Atari Learning CenterThe Best Educational Machine
By Gigi Bisson, Antic Assistant Editor
"The Atari is the best educational machine around, there's no doubt in my mind," Robert Hashway says.
Hashway can say this with confidence—he has the statistics to back it up. He first discovered the Atari while working on instructional development of programs in institutional research and statistical analysis for Massachusetts State University. When he completed research studies on computers in education for MSU in 1981, the Atari 800 computer came out on top.
Hashway discovered that the features built into the Atari to run entertainment software—clear graphics and sound, smooth vertical and horizontal scrolling—also make it an excellent computer for running educational software. He's been cheerleading for Atari computers ever since.
His gung-ho Atari optimism might be difficult for skeptics to swallow if Hashway's credentials weren't so impeccable. A PhD and distinguished educator, "I'm mentioned in Who's Who and all that other stuff," he says, Hashway has an extensive background in computer education, mathematics and statistical research. And he has daily proof to back up those statistics. He runs the Advanced Concepts Learning Center in West Warwick, Rhode Island, an educational institution that uses Atari XL/XE and ST computers exclusively.
After becoming a confirmed Atari believer, Hashway formed the Rhode Island Atari Users Group. During users group meetings, he saw a desperate need for computer education to train teachers in effective classroom use. He started the Advanced Concepts Learning Center, and in three years it has grown from a computer curriculum class for teachers, to a full-fledged educational institution, computer store, and consulting business.
Teachers now learn the latest techniques of computer-managed learning systems and how to develop customized computer courses. Classes are available for all ages and experience levels ranging from "Computer Movies" for kids, to "Business Finance Systems" for adults.
NOVICE TO EXPERTThe Learning Center devotes most of its time to educating computer novices. "We're talking about people who don't even know what a modem is," he says. "We're addressing the primary question of 'What is a computer and how do I use it?"'
The Learning Center is now going way beyond beginner-level instruction. There is a class that trains teachers in techniques of course design and computer aided research, using MicroTeach by DynaComp. Math teachers are learning to manage classroom instruction with a math system for the Atari by 3R. Teenagers are learning BASIC programming, word processing with AtariWriter, fundamentals of databases with SynFile + and spreadsheets with SynCalc. The most popular course for adults leads to a certificate in financial systems analysis and inventory control.
Atari ST computers are used for instructing teachers how to do graphics. Students learn the basics of professional ST of fice systems with the VIP Planner spreadsheet, DB Master database, lST-Word word processor, and Cash Flow, a $99 accounting package which Hashway designed himself.
Hashway is now starting to do outside training in industries. The Atari 800 has been put to work at a chemical laboratory, and ST computers are assisting in the design of intricate lacework patterns for textile mills.
And yes, there's a summer camp too, where kids make posters with Broderbund's Print Shop, learn keyboarding skills on Touch Typer, draw graphics with touch tablets and make animated cartooons with Electronic Arts' Movie Maker.
The Learning Center slogan is "Learning is our most important product," and Hashway lives by it. "The problem is not teaching loow to use software or hardware, it's learning what to use it for," he says. "In the education field, we need to learn analysis and synthesis. Teachers have never had the power of the computer available before. They've never had to deal with these concerns."
Hashway is convinced that what-if modeling with spreadsheets and database research will be the essential office skills of the l990s, the way typing and filing are today.
"I don't see anybody using file cabinets at the end of the decade," he predicts. Will workers be using Atari computers instead? He hopes so.
ADVANCED CONCEPTS LEARNING CENTER 1216 Main Street West Warwick, Rl 02893 (401) 822-2540