools to act as "instructional aides'' by enhancing lessons taught by classroom teachers.
Each of 349 classrooms has four computers linked to one another and connected to a master station in the principal's office. The device's memory, stored on compact disks, allows as many as 40 students to use the equipment at once.
The project is the first step of a "long-term commitment to introduce computers as a regular feature of elementary-school instruction" in the 108,000-student district, Mr. Porter said.
The computer language in some Texas schools may resonate with a definite regional twang because Education Systems Corporation has customized its software to reflect the needs of students preparing for the state department of education's standardized exams.
The diagnostic software has been modified to play Texas tunes and display images of Texas style and customs as it drills students in reading, mathematics, and writing skills.
For more information, prospective users should contact Pam Thompson at esc, 6170 Cornerstone Court East, Ste. 300, San Diego, Calif. 92121; or call 1-800-521-8538.--pw