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Remote TV system is interactive & responsive.

Three years ago, Gerard Morano, director of Employment & Technology at the Newark, N.J. Board of Education, and his colleagues developed and implemented an educational approach that is both elementary and revolutionary. Named the Applied Basic Skills Program, the concept is drawing praise from teachers, parents and students alike.

It centers on the transfer of basic skills to work tasks; educators show students how they'll be able to apply what they've learned in the classroom to real-world situations. Studies have found that this approach better prepares youngsters for the roles and responsibilities of adulthood.

* Turned On to Learning

Many inner-city students are turned off to learning because they don't see how what they learn at school applies to their everyday lives. The Applied Basic Skills Program focuses on making the connection as clear as possible and at times suggests, if not requires, the overlapping of two or more unrelated subjects.

For example, if students are learning about the Ancient Romans in history class, a math teacher may be brought in to co-teach a segment on the Romans' use of mathematics and its application to today's world (i.e. telling time, geometry, etc.). Or, a shop class instructor might explain to math students how the use of computers in car repair relates to their lesson.

One home economics teacher found several ways to integrate various other subjects into her lesson plans. She brought in a math teacher to give a lesson on the metric system and its importance to cooking, then asked a science teacher to teach kids how to properly examine labels in the supermarket. Last year she co-led a program with a social studies teacher on "foods of the world"; students experienced various culinary and cultural traditions from across the globe.

Teachers have even found ways to incorporate core subjects into physical education. While playing football, students may receive a lesson in physics (the force of a tackle), math (the length of the field in yards, feet, etc.) or logic (play selection). Students are really responding to applied learning, and they appear to greatly prefer it to traditional, rote methods.

* If You Can't Beat 'em

Another reason why the Applied Basic Skills Program succeeds is that it recognizes students' fascination with technology and the critical role it will play as we approach the 21st Century. Former President Bush said American school children watch too much television. Many parents and teachers agree. Yet, having pondered the passive TV viewing predicament for nearly four decades, educators have yet to come up with a reasonable solution.

The Newark School Board recently decided to capitalize on television's popularity with the young and use it as a vehicle for learning. They determined that individualized, interactive television programming would be more useful and effective than passive ones.

In February 1992, the world's first educational interactive television laboratories were unveiled in five Newark schools. Using systems developed by New York-based ACTV Interactive, an interactive television company, teachers and administrators have developed a series of programs for grades K-12. These individualized, participatory TV programs support subjects that are being taught in the classroom.

Using a basic remote control, students answer questions posed on a television screen. Their response is instantly reinforced or corrected. At the end of a session, the teacher receives a printout of each student's responses and thereby quickly assesses who needs additional help in specific areas. Teachers can also tape lesson plans that can be played back by different students simultaneously. Using the remote, students can instantly review or seek further explanation about any part of the lesson.

* Numerous Benefits

Although it has only been operational for a relatively short period of time, the interactive TV lab has demonstrated several benefits. First, it truly involves the students. Even remedial pupils who have disciplinary problems find the system nonthreatening because it's TV-based and easy to learn. Second, it acquaints young students with technology and helps them feel comfortable about using other systems, such as computers, at an early age.

Finally, the interactive aspect of the system allows teachers to focus on each student's individual strengths and weaknesses. And since the results of each student are kept private between the teacher and the individual, competition between students is virtually nonexistent and stress is greatly reduced.

Many added benefits were realized with the ACTV system. At Montgomery Street School, for example, many educators were amazed to find that students with physical and mental disabilities were able to sit spellbound with the system for over 30 minutes. Overall, Newark students enjoy using the system, and with this enjoyment comes enthusiasm for work, a further drive to achieve, and a more positive attitude towards learning.

* A Template for Others

The Applied Basic Skills Program's approach could serve as a template for other inner-city schools facing many of the same problems as Newark. If educators want children to stay in school, and ultimately become globally competitive, they must demonstrate how reading, writing, arithmetic, communications and basic problem-solving skills can be applied to the real world.
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Title Annotation:Applied Basic Skills Program, New Jersey Board of Education
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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