Ed-Tech Policy

Computers

October 24, 1984 4 min read

Researchers from The Rand Corporation found the biggest hurdle to overcome in what they called “the first systematic examination of how teachers use micrcomputers” was to find enough teachers who were successfully using computers to study.

“We call it the ‘vanishing computer-using teacher phenomenon,”’ said Richard J. Shavelson, principal author of the study, which was sponsored by Rand and the National Institute of Education. “No sooner does a teacher become adept with microcomputers than he or she disappears into an administrative position or private industry.”

Nevertheless, the Rand team--which “was restricted to California for budgetary reasons"--did identify 40 elementary and 20 secondary teachers who were “singled out by their peers as particularly skilled in applying microcomputers to teaching.”

From the study, Rand researchers found “definite patterns in the way computers were employed.”

In classrooms of high-ability students, for example, the researchers found that “a myriad of computer programs” were used; but in classrooms of low-ability students, drill-and-practice programs were primarily used.

The researchers further noted, however, that studies have shown “a positive relationship between drill and practice and achievement.”

And the computer, as observed by the researchers, was “a seductive way to get students involved in drill and practice.”

In the September issue of Electronic Learning, the computer specialist Arthur Luehrmann argues for the establishment of a National Council of Teachers of Computing to join the ranks of other specialized teacher organizations.

“Educational computer organizations, journals, and conferences abound,” says Mr. Luehrmann, founder of Computer Literacy, a consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif. “The problem is that there is no single organization that works as efficiently, effectively, or legitimately for the computer teacher as--to pick a familiar example--the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics works for math teachers.”

The need for such a group is clear, according to Mr. Luehrmann, who notes that “a decade ago, it was a rare school that had even a single classroom computer.”

Today, he adds, “the average secondary school has a dozen or more computers; elementary schools are not far behind. More to the point, there are about a hundred times as many computer teachers now.”

The number of microcomputers in the nation’s 50 school districts with the highest enrollment has more than doubled, according to Quality Education Data Inc., a Denver-based market-research firm.

According to qed, the number of microcomputers in the 50 largest school districts--which represent 6.3 million students and 9,215 schools--has climbed from 36,835 in 1983 to 75,885 in 1984.

By brand, the biggest gain was registered by the International3Business Machines Corporation, which had 4.6 percent of the market in 1983 and 6.9 percent of the market this year.

Apple Computer Inc. continues to dominate, with 46.8 percent of the market, according to qed The firm also reports that Radio Shack has 21.7 percent of the market; Commodore, 10.3 percent; Atari, 5.1 percent; Texas Instruments, 4.3 percent; and Franklin, 3 percent.

The company further reports that the average number of microcomputers per school has risen from 4 to 8.3; the average number of students per microcomputer has dropped from 170 to 83.

qed conducted its survey of 15,092 school districts by telephone over the summer. Results for all school districts will soon be released.

The University of Kentucky and the Fayette County, Ky., public-school system have received a $97,283 grant from the U.S. Education Department to develop ways to use computers to educate handicapped children.

The goal of the two-year project is to find ways to improve learning among Fayette’s 3,000 special-education students; officials also plan to develop guidelines and methods for computer use in special education.

A microcomputer program designed to help high-school students match their interests with the programs of 2,700 colleges and universities has been updated by The College Board.

The program, “College Explorer,” was introduced nationwide last year. The expanded 1984-85 edition runs on the Apple IIe, Apple II- plus, Apple IIc, ibm personal computer, and Radio Shack TRS-80.

Using the program, students develop a personal college file, which is matched against the offerings of colleges and universities in such areas as special programs and activities, housing, curriculum, and sports.

The program, which sells for $189, was developed for use by guidance counselors but students can also use it independently, according to College Board officials.

To help students learn how to write and edit using computers, Scholastic Software Inc. is awarding an Apple IIc or a $1,000 scholarship to the top story-writers in three grade levels: elementary, junior high, and senior high. In addition, an Apple IIe will be given to the winning students’ classrooms.

Cash prizes will be awarded to second- and third-place winners, and 10 others in each grade category will receive $100 software gift certificates.

The writers must use Scholastic’s “Story Tree” program, which runs on the Apple II family of computers as well as the ibm PC and PCjr, and the Commodore 64. The program, which costs $39.95, gives three examples of “branching” stories to allow students to explore different story directions.

For contest information, contact Scholastic Software at 730 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10003, or call: (212) 505-3410.--lck

A version of this article appeared in the October 24, 1984 edition of Education Week as Computers

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