By connecting a microcomputer and a video cassette recorder, equipment most schools already have, Samuel F. Howe, a teacher at Friends' Central School in Philadelphia, has created a lively electronic lesson in the humanities for high school students.
''The graphics have motion, and the music is good,'' Mr. Howe says of the system and lessons he devised to show what can be done with existing, readily-available technology. The system is called interactive video.
Schools which have computers and video-cassette recorders need to make only one additional purchase, a video interface. This piece of equipment can be bought for about $250. Mr. Howe says he has not had any maintenance problems in the year since he combined the components of his system.
''Regular video is passive, but here the student responds,'' he explains.
Recipient of a grant from the Geraldine Dodge Foundation, Mr. Howe has thus far developed three programs in the technique, which he feels is the next step in computerinstruction for high schools.
The history lesson consists of pictures of Philadelphia buildings and events from 1682 to l782. Each segment of the lesson contains a series of questions that measure mastery of the material. If the student answers the questions correctly, he is rewarded with an interesting video segment on Philadelphia's history. But if the student has not mastered the material, he gets a text review of the material instead.
Mr. Howe has also devised an aerospace simulation to teach problem-solving skills and a first-aid lesson.
Currently he is preparing a manual on the design, production, and use of interactive-video lessons, which he says any teacher or student can make. He thinks such programs will be developed for use in specific classes, rather than commercially, so that there is little risk of copyright infringement.
''What's important is to teach students processes of learning so that they can teach themselves,'' he says. ''Videogames have no redeeming value. We're there to offer an educational package.''