Computer Column

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At least half of the students in schools where there are computer classes may be the victims of discrimination.

According to field tests by Computer Literacy Inc., a Berkeley, Calif., book publisher, two-thirds of all the computer-users in education are male, even though more than 50 percent of all students are female.

"The sources for this discrimination are clear," says Martha Ramierez, a partner with the firm. "People tend to think of computers as a part of math. Math teachers teach computers, and computer courses have math prerequisites. It's absurd because there is virtually no math in computing."

Teachers tend to assume that most girls suffer from "math anxiety," Ms. Ramierez continues, and therefore do not encourage girls to enroll in computer classes.

The last Computer Literacy survey of the subject involved 600 students at 13 sites in the fall of 1981. Other studies and anecdotal evidence, Ms. Ramierez says, suggest that the situation has not changed. Nor is there any sign that it will, she adds.

"Ask a guy on the street [what computers entail], and he says, 'Well, it's working with numbers.' It's really more like shoving files around a cabinet."

"Personality" matchups via computer, once restricted to dating services, have found their way into elementary schools.

With a system developed by William Fournier, a programmer for the Edumetrics Corporation in Longmont, Colo., schools in five states have started to use computers to create groups for classroom activities.

The main objective of the "Peer Interaction Profiles" is to get "problem" students more involved with their classmates, says Mr. Fournier.

Students start the process by saying what they think of each other and themselves. Teachers then evaluate the students with test scores and their subjective observations. The data are fed into the computer, which produces a number of possible work groups.

Opposites, Mr. Fournier says, usually end up together if they have not expressed animosity toward each other.

"Say a lot of people hate Johnny's guts, and Johnny's not a good student," he explains. "We try to group him with someone of the opposite gender who has leadership abilities and is a good student."

Says Richard B. Boersma, director of one program in Steamboat Springs, Colo.: "This eliminates the chance of actively hostile kids having to work together. The child at the bottom rung of the ladder might not move up, but he is going to be in reach [of other students]."

The program can be used on Apple II microcomputers. Mr. Fournier says he is adapting the programs for other computers.

"Typo invaders" have made David Buehler a relatively wealthy young man.

Mr. Buehler, a 17-year-old from Shoreview, Minn., last month won $25,000 from Atari, the computer-games manufacturing division of Warner Communications, for his design of a computer game that teaches typewriting skills on nine different levels.

The object of "Typo Attack" is to defend letters on the bottom of the screen against typo invaders from above. The invaders can be stopped only by punching the correct key before they reach their targets.

The game--the fifth that Mr. Buehler has written--has 700 lines of commands.

In addition to the prize for the contest, Mr. Buehler, a student at Mounds View High School in North Oaks, will receive about $1.50 in royalties on each game sold. Atari is also marketing another game written by Mr. Buehler called "Elimination."

Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligance Agency, has been named president and chief executive officer of a new business consortium that was created to share breakthroughs in electronics.

The Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation's goal is to use research findings to compete more effectively with Japanese and European companies, according to a spokesman for one of the companies involved.

The 10-company consortium received antitrust clearance from the Justice Department before it was founded. The companies will exchange information in "the entire gamut of electronics," from microcomputers to supercomputers, said the spokesman.

A recent report sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Department warned that the United States is lagging in the development of supercomputers, the fastest and most powerful computers available, because of a failure to make the devices widely available to researchers.

Among the companies in the consortium: Digital Electronics Corporation, Radio Corporation of America, Sperry Univac, Control Data Corporation, and Honeywell.

The Philadelphia Board of Education will consider a proposal to provide courses in computer literacy to all seniors starting next year.

Superintendent of Schools Constance E. Clayton told the board at a meeting last month that the city's schools should try to regain a "leadership role" that they once held in the use of computers in education.

The Philadelphia schools have no districtwide policy for buying and using microcomputers in the classroom. The system now has 470 desktop computers in its 260 schools--and the number of computers varies widely from school to school.

The first phase of the policy would provide instruction to all seniors next fall.

Eventually, Ms. Clayton said, all elementary, junior-high, and high-school students would receive some computer instruction under the program.

The superintendent also proposed that teachers be trained to use computers before schools buy computers, that all of the district's schools buy one brand of computer, and that computers be used in all subjects.

Businessmen who want to create a modern office ought to seek advice from a group they too often ignore--their word-processing people--according to a recent study by Bonnie Johnson, a visiting scholar at Stanford University's Institute of Communication Research.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, found that the decision to use word-processors in most offices came from above. But once the machines were in place, both they and their users were soon forgotten, the study reported.

Word-processing supervisors, the report said, "have been entrepreneurs as well as internal managers."

It added: "People responsible for operating the equipment are often the most creative in adapting the technology to the work to be done."--ce

Vol. 02, Issue 19

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