Ed-Tech Policy

Computers Column

September 19, 1984 4 min read

The National Commission on Industrial Innovation, a bipartisan group headed by Edmund G. Brown Jr., the former California governor, is turning its attention to the use of computers in schools.

The commission’s work is centering on two “schools of the future” proposals that are expected to be finished by year’s end for introduction in the upcoming Congressional session.

The first proposal, said Judy Hubner, director of the commission’s school-computer project, calls for five regional “centers of excellence” for research and development in specific areas, such as electronic networking or computer applications in farming.

Each center, Ms. Hubner said, would study the design of hardware, the development of software, and “the cognitive processes and learning outcomes” to be expected in its particular subject area.

Each center would also be responsible for teacher training and the dissemination of the information it develops.

The second proposal, Ms. Hubner said, calls for the development of at least one model school in each state. Existing schools would compete with each other for the funding, she said, and those with strong industry cooperation and innovative programs would have the edge.

The Educational Products Information Exchange has gone “on-line.”

Subscribers to epie, a nonprofit organization that conducts educational software and hardware evaluations, can receive the non-profit company’s updated reviews through CompuServe, one of two major timesharing networks. CompuServe charges customers who are also epie members $5 an hour to access its on-line database networks through telephone lines, said P. Kenneth Komoski, director of epie.

Mr. Komoski also noted that the 1985 edition of The Educational Software Selector, a directory of some 7,000 listings that is jointly distributed by epie and the Teachers College Press of Columbia University, will soon be available.

The book, which costs $49.95 a copy for nonmembers, lists educational-software products and whether they have been reviewed positively, negatively, or neutrally by epie or 29 other evaluation services judged reliable by epie’s national advisory board of computer experts.

For more information, write to epie, P.O. Box 839, Watermill, N.Y. or call (516) 283-4922.

A special summer issue of the Teachers College Record offers a skeptical view of the burgeoning use of computers in schools.

According to Editor Douglas M. Sloan, the purpose of the special issue is to challenge American educators who "... have made no concerted effort to ask at what level, for what purposes, and in what ways the computer is educationally appropriate and inappropriate, [and] in what ways and to whom we can count on its being beneficial or harmful.”

Among the questions raised in the journal’s eight articles are: whether computers alienate children from the real world and inhibit their ability to think abstractly or creatively, and whether computer literacy is necessary for most jobs.

Also included is a critique of Mindstorms, a book written by Seymour Papert, the inventor of logo, a computer language specifically designed for elementary-school children.

The International Business Machines Corporation is offering to all schools its “Writing to Read” program.

The company describes the computerized instructional program as “a complete language laboratory” designed to “teach children to write everything they can say and to read everything they can write.”

The Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., was hired by ibm to evaluate the program, which was developed by an educator named John Henry Martin and financed by ibm (See Education Week, Dec. 22, 1982.)

After a two-year study, which involved more than 10,000 kindergartners and 1st graders in 21 randomly selected schools, the testing service this summer pronounced the program “an effective educational program.”

The typical “Writing to Read” laboratory consists of five work stations. At the computer station, children are exposed to 10 cycles of three words that teach them the 42 phonemes, or sounds, of the English language.

At other stations, children use workbooks, tapes, pencils and paper, typewriters, and other materials, such as clay, to reinforce the computer lesson.

A typical “Writing to Read” laboratory, which would accommodate 120 students per day in 45-minute instructional periods, costs about $16,000, according to an ibm spokesman.

Computer Education: A Catalog of Projects Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education 1983, is now available through the National Institute of Education.

According to Susan S. Klein, the book’s editor, “The projects in this catalog represent close to a $77-million federal investment if the many multiple-year funding awards for each project are totaled.”

For a copy of the catalog, send $9 to: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Request stock number 065-000-00202-7.

Computers in the Schools, an “interdisciplinary journal of practice, theory, and applied research,” made its debut in June.

In the charter issue, Editor D. LaMont Johnson, associate professor of education at Texas Tech University, said the journal’s goal is to "... discuss issues and concerns, and report research findings, in a style that avoids technical jargon and can be easily understood by any professional educator.”

The journal is published by The Haworth Press Inc.--lck

A version of this article appeared in the September 19, 1984 edition of Education Week as Computers Column


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