Reprinted with permission from Learning and Leading with Technology (c) 2000-2001, ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education. 800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 541.302.3777, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.iste.org/. Reprint permission does not constitute an endorsement by ISTE of the product, training, or course.
Moursund, D.G. (August/September 1985). The Computer-Related Teacher Certification Problem. The Computing Teacher.
Computers are at the heart of what could prove to be the greatest challenge our teacher credentialing system has ever faced. The challenge is one of potential major changes in both the content and process of education. Our teacher credentialing system for inservice teachers is based upon very slow or no change during a teacher's career. Our preservice credentialing system is designed to prepare teachers for jobs in a contemporary school system, much like the system the preservice teachers attended. But 10 years from now many schools may be drastically different from today's contemporary school.
Ten years from now there will be many communities in which computer hardware is so readily available, both in school and at home, that its presence will be taken for granted. Students will learn to read, write, do mathematics, retrieve and process information, communicate, and acquire a basic education in an environment that uses computers whenever they can be an effective aid to the overall learning process. All students will:
Twenty years from now the school district that has not incorporated such changes will likely be considered terribly out of date. Students who have not experienced such an education will probably be considered poorly educated, with an education not suited to their needs or the needs of our society. The credentialing problem is to ensure adequately prepared teachers for this instructional environment.
Notice that I have not mentioned the teaching of "computer literacy," computer programming, or computer science. The need to have a computer literacy course will have come and gone before the end of the next decade. (Meanwhile, the argument continues as to whether there is or ever was such a need, and more students are being required to take such a course.) Certainly, students educated in the environment discussed above will acquire a high level of computer literacy.
The teaching of serious courses in computer programming and computer science is (and will likely remain) the province of secondary school and higher-level educational systems. Our teacher credentialing system knows how to handle credentialing to teach specific secondary school courses.
For example, consider the credentialing of people to teach an Advanced Placement computer science course in high school. The Elementary and Secondary Schools Subcommittee of the Association for Computing Machinery has recently published carefully considered recommendations for the preparation of such teachers. The main controversy in this area will now be how to handle the "grandparent" issue-that is, how to handle credentialing of people who are already teaching such a course and do not have formal college credits that meet whatever guidelines a credentialing agency might establish. While this is not an easy credentialing problem, it seems small in comparison to the larger problem of non-computer teachers being addressed here.
To better understand the problem for non-computer teachers, consider the scenario of a sixth grade teacher in a self-contained classroom perhaps 10 years from now. Students entering the sixth grade are adept at composing at a word processor keyboard and are skilled in process-oriented writing. They make use of a spelling and grammar checker; they retrieve information and communicate via a computer. Their mathematics instruction from the first grade on has assumed the use of calculators and computers as an aid to problem solving. Their social studies curriculum has included the creation and use of data bases as a routine activity, as well as accessing computerized information retrieval systems. The students have had years of experience using graphics software and have learned to use math-oriented graphics software. The students have had substantial experience using sophisticated science-oriented computer simulations to explore a variety of science topics.
We could continue the scenario, but the problem should now be evident. The teacher must deal with a learning environment that is quite different from today's contemporary sixth grade classroom. And, the teacher's own precollege and college educational program did not foresee such changes.
Indeed, such a learning environment does not yet exist even in the best of school systems. Moreover, such a learning environment cannot spring into existence overnight. If students entering the sixth grade are to have had five years of previous experience in a computer-rich educational environment, we have time to help the sixth grade teacher get ready.
Continuing the sixth grade teacher example, suppose a school district is implementing the start of such an educational plan next year. To do so, it must deal with the specifics of the first grade curriculum and the preparation of first grade teachers. But at the same time it must address the issue of the sixth grade students and their teachers. Might the curriculum be modified so that the sixth graders learn both their conventional curriculum and the essential core of the computer-oriented and computer-based aspects of the first grade curriculum? The goal is to start both the sixth grade students and the sixth grade teachers on a path of learning to use computers in the curriculum. In the second year, sixth grade students would make additional use of computers in a manner consistent with their previous year's experience, and their teachers would gain additional computer education expertise.
Aha! An interesting idea. While the first grade students are experiencing the new computer-oriented and computer-based curriculum, all students and all teachers at higher grade levels could be experiencing the essential elements of this curriculum. Presumably, students at higher grade levels would learn only the most fundamental aspects of this new curriculum, and it would be carefully integrated with what they already have learned through their previous curriculum. The initial disruption to the curriculum in the higher grades would be minimal.
Let's carry this a little further. The first grade curriculum cannot be transformed overnight, since the software, curriculum, curriculum support materials, and appropriately trained teachers do not exist. Perhaps one might have a five-year plan for transforming the first grade learning environment and curriculum, with roughly one-fifth of the total change occurring each year. In the sixth year the second grade teacher would have a class full of students who had experienced the entire new first grade curriculum, and would be expected to provide these students with an appropriate (new) second grade curriculum. In the seventh year the third grade teachers would be expected to provide their students with a program of study building upon the computer-rich first two years of study the students have experienced.
This approach suggests the need for a five-year plan at the first grade level, a six-year plan at the second grade level, etc. There would be a 10-year plan for the sixth grade teacher and sixth grade curriculum. Secondary school teachers would have even longer to prepare for students whose entire elementary school program fully integrated computer technology.
The teacher credentialing problem is now evident. Many states issue a lifetime teaching credential. Others automatically renew the credential for teachers who continue to teach. None have provisions for requiring a sixth grade teacher to enter into a 10-year plan of study and practice to prepare for the job environment we are envisioning. Moreover, no teacher training institution is currently preparing teachers who would be comfortable in such a classroom environment.
A number of state educational agencies and/or state legislatures have seen fit to address the computer literacy issue for students. This has resulted in the requirement of computer literacy courses for many students. But no state educational agency, legislature or teacher's union has begun to address adequately the credentialing problem for the ordinary inservice or preservice teacher. If our educational system is to cope adequately with computer-related technology, the teacher training problem must be resolved. The problem need not and cannot be solved overnight or in a single year. Lifelong education must become a more important part of all teacher credentialing systems.
Retrospective Comment 8/4/05
This editorial was written 20 years ago. It contains forecasts for 10 years and 20 years in the future. These forecasts have proven to be quite inaccurate.
I wonder how I could have been so incorrect. The issue is not that the forecasts depended on continued progress in hardware and software. However, schools have not invested in the hardware and software to the extent that I forecast. Moreover, our preservice and inservice teacher education program has not risen to the challenge. A great many of today's teachers have a very low level of ICT knowledge and skills. They are not adequately prepared to integrate ICT into their everyday curriculum
In 1985, I did not forecast that eventually ICCE (which became ISTE in 1989) would publish National Educational Technology Standards for Students in 1999. The ISTE NETS for students have been widely adopted. They are based on the idea of all teachers being able to work with computer-using students. Indeed, the ISTE NETS for teachers, a more recent document, specifies that all teachers should meet the 12 grade ISTE NETS for students.
Thus, one might expect that eventually my 1985 forecasts will prove acurate, albeit perhaps 20 years too optimistic on the timline!
Braun, Ludwig (October 1985). The New Wave of Educational Software. Guest Editorial. The Computing Teacher.
Explorations of the computer as a tool to help students learn have been going on for about a quarter of a century. During most of that time most of the energy expended has been focused on pre-college students. Probably 90 percent of the available educational software addresses this group of students.
During this same period, there has been a great deal of research on the computer's effect on rate of learning and retention of learned material. In both areas, the computer has had a dramatically positive effect, even though almost all of the research has focused on drill and practice applications. There also have been small efforts to assess the impact of learning to program a computer on the development of problem-solving ability, and the effective use of simulations-again with positive results. Despite these very positive research results, we have only begun to realize the computer's potential to help students. There are two reasons for this long gestation period:
Until three years ago, most of the applications of computers in education consisted of teaching programming, or using drill and practice programs to teach facts. Recently there has been an exciting new wave of educational software, which I address here.
I wish to outline briefly some of the exciting ways in which this new wave permits the teacher to use the computer to improve the learning environments of students-ways which will make it easier for students to learn, more exciting for them to continue in the learning process, and more successful in pursuit of their goals.
The New Wave
The new wave of educational computing includes:
Learning to Write Well
Word processors, spelling checkers, outline generators, grammar and style analyzers and pre-writing guides will take much of the chore out of writing, permitting the student to concentrate on the creative part of writing, rather than the mechanics.
Since the early days of the Huntington Computer Project, it has been clear that the computer has a great deal to offer to educators as a flexible universe within which a "world" can be created with any set of characteristics desired. Simulations in the natural and social sciences have provided students with opportunities for experiential learning which are unavailable otherwise. There have been applications in biology, chemistry, engineering, ergonomics, physics, physiology and psychology to name just a few.
In each of these fields, the teacher can create situations which conform to the normal laws of the universe (or to some subset-e.g., permitting the suspension of randomness), or if it is desirable pedagogically, which defy them. Students may be given control over system parameters so that they can explore their effects. Research has shown that this is very beneficial to students.
Relatively little work has been done exploring the effect of discovery learning in mathematics; however, this aspect offers much promise in enhancing students' understanding of mathematical concepts in algebra, calculus, statistics and probability, finite mathematics, etc.
For the first time, teachers of mathematics have available meaningful laboratory experiences for their students. Here, the student can discover and comprehend mathematical relationships and properties of mathematical functions in ways which have not been possible before. This appears to be especially valuable as a learning environment for students who have not succeeded in mathematics taught in conventional ways.
The relatively good graphics available on modern microcomputers have permitted dramatic improvements in the creation of discovery-learning environments in all disciplines.
The construction set is a newcomer to the education scene. In such programs the user has a free-form environment with a set of objects which may be used to build simple universes. In the broadest sense, the construction set is a special-purpose language which permits the user to create complex effects without having to learn to program in BASIC, Pascal or machine language.
Rather than attempt to define construction sets in words, it seems best to define them by example. Some of the best of the currently available ones are:
It is becoming clear that creative software developers can generate worlds in which exciting things will happen to students-assuming that construction set developers include creation of learning environments among their design goals. Most of the existing construction sets have as their motivation the generation of income (a worthwhile objective, if education is another), although some (most notably Rocky's Boots) were developed principally for education.
Some new construction sets I'd like to see are:
Adventure games have tremendous potential for developing skills in reading, comprehension, decision making, problem solving and information processing. Unfortunately, most of the commercially available adventure games have been designed to be commercial successes, rather than good educational tools. As a consequence, they have an unfortunate shoot-em-up, blow-em-up quality which turns off some students (most notably females), and which contributes little to the learning environment. It is possible to design such games so that they take advantage of the format and excellent parsers appearing on the market and still incorporate educational goals including appropriate vocabulary levels, sentence structure, story lines and graphics.
Modern microcomputers, combined with inexpensive microelectronic circuits (e.g., analog-digital converters), provide teachers with a new laboratory tool which permits substantial improvement in the students' experiences in gathering, digesting and displaying experimental data. It is now possible to combine an inexpensive computer with a low cost A/D converter to create a super-oscilloscope which gathers data, then processes them using statistical routines and displays the results graphically. This experience now is useful even with students who have little or no background in statistics (the technique has been used successfully with sixth graders).
"Probably the most Important development in academic computing in the past five years is the emergence of tools-programs which convert the computer into a tool to carry out some job."
Because of the development of low cost modems, communications software, and national telecommunications networks, it now is possible to think in terms of providing students with access to powerful systems for communication with each other, with their teachers, with experts in any field, and with elaborate data bases. Such access permits students to participate in courses and other learning experiences, even if they are remote from the campus at which they are enrolled. Perhaps more importantly, the communication is asynchronous; it doesn't require users to be at the same place at the same time. This allows the student easy access to the teacher without regard to the schedules of the student or the faculty person, and without regard to the location of either. For the student with a difficult schedule (e.g., a student who travels a great deal), or for the student in a remote location, or for the student on campus whose schedule doesn't overlap that of the faculty person, telecommunications, properly applied, can be a good solution.
Probably the most important development in academic computing in the past five years is the emergence of tools- programs which convert the computer into a tool to carry out some job. We already have mentioned several tools above, including word processors, construction sets, telecommunications and laboratory-support systems. There are several others, among which the most important may be spreadsheet and data base programs.
Spreadsheet programs have become very popular over the past several years after the first, VisiCalc, was developed as a tool for financial analysts. They were developed around the conventional accountant's spreadsheet and permit the user to specify equations involved in developing financial statements. The operations specified by the equations are carried out automatically by the computer once the data has been entered. These programs have been touted as forecasters for financial people, permitting the asking of "what if" questions-i.e., they are general-purpose simulation languages. Inadvertently, their developers designed them so flexibly that they are useful as simulators in any discipline in which phenomena may be represented by sets of algebraic equations, even if those equations are nonlinear and time varying. Few have noticed, but a spreadsheet program can simulate phenomena in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics or physiology just as easily as those in the financial world for which they were intended.
Data base programs fall into two classes: those developed commercially, permitting the user to search for information and organize the selected subsets of information into useful forms; and those which are generic and permit the user to create personal data bases for a variety of purposes.
When we realize that none of the educational applications which I have described above existed in a meaningful way three short years ago, and when we reflect on the potential impact which these applications will have on education, we must stand in awe of the future. Who can project what the next three years may bring? Imagine what educational computing will be like in a decade henceif you can!
[Ludwig Braun, New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, NY 11568.]
Retrospective Comments 8/4/05
This Guest Editorial by Lud Braun mentions the Huntington Computer Project. This was a National Science Foundation funded project in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In my opinion, the educational software it produced was by far the best educaiotnal software available at the time, and for a number of years after the project ended.
I first "discovered" this software in about 1970, and immediately began to make use of it in my teachre education courses. The software included a variety of computer simulations, along with detailed materials for the teacher.
I eventually got to meet Lud, and we have been friends ever since.
It was an honor to have him be the first person to write a Guest Editorial for The Computing Teacher.
Moursund, D.G. (November 1985). High Tech/High Touch. The Computing Teacher.
John Naisbitt's Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives was first published in 1982. It was a best seller and has won considerable acclaim. The second chapter of the book is titled "From Forced Technology to High Tech/ High Touch." In that chapter Naisbitt suggests "that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response-that is, high touch-or the technology is rejected."
Naisbitt's high tech/high touch paradigm has interesting implications for computer education. Consider two scales, one labeled "tech" and the other labeled "touch," each running from low to high. The paradigm supports a conjecture that a person lies at some point on the "tech" scale and some point on the "touch" scale. Whatever a person's placements on these two scales, they represent a harmony or balance in their tech/touch.
The introduction of increased technology into a person's life produces an imbalance. For a person whose "tech" placement is high, additional technology represents only a modest percentage change and perhaps requires relatively little adjustment of "touch" to maintain a balance. But for a person placed low on the "tech" scale, even a modest amount of new technology may require a considerable adjustment to "touch."
High tech/high touch is a simple-minded paradigm, perhaps most useful for provoking discussion rather than providing a foundation to support educational change. But let's explore the paradigm a little more. We might guess that early adopters of computers were high-tech people. (At the same time they might be at any spot on the "touch" scale). Such high-tech people found it easy to adjust to computer technology and are now well established as computer leaders and teachers.
But as we attempt to introduce more and more people to computers, we soon move beyond the readily available supply of high-tech people who might be interested in computers. We begin to experience increased resistance as we attempt to introduce high-touch people to computer technology. Moreover, we have the added difficulty that the current computer leaders and teachers have a high-tech orientation, while the people they are attempting to teach have a high-touch orientation. These differences in orientation make effective communication difficult!
In recent years I have grown to understand some of the differences between high-tech and high-touch people. On a "touch" scale I have moved in the direction of higher touch. (I doubt if I have reached the midpoint yet, since I started so close to the low-touch end. But I am pleased with the progress I have made.)
Gradually, over the past eight years, I have experimented with increased use of high-touch ideas and activities in the computer education workshops I present. In recent years I have grown in ability to teach and make use of active listening, guided fantasy, small group discussion, large group interaction and other high-touch techniques. These ideas, and others, are included in my Computer Education Leadership Development Workshop. The workshop even includes a substantial session on Stress and Burnout.
Another session in the workshop examines similarities and differences between mathematics education and computer science education. I view mathematics as a high-tech disciplineas the queen of the scienceseven though it differs from other science disciplines and their related technologies. We know that our mathematics education produces math anxiety and an "I can't do mathematics" syndrome among many people. Do we want the same results in computer science education?
Our mathematics education system is predicated upon two major assumptions. First, all people need to be able to do mathematics at a moderate level in order to survive in our society. Second, our society needs a number of professional mathematicians and other people who can function at a relatively high level in mathematics.
Thus, formal instruction in mathematics begins in the first grade or earlier, and a spiral curriculum approach is used in subsequent grades to ensure that almost all students develop a moderate level of mathematical knowledge. Beginning roughly at the junior high school level, our mathematics education system begins a process of separating off students who display good mathematical talent and learning ability. Others are discouraged by the system. They learn that they can't do mathematics as well as some of their colleagues and teachers; they feel insecure in their mathematical knowledge and perhaps get poor grades.
Early efforts to introduce computers into elementary and secondary school education tended to follow the mathematics education paradigm. That is not surprising, since much of this early teaching was done by math-oriented early adopters of computer technology. Moreover, there was considerable rationale to this approach, since computer programming and the underlying computer science seemed to be necessary in order for a person to use a computer.
But now we are moving beyond the early adoption stage. Many elementary schools, for example, are moving toward involving all of their teachers and all of their students in working with Logo. Some are developing a spiral curriculum scope and sequence that has many characteristics of a mathematics scope and sequence. It is my guess that this approach will soon produce junior high school computer-anxious students who assert, "I can't do computers."
The mathematics paradigm for an elementary school computer curriculum is not the only possible paradigm and it may not be the most appropriate one. Progress in computer software and hardware has made it possible for people to become effective users of computers without knowledge of the underlying computer programming and computer science. A "survival" level of computer-use skill is easily obtained without learning how to write programs. A spiral curriculum of computer science instruction need not begin in the first grade to develop high school graduates with a survival level of computer science knowledge. Nor do we have evidence that the supply of computer science graduate students will be diminished if computer programming is less emphasized at the precollege level.
This type of analysis suggests that we might look for other, more appropriate paradigms for computer education, especially at the lower grade levels. Perhaps art education provides a more appropriate paradigm? Art education tends to be quite high touch. Students explore the art media; they frequently set their own goals; they evaluate their own work and the work of others. Some elementary schools have taken the approach that Logo should be introduced using the art education paradigm. Naisbitt's high tech/high touch ideas suggest that this approach will be more successful than approaching Logo using a mathematics education paradigm. I have talked with several elementary school teachers who have used this approach and feel that it is very successful.
The high tech/high touch paradigm can be used to examine other aspects of computer education. In my Computer Education Leadership Workshop I often ask participants to rank a set of qualifications essential to being a successful computer coordinator. I have now used this activity in a half dozen workshops. In every workshop the participants listed "Interpersonal and Communication Skills" as most important and "Technical Skills" as least important among the four general qualifications being rated. These workshop participants, many of whom are successful computer coordinators, are suggesting that high touch is more important than high tech.
My conclusion is that the high tech/high touch paradigm provides a useful approach to examining many aspects of computer education. I am sure you can think of your own examples and issues-such as whether extensive use of CAI will damage social development and skills. I'd like to hear from you about your examples.
Marsh, Merle (December/January 1986-87). The Great Computer Drill and Practice Put-down. Guest Editorial. The Computing Teacher.
It echoes from every part of our land. Fashionable and trendy, it gathers steam as it races through academia. Being part of it certifies some sort of technical intelligence and guarantees membership in the innermost inner circles. It has its standard clichés ("expensive page-turner," "lack of student involvement") and ridicules those it believes do not understand the pristine propers of learning. ("You don't use a drill program?!") Although its call for higher-level uses of the computer is commendable, its premise-that drill and practice is not a worthy use of the computer-is rubbish.
If you don't believe the inner circle exists and that the Great Computer Drill and Practice Put-down is indeed the very latest and utterly voguish, simply mention a positive aspect of drill and practice at any conference session, and the onslaught will begin. Those who favor computers in education will be horrified that the computer could be so denigrated, while those opposed to computers in education will yell, "See, we told you. What a waste of money. May as well put the students in workbooks." Someone from the inner circle will add, "It reminds me of all the other so-called innovations in education. Let's not forget educational television and programmed learning, folks." The rest of the inner circle will nod in all-knowing agreement,
Next, a couple of people will tell you that they know how bad software is and how impossible it is to have enough computers for all the children. Someone knowledgeable about research will stand up and remember that peer teaching outscored computer learning in a research project. This, of course, will set the nodders in motion and will serve as a signal for the speaker to sit down with a satisfied expression.
"Well?" the Great Computer Drill and Practice Put-down enthusiasts will say as they cast a pitying look upon you, the unfortunate who uttered the unthinkable. "The child should be in charge of the computer program. The software must emphasize critical thinking skills and not rote memorization. Drill and practice stifles intellectual development. The questioning, rather than the absorption of knowledge, is most important."
The inner circle will set you straight. You are ruining lives, turning children into robots, denying inalienable rights, and suppressing the American way. (You probably don't excuse anyone who has to visit the lavatory, either.)
[[Drawing of a student dressed as a robot has been omitted.]]
But you know something that the inner circle doesn't. Drill and practice works. It cannot be admitted too loudly because drill and practice is the stepchild of computer education. Research has proven that it works, but research is impersonal, somehow not human enough. A real story is the best evidence. A first grader struggling with addition facts. A teacher who realized the child was bright but for some reason was not learning in class or with extra help from the teacher. One exciting drill and practice disk. A good one that the child enjoys. Twenty minutes before school each day for two weeks. The child learns the facts better than anyone else in the class. She continues to use the program. End of the school year. The same child has taught herself to carry and can add numbers such as 345+789+263. She is an "A" mathematics student in second grade. The confidence is there to go on now.
No one in the inner circle seems to recall that intelligent questioning follows the absorption of knowledge. No one is advocating that computers be used solely for drill and practice. Drill and practice has its place, but so do the other uses of computers.
As for the raucous cry about poor software, it seems rather anachronistic now. Several years ago when most software was terrible, little was heard. The technology was so new that few people knew whether a program was bad or not. Perhaps they were delighted simply to have the opportunity to buy anything which would run without a syntax error. As software improves-and it is improving-all of a sudden the inner circle seems to have found out the secret that software can actually be rotten. There are also some rather undistinguished textbooks, movies, filmstrips, simulations. . . . Shall we give up all books because . . . ?
Does it really matter if peer teaching "beat" computer learning? Peer teaching is cheaper, of course, and with some older students it is a good idea, but what parents want their young children spending any significant amount of time teaching others when this same time could be used for moving them ahead in the academics? This is 1985, not 1967. Parents expect teachers to teach, and they'd love for computers, not their children, to help out.
"What did you do in school today, Bill?"
"Well, I knew all the reading so Mrs. Holmes had me help Nancy with her papers and then in math I'm ahead so I got to be the boys' room monitor."
"But what did you learn?
"That Nancy can't read. Don't worry. Mom, I'll learn something just as soon as everybody catches up."
The Great Computer Drill and Practice Put-down is similar to many movements which have gone before. It is not, it seems, directed solely against drill and practice, but instead against change itself. With educational innovations, bad or good, follow backlashes which in almost every case destroy the promises of the new. The inner circle is already mounting concerns about computer languages such as Logo, BASIC, and Pascal; about word processing; about simulation/game use; and about computer use itself in precollege education. The Great Drill and Practice Put-down is only the beginning.
Watch out for the inner circle. It is gaining in education. Maybe. But not in the American home.
[Merle Marsh, whose articles have appeared in national computer and education magazines, has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from University of Maryland and a master's degree in education from Stanford University. Her book, Apple Computer Clubs Parent 's Guide, was published by Prentice Hall, 1984. Merle Marsh, Rt. 2, Box 225, Frankford, DE 19945.]
Mourusnd, D.G. (February 1986). The Information Era: What Does It Mean to Education? The Computing Teacher.
The history of the human race can be considered a sequence of eras. The hunter-gather era was followed by the agricultural era, the industrial era, and now the information era. Each era has its unique characteristics and educational requirements.
I was born and raised in an industrial era, so I believe I understand an industrial era society. The food needed by the society is produced by a small percentage of the work force; food production, storage, and distribution methods are quite efficient. Factories make use of increasingly sophisticated machines powered by electricity to increase the productivity of workers. Mass production techniques decrease the cost of manufactured goods. Mass distribution techniques are important. Cities grow larger and an increasing population can enjoy an increasing standard of living.
Education for an industrial society is best illustrated by our current educational system. Most young people spend many years in school, acquiring basic skills and foundations for more advanced formal education or training. The major emphasis is on learning content, as opposed to learning process. Much of the education and training is of little immediate use to students, the same curriculum may be followed by students throughout an entire country, and there is considerable emphasis on rote learning. A much higher percentage of the high school aged population is in school than in an agrarian society. High schools offer vocational training, since many students do not have much opportunity to gain such skills through summer or part-time employment.
But the United States has now moved out of the industrial era and into an information era. The past decades have seen substantial progress in manufacturing more and more goods using fewer and fewer workers. Our storage, transportation and distribution systems for manufactured goods have steadily improved. Such progress, along with rapid improvements in telecommunications. have made the world "smaller."
Computers have contributed to automation and to other manufacturing and distribution efficiencies. Computers have helped improve our information collection, storage, processing and dissemination systems. Progress in the latter areas have greatly increased the productivity of people such as accountants, lawyers, secretaries and clerks who process information.
It is only recently that I have begun to think carefully about what constitutes an appropriate educational system for an information era society. My progress so far tells me I (and our educational system) have a long way to go!
Part of the difficulty lies in the title "information era." This title suggests that more and more people work with information, instead of raising food or manufacturing factory products. But that seems inconsistent with the widely reported fact that the greatest sources of new jobs are in categories such as clerk in a fast food store or janitor! Many of these jobs tend to be relatively low-skilled and low paying. It is true that there is an increasing number of high-tech jobs, but the total number of such jobs is modest.
I think the major difficulty is that while "information" is a useful term in describing our current era, capital-intensive, service-oriented, high tech/high touch and shrinking world are also appropriate. The latter term is of particular significance. We live in a world that is steadily shrinking due to improvements in transportation and communication. Radio and television audiences for a major event may amount to 20 percent of the entire earth's population or more. It is estimated that by the year 1990 there will be about one billion telephones interconnected by our telecommunications system. That is about one for every five people on earth! The cost of communication between two places via telecommunications satellite is essentially independent of the distance between them. There are telecommunication satellites currently in production or on the drawing board that will add hundreds of thousands of additional long distance telephone circuits.
At the same time, high tech is shrinking the world, populations continue to increase and the people of this planet are becoming more interdependent. To me this suggests our educational system needs to combine high tech with high touch. The high-tech aspect of our current era indicates that we need a number of highly trained, technically oriented workers. Computers and other technology will continue to rapidly increase the total productivity of these workers. Over the short run, there will be an increasing number of these types of jobs. But eventually the demand will peak, and may then even decrease as the high-tech workers become still more productive.
The high-touch aspects of our society have considerably different characteristics. High touch refers to people skills such as knowledge of self, knowledge of others and good abilities to use this knowledge. High touch relates to getting along with others-which is essential since high tech has led to weapons of mass destruction.
Certainly high touch is affected by technology. One need only watch a professional performer reaching an audience of tens or hundreds of millions via television or radio to see this. But technology does little to change the one on-one or small-group interaction that characterizes much of what we call high touch. Abilities to gain and improve knowledge of self and knowledge of others are distinctly human characteristics and essential parts of our current era.
One conclusion I draw is that our school system needs to place increased emphasis on both high tech and high touch. Students need good opportunities and encouragement to simultaneously develop both types of orientation. They will spend their adult lives in a society which requires both high-tech and high-touch skills. Those with particularly strong talents in either orientation need good opportunities to develop these talents and to build careers based on them. People who are highly skilled in a combination of high-tech and high-touch skills will be particularly in demand.
Increased emphasis on both high tech and high touch can be done through modification of the current curriculum. An excellent example is provided by the teaching of process writing in a word processing environment. Process writing has a strong high-touch orientation. Conferencing with teacher or peers and sharing through publication are both high touch; revision and working to communicate clearly are high touch. The use of a word processor with spelling and grammar checkers is high tech.
We need to find equally good examples in math, the natural sciences, the social sciences and other disciplines. Perhaps the microworlds and sophisticated simulations created by use of computers give clues as to what is needed. Perhaps "process math" will eventually emerge as a new way to engage students in the learning and doing of mathematics. Such examples may form the foundation of a high tech/high touch curriculum.
But we have skipped over one essential and far-reaching point. In our information era, people who work with information are being provided with tools to increase their productivity. One need only look at a modern business office to see how rapidly such changes have occurred. A modern office worker is supported by tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. A recent report indicated that about two-thirds of the secretaries in the United States now make daily use of an electronic word processor.
But there is one very large information-oriented occupation where there has yet to be an infusion of capital and technology to increase productivity:
Education! Our educational system is still in an industrial era mode, following a mass production, factory-like model. Neither teachers nor students have been provided with adequate productivity aids.
In any event, continued improvements in transportation, communication and the packaging and distribution of instructional materials are slowly but surely changing instructional delivery systems. Excellent examples are available in the training and retraining of people employed by some of our large high-tech companies. The challenge to our current educational system is clear.
The following brief article appeared in the same issue of The Computing Teacher as the above article, and started on the second page of the above article.
Effective Inservice for Use of Computers As Tools
Moursund, D.G. (February 1986). Effective Inservice for Use of Computers As Tools. The Computing Teacher.
I was recently awarded a three-year National Science Foundation grant to conduct research on effective inservice for school use of computers as tools. The aim of the NSF project is to gain information on how to help regular classroom teachers and school administrators learn to integrate the tool use of computers into the everyday curriculum.
The project focuses on uses such as word processors, spreadsheets, data bases, graphics programs and other tools. Such tools are characterized by their interdisciplinary and multi-grade level applicability. The project will develop, test and disseminate a method for effective inservice of teachers and school administrators. Materials will be developed to support the training of upper elementary school teachers and secondary school teachers of math, science and social science.
During the first year the project will work with elementary school teachers in grades three to five and with math teachers in middle school and high school. The second year of the project will replicate the inservice models and instructional materials designed for these two groups of teachers, as well as develop models and materials for middle school and high school science and social science teachers. The third year of the project will replicate the work done with science and social science teachers.
Key aspects of the inservice procedure include:
The project will produce periodic reports and a substantial amount of material to be used by teachers, computer coordinators, and teachers of teachers. The intent is to use the SIG Bulletin as a dissemination vehicle for the periodic reports. The first major report will appear in the January/February/ March 1986 issue of the SIG Bulletin. It includes the project proposal and should be useful to people developing similar proposals for inservice in their school districts. People interested in following the progress of this project and obtaining early access to some of its materials should subscribe to the SIG Bulletin.
[A one-year subscription (1985-86) to the SIG Bulletin is $10 for ICCE members and $15 for non-members and includes all four issues in that volume. Please specify whether you are a computer coordinator/administrator, teacher educator or special educator. To order or for more information, contact ICCE, 1787 Agate St., Eugene, OR 97403-1923; ph. 503/6864414.]
Moursund, D.G. (March 1886). Logo Revisited. The Computing Teacher.
In my "Logo Frightens Me" editorial in the December-January 1983-84 issue of The Computing Teacher I expressed fear both that Logo was being oversold and that it would not reach its potential. Recently I was invited to speak at the West Coast Logo Conference in Los Angeles. This was the first "pure" Logo conference that I have ever attended. The conference reassured me on some points, but left others still open. Participants in the conference exhibited considerable enthusiasm for Logo, but this seemed to be tempered with restraint and realization that Logo was not "the" answer to all computer-related questions. Indeed, many of the conference participants seemed somewhat conservative in their approaches to bringing Logo into education.
The West Coast Logo Conference had over 800 attendees and an impressive list of speakers which was nearly a "Who's Who" in Logo. Certainly enough of the top leadership was represented to adequately reflect the past, present and near future of Logo.
The vendor exhibits gave proof of the commercial progress of Logo. There are a number of competing versions of Logo, and new ones are coming to market. There are many Logo books, and there are large quantities of Logo activity cards, worksheets, teacher's materials and other aids to using Logo in an instructional setting. Many of these materials were developed by teachers; they seem to adequately represent appropriate philosophies of Logo instruction and use.
One of the keynote speakers, David Thornburg, demonstrated some of the capabilities of Logo on a relatively modern and fast microcomputer. He spoke of the potential of compiled versions of Logo which run many times as fast as the interpreted versions currently in wide use. He discussed some of the potentials of artificial intelligence that can be realized on newer machines making use of compiled versions of Logo. Thornburg gave a convincing argument that Logo was an appropriate computer environment and programming language to use from grade school through graduate school.
Seymour Papert talked about several of his research and development group's latest projects. He was most excited about a new version of Logo that includes a word processor. The conventional Logo and the word processor interact with each other. Thus, one can easily have a Logo procedure be applied to a text file one is creating, or a text file can be executed as a Logo procedure. Papert also mentioned a music project, a "colors" project that would make millions of different colors available to Logo users, and a turtle kit project. It is clear that he is enthusiastic about the future of Logo.
Thornburg, Papert and others at the conference aptly demonstrated that Logo is a growing computer environment with tremendous potential. But will this potential be realized?
One of my parts of the program was a panel discussion on the topic of teacher training for Logo. I was the first panelist to present, and so I had the opportunity to set the tone of the panel. I decided to take a somewhat pessimistic view-partly in order to stimulate discussion. I began by displaying the following diagram.
The three vertices of the triangle represent three major thrusts of teacher education for working in a Logo environment. The underlying philosophy of Logo is Discovery-Based Education and Individualization. But both of these existed long before Logo. Almost all elementary school teachers individualize to a small group level (for example, dividing the class into three reading groups or perhaps two levels of math groups). Some elementary school teachers use discovery-based methods in parts of their math, science or social studies teaching. However, the overall nature of the elementary school curriculum and classroom makes discovery-based learning and individualization difficult.
Problem solving has received considerable attention in recent years, but was a major educational issue long before Logo. Some elementary school teachers place major emphasis on problem solving, especially in the math curriculum. However, probably the majority place their main emphasis on lower-order skills.
The diagram helps make the task of teacher education for Logo clearer. Most of the early adopters of Logo were teachers who believed strongly in and practiced discovery-based education and individualization. They saw Logo as an excellent vehicle for implementation of these ideas. They required little teacher training in these areas.
Most early adopters of Logo had good problem solving skills and were devoted to teaching problem solving. Little inservice education was required to prepare them to teach it. They enjoyed the Logo problem solving environment.
Thus, the major inservice education required for early adopters of Logo was to help them learn the hardware and software of Logo. For many, relatively little instruction was needed, since they enjoyed the freedom of discovering new things for themselves. Also, they liked to try out their new knowledge with students, often creating lesson plans in "real time."
Contrast that with the teacher training needed to bring the more typical elementary school teacher up to speed for teaching in a Logo environment. Now a three-part approach to inservice is needed. The teachers need to learn about discovery-based learning and individualization. They need to learn about problem solving. They need to learn Logo hardware and software. Moreover, in doing all of this they need considerable hand holding, since they are more timid than those who came before.
My conclusion from the above analysis is that the amount of inservice education required to bring the typical elementary school teacher up to speed in a Logo environment exceeds both the typical school district's resources and the typical teacher's time that can be devoted to inservice. Moreover, if this amount of resource and time were available for inservice education, there would be better ways to use it. For example, the teachers could learn to teach process writing in a word processing environment.
I expected that my presentation of the above ideas would be met with boos and cat calls. Surprise! In essence, the other members of the panel agreed with the conclusions of my presentation! They agreed that Logo is not for all teachers.
The implications of this agreement, however, are somewhat discouraging.
At the elementary school level, it says either that Logo is made available on a hit-and-miss basis, depending on the whims of individual teachers, or that Logo is presented mainly by a Logo teacher who deals with all of the students who are to work with Logo. In either case one cannot integrate Logo into the regular curriculum or have the regular curriculum make use of the learning opportunities presented by Logo.
This is not good. If Logo is as important as its proponents claim, we want all students to have Logo opportunities; we don't want Logo to be restricted in its use. It should be viewed as a generalpurpose tool, to be integrated into the total curriculum and used whenever students and/or teachers deem it appropriate.
The problem is that our preservice and inservice teacher training system is not equal to the types of changes being brought about by computers and other technology. The typical teacher cannot adequately keep up with the changes that are necessary if students are to receive a high quality, modern education.
One obvious solution is to reduce the current workload on teachers and have them spend more time studying and trying out new ideas. This would increase the cost of education. But it would increase the quality of education. And, incidentally, it would create more jobs.
I draw three conclusions from my Logo conference experience. First, good Logo instructional materials are available and more are being developed, so it is becoming much easier for teachers to make instructional use of Logo. Second, many Logo leaders take the position that Logo is not for all teachers; they tend to resist requiring Logo for all students or as a tool to be used by all students throughout the curriculum. Third, the potential for Logo is continuing to grow through improvements in software, hardware, and supportive materials. Whether this potential can be realized depends heavily on our inservice education program and the adaptability of teachers. It is a considerable challenge.
Moursund, D,G. (April 1986). The Two-Bit Chip. The Computing Teacher.
A few weeks ago I came across some interesting figures in a computer magazine. When purchased in quantity, the 256K-bit memory chip now costs $3 and the 64K-bit memory chip costs just a quarter! Remember, there are eight bits in one byte (one character), and 1K is 1024. Thus, a 64K-bit chip stores about four pages of double-spaced typing. These figures give a solid clue about the future of computer hardware.
It was just two years ago that the Macintosh computer became available. Its 128K-byte memory consisted of 16 of the 64K-bit chips. (This is just $4 worth of chips at today's prices.) This memory was too small for many applications, so an upgrade to 512K bytes soon became available. The upgrade process consisted of replacing the 64K-bit chips with 256K-bit chips. When initially announced at $1,000, the upgrade seemed a bit overpriced. (This would be $48 worth of chips at today's prices.) Still, the 256K-bit chips were relatively expensive and in short supply at that time.
This year will see the megabit memory chip (equivalent to four of the 256K-bit chips) first coming to market in quantity. The 4-megabit memory chip has been produced in research laboratories and significant progress has occurred toward developing a 16-megabit memory chip. Indeed, a recent AT&T magazine ad suggested that they expect to be selling a 100-megabit memory chip by the year 2000!
And by the year 2000 might we expect the 4-megabit memory chip to cost a quarter, while the 16-megabit chip costs about $3? (All of these speculations are in 1986 dollars, not adjusted for possible inflation.)
Progress in other chips has been equally rapid and seems likely to keep pace. The microcomputers of the late 1970s contained an 8-bit Central Processing Unit (CPU). The first commercially available 32-bit CPU chip came out in 1981. But right now there are several "second generation" 32-bit CPU chips on the market, which are faster and have better instruction sets.
What do these figures mean? Suppose that one is producing and selling a medium-priced microcomputer in the year 2000. It might well contain 16 memory chips. If so, it might have 32-megabytes of memory! Certainly it will have a processing chip, which could well contain 16 CPUs designed for parallel processing and each running several times as fast as today's 32-bit CPU chips. The same processing chip might also contain other CPUs devoted to I/O activities such as speech synthesis and speech recognition.
One way to view this Hypothetical Personal Computer (HPC) of the year 2000 is that it will have compute power far exceeding all but the largest of today's super computers. Another view is that it will be able to run all of today's software faster than most current mainframe computers. Still another view is through the eyes of artificial intelligence. Most current AI research and development is done on machines costing in the range of $100,000 or more. Such machines have modest capabilities when compared to our HPC of the year 2000. The current Macintosh microcomputer has perhaps 10 percent of the compute power of computers used by AI researchers. Thus, it is not yet feasible to run "state-of-the-art" AI software on such a machine. But we will likely have relatively inexpensive microcomputers that are quite adequate to this purpose within five years. These microcomputers will have the power needed to run all four of the modules in the CAI programs described in "The AI in CAI" by Gerard Rambally (see page 39).
What will all of this hardware and software power be used for? Mostly, the answer is simple. It will be designed to increase the productivity of knowledge workers (which include teachers and students as well as many people in business, industry and government). People who have access to such power and appropriate training in its use will far out-produce those who lack the same.
The HPC presents a number of challenges to our educational system; one is to our computer acquisition process. Many schools are well along toward locking themselves into the microcomputer technology of the 1970s. Their hardware, software, teacher training, curriculum materials and computer-related goals are all based on such technology. There is increasing resistance to change; it is easier to buy more of the same, and software to match, than to attempt to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
A way for a school district to counter this trend is to have a Future Computer Systems Committee, which should examine new pieces of hardware and software for their suitability of use and applicability in education.
For example, the Macintosh computer is spawning a "desktop" publishing industry. That is, one can now do professional-quality typesetting and page layout using a microcomputer. This is possible because of progress in computer science, software, and hardware. Computer scientists have developed "page description" languages, allowing one to "describe" the text and graphics that are to appear on a page in a manner that is independent of the quality of printer to be used for output. The better the quality of the printer, the better the quality of the printed page. Programmers have implemented several of these page description languages on a variety of computers, including the Macintosh. Hardware manufacturers have developed relatively inexpensive laser printers, which have far better resolution than dot matrix printers. The results of all of this computer progress will be a new industry and major dislocations in the current publishing industry.
A school district's Future Computer Systems Committee should consider whether desktop publishing is important in the curriculum or in publishing school bulletins, newsletters, and yearbooks. Can a school save money by making use of this new technology in producing its own publications?
But a still bigger challenge lies in the very nature of our educational system. It has not yet come to grips with the idea of increasing the productivity of knowledge workers. If a computer can help a student learn significantly faster, we must ask why we are not using this aid to student productivity. If a computer can make a teacher more productive, we must ask why teachers do not have easy access to computers.
Each academic discipline needs to be carefully examined for possible changes based on computer technology. What do students need to memorize? (Computers are useful aids to information retrieval.) What processes do students need to learn to carry out using pencil and paper? (Computers are good at carrying out processes.) What testing situations should deny students access to computers, and why? (In the "real" world of adults, workers have easy access to such productivity tools.)
Each school district should have a Future Curriculum Committee that periodically reviews the entire curriculum in light of changing technology. There needs to be an ongoing process of planning for and implementing these types of changes.
Some educators think that the computer revolution is nearly past, and that in the end computers will have little impact on education. Actually, the computer revolution has just begun. We have barely scratched the surface of computer applications to education. Look forward to the HPC, rather than backward to the systems of the 1970s!
Retrospective Comment 8/1/05
It has been 19 years since I wrote this article that contains the predictoins for the year 2000. The article provides good evidence that my skills as a futurist are rather modest.
First, consider the CPU situation. When I wrote this article, the "big deal" seemed to be the movement from 8-bit to 186-bit to 32-bit CPU chips, along with some increase in speed in the chipts. Well, 32 bit CPU chips are now the norm in microcomputres, although 64 bit CPUs are making some inrodes. And, you will notice that I did not even provide data on the speeds of the 1986 CPU chips. However, I suggested that by the year 2000 such chips would several times as fast. That was certainly a poor forecast. Roughly speaking, Moore's Law has proven to be fairly accurate from 1986 to now, with a doubling of CPU speeds every 18 months or so. My forecast was way way to low.
My forcast of use of multiple CPUs in the ordinary microcomputre also proved to be incorrect. I suggested that 16 CPU chips might be a common thing. Actually, it is only in the past few years that dual processors have become moderately common. Of course, Super Computers make use of thousands (indeed, 10s of thousands) CPU chips.
The mass production of dual core CPU chips has now begun. These are chips that contain two CPUs. A nine-core chip is now being used in one of the widely sold game machines.
It is now common to buy memory upgrades when purchasing a new microcomputer. One can purchase a 512 megabyte upgrade for perhaps $75. Improvements in memory chips have somewhat exceeded my forecasts in the article.
The article's last paragraph indicates:
In terms of information and communication technology in business and industry, the revolution has made far more progress than it has in the schools. In some sense, the computer revolutoin in the schools is still in its early stages.
Arch, John (May 1986) Computer Literacy: Time for a New Direction (Guest Editorial). The Computing Teacher.
Many school districts across the United States are spending large sums of money to make their students computer literate. But much of this effort, while well intentioned, needs to be redirected.
While it is difficult to define precisely what a computer-literate student needs to know, the approach that seems to have gained the widest following may be termed the segregation approach. Under this approach students are made computer literate through a separate computer literacy course, often in the seventh or eighth grade. While the contents of these courses differ somewhat, there are some common elements. The typical computer literacy course contains introductions to programming, terminology, history of computing, social issues, binary arithmetic, etc.
Many examples of this trend exist. In 1983 the governor of Tennessee called for increased expenditures on computer education, with the eventual goal of placing at least one microcomputer and a teacher trained to use it in every school in Tennessee. By the 1985-'86 school year, every seventh and eighth grader in the state will have to take a course in computer literacy.
Other places with ambitious computer literacy programs include Florida, Texas, and Boston.
The time has come to analyze the reasons these expenditures are being made. Why should we, as educators, be so concerned with making students computer literate? Some of the reasons commonly given are the following:
To Help America Maintain Its Position of Technological Leadership
To do this will require large numbers of highly skilled scientists and technicians. Our schools are widely viewed as failing to produce enough of them. A Nation at Risk (1983) details the scope of the problem as perceived by the political, industrial, and educational leaders of the country. Students, it is believed, do not work as hard as they did 20 years ago, and do not get as much homework. When compared with students from other countries, American children come out at or near the bottom in most academic areas.
These deficiencies are seen as a threat to America's pre-eminent position in the emerging high tech industries. Japan, for instance, with half the population of the United States, produces more engineers. One response of educators to the charges that our schools are too lax has been to develop separate courses in computer literacy.
But A Nation at Risk calls for something far more rigorous than computer literacy. It recommends that every high school student be required to take a course in computer science, much as they now take biology and algebra. In the long run, this computer science requirement is seen as a much stronger response to the Japanese challenge.
To Prepare Students for the Jobs of the Future
It has been estimated that by the year, 2000, 90 percent of all jobs will require computer skills. It is natural for parents and educators to be concerned with these changes and to want to prepare today's students for these jobs. Studying computer literacy is seen as one of many steps in the right direction. But how is studying computer literacy going to help a teenager get a job?
The latest Department of Labor projections reveal that the greatest number of jobs created between now and the turn of the century will be decidedly low-tech in nature, with fast-food employment and custodial services leading the way. Of the 20 leading areas of projected job growth, not one could be classified as requiring computer training, so it is not readily apparent how the study of computer literacy will help students prepare for these jobs. Will it be necessary to study about Ada Lovelace and CPUs in order to work for McDonald's?
The computer-related jobs that will expand in number require far more computer knowledge than can be offered in a computer literacy course required of every student. To prepare people for these jobs, schools need to train as many students as possible in mathematics, the natural sciences, and computer science. More rigor is needed.
To Make Students Better Problem Solvers
Computers are seen as great aids in making students more proficient problem solvers. For example some educators, including most authors of computer literacy texts, seem to believe that if all students were exposed to programming, their problem solving skills would improve greatly. In addition, many software packages promise to improve children's problem solving abilities.
The major problem with these claims is that there is no proof that exposure to programming or a particular software package or computers in general makes students better problem solvers. Does it make sense to rely too heavily on programming and problem solving programs to make students better problem solvers in the absence of supporting research?
Each of these three reasons is a worthy goal of education; at first glance it is difficult to oppose any of them. But as rationales for teaching computer literacy, each has serious shortcomings.
With these obvious weaknesses, how has the segregation approach gained such wide acceptance? For one thing, it is easy to implement. Only one or two teachers per school need to learn enough about computers to take an entire student body through a separate one-semester computer literacy course. Another advantage is that there will be less disturbance of the status quo (always the easier route in a bureaucracy); the routines of fewer teachers are disturbed.
Integration: An Alternative
Despite these pluses, a more desirable approach to computer literacy may be an integration approach, under which computer use is merged into all areas of the curriculum. To implement such a program, attention must be focused on making teachers computer literate, defined as able to use computers at a state-of-the-art level to help teach their fields of specialization. Under integration, it becomes the professional responsibility of every teacher, not just the computer literacy teacher, to gain knowledge of the educational applications of computers.
Teaching is fast becoming a profession in which computers can no longer be ignored by practitioners who wish to remain up to date. Society expects its professionals to stay abreast of the latest changes in their fields, and teachers should be provided with the financial and educational support needed to meet these expectations.
If for no other reason, teachers need to know about computers because the bodies of knowledge they are expected to impart to their students are being altered by computers. Almost every academic discipline-business, science, mathematics, journalism, and social science, to name a few-is being reshaped by computers. Today it can be argued that, to know a subject well enough to teach it, an educator must know how computers are used in that field.
Take, for example, the teaching of English. At a bare minimum, English teachers should be familiar with word processing, grammar drill and practice software, and SAT review software. Once familiarity is gained with, say, a word processor, the teacher, as a professional, can decide whether or not to use it with students. But before this decision can be made, the teacher must first know how to use a word processing program. Until then, any decision regarding word processing will be based more upon prejudice than knowledge. The English teacher, in short, must become computer literate. Other subjects will require different computer skills, but all will require some.
Seen from this perspective, it becomes the professional responsibility of educators to learn how computers are altering their fields of specialization, to analyze these changes, and to develop ways to incorporate these changes into their classrooms, if doing so is judged by educators to have sufficient educational value to justify changing the curriculum. For their part, school boards and universities have the responsibility of providing teachers with the necessary training and equipment to become computer literate.
The integration approach is not as easy to implement as segregation. It requires far more staff training and much greater expenditures for hardware and software. But it has the potential to be much more effective. Not only will educators become computer literate, but students will learn that computers are far too important to be segregated into their own separate compartment in the curriculum. In short, they will learn that computers are applicable to the entire realm of learning.
[Dr. John C. Arch, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Shippensburg State College, Shippensburg. PA 17257.]
Moursund, D.G. (June 1986). Strategic Planning Symposium. The Computing Teacher.
I recently had the privilege of participating in a Computers in Schools Strategic Planning Symposium held in Edmonton, Alberta. The 160 participants were broadly representative of Alberta's education system: elementary and secondary school teachers, computer coordinators, principals, superintendents, school board members, college faculty, and people from the Alberta Department of Education. Two major computer companies were also represented; they provided some help in supporting the symposium.
Alberta has a population in excess of two million, spread over a very large geographical area. Currently Alberta schools have about twice as many computers per student as the average for the United States. This rapid growth in computer availability has been aided by substantial funding at the provincial level.
The purposes of the Strategic Planning Symposium were to do long-range planning and to make recommendations for appropriate and effective use of computers in schools. I believe the symposium was outstanding in its conception, organization, and results. I strongly believe that every state and province could benefit by conducting similar symposia.
The symposium had broad sponsorship, including the Alberta Department of Education, the Alberta School Trustees Association, the Alberta Teachers Association, and the Alberta Teachers Association Computer Council. This broad sponsorship helped spread "ownership" of the ideas and results to many people and organizations. In fact, the entire symposium was carefully designed to help spread ownership of the resulting ideas and recommendations.
An initial 40-minute talk was presented by David King, then Alberta's Minister of Education. Over the past four years, Mr. King had exhibited strong leadership in supporting the growth of computer use in Alberta's schools. In his presentation, Mr. King showed knowledge both of the current status and of the potential of computers in schools. He indicated that the department of education intended to continue providing strong support for increased use of computers in schools. Mr. King's interest in this symposium was demonstrated both by his initial presentation and his informal return to the symposium as it drew to a close two days later. At that time, he presented a few informal remarks further supporting the work of the symposium participants.
My keynote address was designed to provide a background for strategic planning and to clarify some of the basic issues. For example, I stressed that the main goal of instructional use of computers is to improve education-that is, to improve how well we accomplish the traditional goals of education. My initial theme was people, not machines.
However, computers are a change agent, so our schools are faced with the task of accommodating and building upon this change. Some educational goals need to be modified to fit the increasing technology in our society. For example, learning to communicate and to access information have always been goals in education. These goals need to be expanded so that students learn to communicate through and with computer-based information systems. Learning to solve problems has always been an educational goal. Now this goal needs to include appropriate use of computer technology as an aid to problem solving.
Technology-based change has just begun. I stressed that all of the progress we have made so far is small in comparison with what lies ahead. Thus, now is a good time to be identifying key issues and making long-term recommendations. For example, the field of artificial intelligence is just beginning to produce knowledge-based expert systems. If such a system can solve or help solve a particular type of problem, what should students learn about this type of problem while in school?
After the initial presentations, symposium participants were divided into nine working groups: Elementary School, Secondary School, Local Area Networks, Wide Area Networks, Staff Development, Software Evaluation and Acquisition, Instructional Facilities, Administrative Uses, and Business Education. Participants had been assigned to working groups on the basis of their indicated choices when preregistering for the symposium. Interestingly, relatively few participants had to be assigned to their second or third choices.
The working groups were each preassigned a leader and an expert consultant. The expert consultants had prepared working papers for their specific areas. In addition, symposium participants had been asked to provide lists of their concerns. Thus, each working group had an initial list of issues to address as well as some background information.
Each working group included a mixture of participants. For example, I was the expert consultant for the Secondary Education group. Our group included two school board members, a number of school and district-level administrators, several teachers, and several computer coordinators.
Each working group was assigned the task of identifying key issues, prioritizing the issues, suggesting solutions and making recommendations. All of this was to be accomplished during 10 hours of meetings. A written report was to be prepared for distribution to all symposium participants on the last day of the symposium. Computer facilities were provided to aid in this task.
One key issue addressed by the Secondary Education group was use of calculators and computers as aids to doing the calculations needed to solve various math problems. The group noted that calculator use is now allowed on a variety of province-wide school exams, and recommended that computer use also be allowed on such exams.
Each of the nine working groups accomplished their assigned duties. The final three hours of the symposium consisted mainly of hearing reports from the group leaders. Each symposium participant left with a 49-page document and overview knowledge of all nine areas. There was a strong spirit of camaraderie and excitement.
In the two months after the symposium, the report was revised, expanded, and distributed to all school districts in Alberta. I believe it will be a valuable resource document for several years to come. Alberta educators are to be congratulated for this design and implementation work. I hope that educators in other provinces and states will follow their lead.