3.564 CAI blues, cont. (131)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 10 Oct 89 21:00:10 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 564. Tuesday, 10 Oct 1989.

(1) Date: Mon, 09 Oct 89 21:37:21 EDT (99 lines)
Subject: Computer-Assisted Instruction

(2) Date: Mon, 09 Oct 89 22:39:27 EDT (12 lines)
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: CAI woes

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 09 Oct 89 21:37:21 EDT
Subject: Computer-Assisted Instruction

As several Humanists have pointed out, CAI is only the latest in
a long line of teaching aids, starting no doubt with the invention of
the clay tablet; teaching and learning properly occur in the interaction
between instructor and student, augmented, it is to be hoped, by the
latter's attempt to get hands-on experience in the field of study.

However, CAI is a *powerful* teaching aid, and even in its less palatable
manifestations (page turners, yes/no questions, etc) has been shown at
the very least to do no harm. There is something fascinating to students
about interacting with computerized learning materials, no matter how
paltry we supposed experts deem these materials to be.

It is true that there is precious little in *commercial* CAI that rises
above the mundane (with some splendid exceptions, such as the one cited
by Joel Goldfield - Syste'me d, for French) and the large majority of
exceptional programs are not those destined for the Humanities. But
can that not also be said of commercial textbooks? How many of us are
fully satisfied with those available (unless, of course, we have authored
them)? And how many of us slave over hand-outs, supplements, in whatever
medium, so that our students may have something ressembling adequate
learning materials? Yet we do not condemn the textbook publishers out
of hand.

There is an analogous situation in the field of CAI - a great deal of
in-house work, ranging from the simple to the complex, but all designed
or perhaps customized by specific instructors for a specific group of
students. I would quarrel with the Humanist who said that he had had to
learn to program in order to create CAI materials on PLATO. This
statement leaves the impression that instructors *still* have to
learn, painfully and at length, some programming skills.
PLATO is an *authoring system* NOT a programming language,
and there's a great difference between the two. An authoring
system allows the non-programmer to create materials (pedagogical or
otherwise) without having to learn to program. In this way, much in-
house CAI is being developed. At Guelph, for example, we have two
homegrown systems, a videotext authoring program called VITAL which is
used extensively in the sciences, and a conferencing system called CoSy,
cited by another Humanist. An off-shoot of Cosy (called T-Cosy...um..)
is dedicated to pedagogical uses ranging from student/instructor
contact, to delivery of and comment on assignments and delivery of
course materials. Perhaps my colleague and fellow Humanist Stuart
Hunter, one of the pioneers in this area, would be willing to
describe the use of T-CoSy for English.

In the field of language learning, which is the only one I can claim to
be reasonably familiar with (obviously not the English language - to wit
one split infinitive and one dangling preposition in the same sentence!)
authoring systems such as MicroScope, MacLang, PROMPT, to mention three
very different ones, allow the instructor to custom-design language-
learning materials. At Guelph, we have resident in our Language
Learning Centre (fashionable reincarnation of the former Language Lab)
tutoring programs (CLEF, for beg-interm. Anglophones learning French;
EGAPO, for Francophones and advanced Anglophones needing remedial
help), PROMPT (authoring system for French, English, Italian, German
and Latin, limited to cloze or multiple choice, but quite effective
in the hands of a competent instructor). I am working on a pedagogical
parser which hopefully will pick up the basic morpho-syntactical errors
produced by the typical Anglophone writing in French, as well as
collaborating on an interactive videodisc using French Canadian
culture as a reference point for language learning.

Elsewhere, there are many different types of programs which have been or
are in the process of being developed: interactive "dialogue" games
using AI techniques, such as the French and Latin programs created by
George Mulford and Gerry Culley at Delaware; communicative activity
programs such as Graham Davies' DEAUVILLE; text-reconstruction programs
such as John Higgins' QUADTEXT; even authoring systems for interactive
language games (Roger Kenner). In short, there is much being done;
the problem is finding out who is doing it and where. Most of the
programs cited began as (and many remain) in-house research projects
launched by one or more faculty members; often there is
collaboration between several institutions.

I would also take issue with the notion that one can only make use of
CAI if splendidly equipped with all the lastest hardware and that in
great quantity. We started out with two machines, did some creative
scheduling, and built up from there. No networks, no servers... even
today we only use stand-alones. For word processing in all the languages
that we offer, a college edition of WP, two IBM's and a printer
seem to suffice for the moment for our 500 or so students. Note:
the language lab staff does the printing out from diskettes handed in
by the students... if you don't want to replace your printer(s)
every few months, don't let students near it (them)! The College of Arts
will shortly open a 20-position computer lab which includes both IBM's
and Macs, but I expect that the special needs of second language
students will still be better met by the language lab staff.

As a reviewer for some CALL journals (Computer-Assisted Language
Learning), I am amazed at the number of very small institutions, without
access to much funding, which are turning out CAI materials. Very
often they re-invent the wheel, true. But I, for one, have no objections
to wheel-reinvention. At least the wheel in question is being reinvented
with a specific car, specific road conditions, and specific purposes in
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------20----
Date: Mon, 09 Oct 89 22:39:27 EDT
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: CAI woes

I can sympathize with Mark Riley's plight that his university does not
have adequate computing facilities for CAI applications. But I believe his
original remark was to the effect that he had not found suitable CAI
materials. Surely it is not the fault of CAI that his university cannot make
use of such matter. Blame should be laid at the feet of the local
administration for not supplying the necessary hardware. I am afraid all of
this only proves that "large public institutions" are sometimes more large
than great.