Curriculum, Instruction, and the Internet
Moderator & Summariser: Muhammad Betz, Ph.D.
The purpose of this discussion is to focus on an educational use of the Internet other than web courses or supplements to courses. Why? A recent article related to Telematics and Internet based course development stated that every hour of web instruction was costing about 100 hours of preparation. Another reason is that Internet access is growing in schools universities and the corporate training arena. Therefore, this discussion will focus on the curricular and instructional aspects of the Internet for teachers and trainers who do not construct web courses or sophisticated web creations for use in higher education or corporate settings. Instead, I want to call on the expertise of the usual contributors and the less apparent "lurkers," who have knowledge of and experience with more traditional educational settings, such as public schools, and with less qualified personnel who struggle just to use technology.
This paper will first contend with curriculum, that is basically defined as the subject matter content that the Internet, more precisely, the World Wide Web, has to offer for direct import into the classroom or training room. The second contention will be instruction, which, in this context, is construed to be the way that Internet curriculum is strategically deployed in educational settings to promote learning. The guiding question is: how can the burgeoning resources of the Internet be used, AS IS, to enhance curriculum and instruction in traditional educational endeavours?
Again for the purposes of this discussion, I will draw a line of demarcation between the concepts of Curriculum and Instruction based on a methodology of course design that I frequently use (Posner & Rudnitsky, 1994). Curriculum is basically confined to the concepts of general, subject-matter content, whereas Instruction is denoted as the formation of units, thematic units, teaching strategies, and academic tasks that serve as the vehicle for curriculum.
The premise of adding to or providing curriculum via the Internet is based on the assumption that some of the information on the Internet overlaps with educational curriculum as shown.
The following terms are in effect for the discussion: Educational Curriculum—to identify school, corporate, and organisational subject matter; Internet Information—to identify the ocean of information available on the Web; and Web Curriculum—the overlap between the Educational Curriculum and the Internet Curriculum.
At present, the overlapping area in the above Venn diagram is an elusive commodity. Yes, there are art museums and libraries on the Web. Yes, there are numerous types of tutorials on the web related to computer applications, programming, multimedia production, and Web searching, to name a few examples. Yes, there are dictionaries, newspapers, encyclopaedias, academic papers, research reports, journals, periodicals, and more. Topic by topic and subject-by-subject there is curriculum on the Web. The question: How can the Web Curriculum supplement the Educational Curriculum. Better yet: How can the Web Curriculum be better optimised to enhance the Educational Curriculum?
A few prominent teacher educators in the U.S. have already created instructional devices for use with the Web by non-expert technology users. Dr. Bernie Dodge created WebQuest in about 1995 (see http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/webquest.html). Teachers and trainers of all ages of students can use the WebQuest (WQ) concept. WQ’s are constructed with: Introduction, Task, Resource list (the Web element), Process, Guidance and Conclusion components. A task such as exploring the solar system and devising hypothetical exploration voyages to the planets is introduced to groups of learners. Each group of students configures an expedition to a different planet, with the help of both Web-based and other information sources. Process guides are given, usually in the form of plan for operations as well as guidance tips for completing the task. The conclusion often consists of a presentation to the class using PowerPoint or HyperStudio, relating what the group has learned.
Dr. Judi Harris (1998) sets up a more daunting concept in the form of telecomputing activities (see http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~jbharris/Virtual-Architecture/), which take the form of collaborative projects between individuals or groups of learners. Examples of telecomputing activities include: keypals, impersonations, telefiedltrips, and social action projects, to name a few. These activities have authors/hosts who set up an activity and then allow laypeople to "sign-on" as participants. Each year sees different telecomputing activities appear and word of enlistment periods are circulated via listservs, periodicals, and professional organisations. One example of a social action project is the Holocaust/Genocide project that promotes awareness of genocide by providing links to on-line resources and virtual trips.
Another existing strategy that harnesses the Internet for instruction is the Walden’s Paths concept (Shipman, et al, 1999). Walden’s Path is specifically a three-part tool, consisting of a Path Authoring component, a Path Database and a Path Server. Teachers and students from varying subject areas and age levels device paths on the Internet for learners to travel to complete specified learning assignments. This instructional technique shares characteristics of WebQuests and telecomputing activities and can use a variety of pedagogical tactics (see: http://csdl.cs.tamu.edu/~dbrenner/walden.html).
These activities make use of existing Internet sources to construct instructional strategies that require learners to construct learning experiences in alignment with a prescribed curriculum. They have in common the characteristic of making use of existing Internet resources to provide instruction.
Premises for Curriculum, Instruction, and the Internet
The U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics predicted in February of 1999, that 99% of all public schools and 89% of classrooms would have at least one Internet connection by the end of the 1998-99 school year. Millions of dollars are being allocated to increase the level of Internet access in every conceivable educational setting, and most new users of the Internet will not be constructing web courses or telematic additions to their curricular and instructional endeavours. Instead, the teachers and trainers will be looking for methodologies and practices that allow them to tap in to the existing Internet and convert what they find into applicable curriculum and instruction.
The questions for discussion are as follows:
The discussion of the preceding paper occurred on the IFETS discussion list from January 14, 2000, to January 28, 2000.
Andrew McNeil, Scotland. Andrew asserts that the rationale and theory of Internet Based Learning is determined by the interplay of specific instructional strategies and ever-changing curriculum with the need to maximize economic output. As he states, "Much is still rooted to good educational practice and competencies therefore the same dynamics of group interaction, of differentiation, and of evaluation of resources by the (still, mostly, trusted) class teacher will entail-perhaps, the integration of this meta-tool." His main point is that openness of Internet for C&I is dependent on economic factors, but that by raising professional standards, economic difficulties could be mitigated.
Parker Rossman, USA. Parker envisions electronic textbooks continually revised based on feedback from students and an Internet encyclopedia likewise undergoing continuing revision. He sees students developing personal databases to evidence and foster their learning.
Andrew Seaton, Australia. Andrew addresses the fourth question related to a rationale for Internet use and witnesses the beginnings of such a rationale. Teachers in Australia are encouraged to not only use the Internet to improve existing practices but to create new practices.
Andrew notes that several writers have addressed the issue of a fundamental incompatibility of communication technologies and traditional school culture (e.g., S. Hodas, L. Cuban). He quotes Hodas’ view that educational technologies are incongruent with the hierarchy and competitive individualization of schools. He also criticizes the traditional view of curriculum espoused by Muhammad, of subject matter content, that clashes with constructivist notions of curriculum as well as the ethical/political values of the post-modern era, which focus on individual difference, autonomy and choice.
To the fifth question, Andrew refers to Xiadong and The Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt University that has identified five key principles of constructivist learning communities. Such communities would provide students opportunities to:
Andrew observes that the examples cited in Muhammad’s paper are also too subject-by-subject oriented and that the Internet should serve as a "door to the real world." In the activities promoted by Judi Harris there is indication of more constructivist approaches to learning, but often the implementation of such activities do not reflect a substantial shift to constructivist principles. He refers to Savey and Duffy (1995) who question the goals of such activities.
Lastly, Andrew addresses Muhammad’s second question related to specific strategies that teachers can use with the Internet. He answers that problem-based learning activities provide a meaningful, experiential basis for studies and activities in a wide variety of curriculum areas, and have the potential to fulfill the demands of student-centeredness, while at the same time satisfying the need for appropriate assessment and accountability. He suggests the site, KidSolutions, as an example.
Bill Ellis, USA. Bill states that Muhammad’s paper brings up the issue of Chaos, Complexity, and Gaian Theories. He suggests that learning is a series of feedback loops that first introduce and then reinforce and enlarge concepts stored in the brain. "Linear learning is based on the idea that by reading a book or by following a planned curricula one can learn. Nonlinear learning is based on feed back loops."
Bill asserts that our schools are premised on linear learning, but that current brain research finds that learning is nonlinear and relates to interrelations of feedback loops in a holonistic total. He expresses excitement that the Internet can make nonlinear learning much easier than textbook/traditional curricula
Manny Halpern, USA. Manny reflects on the relevance of constructivist pedagogy to adult education and training and the difference between education and training. Asserting a distinction between the two terms is useful for understanding the role of the Internet and designing the content, which it delivers. He states, "Assuming that educational programs address the acquisition of knowledge while training focuses skill acquisition, the role of the Internet (and the classroom) can better be defined." The Internet functions to deliver knowledge more than as a door to the real world. The Internet might not be the best place to learn skills.
Manny would like to see discussion related to constructivism and ways that adults can learn skills over the Internet. Do we need all 7 attributes of life-long learning? Can we apply the principles suggested by The Cognition and Technology Group to on-line training?
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania offers first a critique of Harris’ Virtual Architecture. She quotes Harris who states the premise that teachers must create Internet experiences for their particular students in the guise of instructional designers, not direction-followers. Ania asks, "Do we really know our students and hence can we really act on the belief of knowing them and as a result take the responsibility of functioning as Harris wishes…?"
Harris: "Choose educational activities that give students maximal return for the amount of time and effort that all of us must expend to ensure success."
Ania: "The efficiency argument always seems dangerous…." In general, Ania is concerned that Harris is forcing teachers to use the Internet into the role of clairvoyants. Teachers, using the Virtual Architecture context, would have to make all the major decisions on how the Internet is to be used and Ania asks, "…don’t we end up doing what we think is good but what at the same time is a one-sided conclusion?"
Richard Caldine, Australia. Richard works with the concepts of constructivism and instructivism. He sees a tension between flexibility and constructivism and states, "…as a subject increases in flexibility it seems that the degree of its constructiveness can be constrained." This is a problem particularly in the case of social construction. The result of this difficulty is a problem related to the formation of learning cohort groups.
Arthur M. Recesso, USA. Arthur writes in support of Bill Ellis, who said, "This is only possible, and only happening because information technologies have the potential to be much more than being add-ons to the school system.. We’ve only seen the embryonic beginning of their potential." Arthur agrees that we have only scratched the surface, but if we look at the work of Farance, Bork, Brusilovsky and others we can see that there is much being done. He refers also to Wenglinsky (1999) who mentions the rapid accumulation of technology in schools, but notes that he has not seen a critical mass of people having access to computers and bandwidth, or to appropriate teacher training.
Naude’ van der Merwe, South Africa. Naude states the following advantages for Internet: cheaper delivery, asynchronicity, equitable production costs. Disadvantages are: it is a complex maze, layout and navigation times hurt good content, programming and maintenance costs are high. He proposes as solutions to the disadvantages: educational institutions need to join forces.
Naude critiques the notion of teachers using the Internet: teachers are very busy, teachers lack expertise and time to build curriculum or build test banks. Internet does allow disadvantaged communities to gain parity; small business aspects are improved though big business aspects diminish. He urges the use of Adobe Acrobat to make texts and exam banks widely available on-line.
Brent Muirhead, USA. As veteran American high school teacher, Brent observes that it takes time for teachers to feel comfortable using the Internet in their classes, and that textbook publishers have really tried to make their books "Internet friendly" by using Web sites to supplement their curriculum materials. He feels that today's teachers are limited in the amount of time that they can devote to creating new Internet related instructional materials, and that more school districts will need to consider paying teachers to develop curriculum resources that effectively integrate the Internet into their subject areas.
Tom Abeles, USA. Tom asserts that the solution to Richard’s problem is focus on the management of the project as opposed to the movement of the students (cohort). Learning should proceed so that learners can proceed at an individual pace. Only in academia does the Ford model of mass production continue in which cohorts are moved form workstation to workstation. This problem does not relate to constructivism but to flexible learning.
Tom discourages the cohort concept as deskilling of the individual. He states that technology can assist by allowing students to find their own community and support. "The problem lies, not in the flexibility options of the conflict between constructivism and flexibility but in the calcification of the current academic model."
Jim Ewing, Scotland. Jim comments on Manny’s point related to education and training. He sees training as referring to the knowledge, understanding and skills which are the essential substance related to HOW to do a job, whereas education is more directed as the knowledge, skills and understanding relating to WHY that is the way to do the job. He cites as example the shift in terminology in the UK from the ‘official label’ of teacher training institutions to teacher education institutions.
Related to instruction (Jim would have preferred ‘learning’) involving the Internet, the concept of ‘classroom’ is restrictive, because, so much learning in higher education is now less the result of direct instruction in the classroom and more from teacher mediation beyond the classroom - advising, initiating, providing, monitoring, supporting, explaining, facilitating, overseeing, discussing, coordinating, organizing and most importantly, inspiring.
He mentions 6 bases for Constructivism: learning is personal growth; learning is through collaboration with others; conceptual learning is through active involvement; the learner should have personal autonomy and control over learning; learning is context based; and learning outcome is a perspective and an understanding.
In relation to the constructivist approach to Internet linked learning environments in higher education, he is presently working on a ‘model’ which is formulated around 5 principles of ICT (or more specifically internet based) learning: peer interaction and collaboration; significant learner autonomy in accessing and using learning material; computer based learning that personalizes and not depersonalizes a learning experience; learning outcomes predisposed to the electronic environment (and the Internet in particular); and a central and developing role for network literacy skills. Further, he identifies key network literacy skills: accessing resources, and creating personal learning resources and meaningful communication skills (synchronous and asynchronous exchange, two way communication etc.).
The challenges within this model are:
Early indications favor a careful structuring of course related tasks (testing not so much knowledge and skills as an understanding and ability to apply knowledge and skills to a ‘new scenario’) and a high level of tutor feedback. This latter is very demanding on tutor time but appears to be highly prized by students.
Catherine Burke, UK. Cathy expresses her interest in Andrew’s contribution, which talked about the incompatibility of the ICT and school culture. She goes on to reference R. McClintock, who suggests that ours is an era in which few have come to terms with the full challenge of technology. She suggests that a culture that has evolved around the book for the past 500 years cannot fail to disappoint the implementers of ICT. She quotes McClintock, "A tool (in this case the book) is not just invented and used; it may determine the shape of the school. Its use involves a number of problems that must be resolved. The interrelatedness of technologies creates complex problems that effect how schooling is designed or evolves."
Cathy continues that the networked computer has caused her to reflect on her role as facilitator or tutor in introducing networked learning in undergraduate courses. To her, while technology has changed knowledge production, little else has changed, with the culture of minds and classrooms still centered on books. Book courses create boundaries to collaboration and cooperative exchange and similar boundaries are transferred to network computer courses. She relates a recent experience of introducing web content to an undergraduate course and having to face the recidivism of students who required the traditional support to function. The reasons, she originally posited, were a lack of confidence for the students and the instructor with technology. Later, she surmised the reason for the failure of the course to actualize the potential of collaboration and cooperative exchange was due to the trenchancy of the traditional, book-oriented culture.
Alice Macpherson, Canada. Alice supports the conclusion that radical constructivism is more or less explicitly postmodern, and social constructivism comes from similar roots.
She also addresses a different post by Richard that affirms that constructivism can be constrained, if a subject is completely flexible in terms of entry and exit, delimiting the prospects of a cohort group and social construction. Alice counters that social construction is no more difficult in education than in the real world where people in cohorts are rarely at the same stage. She teaches in a number of modes, continuous entry, competency based, and trades training, and uses cooperative learning to build groups with a variety of abilities and knowledges into working entities for learning and development. There are times when people work individually as well. It is all VERY flexible.
Andrew Wallace, Australia. Andrew suggests that flexible delivery offers the potential to support constructivist learning, because the choices available to the students are enhanced i.e. the students determine the ways and speed by which they work through the course materials. The learner not only controls the pace of learning, but in a very real sense, also imposes metacognitive principles upon the resultant learning, thus supporting constructivist learning.
Flexible learning environments may or may not promote the interchange of ideas between the students, which promotes the construction of new levels of understanding. Further, the materials may contain approaches that are limiting. Flexible delivery is thus no more or less constructivist in nature than other potential means by which teaching and learning are supported. It all depends upon the nature of the tasks, and the way that these tasks are approached and undertaken by students.
Bob Leamnson, USA. Bob states that the terms, ‘educational curriculum and web curriculum" come burdened with emotional freight, and he uses the adage, "To a person intent on driving a nail, everything looks like a hammer." From that vantage point, he critiques Bill’s call for non-linear learning, which Bill opposed to linear learning. Bob feels that Bill has vilified linear learning and explains that although brain physiology, as explained by Bill, includes the concept of multiple connections of neurons; it does not exclude the concept of linear learning.
Bob suggests that Andrew Seaton is likewise driving a nail, which, in his case is constructivism. Bob notes that the constructivist view has two salient bases. The first emphasizes that something or anything can be learned, while the traditional view emphasizes that something specific must be learned. The second basis is that learners build their own knowledge. He says, "It’s something of a step to go from "building one’s own knowledge" to the belief that such knowledge is therefore essentially private, unique, and incommensurable with anyone else’s knowledge. For constructivists the notion that an individual’s knowledge should relate to some objective reality is out of vogue, but for others, content remains important.
Bob then refers to the question: should technology facilitate and enhance what we are now doing, or should we make a radical change and do whatever the technology makes possible? He warns against too much optimism related to the prospects of radical change, and he refers to H.L Mencken’s prescription to ‘hang the professors and burn the buildings’ as the only way to enact change in education. Bob closes by advocating that technology should be used to improve what teachers have long known to be the elements of good teaching.
Brent Muirhead, USA. Brent addresses the concept of self-directed learning and the Internet curriculum. He identifies the real problem consists in having students who vary greatly in their ability to direct their own learning experiences. He concludes that traditional and non-traditional schools struggle to provide curricula that meet diverse needs of a variety of students, while noting that the instructional setting also must stimulate teachers.
Brent’s solution is that teachers experiment with lesson materials. He posits the best assignments as those which stretch students intellectually but which do not overwhelm them. Specifically, he calls for on-line lecture transcripts to be supplemented by specific questions and class discussion forums, and he calls for increased funding for teachers who want more professional training in Internet education.
Andrew Seaton, Australia. Andrew S. comments that Bob is also driving a nail, i.e., the educational status quo. He corrects Bob’s view that he is driving the nail of constructivism to assert that his nail is the ethical/political issue of respect for young people. Constructivism is his hammer. Andrew adds that he is not a technological determinist and quotes Allan Kay, "Problems schools cannot solve without computers, they cannot solve with them."
Andrew disagrees with Bob’s premise that constructivism merely requires that something be learned and states that constructivism suggests that what is most important is WHO decides WHAT is learned and that both students and teachers conclude that the learning is relevant and meaningful. He calls for negotiations between students and teachers to determine what will be learned. In addition, Andrew explains that the Cognition and Technology Group is now charting Bob’s uncharted waters of constructivist curriculum theory, and we put ourselves at peril by not acknowledging the that constructivism fosters respect for the individual in the guise of choice, relevance and context in learning.
Andrew asks, "Whose goals currently determine what a student experiences? Not the student’s!" He closes by saying that the nail of human history is driving the nail of restructuring hierarchical and bureaucratic institutions and respect for all individuals.
Don Smith, USA. Don comments on Bob’s that the phrase, "building our own knowledge," is a tautology. He reiterates the truism that much curriculum is based on behaviorist theory. Many curriculum designers seek to disclosing knowledge and require learners to regurgitate it, and believe that teaching is simply pouring information into the student’s head. When one begins to recognize that students must build knowledge, one can devise curriculum that assists in building rather than conveying.
The need for constructivism is particularly relevant in computer-based curriculum, where there is no teacher to intervene and assist the building process. To Don, the most perplexing issue related to new technologies and asynchronous curriculum with computers is to find ways to help students build knowledge as opposed to just dumping facts into their heads.
Eric Flesher, USA. Eric comments on Bill Ellis’ assertion that schools are premised on linear learning, but that current brain research finds that learning is nonlinear and relates to interrelations of feedback loops in a holonistic total. (Note: holonarchy - implies an evolving form of hierarchy in which all the holons themselves are adapting and evolving, MKB)
Eric surmises that the Internet is non linear and if used for linear instruction the following results: (1) not tapping all Internet capabilities; (2) pouring old wine in new bottles (ala David Thornburg); and (3) setting up a hi tech regurgitation station, copying one source to the next. Better to start with the outcome-what kind of project and how will Internet be used to accomplish project goals. Topics should be in the context of true research questions and the product must be something other than accumulated information.
Muhammad Betz, USA. Muhammad refers to Eric’s and Bill’s discussion on linear and non-linear learning. He mentions that Eric has not acknowledged Bob’s statement that brain function is both linear and non-linear. Muhammad does not see a solid connection between brain function and non-linear learning and gives examples of non-linear brain functioning involved in watching television, basketball games and driving. He asks: Why would these activities be called learning. He then labels the study of the Arabic language as linear learning and relates his reluctance to acknowledge a rationale for Internet use in education based on linear and non-linear learning.
Christine Raedman, USA. Christine comments first on Cathy’s comments about books shaping schools. She sees technology as a tool comparable to a pencil. Sitting inactive, the pencil has little worth; in the student’s hand it is invaluable. When the student is placed in every student’s hand, its worth magnifies. The critical need today is to provide technology for disadvantaged students. She asserts that technology can be made available to the greatest number of students through electronic books and notes of a consideration by the state of Texas to use only electronic textbooks, student portable computers and free Internet provider services as a promising sign.
Teacher educators must change the process of teacher education to include using the Internet in instruction and curriculum. The key to using the Internet as part of instruction in elementary schools is designing the best quality teacher education curriculum possible. Teachers so trained will feel comfortable with technology and want to put it in the hands of their students.
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania references Cathy who argues against textbook centered teaching. Ania wonders if it is the classroom or the book that is at fault, whether it is the walls and the books that dictate what we teach. She calls for exploration by students in order to empower students. She states that the books and walls are not the problem is evidenced by effective cases of home schooling and by effective teaching methods that give people life and motivation as schools should.
Charles Adamson, Japan. Charles also does not see the connection between linear/non-linear learning and brain functions. However, he disagrees with the notion that daily activities, like watching T.V. or a basketball game do not constitute learning. He states that what is going on in such situations is not conscious learning, but it is learning. Charles believes that there are two dimensions to learning. The first is termed conscious/non-conscious (or explicit/implicit). This dimension suggests the battleground of language teachers related to the teaching or non-teaching of grammar either directly or indirectly. The second dimension of learning is the self-initiated/other initiated. Schools generally use ‘other initiated’ learning. All aspects of a set of selected learning materials depend on the choice of learning dimension.
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania comments that Muhammad’s pre-discussion paper proposes curriculum as instruction and vice versa, in principle simply reflecting a different level of the same phenomenon. She sees goals, i.e, curriculum, naming what the course is to achieve, with the instructional phase requiring an explication of the relationship between the goals and the means. What is missing are the principles for this organization other than a reference to an intuitive division between the ‘general concept’ and the ‘vehicle.’ Maybe, she asks, the division is redundant and unnecessary?
Ania refers to Bob’s assertion that brain function does not rule out linear activity or learning. She disagrees and states that we seem to perceive things in batches. Regarding the assertion that building knowledge is a tautology, she says that her work is built on a principle that seems almost a tautology. She asks: Why do students often study and then during exams, seem unable to mobilize the things that they learned? She argues that most things studied at school are not about building knowledge but about the preparation of students to build someone else’s knowledge once, as Lyotard puts it, the novice is transformed into an accomplished equal (Lyotard, 1992: 24). She hopes that the power-element regarding the issue of defining knowledge is inflected from Lyotard’s sarcasm.
Why Technology? She says that inventions have never created a change: change seems to be more a matter of application. Take chalk for example: since chalk in itself implies no change in the practice, the practice is not changed by chalk. Along the same lines, computer-pages may replace book-pages. But this does not yet mean that an educational revolution at hand. If we do want a revolution at the level of educational principles, we have to look at the principles themselves.
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania questions Muhammad’s statement that WebQuests, Walden’s Paths, and Virtual Architecture offer integrative means to use the Internet in the classroom. She asks, "Do they offer such conditions? What does interactive mean and what does mean in relation to education?" She sees a danger of misrepresentations flowing from interactive models of communication into education. Ania refers to her statements about Judi Harris’ Virtual Architecture that interaction in that model is one-sided. She asks if interaction consists of the possibility to click and go somewhere on the net and if teaching methodology is alternative between unspecified and specified things.
Ania turns to Bourdieu, a sociologist, regarding interaction. "Utterances receive their value (and their sense) only in relation to a market, characterized by a particular law of price formation." Who or by virtue of what mechanism do interaction-models establish laws to value our explanations and exploratory structures? She quotes Bourdieu, who says, "The value of utterance depends on the relation of power that is concretely established between the speakers’ linguistic competencies, understood both as their capacity for production and as their capacity for appropriation and appreciation."
She asks, where is the power in our models coming from? She refers to Bourdieu who asserts that the value of a model relates to the capacity of the agents involved to impose their criteria of appreciation most favorable to them. She explains that some understandings can be established but these may not relate to what regulates instructional events. She closes by noting that the concept of interaction is a lot bigger and more encompassing than is generally thought.
Joan Freedman, USA. Joan refers advance organizers to be like the scaffold of a building. When you look at the scaffold you can get a rough idea of what the building will look like, and it serves as a framework upon which to hang the details.
Muhammad Betz, USA. Muhammad comments on Ania’s reaction to the term interaction and to her comments on Judi Harris’ Virtual Architecture and claims that telecomputing activities are more interactive than conceived by Ania. He gives as example ‘pooled data analysis’ in Harris’ main category of Problem Solving, in which students from multiple settings and classrooms gather data, build a database, then collaboratively analyze the date, using the Internet as a their medium. Muhammad goes on to say that what the participants of this listserv do is ‘interaction.’
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania comments on Muhammad’s reference to Harris’ telecomputing activities encouraging interaction with the Internet. She notes a role for teaching people how to use other resources as well. What interests her however are the goals, or more exactly the practical applications of inventions, the things that people see as worthwhile about the inventions or exercises. How do we know what we do in teaching is what we think we do and how do we know this is a good thing, she asks? She sees reasons for learning to use Internet but wonders if there might be side effects to our teaching of it.
Related to power: What justifies our beliefs about the appropriateness of our design/models/feedback that we use? Do we think that the concept of the teacher as an architect is good? Maybe, but the notion must be articulated. She says, "I am not sure whether what is understood as traditional is not simply an overproduction of a jargon which makes a claim to legitimacy through strategies which declare the past uniform and the same, everywhere (cf. Global Awards, i.e., American Awards, i.e., Hollywood Awards, i.e. behind closed doors of close friends, i.e., I say you do = that’s how systems of values are produced).
Lester Gilbert, UK. Lester restricts the term, interaction, in relation to those involved in instructional systems development. Lester agrees that when ‘interaction’ is used loosely it is difficult to apply anywhere as a term. Technically, Lester states that Interaction consists of the following components:
Dennis Nelson, USA. Dennis reflects on interaction in a broad sense related to time and space in ways not fully understood. He sees a smile, affecting a day and transcending generations, as a continuum, rather than a point in time or space. Interactions can be immense or miniscule and are neither bad or good in themselves, depending instead on our interpretation of them. Until we agree on education’s purpose, how can we assess its success.
Cathy Burke, UK. Cathy address Ania’s question: "Is the classroom at fault or the textbook?" She refers to students in an on-line learning situation on this point who miss the input of the traditional classroom environment.
Authority and Authorship. As a teacher Cathy is interested in creating environments that encourage the learner towards autonomy and self-reliance, active learning and critical thinking. Traditional teaching models have been shaped around a ‘sage’ and the book, and for many students, learning stops there. As a student 20 years ago, Cathy was encouraged by ‘the wild and wonderful Marxist’ historian, Gwynn A. Williams, who treated books with disdain and used to say, "be thoroughly un-British!" with students, open them up, pull them apart, treat them like your worst enemy, struggle and win. She observes students now treating the web like a giant book with all the answers. What she likes about on-line learning is that authorship can be reflected upon and shifted from center stage, which is difficult to achieve in a classroom. To give the best chance to achieve autonomous, independent, self reliant, collaborative learning, perhaps the web should be used as something other than a massive library.
She has been experimenting with a text based role-play using asynchronous discussion. The students have produced a large archive of messages in roles. As instructor, Cathy, was gradually excluded from these student interchanges.
Brent Muirhead, USA. Brent states that he has researched social interaction and interactivity between graduate students and between students and their teachers in a computer -mediated distance education program highlighted the importance of consistent on-line communication. He notes that it is interesting that our forum reflects the challenges of developing a curriculum and relevant academic dialog for Internet education. This task will require having teachers who are willing to invest the time and energy into serious interaction activities. Brent’s best Internet teachers were great at providing feedback (comments or answers questions) in a timely matter. Yet, many distance educators struggle with their Internet classes. Often, today’s on-line teachers are working at a full time job besides teaching Internet classes. Teacher time constraints will eventually impact the level and quality of social interaction in an Internet class.
Ania Lian, Australia. Ania refers to Cathy’s comments on authority in educational settings, and concludes that the need for authority comes from insecurity.
She asks, "Do learners need the teacher to pat them and tell them that they do well, or do they need to find a source of security within themselves?" Ania agrees with Cathy’s assessment that students have difficulty questioning authority, and that teachers need to think more of how to overcome the difficulty. Ania closes by saying that we do not need computers to shift students’ attention from center stage.
Scott Overmyer, USA. Scott comments on these lines by Glen Ralston: ‘How much longer will we pretend that a classroom is four walls, table and chairs...Can universities safely continue to deny the inquiring mind?’ Scott adds that in his opinion few universities are denying the inquiring mind and explains that university students are not completely task-oriented and focused on education: part of the student experience relates to maturation. Scott asks: how will the social context of the classroom and residential experience be preserved while taking full advantage of technology?
Tom Abeles, USA. Tom answers Scott’s questions by asserting that the issues will be resolved based on economics and that the on-campus experience will be much more expensive. As costs rise, the government will default to lower cost options from whatever source. Campuses will look more like urban malls, a far cry from ivy-covered walls, with "tweed jacketed academics wandering to and fro speaking of Michelangelo.
Charles Adamson, Japan. Charles notes that Jens has introduced the terms ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ and equates them with his implicit/explicit, but disagrees with the equation. Jen’s terms refer to delivery, while his terms refer to information. Implicit or explicit information refers to whether the learning is conscious or non-conscious for the student. The distinction is particularly important to language learning, related to grammar and vocabulary, in traditional or content classes.
The teacher is interested in implicit/explicit goals, and it appear that the teacher should try to make as many goals as possible explicit, in order to improve methods. Charles has developed the idea that the psychological complexity of the thing learned determines whether information/skills explicit of implicit. If the material is simple: explicit (see Anderson’s ACT); if not: implicit (see Reber’s massive input). He closes by saying that both the formal and informal, the explicit and implicit dimensions will have a large effect on course or material design, whether traditional or technological.
Charles also comments in an earlier post on a statement by Ania: ‘I wonder whether it is the classroom that is at fault and whether it is the book that is at fault, i.e., whether it is the walls and the book that dictate to use what to do?’
Charles responds that he has been investigating learning from the vantage of complexity theory, noting a huge number of variables that interact, thus making redundant results unlikely. He cites categories of these variables: student related, mood related, teacher related, method related, materials related, classroom related, administration related, and society related. All these categories are interrelated and in response to Ania, he says that any and all of the things she has listed could be at fault in a fluctuating relationship to other variables.
Scott Overmyer, USA. Scott replies to Tom’s post regarding the economic dictates that will restructure higher education along lines of technological expediency. Scott’s university is now offering on-line graduate degrees, for example. However, he says that the cost of production of on-line courses could be unattractive. On-line course still have a maximum enrollment cap and maximum teaching load and the communications infrastructure is expensive. If the quality is maintained, distance education might not be cheaper.
As for the luxury status of residential university status: student living is usually pretty cheap and as long as the government needs academic research, government funding will reduce cost to students. Listening to a lecture on a computer is not equivalent to face-to-face class or student experiences on a Carnegie Research-type university.
David Wiles, USA. David wonders if these pieces of the more extended discussion of curriculum and instruction also offer doorways to the long standing debate: what distinguishes a Macintosh user from a pc user, both in the early days when Mac’s had the only icons since Windows 95. He recalls that in those days word games shifted between charges and countercharges or expert versus novice as ‘consumer’ as ‘customer’ of emerging technologies. The ‘better’ technology depended mostly on the previous investment of the buyer or user. In the mid-80’s there were word wars equivalent to the parry and thrust of the current discussion.
David suggests a shift in intellectual gears from ideological commitment to absolutist purity in two ways: concede that ‘contextual embedding’ is a pragmatic condition where both can occur in an ‘episodic’ and ‘simultaneous’ overlay; the technology response to smart learners facing an either-or unitary choice was to become adept in ‘parallel technologies.’
In the latter option, the monopolist (e.g., Microsoft, Intel) is not expected to desist the capitalist tendency, nor is the upstart expected to stop hoping to be the exclusive replacement. The complexity of the market will prevail. If one cannot believe in the dissipative features of complexity per se, he asks, how about Gould’s punctuated equilibrium that allows ‘hopeful mutants’ by chance alone?
In such a context, ‘smart learning’ meant becoming proficient in both Mac and pc: look for bridging options and use both. He suggests that readers pretend to be a lefthanders in a righthanders’ world who promotes ‘bothhandedness’ for both the survivability of multiple perspectives and pragmatic options.
Chris Jones, UK. Chris supports Ania’s reference to Bourdieu’s views of interaction, which bring in all the elements of the social context, not just those that may be the immediate locus of attention. Chris reflects that with interactions online, students and tutors focus upon assessment and accreditation. Day to day, online interaction is marked by a ‘technology of accountability’ that stretches beyond the sites of teaching and learning. He refers to Kvale who writes of authority systems implied in examinations. Education consists largely in defining what knowledge is and accrediting people as bearers of knowledge: not a trivial or unimportant task. Strict systems of assessment and accreditation ensure educational products. Chris states that as far as new technologies are globalizing education and making possible ‘virtual’ universities, the impact of technological aspects on the accreditation process must be considered. Also, with respect to the immediate interactions of an online environment, more attention needs to be given the reciprocal concerns of grading.
Chris closes by discounting the conventional distinction between ‘sage on a stage’ and ‘guide on the side’ by asserting that both are authority figures, and he concludes that online education does not escape authority constraints.
Richard Rothwell, UK. Richard refers to Tom Abeles statement that technology centric campuses will look more like urban malls. He adds that he is intrigued by the idea of local study centers evolving to support lonely cyber-students to the extent that a small town could support a micro-university. In the UK, the technology run Open University has more students than any other, because it allows students to work and go to school. He asks, "Is it possible to build these places, maintain academic and social benefits, while being able to offer something of the conservations in the cloisters to the less well off?"