Letter to the Editor

Erwin Boschman's eloquently expressed goals in "Moving Toward a More Inclusive Reward Structure" (TS, October 98) ad loc.12/9/98 </TS/development/1998-10.asp> was prefigured in 1992 when he made a similar observation at an independent   presentation at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education on "Desktop Media Alternatives...for Higher Education" that, above all, utilizing technology must be "pedagogically sound." That statement at that time specifically inspired me to track related policy statements from educators.

Disappointingly, what I have found to transpire in that arena during this ensuing time are policy statements from educational leaders along the lines of..."don't need to bother anymore." Few schools of Education require new teachers to take courses on incorporating technology in the classroom, reports the Wall Street Journal (11/13/95). For one thing, they might end up in a school "with technology that's less advanced than they are, ... and have trouble teaching without it, or offend older teachers with their complaints", says Roy Weaver, dean of the teachers' college at Ball State University. "...We used to think we needed to spend a semester teaching keyboarding," says Dr. Weaver. "We don't need to bother anymore. The [teaching] students pick it up on their own."

Also at Ball State, a professor asserts in the Cause/Effect journal (12/96) that ... "There are several reasons why the [World Wide] 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 ... 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 ...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.'"

Unfortunately, another distinguished educational leader, Howard Mehlinger, director of the Center for Excellence in Education at Indiana University, said in the Los Angeles Times (6/9/97): "Schools need to be especially careful about companies bearing gifts... An insurance company can take a tax write-off by donating a lot of computers. But the school is saddled with old computers that just create new headaches."

Two recent IU presidents may have also misunderstood the challenges. In the Educational Record journal (Fall 1995), IU's new president Myles Brand, suggested in the uncertainty he saw, that IU and others should steer a moderate, halfway course between the advice of the computer gurus and those Luddites who are fearful of all technology. A year or so before, then IU president Thomas Ehrlich said, in an Indianapolis Star op-ed piece, we must admit to being in the "Age of Television."

Apparently, in these ensuing years, I would guess that educators have not made as much progress as Boschmann would want. It is during these years, however, that I have made an effort to focus on just such qualities as we would hope to look for in "pedagogically sound" technology. There is not a lot of structure to that discussion. In that light, I would suggest that TS seriously consider a semi-formal discussion thread that rigorously envelops "pedagogical soundness". On this sailing journey, if Technology is to be our rudder, then Pedagogy must be our centerboard. "....more sail -- haul anchor"

[In the then immediate context of State universities in Indiana of spending increasing millions of dollars for closed-circuit,
"interactive" or two-way TV distance education (IHETS), Higher Ed Commissioners asked if there were effective alternatives to those unproven expenses. We presented the following in response. It still seems uncannily timely even today in 1998.]

ICHE Minutes - October 8, 1992 [excerpt]
VI. Desktop Media Alternatives for Indiana Higher Education

Educators and representatives of Apple, IBM, and NEXT Computer provided an exciting demonstration of a variety of desktop media and learning software.  Mr. Glenn Ralston, President of Communications Development, said the current capabilities of desktop mediated electronic learning are appropriate for classroom presentations, independent studies, or distance learning at remote sites.  He said the demonstration would focus on what might be called the statewide "electronic campus" for Indiana.  Mr. Ralston said Desktop Media configurations offer many advantages; they are powerful, inexpensive,
highly interactive, and can be individually controlled for self-pacing.

Mr. Ed Villanyi, Account Manager, NEXT Computer Inc. and Mr. Don Baker, Technical Systems Coordinator at the Indiana University School of Journalism, presented "Interpersonal Communications Between Students and Instructor." They described the use of desktop media for a journalism course in which the students are able to send their assignments to faculty over the media.  Faculty then perform the grading and the work is transmitted back to the student for viewing on the screen.  The graded work includes faculty annotations to assist the student. Mr. Baker said some media also offer the option of voice
transmission.  He said the transfer of coursework between the student and faculty is accomplished more quickly via the media, and there is no paper involved.  Mr. Baker said data has indicated that learning is improved by the use of media.

Mr. Eric Henning, Client Advisory Specialist, IBM Corp., said desktop media provides the faculty an opportunity to enhance the creativity of instruction.  He introduced Dr. Darrell Bailey, Professor of Music at IUPUI, who presented "Hypermedia Across the Music Curricula." Dr. Bailey provided a demonstration of some of the uses of media in his Music for the Listener course, which combines the use of video and compact disk.   He illustrated how individual instruments in an ensemble or orchestra can be isolated for the listener.  The ability of stopping and rewinding the media also provided the advantage of
reviewing portions of the music and/or instruction.

Mr. John Cowie, Sales Manager, Apple Computer, said technology is making a difference in learning.  He introduced Dr. Gregor Novak, Associate Professor of Physics at IUPUI, who presented "New Media in the Classroom". Dr. Novak said he has found multimedia to be an enormous help in extending Pedagogical models for his students in abstract physics.  He said media offers the instructor tremendous control for generating information.  He said one useful course activity is providing the student with the instructor's lecture notes which include embedded markers.  He said this practice prompts a good deal of pertinent discussion. Dr. Novak also cited the media's advantages in his physics lab settings, where students are able to measure coordinates, angles, etc., on the screen and can solve as many as fifteen problems in the time a single solution could be charted by paper and pencil.  Dr. Novak demonstrated a [computer] video which presented a physics problem for calculating the arc of a flare shot into the sky.  He said the student can review the video as many times as necessary, Dr. Novak said, providing the student the ability to actually view the action he will chart is a very valuable instructional tool.

Dr. Clark Gedney, Coordinator, Computer Resource Center of the Purdue Biology Department, presented "Rapid Development of Courseware." He spoke of his use of media for instructing students in bacterial identification.  He emphasized how this technology empowers and motivates the student.  He said desktop media is also cost-efficient because it provides visual illustrations without physically exhausting lab materials.   For example, by manipulation of media a student can perform a lab experiment much more quickly than it could be accomplished in an actual lab setting. Dr. Gedney said another example of a creative use of media involved a teacher costumed as Louis Pasteur "talking" the student through a procedure.  He said media also offers the opportunity for virtual experiments such as the electronic dissection of a frog embryo, or to permit elementary students to observe a chicken embryo inside the shell.

[Comments] Dr. Huie [VP, Purdue University] said the students themselves provide some of the best manpower and assistance in these course offerings; he said they generally are very adept with computers and are enthusiastic about computer work. President Ehrlich [Indiana U.] said many course offerings, such as in journalism, [must] require a network to provide interaction between students and faculty. Commissioner Hoehn said a huge network would not be necessary, however. Commissioner Ingle asked about equipment and costs for the student wanting to take a course.  Presenters said minimal equipment is required (monitor, modem, and telephone), at a cost of about $3500 currently.   Presenters noted that prices for various media come down [at least] 20% a year.

In response to a question, the presenters unanimously agreed that instruction need not be live and interactive.  In fact, they went on to say that many students prefer media precisely because it gives them the ability of making mistakes on their own and resolving them before interaction occurs. Presenters commented that the use of media builds the self-esteem of the teachers and students alike.  It was described as "involving media" because it tends to draw the student into the instruction.

Commissioner Hoehn said mediated instruction is fun for students.  He said the demonstration was right on target for the Commission's deliberations on how to reach students and how to accomplish more with less.  He said the demonstration also shows that students can be approached one at a time.  Mr. Hoehn said he would love to see these kinds of media used to provide postsecondary course offerings in Southeastern Indiana.

In response to a question, presenters agreed that some degree of faculty/student interaction is necessary and said the media does not replace the instructor.  They said there may be need for very little interaction, however.  They also noted the need for faculty specialists to design the software. Ms. Palmer [VP, Indiana University] asked how "new majority" students react to this type of instruction.  Dr. Novak said he has taught many such students and found them enthusiastic about it.

Commission Chairman Bandemer thanked the presenters for a most interesting demonstration.
VII.  Adjournment: The meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.

"Desktop Media Alternatives for Indiana Higher Education"
Minutes [excerpt] - October 8, 1992
Indiana Commission for Higher Education
ad loc.12/8/98: <http://www.che.state.in.us/Agendas/minutes/9210a.pdf>

see also, ad loc. 12/8/98: