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Kids make California-Alaska connection

Modern telecommunications is helping to link grade schoolers in southern California with their contemporaries in the far reaches of Alaska. The experimental program, developed by the University of California at San Diego's Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, is designed to study how microcomputers can be used to teach children to write.

To this end, students in two California classrooms exchange information and ideas via microcomputer with students in four classrooms in Alaska, including one rural school where the class consists of less than 10 students.

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When started last fall, the students made initial contact by composing letters on the microcomputer which were transmitted electronically. By this January, the children began what amounts to a news service among themselves.

The students have a wide range of choices in what to write about - from news and sports to poetry and personal messages. If the student needs help with a particular form of writing, the microcomputer offers a set of guidelines.

Once the prose is complete and edited, the teacher either sends a microcomputer floppy disk through the mail to the other schools or transmits the information over phone lines to a central computer, where subscribing schools can gain direct access to the information.

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