Computers Column

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A system that enables as many as 30 students to use one microcomputer at a time will be tested this fall at the University of Oregon and two public schools in Eugene, Ore.

The "Teacher Net" system links a single microcomputer with 30 inexpensive keyboard terminals around the classroom. Douglas Carnine, coordinator of the pilot program that will also include three other schools in other states, said the microcomputer will serve as an inexpensive version of a mainframe computer.

Students at the keyboards will be able to gain access to programs for diagnostic testing, instructional activities and drills, and word-processing, said Mr. Carnine, associate professor of education at the University of Oregon.

Because some of the programs require substantial computing capacity, Mr. Carnine said, some students will have to work in teams. The students would all work individually at their keyboards, but groups of several students would have to work at the same pace.

That means, Mr. Carnine said, that programmers will need to incorporate strategies of "cooperative learning" into the software. He said specialists in group learning will be involved in the project.

Elwyn Rees and Roger Cocks, the two faculty members at Worcester College in Great Britain who developed the system, visited the Oregon campus this summer for a demonstration. They received a patent for the system last month.

Advocates of applying the U.S. copyright law to computer hardware and software won a major victory in a federal appeals court early this month.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the Franklin Computer Corporation violated the copyright law when it copied microchips developed by Apple Computer Inc. The federal district court that originally heard the case may order Franklin to take its Ace 1000 microcomputer off the market.

Educators have been concerned that weak enforcement of the copyright law could stunt the development of computer products for the classroom. Manufacturers say they are wary of making financial sacrifices to develop educational hardware and software if other companies are permitted to copy the creations, but there has been considerable confusion about what computer developments should be protected by either copyright or patent. (See Education Week, Jan. 12, 1983.)

Experts say that determining whether the logic of a computer invention is an artistic expression--which is covered by copyright law--can occur only on a case-by-case basis. Creations that do not fall under the copyright law can be patented, but getting a patent often takes years--plenty of time for competitors to take advantage of an unprotected work--so manufacturers have fought for the right to copyright their creations.

Franklin officials say the company might appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Control Data Corporation is negotiating with the Group W Cable Inc. over a plan to transmit hundreds of the computer company's educational-software programs over cable-television lines.

If the two firms agree on terms, approximately 300,000 homes in the St. Paul metropolitan area will be able to use their television sets and an inexpensive computer keyboard to gain access to 12,000 hours of courses on 6,000 Plato programs stored in Control Data's mainframe computer in Arden, Minn. Control Data officials say the company would charge a fee for access to educational programs on topics ranging from simple arithmetic to automotive repair.

The plan would be similar to a program under development at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Carnegie-Mellon officials and the International Business Machines Corporation plan to create a "wired city" of computer users, in which anyone connected with the university can conduct routine business and take courses via a microcomputer that is connected to one of the university's mainframes.

Apple Computer Inc., which last year successfully lobbied the California state legislature to approve tax credits for companies that give computers to schools, has started the screening process for donations.

Central to the donation program--which will cost the state some $5.25 million in lost revenues--is a teacher-training course sponsored by the company. Only schools whose teachers earn a certificate from the course will be eligible for a free computer.

Apple officials expect 9,000 public and private schools to eventually take part in the program. The tax writeoffs--25 percent of the fair market value of the machines--will be in effect for all donations until next July 1.

Apple's chairman, Steven Jobs, last year sought passage of a federal computer tax-credit bill. (See Education Week, Nov. 24, 1982.) A measure sponsored by Representative Fortney H. Stark, Democrat of California, was passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives but never came to a vote in the Senate.

Electronic games are now a part of the therapy program for adolescent chemotherapy patients at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.

Three students have taken part in a study to determine how effective home computer games are in distracting a patient's attention from his physical and psychological problems. More patients will become part of the study this fall.

Harold R. Musiker, the director of the Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine Section at the hospital, said chemotherapy patients often develop automatic, unhealthy reactions when they are waiting for treatment. The video games, he said, are simply an attempt to distract the patient from his worries.

Hospital officials hope to offer the games eventually to all patients who may be under stress, Mr. Musiker said, after analyzing questionnaires and notes of observations to determine how effective it is.--ce

Vol. 03, Issue 02

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