Training Called Key to Enhancing Use of Computers, Poll Finds

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School superintendents and teachers agree that computers could be used more effectively if teachers received more training and classrooms were stocked with greater numbers of up-to-date machines, according to a poll.

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Yet educators also say that classroom computers already have improved teaching and learning in their school districts.

The nationwide telephone poll of 582 teachers and 419 superintendents was conducted early this month by Global Strategy Group Inc., a New York City-based company. It was commissioned by the American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va., and by Jostens Learning Corp., the San Diego-based education-software company.

The poll's findings, released last week, support recommendations by many education experts that teachers need training in how to blend technology into classroom instruction at least as much as schools need new equipment and Internet access.

"We absolutely do need more computers in our schools," said Karl Hertz, the president-elect of the 15,000 member AASA. "However, we also need to be sure we're using them as effectively as possible. Therefore, training is essential."

Higher Motivation Cited

Although 72 percent of the respondents said training in basic computer operation was available in their schools or districts, only 56 percent said training was offered in integrating computer activities into instruction.

The results have a margin of error of 3 percentage points overall, 4.1 percentage points for the teacher results, and 4.8 percentage points for the superintendent results.

When asked which aspects of education have improved through the use of computers, more than 60 percent of the respondents cited both student motivation and students' access to information outside the classroom.

Nearly half believed computers led to at least a small improvement in the individualized assessment of students' performance and a small improvement in test scores.

Many were unconvinced, however, that computers helped increase student attendance or involve parents in education.

The survey also asked about the decision by the Federal Communications Commission, due by May 8, that is expected to give schools large discounts on telecommunications services, internal networking, and Internet access beginning as early as next fall.

Sixty percent of the superintendents said they were aware of the impending discounts.

The overall group said the highest priority for tapping those discounted services should be connecting classrooms to the school's computer network, followed by better telecommunications services, such as high-capacity phone lines, and Internet access.

The respondents generally agreed that budget money that may be freed up by the discounts should be spent on more computers and better technology training. But superintendents named teacher training as the priority for those funds while teachers emphasized new equipment.

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