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Boston Group, TV Station Create Center For Technology in Teaching the Disabled

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The Education Department has awarded a five-year, $2.5 million grant to a nonprofit educational organization and a Boston public-television station to create a national center aimed at improving the use of technology, media, and more traditional instructional materials in teaching students with disabilities.

The Educational Development Center and the WGBH Educational Foundation will jointly operate the new National Center to Improve Practice, which will be housed at the E.D.C.'s Newton, Mass., headquarters.

"We've over the years funded a number of projects for technology, media, and materials for disabled students that focused on the materials themselves,'' said David Malouf, a project officer for the office of special-education programs' division of innovation and development, which is funding the new center.

"We've just become aware that there are a lot of barriers for those to be used effectively in the classroom,'' he said.

For that reason, Mr. Malouf said, the center was created to explore how those technologies and materials can help meet educational goals for disabled students and to determine what it takes to promote improvement in practice.

Filling a Need

The new center will work closely with another center at the University of Oregon that received funding a year ago to focus on the quality of such products and materials.

In the past, most such centers have been based at universities. The new center is among the first to be operated by a nonprofit group and a public-television station.

Directors of the new center said they plan to use their unique resources to broadcast on public-television stations videoconferences that feature footage of effective practices at work in the classroom.

Also planned are a national electronic network for practitioners and an on-line video magazine that will incorporate text, graphics, still pictures, animated pictures, voice, and video to provide research findings and demonstrate instructional techniques.

"There are many individuals who have disabilities who are underserved and do not have access to effective, compelling instruction,'' said Judith Zorfass, a principal investigator at the new national center.

"What we want to do is to understand what it takes to match up technology, media, and materials with students who have disabilities,'' she added.

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