Teachers are still the essence of the education profession. Computers and other technology are vital, but they cannot replace teachers, an expert and author on com puter education and videodisc technology said Saturday.

Alan Hofmeister, director of the Center for Information Technology at Utah State University, was the keynote speaker at a Saturday general session of a two-day conference on computers and technology co-sponsored by the Utah Council for Computers in Education and the Utah State Office of Education.The gathering, which attracted teachers and computer and other technology experts from Utah and several other states, was held in the ExpoMart in Salt Lake City.

Thirty-six exhibits of course ware, software, computers and educational technology equipment were provided by participating vendors, said Marvin N. Tolman, Spanish Fork, a council board member and Brigham Young University elementary education professor.

"Educational Technology: Initiative for Change" was the theme for the 11th annual conference.

In his address, Hofmeister, former USU dean of School of Graduate Studies and author of the book, "Microcomputer Applications in the Classroom," used laser videodiscs to emphasize techniques of teaching fractions and other mathematical concepts.

The Australian-born educator said a lot of "glitter, hype and flashy things" still surround the things that teachers and technology people do with graphics. "But the essence of technology still lies with the practices of our master teachers. We just have to find ways to capture and preserve the practices of such teachers," he said.

They include helping students feel accepted as individuals, effective teaching skills and content specific skills.

"A really good teacher makes a kid feel like an accepted individual. They have all the general effective teaching skills, and they have . . . knowledge. When you put them all together you have a master teacher. Somehow technology has to preserve all that. If you have technology that is used to send kids down the hall and work without a lot of attention and reward from the teacher, then you've got a problem, because that is not how a master teacher works," Hofmeister said.

R. Kent Wood, president of the Utah Council for Computers in Education and another USU professor, said Americans are living in a unique age and time of unprecedented change - change brought about by technology.

"Medicine, law, business have all changed dramatically by applications of technology. Each night the past two weeks, we have witnessed on TV the change in warfare and communications technology. Technology is defined by some authorities as scientific, organized knowledge as well as the manifestations in technical equipment. As educators have learned, knowledge is power. How freely and how equally citizens have access to knowledge determines the power they are able to exercise," he said.

Wood, who is coordinator of the USU Laboratory for the Experimental Study of Instruction, said how freely and how equally citizens have access to knowledge determines the power they are able to exercise.

Teachers, he said, must be provided with, and taught to manage, well-validated, interactive learning materials.

"Some instruction simply does not need to be reinvented by hundreds of individual teachers all over America, staying up all hours of the night cutting paper plates and string, trying to figure out a way to explain fractions each time they are taught. There are new storage and delivery tools, which when combined with well-designed and validated course ware, have the capability of presenting instruction to students that results in more learning, in less time, with greater retention," Wood said.

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A small sampling of what's on display

Here's a small sampling of computer and other equipment displayed at the 11th annual Computers in Education conference:

- A 3D-Studio, manufactured by Autodesk Publisher, and demonstrated by Earle Richardson of TV Specialists Inc., Salt Lake City.

Equipped with five modules or programs bundled into a single package, the equipment is a personal computer that creates animations and other materials that can be quickly used for commercials of TV-broadcast quality.

The equipment can be used for training videos for software products and to train personnel in such things as food processing, safety and security services.

The 3D-Studio is appropriate for school classes, he said, because it focuses students' attention on a particular point.

"By entertaining, we can educate - whether in a school or an industrial environment."

- A computer-based, voice-interactive system designed for college, high school and adult education classes.

Manufactured by Intechnica International Inc., Oklahoma City, Okla., and shown locally by Gary Evans Enterprises, the equipment teaches students to speak English as a second language, Spanish and basic literacy skills, said dealers Gary Evans, West Valley City, and Alden Evans, Magna.

Each compact disc for the system has about 500 hours of classroom instruction and holds the same information as 1,650 floppy discs, Gary Evans said.

- An LCD computer display, manufactured by IN Focus, and an NEC 30-inch data monitor, demonstrated by Wylie Gerrard of Webb Audio Visual Communication.

The LCD computer display sits on top of an overhead projector, allowing a user to project an image off the computer to an overhead screen, Gerrard said.