Creating a friendly climate for 'electronic teachers'

If inner-city and rural students are to have the same educational opportunity as those in technology-conscious suburban schools, they will need access to new electronic tools. Before any school acquires computers for classroom use, it must overcome such obstacles as budget restrictions, teacher resistance, and unfamiliarity with hardware and software capabilities.

Recently The Monitor interviewed administrators of a number of school systems , including Washington, D. C., New York City, Houston, and Pittsburgh, to learn the steps they feel are essential in a successful computer instruction program. They listed these priorities:

* Strong commitment and leadership from the top down. Microcomputer technology is new and calls for major changes in the ways schools will be run. Like aircraft carriers, large school systems must turn slowly and turn far in advance of where they want to be. Anything short of clear policy from the board of trustees and sustained leadership on the part of the superintendent can very quickly leave a district with a floundering program.

* Wide-scale teacher training in the new technology.

* A software curriculum and evaluation plan that promotes districtwide academic goals.

* A coordinated hardware purchasing plan so that economies of scale and systemwide compatibility result.

* Providing every student with access to daily time on a computer.

* Close technical collaboration with local universities, where they exist.

* Finding the money to do all of the above.

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