Computer-Assisted Instruction in the Classroom: Selecting a System

Article excerpt

Computer-Assisted Instruction in the Classroom: Selecting a System

The Central Kitsap School District is rapidly changing from a rural to a suburban area. Located on the Kitsap Peninsula, approximately one hour west of Seattle, Washi., by ferry and freeway, it has grown since the construction of the Trident submarine base within its area. The district also serves families from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Naval Underseas Warfare Engineering Station.

Approximately 70 percent of the students' families are connected with the Navy. Approximately 27 percent of the students are active-duty military personnel dependents; the remainder are children of civil service employees or defense contractors. The student population is extremely transient. Parents in the district are well-educated and technology-oriented; they have high expectations from school. The community consistently supports bond issues and special levies for instructional programs. The district spends at the state average for instruction and has emphasized technology heavily during the past five years. Currently, there is approximately one instructional computer for every 11 students in the district. Instruction on computers begins in the first grade and continues through high school.

The seeds of integrating technology into regular instructional programs were planted in 1984 when a district task force on excellence made the following recommendations:

"The district should create a plan to integrate the application of technological innovation and the study of technological implication into appropriate courses across the curriculum. The district should integrate computers as a teaching tool into all appropriate classrooms.

"By doing so, the use of computers will assist the teacher in individualizing student education by: determining the appropriate level of work for each student; monitoring individual student progress; providing for immediate feedback to the teacher within an individualized program; and freeing teachers to work with students in more of the areas best served by direct human interaction."

The district's computer committee began to search for software that could accomplish that purpose. During the 1985/86 school year, the committee developed guidelines for selecting a computer-assisted instruction (CAI) program for the district's newest junior high school and, subsequently, for an elementary school. The committee used a nine-step process to select the CAI system:

1. Review of the literature

2. Research of advertising

3. Development of educational criteria

4. In-district demonstrations

5. Site visits

6. Completion of a report matrix

7. Weighting of criteria

8. Evaluation of criteria and reports

9. Selection of the system

Later in the selection process, other questions emerged. Were there hidden costs? Inservice costs after the initial few days? Daily consultant help needed? Supplies available on the open market?

Additional questions that were asked included: Does the company have a users' network organized through an electronic bulletinb oard or through user meetings? Is the company expanding its suites of programs--particularly at the secondary level and in foreign languages? Is the company expanding its capability to make its offering compatible with other software and hardware?

With these criteria and questions in mind, the committee reviewed all proposals, arranged in-district demonstrations and made site visits to the companies' headquarters or to a school that was piloting the system being assessed.

A System Is Chosen

Each committee member completed a report matrix; and, subsequently, the committee recommended to the superintendent and board of directors that Education Systems Corp. (ESC) (1) be selected for the first program, at Woodlands Elementary School. …