Computers Column

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A network linking microcomputers at 25 Nebraska schools with a mainframe computer at Chadron State College will offer career instruction and guidance starting March 1.

Schools will be able to connect to the Chadron State computer and receive information that will be added daily to a mainframe "bulletin board." Schools will be able to copy any information stored in the mainframe program onto microcomputer floppy disks.

Telephone hookups with micros are being used instead of the traditional mainframe terminals, said Kenneth Griffith, a guidance counselor at Leyton High School, "because more people have them, and it would be expensive to buy new equipment."

As soon as the "language" of the mainframe program has been interpreted for microcomputers, Mr. Griffith said, schools will be able to copy inexpensively programs from any network site. He said the long-distance copying will probably extend to instructional programs for all subjects.

The network will be funded in its first year with a $38,650 grant from the Career Education Incentive Act, federal legislation administered by the state.

The Napa Valley Unified School District, a rural district north of San Francisco, is bringing computers to its 2,000 pupils in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades--literally.

The district's new computer bus, equipped with 17 Atari microcomputers, made the trip to the first of 19 elementary schools this week.

James R. Gibbany, the administrator for curriculum services, said the idea of using the bus to bring computers to the students evolved during discussions about busing students to a central computer laboratory.

"We're a district operating with budget problems, but we wanted to bring computer awareness to the younger kids," said Mr. Gibbany.

The computers, worth about $13,000, were donated to the district by the Far West Regional Research and Development Laboratory, a branch of the National Institute of Education, Mr. Gibbany said.

The bus, now painted in red, white, and blue, needed some body work before it could carry the computers safely. The spring suspensions in the bus were loosened to avoid the bumps of a regular bus ride.

Mr. Gibbany said that after 2,000 miles in trial runs, none of the computers has been damaged.

The so-called "Apple bill," which passed overwhelmingly in the House but did not receive a Senate vote in the post-election session of the Congress, was reintroduced this month by Representative Fortney H. Stark, Democrat of California. (See Education Week, Nov. 24, 1982.)

The bill is nicknamed for Apple Computers Inc., a company that vowed to put one computer in every school if the proposal passed. Companies could deduct as much as 96 percent the cost of manufacturing every machine they donated to ele-mentary and secondary schools.

A spokesman for Mr. Stark said a recently enacted tax break for donations of computers in California should "give us a case study ... to allay the critics." The spokesman said Mr. Stark does not plan to introduce the bill again if it fails during this term.

The new bill removes the requirement that the computers be donated during a one-year period, and it relaxes guidelines for their distribution.

In a development that could affect the federal copyright law's effect on computer software, the U.S. Copyright Office has asked the Congress to revise the law to allow for "better balance" of the rights of users and producers. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1983.)

The office recommended that users be permitted to reproduce copyrighted material for a "reasonable" fee and be free of liability under the copyright law.

Under the current law, producers have full rights to any program they develop. Software users have "fair use" privileges, such as the right to make copies for archives and the right to copy a program if copying is "an essential step in the utilization of the program." But all other copying is illegal.

Producers have complained that violations of the law cost them as much as 30 percent of their revenues and discourage development of better software.

A spokesman for the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice said it is too early to say whether the Congress will hold hearings on the proposal any time soon.

The development of "user friendly" computers--those that require little or no knowledge of programming or the way computers operate--continues.

Apple Computers Inc. plans to introduce its "Lisa" computer later this month. The machine, which will sell for $7,000 to $10,000, will enable users to request information by pointing at the screen and to switch tasks with greater ease than is now typical.

A cheaper, less sophisticated version of the computer, the "McIntosh," is expected to be released later.

Such simple machines will reduce the need of schools to educate students in computer science, some educators say. About 50 percent of the workforce uses computers, but many of the jobs require few computer skills.

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Educators in school systems across the country are experimenting with ways to use computers as aids to teaching and management.

If you are involved in such activities, we would like to know about them. Send information about your work with computers, along with a telephone number and address where you can be reached, to Charlie Euchner, Education Week, Suite 560, 1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.


Vol. 02, Issue 17

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