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Five Newark Schools Set To Use Interactive Television Programming

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Next fall, students in five Newark, N.J., schools will begin using an unusual "interactive" television system in which microcomputers are used to tailor videotaped lessons to meet the needs of individual students.

In what may be the first large-scale application of interactive programming in the educational market, the Newark Board of Education this summer announced that it had signed a $400,000 contract with actv, a New York City-based producer of interactive television programming and technology.

Under the contract, the firm will install the system in four of the district's elementary schools and in one high school.

If the Newark pilot project is deemed a success, said Michael J. Freeman, actv's chairman, the company may offer its products to other school districts.

The system allows students to interact with the recorded lessons by individually responding to questions posed by the on-screen teacher.

Based on the student's answer, the microcomputer in the patented system "branches" through a variety of responses to reinforce or correct the student's response.

The system also gives teachers a computerized analysis of how each student responds to each question.

Individualized Learning

A school-board spokesman said the system is expected to provide students with "instant personal reinforcement of learning" and create a more participatory learning environment.

The contract calls for the company to install 20 individual student stations in each elementary school and 12 stations in the high school by the beginning of the 1991-92 school year.

A company spokesman also pointed out that, while the programming initially will be available only in those schools, the technology easily lends itself to distance-learning applications.

In the Newark pilot, the videotaped material will be modified from existing educational programming, but R. James Crook, actv's vice president of education, said the company will work with the Newark Public Schools and the Newark Office of Employment and Technology to develop programs specifically for the district.

Actv, while a newcomer to the school market, already supplies 80,000 Canadian viewers with interactive cable-television service. The company also is testing an interactive cable-television system in Springfield, Mass.

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