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Houston value: lifelong skill

''Our students today will deal with a world computers have made. So we're inculcating a value, not just a skill, when we talk of computer literacy. ''The value is that each student will be responsible for his or her own lifelong learning in computer technology. We know everything a student learns about computers will not emanate from our institutions. But we want to be the key support in this lifelong venture.''

That's the education-technology philosophy of the Houston Independent School District, as Pat Sturdivant, assistant superintendent for technology, outlines it.

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And Houston's philosophy is backed up by one of the most comprehensive plans for bringing computers into the schools of any major urban district in the country.

Since September, when the district began a separate department of technology under Ms. Sturdivant's supervision, more than 3,000 of Houston's 14,000 teachers have received training in computer literacy. By the fall of 1985, 80 percent of its teachers will have received minimum instruction. Of the district's 260 schools, all but 45 already have computers.

More than 1,800 Apple II computers, plus other makes, are in place throughout the district. Houston has its own in-house repair shop, which can service any equipment the district owns rather than relying on more expensive vendor service contracts.

In a move for standardization, and ''to get some control over the computer proliferation explosion,'' Ms. Sturdivant says, the district at this point limits its computer purchases to Apple IIs. Available courseware was a key component in making this decision, she says. Her department maintains its own curriculum evaluation staff. No software is purchased by the district unless it passes its standards.

Neither computers nor software is released to a building until the principal takes 20 hours of in-service training.

The district is creating a new job category in the educational computing field and will train 35 ''teacher technologists'' this summer. They will become the cadre of computer specialists throughout the district. Plans are for every school in the system to have a teacher technologist who has had 296 hours of training.

''Maintaining a competitive salary scale has been one of my biggest concerns, '' Ms. Sturdivant says. ''How do you explain to someone who has been teaching 30 years and has a master's degree that a 26-year-old computer programmer is worth come to see the Houston center, she exacts their promise not to hire any of her people.

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Last October, the district began an innovative pilot program in two elementary schools, one of which is 95 percent black, the other 95 percent Hispanic. Analagous to a library's lending out a book, it teaches students and their parents the basics of how to use a computer. Working with 48 home computers, students and parents go through 12 hours of instruction at school and then take the computer home for two weeks.

The program, called ''Computers Can,'' is being watched closely by school officials around the country as it concerns itself with equal access to the new computer technology by poor and minority students.

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