Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 36 / MAY 1983 / PAGE 126

Microteach Teacher's Aide For The Atari

Mike Kinnamon

Since I am a teacher, many educational programs are brought to me by well-meaning computer users and salespeople, who believe that I can immediately put them to use in my classroom. Unfortunately, some of these programs do not lend themselves to practical classroom applications. They tend to be either too broad or repetitive, too much like drills.

Microteach Teacher's Aide (48K, two disk drives) is not in that category; it is a welcome solution to the problem of tailoring computer-assisted education.

With this program, a teacher with no knowledge of computer languages can create computer-based lessons that deal specifically with a particular curriculum. A teacher may write courses and assign them to individuals or groups of students, keeping a record of each student's progress readily available.

To use Teacher's Aide, you first format a blank diskette, using your standard Atari Disk Operating System. This becomes your courseware disk. Next, place the Teacher's Aide in drive number one and your newly created courseware disk into drive number two. Reboot the entire system without BASIC; Optimized System Services' BASIC A + is used by the program on disk number one.

The program's features are numerous and quite varied. Mastering its many modules will take several sessions, but the end result is well worth the time. A teacher can enter the edit mode and easily create a unit of study categorized into sections and chapters which coincide with the textbook being used in the classroom. You can re-edit an existing chapter or section for an alternate or improved use. You can dissect any individual chapter or section and create advanced or remedial editions of a given lesson. Each courseware diskette can be assigned a volume number, thereby creating an entire year's curriculum in any sequence and of any breadth.

Each TV screen is treated as a page of a textbook. The teacher has the options of color of pages and timed or untimed pages. The entire page, section, or chapter can be listed to the printer, giving the student a hard copy for study notes, homework, or tests.

Flexible Options

Questions may be presented to the student during or after each lesson. Several types of questions (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true-false, or yes-no) can be used in any order, in each lesson. Each question can be timed or untimed, and assigned a weighted point value at the teacher's discretion. If the student answers a question incorrectly, the teacher may assign a page, section, or chapter to be reviewed by the student in order to better assure a minimum competency of the lesson. A student's responses thus determine the rate at which he or she progresses through the lesson.

The computer will keep a complete, detailed record of each student's performance. The teacher may review a student's status at any time and view the chapters, sections, and pages completed by each student. Scores on the questions are available with such details as number of times attempted before a correct answer was entered and the weighting value of each question. The teacher may list all students on a given disk, assign chapters to particular students, set up a new student file, or delete an old file by entering the report/review module of the program.

The editing commands are thorough, allowing the teacher to create new pages, edit old ones, insert or delete a page, and step forward or backward a page at a time.

Only graphics mode 0 (the standard text mode) can be used with this program, which is somewhat disappointing, but I know a few teachers who have spent the time to create high-resolution graphics to adorn the text. With a little imagination and creative endeavor, a teacher can use the keyboard graphics characters with pleasing results. Since each page is static, no animation of the graphics is possible. This prevents a dynamic presentation, which may limit the program's usefulness in primary classrooms.

The major advantage of Teacher's Aide is that absolutely no knowledge of programming or computer language is required. This is a real blessing for those teachers who have wanted to use computers in their curriculum but haven't had time to become proficient programmers. Test and grade management, a major consumer of a teacher's time, is greatly simplified with this program. The validity of any test question can be easily determined in a matter of minutes, greatly improving a curriculum's instructional value and a test's ability to measure learning. I would highly recommend this program. It requires an Atari 400/800 and two disk drives.

Microteach Teacher's Aide
P.O. Box 1139
Palo Alto, CA 94301