Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 1994

TECHNOLOGY CHANGES TEACHING AIDS

November 23, 1994

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Lawrence schools are using more classroom computers and audio-visual equipment as they prepare students for an information-geared society.

Teresa Schaumburg rummages around in the room students call "The Cage."

Black steel mesh shoots to the ceiling two stories above the wood floor where girls once played basketball. Parallel lines of barren cinderblocks show where the basket standard was once bolted. Altogether, the place more resembles a warehouse studio in New York than a classroom.

"Ah, here we go," Schaumburg says, reaching to the far corner of a bottom shelf. "Dukane Super Micromatic, a lovely little machine. We probably haven't touched it all year."

She pulls up the trinket that is as outdated as segregating girls gym: a filmstrip projector. A turntable on the back provides the audio, and -- can you believe it? -- the recordings send a signal to the projector to advance the strip on cue. A technological marvel, right? Hardly.

At the other end of The Cage sits a device humbly called a toaster. Video images are its bread. The toast it produces can be a music video, for example, complete with strobe effects or graphics.

Video toasters, laser discs and computer databases have shot past 16mm films, filmstrips and card catalogs as the latest in teaching aids at Lawrence High School and the rest of district's schools.

Technology has its cost. The district spends about $30,000 a year on audio-visual equipment and $300,000 to $400,000 a year on computers, said Craig Fiegel, division director of business and facilities.

"There's a lot more technology type of instruction going on than there ever was as we become an information-geared society," he said.

Some teachers still use film strips and film, especially for classes where the material transcends timeliness -- literature, for example.

"We keep the old stuff around, because there are some who use it," Schaumburg said. "But everything has pretty much moved to video."

Beth Welsh, library media coordinator, said new technology such as laser discs gives teachers and students more bang for the buck. The machines are faster, and, when hooked up to a computer network, could eventually be accessed from home over a phone line.

"We can't keep schools open around the clock," she said, "but we can keep access to information open at all hours."

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