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The National Education Association should support efforts to connect elementary and high school classrooms to a national, fiber-optic telecommunications network and take other steps to bring teachers into the information age, according to a new report.

The recommendations were contained in the final report of the N.E.A.'s special committee on telecommunications, which was released this month at a educational-technology conference in Denver.

"Only five years ago, a major report on educational telecommunications would have been interesting, but hardly worth much attention,'' the report says. "A great deal has happened in five years, however.''

The report notes, for example, that while electronic bulletin-board services such as Prodigy are "virtually ubiquitous,'' many schools, particularly those in rural and suburban areas, must pay hefty fees to obtain them.

It recommends that the N.E.A.. lobby state legislatures and public-utility commissions to permit low-cost access for schools and encourage providers of telecommunications services to offer free or reduced rates to schools.

It also argues that the union should adopt the position that every classroom ought to be equipped with a telephone.

The report also contains policy recommendations for distance-learning via satellite and other technologies, including a proposal that states should develop specific certification policies for distance-learning teachers, whose courses often are carried in several states simultaneously.

Copies of the report may be ordered at a cost $15.95 each for nonmembers by calling (800) 229-4200.

A newly installed switching system will allow precollegiate educators in Wataugua County, N.C., to establish video links with a local university through existing telephone cables.

Officials at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., announced this month that through an alliance with the American Telephone & Telegraph Company and Southern Bell, it will be able to share instructional and other resources with schools in the county.

Unlike other distance-learning networks, the new system employs several electronic links, known as an integrated-services digital network, that allow the schools to share voice, video, and data over copper phone lines.

Officials said the experimental link will give student-teachers at the university--which trains 25 percent of the state's teachers--an unprecedented level of exposure to distance-learning techniques. It also will give precollegiate students access to the university's lecturers and libraries, they said.--P.W.

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