Computer Aided Ed K-12

Scheduled for June 15, 2009 4:32PM

The following Information was presented by Bill Conner at the July 8th Greene County Democrats Club Meeting:

Interactive, Diagnostic, Student Paced Computer Aided Instruction

K through 12

There should be a federal program to develop computer aided instruction for elementary and secondary schools.  Programs would be developed in specific subjects at all grade levels.  These programs would provide student paced instruction automatically tailored to the specific capabilities of the student. These programs would be capable of identifying areas of student weaknesses and providing remedial learning. They should also be capable of taking the student well beyond the grade level if his or her capabilities warrant.   For the teacher, these programs should provide documentation and analysis of the student effort and progress.  Use of these programs should not be mandated.  Rather, they should prove their own worth and be bought/applied by schools at their option.  They should be available to parents, particularly those who home school their children.  After a low cost initial development period, the program should be entirely funded by small fees (typically $1) charged to schools and parents for downloading the programs.

Most federal software programs become wasteful boondoggles profitable to large software companies and often cancelled with no usable results when the appropriated money is spent.    It doesn’t have to be that way.   Large software companies should be excluded.   At least during the initial phase of the program, development should take place at universities and it should be a research and development program.

Legislation should create a small office to manage the effort.  This office would establish relationships with universities which have Education and Computer Science departments.  At these universities, teams of students would select development projects as their theses.  A team would consist of one or two Education majors with a like number of Computer Science majors.  The staff would encourage, facilitate, monitor, and support the university teams.  The staff would identify and disseminate best practices developed among the many projects.  The staff would identify sufficiently mature projects and arrange for their testing at selected public schools.  The program should be provided limited funding for internships and expenses associated with these developments.

This office should be staffed by  people with education and computer skills.  Salaries should not be high.  People should be there because it is a calling, not a place to go through the motions at high salaries.  The office should not be located in Washington D.C. or any other high cost area.  As a software developer working from my home, I interface with my employer only by phone and internet and we find that face to face meetings are completely unnecessary.  (Our user community is world wide.) Therefore, I say with conviction that the staff of this office need not be housed in a single office, but can have people located around the country.

After, successful initial testing, programs developed would be made available to a larger test group of public schools and eventually released to all schools in the nation.

This should be a very active and open program seeking new ideas from all reasonable sources.  These sources would include active and retired teachers and others who come forward.

The program should never be turned over to a managing contractor because the objective would then become the justification of higher cost and profit.   Care should be exercised to prevent the office from becoming too large.  Largeness is the enemy of effectiveness in software.  Small (and very small) software development companies could be contracted to develop individual programs after the initial development period.