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Apple Computer Inc. has launched a $2-million cooperative initiative with six school districts and colleges of education that is designed to improve instruction and classroom management through the use of technology.

The "Christopher Columbus Consortium" will pair postsecondary institutions in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas with school districts in those states to introduce teachers to the potential of computer-assisted instruction.

"Not much, if any substantive change has occurred in the school curriculum or in instructional practices by using technology," said Al Buccino, dean of the college of education at the University of Georgia. "By focusing the efforts of the consortium initially on empowering teachers with technology, we believe that such change and restructuring can be accelerated,"

As a part of the program, each of the six education schools will be equipped with special "faculty-development centers," which also will be networked electronically to allow researchers to share information.

And at each of the elementary, middle, and high schools involved, 20 teachers will be supplied with desktop Macintosh computers to be used as research tools and to help improve productivity.

Schools will be equipped with a computer lab for use by students and teachers; an emphasis will be placed on the multi-media capabilities of the Macintosh to enhance instruction.

The schools involved will be expected to provide matching contributions.

"We call this partnership the Christopher Columbus Consortium because what we're joining together to explore doesn't have a definite known destination," said Tom Burnett, Apple's consortium coordinator.

The Nissan Motor Corporation's U.S. division has announced that it will install computers at three inner-city elementary schools in Los Angeles in an effort to improve literacy education.

The three Nissan Family Learning Centers will be equipped with 12 PS/2 computers from the International Business Machines Corporation and with ibm's "Writing to Read" software.

In what the company calls a departure from similar gifts, Nissan also will train teachers to use the equipment.

As part of the project, the schools also will receive ibm's Principle of the Alphabet Literacy System, which is designed to assist illiterate adults and those for whom English is a second language to improve their reading skills.

The program is scheduled to begin by the end of the spring semester. If it is judged successful, Nissan officials said, the program could be expanded to other schools in the Los Angeles school system.--pw

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