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Unusual Collaboration Yields Software Designed To Hone Student Social Skills

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To help students find solutions to drug abuse, violence, and other social problems, make them reporters for a fictional television news show and turn them loose in a computer simulation of a modern big city.

That is the approach of a yearlong multimedia curriculum devised by an unusual collaboration of filmmakers, software developers, and state and local agencies in Florida.

The Computer Curriculum Corporation unveiled the interactive curriculum late last month after a year's work by more than 100 software designers, educators, and youth experts--and a cast and technical crew of more than 200.

The program, "Choosing Success," contains 90 hours of multimedia programming designed to help students in grades 7-12 learn such social skills as coping with peer pressure and finding a job.

C.C.C. is the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based multimedia division of Simon & Schuster, the New York publishing house. The company developed the product as part of an $8-million venture with the Florida education department and the Dade County schools.

The program assigns students an active role in learning, said Mike Eason, Florida's director of instructional technology.

"We need to teach them how to manage the daily barrage of information and choices and make good decisions," he said.

Florida will earn royalties from sales of the program and will add it to its list of recommended software, enabling schools to buy it at a discount, said Stacy Pena, a C.C.C. spokeswoman. But it will not be a required course in the state.

Computer 'Tool Box'

"Choosing Success" combines eight units, ranging from "The Inner You/Self-Esteem" to "Family Circumstances," which examines problems in families with abusive, addictive, or absent parents.

Each unit stresses the program's five central themes--building self-esteem, multicultural awareness, computer literacy, media awareness, and basic literacy.

The curriculum puts students in the role of reporters for a fictitious television news magazine who are assigned to investigate and resolve problems faced by a multicultural cast of characters.

With help from a "multimedia tool box" included in the software, they navigate through a simulated city to gather information they can then use to produce 10- to 15-minute news stories about specific problems.

The stories are then critiqued by teachers and fellow students.

Students are urged to work with their teachers to apply the critical-thinking model espoused by "Choosing Success" to real problems in their communities.

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