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DO TEACHERS LACK EXPERTISE IN USE OF COMPUTERS?

There is one computer for every nine pupils in U.S. classrooms, but students don't fully benefit from the equipment because their teachers lack technical training, according to a report released Tuesday.

"In the process of acquiring hardware and software for students to use, teachers - perhaps the most valuable part of the education equation - often have been overlooked," the congressional Office of Technology Assessment reported.The nearly 300-page study, titled "Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection," also found that almost every school in the country has a television and a video player and 41 percent of classrooms have TVs.

But only one teacher in eight has a telephone in class and less than 1 percent have access to voice mail, a tool that can facilitate communication with parents. Thirty-five percent of public schools, but only 3 percent of classrooms, have access to the Internet, the study found.

More important, according to OTA, teachers need more training and time to experiment with new instructional technologies.

"Helping teachers effectively incorporate technology into the teaching and learning process may not only help students become competent technology users, but may also help them become more accomplished learners overall, with skills necessary for the information age," the report said.

In another report released Tuesday, the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, said that a survey of 10,000 schools found most lack key technologies and the facilities needed to support them.

"Although at least three-quarters of schools report having sufficient computers and televisions, they do not have the system or building infrastructure to fully use them," the report said.

More than half the schools reported a lack of modems and phone lines, according to the report, released by Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill.

Computers that aren't linked to internal or external networks are limited "in their access to the vast amount of electronic information available," the report said.