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School Support Said Key To Better Computer Use

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A school "culture" that encourages teachers to experiment and that permits them time to plan lessons effectively is a key prerequisite for the effective and creative use of educational technology, a new study of experienced computer-using educators suggests.

Teachers--even "experienced" teachers--are willing to adapt their teaching strategies to incorporate new technologies if they receive technical and professional support, argues the study by researchers at the Center for Technology in Education at the Bank Street College of Education.

The study was based on a random survey of 1,200 teachers in grades 4-12 in all 50 states who were believed to be experienced in the use of computers and other electronic learning aids.

Researchers conducted the study to learn how such teachers used technology, if they valued the use of technology as an instructional aid, and what barriers and incentives existed to technology use.

Preliminary results from the survey were released last spring. (See Education Week, May 9, 1990.)

Among the 608 teachers responding to the survey, many reported multiple uses of technology, such as word processing and spreadsheets, as well as a willingness to experiment.

"It seems to me that we have found some people who have taken some initiative, put in time and effort, and believe that it has really affected what has happened in their classrooms," said Karen Sheingold, co-author of the study.

She noted, however, that while schools typically embrace relatively short inservice programs, teachers in the survey indicated that it takes "five or six years" to beome comfortable with technology and to use it effectively.

Ms. Sheingold contrasted the study with the efforts of other researchers, who she said have either randomly studied computer-using districts--and concluded that schools largely ignore the effective use of technology--or have highlighted individual schools that have embarked on promising programs.

"There was a big gap there," she said. "We felt it was very important to get a handle on what was happening with computers among teachers who were fairly dedicated to making something happen."

Copies of "Accomplished Teachers: Integrating Computers into Classroom Practice" are available for $5 each from the Center for Technology in Education, Bank Street College of Education, 610 West 112th St., New York, N.Y. 10025.--PW

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