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Often Outdated; Training Inadequate

December 14, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Computers in America’s classrooms are often outdated, and teachers aren’t adequately trained to help their students use them, concludes a study financed by the National Science Foundation.

American schools started introducing computers years before most other countries, but ″the U.S. is falling well behind the other countries in terms of having an up-to-date inventory,″ said Ronald Anderson, the study’s author.

The study examined computer use in the United States, Austria, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

″The stereotype of Americans as technological faddists is widespread, so it may come as a surprise that American students have been technologically shortchanged,″ said the report by the International Association of the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. The cooperative of research centers has members in more than 40 countries.

In 1992, 3.5 million computers were in use at 99 percent of U.S. elementary and secondary schools, said the study. The typical high school has one computer for every 10 students; middle schools and elementary schools have an average one computer for every 15 students.

Teachers are using computers from math to science to language arts, the study said.

The study tested 69,000 students in grades five, eight and 11 in 2,500 schools on practical computer knowledge. The U.S. portion of the survey involved 11,284 students in 573 schools.

Anderson said schools only now are beginning to replace their older, slower Apple IIs with newer IBM PC-compatibles and Apple Macintoshes. ″Only 2 percent of a typical U.S. elementary school’s computers can be considered 16- or 32-bit,″ the study said. The percentage rises to 20 percent for high schools.

Japan, Austria and the Netherlands all had higher percentages of updated computers than the United States.

The study also found that less than half of U.S. schools offer their teachers introductory computer courses, either on site or at local colleges. Some schools are improvising.

At Abita Springs Elementary School in Louisiana, Kathleen Duplantier, the computer resource teacher, said she had to teach herself how to use the computers. Fourth-graders are staying after school this week to help teachers with new software. ″They’re going to teach the teachers,″ she said.

Theresa Roybal, who works with third- and fourth-graders at Mission Valley Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz., said computer instruction is available. ″It’s basically up to the teachers to choose whether to take the opportunity or not,″ she said.

Anderson said almost half of U.S. households with school-age children have computers. ″Of course, a computer in the home doesn’t necessarily mean it gets used by students,″ he said.

Anderson said U.S. students say they use their home computer two hours a week on average, less than the western European students. Regardless of country, the most common use of non-school computers was to play games.

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