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Amiga helps education professors turn dreams into reality.

Ed Green, a professor of education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and a consultant/entrepreneur, has a vision for the public school of the future--a vision so compelling that major corporations are committing hundreds of thousands of dollar to see it realized.

In Dr. Green's school of the future, teachers--not book publishers-create and control the teaching materials. These materials are utterly unlike the thick, dull, chronically out-of-date textbooks of today. They are animated like a cartoon, real-life like a documentary film and interactive like a computer program. They command student attention because they demand a response.

Green has been refining these ideas for decades, but only recently found the technology that would make it possible to implement them: Amiga multimedia computers and the CDTV player, all from Commodore Business Machines, Inc., of West Chester, Pa. "The Amiga has everything--video, audio and computer capabilities all integrated into one low-cost system," Green says.

"We use it to train teachers, to develop teaching materials, to deliver materials in the classroom, to monitor students' progress and to diagnose their difficulties," he explains. "At the same time the Amiga is so easy to use that, pretty soon, even people who start out intimidated by the technology are doing such exciting work with it that they can't make themselves leave the lab at the end of the day. I have to kick them out."

* It Began in the Basement

Back in 1982, Green mortgaged his house in order to patch together a basic videotape production and desktop publishing lab in the basement. With a simple hypothesis-- that technology could be harnessed to create teaching materials that met his elevated standards for effectiveness and cost efficiency--the experiments began.

With assistance from similarly enthused teachers and graduate students, Green

developed a complete set of materials for a 16-unit Algebra I course voluntarily taught at nearby Orem High School. The course format would become his trademark--a systematic integration of videotape, newsprint "textbooklets" and computer disks.

Advantages to the video/text system go beyond high impact and low cost. Any student who has a VCR at home can borrow a video from the school library to catch up on lessons missed due to absence, review lessons he or she is having difficulty with, or move ahead of the class at an individual pace.

Though Green's early videos were a step in the right direction, his ambitions pushed the limits of his equipment. "We had only four colors to work with, and no matter what we did, the resolution was low." Then Commodore introduced its Amiga multimedia computer-- high resolution, thousands of colors, plus animation, live-action video, special effects, 3D modeling and more. Green abandoned his original patchwork of production equipment in favor of an Amiga 2000HD. During the past four years, he and his Amiga have produced:

* A one-year video/text geography course for the State of Utah Adult Education Program;

* Instructional materials for a two-semester credit course on "Technology for Teachers" given to education majors at Brigham Young (students enrolled do hands-on projects in a lab equipped with 15 Amiga 2000HDs); and

* Special-purpose videos for private and public-sector clients like Novell, Modern Refractories and the U.S. Forest Service.

* Show the Teachers

With each project, Green became more convinced that if he could obtain sufficient resources, he could show public school teachers what the possibilities are. "Academics are forever spouting theories, telling teachers what they ought to be doing when they should be working with them, shoulder to shoulder," he comments. "For a professor of education, the public school is the real world. What good are our theories if we can't put them to work in the real world?"

Thanks to two recent grants-- from RJR Nabisco and the U.S. West telephone company--Green now has the resources he needs to put his theories to work.

"We're going to show people how stimulating school can be any school, rich or poor," he says. "I grew up in a ghetto, in public schooling, and I am offended by $60 textbooks. I'm going to make $1 texts and $2 disks that the rich schools will want and the poor schools can get."

* Grant for Unique Network

Alpine School District, where all of Green's nine children attend school, ranks last in the state in perpupil expenditures, and Utah ranks last in the nation. Thanks to a grant proposal written by Green, Orem High School recently won a "Next Century Schools Grant" from RJR Nabisco worth $750,000 over three years.

According to Green's plan, each of three classrooms will be equipped with an Amiga 3000 for the teacher networked to 32 CDTVs with keyboards and screens for the students. With the flip of a switch, each CDTV can change from television set to a computer monitor and back again. The teacher's Amiga is a "master station," able to monitor and manipulate any and all of the CDTVs. It can, for instance, signal one student's screen to appear on every screen so classmates can critique the work or offer assistance.

Meanwhile, Orem science, math and English teachers are working together to develop video/text instructional materials. Two new courses will draw from three disciplines: Algebra Il/Chemistry/ Technical Writing and Geometry/ Engineering/Technical Writing.

* Teacher Center Established

A separate grant from U.S. West brought Green $300,000 worth of video cameras and professional studio equipment, plus $247,000 in cash to establish the non-profit Center for Instructional Development. The center, to be equipped with 15 Amiga 2000HDs, will offer teacher inservice training in desktop video production and implemenation. Center facilities will aisc be used to make the video/text materials created by Green and others available for purchase.

"This is just the beginning," Green pledges. "Since we got this grant money, and all the publicity that went with it, others have offered money and facilities. This place will be Mecca for teachers."
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Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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