The Art and Science of Education: Pedagogy Includes Technology

Glenn Ralston; 9/30/98; 10/3/98; 10/7/98

[FRESH draft, with editing; TS Commentary, 11/98]

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I was impressed beyond reason in 1992 at a state commission hearing on higher education, where the assembled university presidents were knowingly nodding their heads upon seeing that bigger budgets were required for their institutions to be "pedagogically sound" with the then new, emerging technologies. Fittingly, a prominent Dean said hopefully "Technology is Expensive."

[ ED: Why is this the introductory paragraph? It seems to have little to do with the discussion that follows. ANS: It serves to frame the limited vision of those administrators at hand.]

There is a lifestyle "cruise control" for those of us over 55¨much like on the highway¨where we sit back and watch the scenery go by. Too often, "retiring" university administrators won't risk decisions to pursue technological advancements that require large new monetary investments on-campus . [DELETE and new techniques more faculty/staff training, even if those technologies offer substantial benefits. Further, administrators facing their own impending] Retirement on the horizon means less driving, more coasting, more maintenance, and not starting up new machinery that isn't familiar.[DELETE often fail to consider seriously those technologies that may be standard for university campuses after their tenure in office]. Students of all ages cannot be served well by decision makers who don't have their eye on the road fifteen to twenty years ahead. Typically, then, we often lower our anchors when the climate calls for sails.

One prominent road sign we are likely to encounter now commonly placed before universities on the information superhighway reads: "Danger¨Technology Ahead". Consider, for example, Ed NealĂs warning to educators: in "Techies vs. Teachies", AAHESGIT Listserve #1341 "Often, technology is adopted for instruction without considering the pedagogical basis for its use or how much it may warp the educational process." And "...The potential for conflict arises when teachers lose the right to make pedagogical choices that don't include technology (or when they want to go slowly and experiment rather than jumping in with both feet)".

Further, Peter Havholm in "It's not the technology that worries me", (The Technology Source, 2/1998)2 makes a wild exaggeration [DELETE:goes so far as to assume] that: "If both the developing world, and that U.S. state that [Ptaszynski] mentions, would swear off buying computers that have to be replaced every three years and software that has to be upgraded every six months, they'd be able to afford a lot of good teachers, books, paper, and pencils. They've already got the tables in their dining rooms and kitchens..."

Further complicating the issue, Prof. Herb Stahlke invokes ideology in waving his own ˘Warning÷ flag in CAUSE/EFFECT3: "There.are several reasons why the Web has been used as it has for teaching and learning. First, there has been a tendency to let technological possibilities drive Web instructional design and use. Second, the theoretical rationales that have been invoked to justify commitment to Web efforts have tended to be weak: ad hoc and post hoc appeals to post-modernism. However, perhaps more than anything else, these efforts build on and reflect a kind of naive optimism about technology, particularly new technologies, and the role they should have in higher education." [ED: There should be no paragraph break here.] "...Characteristic of such [pro-technology] optimism is the statement that the World Wide Web 'may have 1000 times more "pedagogical power" than two-way TV'. Crucially missing from almost all these Web efforts is any discussion of what is a suitable or appropriate use for the technologies. Rather the tendency has been to assume appropriateness. Further, there has been little in the way of attempts to establish research agendas that address the issue of appropriateness."

 

Hint, the "1000 times" exaggeration was the bait; unfortunately, this discussion has yet to establish that two-way TV has any cost effective "pedagogical power", or in other words, "appropriateness".

 

There is No Pedagogical Deficit
These skeptical scholars offer thoughtful and reflective observations about educational technology. But their descriptions rely largely on highly selective anecdotal material. Their implied argument is that using educational technology must require a "pedagogical deficit" in the results. But academics have elected to not do original research to support that hypothesis. Instead, they rely on taking in each others wash as in "surveys of the literature do (or do not) show" the claimed results.

 

Hi Ed, Hi Tech¨mind bending?
Last year a few of us started a very brief, round-robin e-mail discussion of "Hi Ed, Hi Tech". We began to talk about dyslexia, is it a burden for college functions but a boon for computer innovations? Is it true that 5-6 of the most prominent young leaders in the industry (Gates, Jobs, Dell, Waitt, Ellison, Wozniak) are college dropouts? Does that tell us anything about a college's role with info tech today? Are the majority of these individuals above also left-handed (which is strongly associated with dyslexia)? Then, could dyslexia be burden or boon for computer innovations?

Much more recently and easily as topical, it was reported about Williams Syndrome¨"... Increasingly sophisticated technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging are allowing researchers to watch the brain in action, revealing that language literally sculpts and reorganizes the connections within it as a child grows." U.S.News & World Report, 6/15/984. "What makes Williams syndrome so fascinating," says [a researcher], "is it shows that the domains of cognition and language are quite separate. ...People with Williams have the gift of gab, telling elaborate [invented] stories with unabashed verve and incorporating audience teasers such as, "Gadzooks!" and "Lo and behold!""

 

Technology is Cheap
Many of us have indeed learned from our mistakes in earlier Instructional Technologies, especially over the past few years of robust computer-centered media development. Unfortunately, many others have not learned, and remain in that mindset of ten years back or more, before interactive computer mediated education became both inexpensive and versatile.

Ed Neal epitomizes this mindset in his critique of Schutte's 1997 study in virtual learning "Does using technology in instruction enhance learning?"5 when he says: "...we cannot ignore the enormous costs of the technology in this equation. If [Schutte] had used these methods in his traditional class, costs would not have increased, but because he and his students needed the networked technology of a major educational institution, they incurred the extremely high costs of technology."

In his equation of unnecessary and expensive upgrading with many highly paid experts, Neal has stacked the deck with the outdated, costly assumptions that remain frozen from ten or more years ago. Let's carefully consider a seemingly improbable situation. "What if"¨in the real world¨you acquired a PC at the same dollar cost today as the PC you bought 10 or 15 years ago, but at that time was 1,000 times less powerful, and then in another ten or fifteen years acquired a new PC which is 1,000 times more powerful than your present one, also at the same dollar cost? If we run the numbers from our own experience, we can readily see that what appeared improbable is actually plausible (see related NY Times article).6

[ED Note:"This is an erroneous equation: How do you account for the fact that money doesn't mean the same thing today as it did 20 years ago, nor will it likely mean the same 20 years from now?" ANS: Not erroneous at all. The fact is this approximates the actual experience over the span of the last ten years and is highly likely to continue for the next ten years ie. (10+10 = 20 total) and far overwhelming any possible inflationary effect to the contrary]. That is an increase in power of one million times, at the same non-inflationary cost, over just 20 years. And that's just the hardware. The greatest value by far is in the power of the software in the hands of the individual. Each individual student or professor already has (or can get) cheap or free access to all the benefits of more than $6 billion previously spent on applied research and development of personal software tools. When do we start thinking of those pedagogical tools we'll have available in 10 to 20 years?

Neal, Havholm, Stahlke and other skeptical scholars simply ignore how cheap, ubiquitous, versatile and powerful today's microcomputers are. Their observations represent common complaints but ignore reasonable prescriptives for using our rich and increasingly boundless cultural resources. Academia must be able to easily transport thought and ideas through virtual paper or through books and journals on paper as though they were, indeed they are, just another electronic form¨known as hard copy. Otherwise professors will be illiterate and students will be cheated.

It is perhaps naive for us to have claimed book reading technology¨or classroom technology¨as superior to film or TV or computer technology. To do so would be to hold that Shakespeare's greater art lies in the printed text and not on the limelighted stage, or that James Whitcomb Riley's words leap to life best from a paper page and not in the cadence of a spoken or recorded voice.

The interactive media of today, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web, are no less humanistic than Gutenberg's printing press machine. Our cultural literacy is no less critical in either. I conclude that not requiring modern library skills or the communicating skills of using virtual text (nee, pen & paper?; chalk and slate?; stone tablets?) is not just educationally risky, but is academically, pedagogically and fiscally unsound.

 

 

The Anti-Intellectual Absurdity of the Empirical Imperative
Let's look at Ed Neal's sharp attack "Principles in research design: the rules still apply"
TS,8/987 on Mazoue's defense of Schutte's research. Let me see if I am beginning to understand some of this. Neal is attacking Schutte and Mazoue for ignoring and violating the principles of rigorous empirical research.Yet Neal hasn't begun to satisfy the threshold question what research is suitable in this case. More pointedly in consulting my first dictionary at hand, we find that "empirical" is "derived from or guided by experience (or secondarily, experiment); depending upon experience or observation alone, without using science or theory..." So clearly, Schutte more than satisfies that standard.

Parenthetically, I remember from my Introduction to Psychology wherein was described an empirical event of a formerly blind person being presented with (shown) a pencil and an orange. The subject could not distinguish between them by only the newly acquired sight, not until each object was held and handled. (And, I was also puzzled¨since lenses invert the image, were the objects initially also upside down in the person's recognition until oriented in their mind by touch?)

Unlike this Lifelong Learner above, Neal's ideal Educator apparently need not be hobbled by the "what-if" of the inquiring mind which seeks knowledge above the limitations of rigorous experimental research. Or by anything resembling Edward Deming's underlying TQM (Total Quality Management) principle of reducing error, reduce error again, again, then again.... Isn't at least some of Neal's empirical imperative out of step with modern realistic and effective educational processes...?

Neal would have us believe, by this reasoning, that there can be no accountable intelligence or knowledge outside of "rigorous empirical research". I don't think so ("Sure, ... and in assessing the effectiveness of technology, TV can't be experimentally shown to cause violence ...either ..."). And worse, if that attitude prevailed it would surely hasten the demise of the study of liberal arts.

 

No Productivity Paradox
The role of academic economists in documenting a so-called "productivity paradox" with regard to the return on capital investments in information technology has confused everyone. As one information technology (IT) professional at Indiana University laments, "It's just plain embarrassing for an IT professional to hear that an investment in long-term bonds would provide a higher return than investments in IT..." But those "legacy" academic economists share one major "blind spot" in conducting their analyses: their crippling reliance on the traditional U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' SIC (Standard Industrial Classification), which didn't change over 50 years.
Educom Review, May/June 1998 8

Shouldn't there be an implied contract requiring academic economists to properly frame the questions surfacing and surrounding the New Economy? To my knowledge, no such responsibility has been evident, with scholars instead citing "study after study that show no increases." Such academic citations invariably turn out to rely on the well-worn refrain, there is "no evidence found in the survey of the literature," or a variation on the hypothesis that "New Economists have not proven their claim of substantial increases." This is a striking parallel to the seemingly inappropriate proposition seen here earlier with the "Empirical Imperative".

 

The Ten-Year Mindset
Today¨not ten years ago¨the newest media configurations of the World Wide Web are powerful, inexpensive, highly interactive, individually controlled for self-pacing, ideally suited for independent learning, and ultimately empowering to the user. Technology has already swept over us. It is no longer a technological argument, but rather a cultural change. Not requiring these abundant advantages now is to be fiscally unsound.

It would be foolish not to keep up with the cultural changes of the real world. As we sit and read this, the new technology driving Corporate Universities are eating Ed Neal's Academic lunch. Steven W. Gilbert9 observed in part that Neal concludes: "... we should be cautious, proceed slowly, and invest wisely. ..." "The challenge is to figure out what is "slow" and what is "fast" says Gilbert.

 

"It Pervades the Air"
Might Victor Hugo...now opine about thought transformed by technology as "In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, and indestructible. It pervades the air. ...Now she [virtual text] is a flock of birds, flies abroad to all the four winds of heaven, and occupies at once all the points of air and of space..." "It Pervades the Air", The Technology Source, May 199810

 

 

the wrap

Shunning pencils?
Does technology limit pedagogy?
Is a pencil technology?
Is an eraser interactive?

We could use a boisterous TS thread that encourages:
an on-going discussion,
an online bibliography of pedagogy,
and a reading list of contemporary challenges or
"what-ifs..."

The NODE <http://node.on.ca/>, The Millennium Project <http://millennium.aed.org/> and Horizon </main.asp> are beginning to assemble powerful search mechanisms for data bases on "Pedagogy, technology".

We'll have to wade through a lot of slush first.

But "there's a pony in here somewhere".

 

Glenn Ralston
Communications Development

Glenn Ralston has been guest lecturer at a dozen universities on the general topic "Environmedia: Our Rapidly Changing Media Environment." He was 1989 National Industry Fellow of the Center for Information and Communications Sciences at Ball State University, and is a co-founder and a trustee emeritus of the American Museum of the Moving Image. [DELETE: His commentary on these issues can be readily accessed at the ....] [2500]

 

 

References

Schutte, J. (1997). ˘Virtual teaching in higher education: The new intellectual superhighway or just another traffic jam?÷ [ad loc. 9/28/98:] [Retrieved September 28, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] <http://www.csun.edu/sociology/virexp.htm>

 

[1] and [9] Neal, E. "Techies vs Teachies". AAHESGIT Listserve #134, 6/30/98 [ad loc.10/4/98:]

[Retrieved October 4, 1998 from World Wide Web] [Gopher]: <gopher://list.cren.net:70/0R105727-117890-/archives/aahesgit/log9806>

 

[2] Havholm, P. (Feb. 1998). "ItĂs not the technology that worries me". The Technology Source. [ad loc.10/4/98:] Retrieved October 4, 1998 from the World Wide Web: </TS/commentary/1998-02.asp>

[3] Stahlke, H.F.W. and Nyce, J.M. "Reengineering Higher Education: Reinventing Teaching and Learning. CAUSE/EFFECT Volume 19, Number 4, Winter 1996. [ad loc. 10/4/98:] [Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/html/cem9649.html>

 

[4] Brownlee, S. "Baby Talk". U.S.News & World Report magazine (Cover Story) 6/15/98 [ad loc.10/6/98:] [Retrieved October 6, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] <http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/980615/15lang.htm>

 

[5] Neal, E. ˘Does Using Technology in Instruction Enhance Learning?÷ The Technology Source, June 1998 [ad loc. 10/4/98:] [Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] </TS/commentary/1998-06.asp>

 

[6] Fixmer, R. "PERSONAL COMPUTING: ...the Advice Is Constant: Learn the Language and Buy Enough Memory". New York Times, 10/6/98. [ad loc.10/6/98:] [Retrieved October 6, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] <http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/10/cyber/compcol/06compcol-fixmer.html>

 

[7] Neal, E. ˘Principles in Research Design: The Rules Still Apply÷. The Technology Source. August 1998 [ad loc. 10/4/98:] [Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] </TS/letters/1998-08.asp#neal>

 

[8] Ralston, G. ˘No Productivity Paradox: Do Legacy Economists Recycle Faulty Statistics?÷ Volume 33, Number 3, Educom Review, May/June 1998 [ad loc. 9/28/98:] [Retrieved September 28, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] <http://www.educom.edu/web/pubs/review/reviewArticles/33336.html>

 

[9] see [1] above

 

[10] Ralston, G. "It Pervades the Air", The Technology Source (February 1998). [ad loc. 10/4/98:] [Retrieved October 4, 1998, from the World Wide Web:] </TS/commentary/1998-05.asp>

 

 

 

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