Telecast's Software Reviews Help Teachers Pick Programs

T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), June 1993 | Go to article overview

Telecast's Software Reviews Help Teachers Pick Programs


"School restructuring," "curriculum reform" and "technology" are words that are continually defining and redefining educational planning and policy, as well as the educational process itself, as they are implemented in schools and classrooms.

Inherently laden with mandates, these words promise to be part of the established educational jargon well into the 21st century. Even now they provide views of the emerging shape, form and quality of education that are as startling as they are revolutionary.

* Open Those Boxes

The Educational Software Review (ESR) program is televised over ETN, the Educational Telecommunications Network owned and operated by the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Los Angeles, Calif. ESR was piloted in September 1991 to provide information about educational software in an easy-to-understand way, free of the jargon so commonly associated with software and computers.

Teachers, the intended viewers of ETN's ESR programs, are encouraged to evaluate software reviewed on the air for use in their particular classrooms. The telecast hopes to prompt teachers to open up software boxes and become familiar with their programs.

The network itself reaches and engages some 219,000 educators who, in turn, teach 4,955,000 children in California. It is the largest educational satellite network for grades K-12 in the country and broadcasts nationwide. As a result of California Senate Bills 1274 and 1008, California teachers are increasingly learning about and utilizing technology in the drive to restructure education and increase both educational access and quality for every student in the state.

* A Welcome Reception

In an era when the words Nintendo, VCR and camcorder are as common to schoolchildren as the now almost-bygone words Kool-Aid and Frisbee used to be, educational technology is finding a welcome reception among students in most classrooms. The irony is that it is not always made easy and understandable for teachers to use.

James Lanich, a teacher at Alexander Fleming Junior High School in San Pedro, Calif., and a doctoral student at USC, and James Shaw, the program specialist for the Los Angeles County Office of Education and a doctoral student at USC as well, deliberately designed ESR with a "something-for-everybody" plan in mind.

Since most schools in California have at least one computer and some type of software for it, ESR was based on the premise that the more. A 25"-diagonal television is placed on a cart and used in other classes on campus.

The L-TV card acts as an NTSC interface, boasting an RCA connector that outputs composite video signals. TV-show, an included software package, allows instructors to simultaneously display presentations on both their screen and the large monitor; flicker filters adjust the television's picture quality. QuickTime movies are supported as well.

Four computer classes make use of the L-TV system: Macintosh Applications, Computer Graphics, Desktop Publishing and Freshman-Level Computers. The classes meet in the computer lab, where software such as SuperPaint, Microsoft Works and ClarisWorks are explained. Screens are displayed on the large monitor so students can easily see and follow the steps instructors take when working with color programs.

* Keeping Up

"Using the black-and-white LCD panel wasn't a problem up to three years ago, because all of the Macs were black-and-white," explains Swanberg. When the school upgraded to the color Mac LCIIs, teachers made due with the LCD panel, yet knew that it was not satisfactory, particularly during explanations of color-intensive programs

Although the lab computers are networked, the screen-sharing program available did not work well with the color Macs. …

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