Ed-Tech Policy

Group Formed To Provide Data Base of Computer Software

By Peter West & Peter West — November 27, 1991 2 min read

Five states have formed a national consortium to provide teachers with an electronic data base that lists and evaluates approximately 11,000 pieces of educational software.

The Educational Software Selector, or TESS, was developed by the New York-based Educational Products Information Exchange Institute, a not-for-profit research center designed to serve teachers and other consumers of educational technology.

The data base, which can be distributed by computer modern or on a compact disk, contains information about the roughly 11,000 software programs currently being sold by more than 900 publishers.

Program information includes specific titles, prices, appropriateness to grade level, curricular area, and compatibility with various types of microcomputers.

In addition, the data base includes information about how the best programs compared in independent reviews.

A printed version of the data base, called “The Latest and Best of TESS,” is also available to consortium members.

The data base is designed to provide teachers with information they need to harness the power of the microcomputer in the classroom, P. Kenneth Komoski, the EPIE Institute’s executive director, said.

“As far as material relevant to the tasks that they need to do,” he said, “teachers are really information-poor.”

So far, Mr. Komoski said, Michigan, New York, Texas, Georgia, and Indiana have paid the charter- membership fee to subscribe to the service, which is licensed by the institute. But, he added, as many as a dozen others have expressed some interest in the service.

A Teacher Resource Karen Kahan, an education specialist with the division of educational technology at the Texas Education Agency, said the state plans to make the information available to all schools on the Texas Education Network, or TENET, a statewide electronic network operated by the T.E.A.

Researchers at the University of Texas, meanwhile, are developing a computer interface and a menu to make the data base easy to use.

The state’s 20 regional education service centers have agreed to train teachers to use the data base as well as to duplicate the disk and distribute the printed version.

The initial membership fee to join the consortium is $25,000, Mr. Komoski said, but the annual fee for existing members is expected to drop to $18,000 in the program’s second year.

It is expected to drop even lower as new states join, he said.

“The ultimate goal is get all 50 states participating,” Mr. Komoski said, “and, at that level, it would cost $5,000 a year.”

He said efforts are under way to persuade philanthropic foundations to underwrite memberships for individual states.

A version of this article appeared in the November 27, 1991 edition of Education Week as Group Formed To Provide Data Base of Computer Software

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