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MOST TEACHERS THINK COMPUTERS ARE BOON TO SCHOOLS, POLL SAYS

Nearly nine of 10 classroom teachers consider the computer revolution a boon to education, but a majority also feel less computer literate than their students, according to a poll.

Fifty-nine percent believe teachers are inadequately trained in computer use, according to the poll released Sunday, "The Computer Report Card: How Teachers Grade Computers in the Classroom," commissioned by International Business Machines Corp.Two-thirds of U.S. teachers now use classroom computers, but 52 percent said they felt less computer literate than their students.

Fifty-seven percent said they did not own a personal computer at home.

The poll, conducted by The Wirthlin Group, a New York-based polling organization, was based on telephone interviews of 1,100 teachers in all 50 states randomly selected from a list of approximately 250,000 precollegiate teachers compiled by the Dunhill International List Co. It was conducted between July 6-9 and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

The IBM survey echoed the sentiments of a report in July by the 2 million-member National Education Association, stating that "schools are not doing enough to help teachers become familiar and comfortable with computers."

The teacher union's report found that only one-third of kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers had even 10 hours of computer training.

Still, the IBM poll found 59 percent of teachers believe computers are being used effectively for instruction, 85 percent think they've had a positive impact on education, and 88 percent reject the idea that computers are a passing fad.

And while 43 percent said computers made teaching less difficult, 45 percent said the technology hadn't affected the difficulty of their jobs and 9 percent said it had made their jobs harder. The rest offered no opinion.

"Teachers are saying that technology has a place in the classroom, but they have to be given the training to use the equipment for personal use or as a teaching isntrument," Mary Hatwood Futrell, outgoing president of the NEA, said in an interview.

"A pleasant surprise was the number of teachers who believe we should use technology more extensively than we do now," she said. "I hope the survey sends a clear message to colleges and to school districts that teachers want to use technology and that they need training."

Computers, a rarity in U.S. schools a decade ago, are now in virtually every school district.

Other poll highlights:

- 77 percent agreed that computer use could lessen the need for academic tracking because they allow for more individualized instruction in the same classroom;

- 91 percent believed computers can help develop basic skills in reading and writing, and 66 percent said computers aren't being used enough toward those ends;

- 82 percent said computers increase students' motivation for learning;

- 68 percent considered cost the greatest obstacle to effective use of computers;

- 77 percent agreed that computers will never replace textbooks as instructional tools;

- 70 percent do not like the focus on drill and practice software.