3.979 Offline 27 (373)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Tue, 30 Jan 90 20:42:04 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 979. Tuesday, 30 Jan 1990.

Date: Monday, 29 January 1990 2306-EST
Subject: OFFLINE 27

Attached is the draft of OFFLINE 27, which will be submitted
for hardcopy publication to the listed newsletters. Comments
from HUMANIST readers are welcome, especially if they enhance
accuracy and clarity. RAK

<<O F F L I N E 2 7>>
by Robert Kraft
[29 January 1990 Draft, copyright Robert Kraft]
[HUMANIST 29 January 1990]
[Religious Studies News 5.2 (March)]
[CSSR Bulletin 19.2 (April)]

The number of this column should be OFFLINE 27a. It is a
rewrite, more or less, of column 27 which has gone off to
electronic heaven (or wherever) with the other materials on my
suddenly defunct harddisk. As someone was overheard saying at a
computer conference, "A fool and his data are soon parted!"
While I don't usually compose on my IBM XT, and I don't usually
turn it off without transferring material to another system or
to diskette, this time I did, and I hadn't. Some of you may be
feeling mixed emotions of empathy and self-exoneration. I'ts
happened to you, and even the "experts" screw up. Yes. Do as I
say, not as I do. Be sure to make backups!

Anyhow, the column theme is "Computer Assisted Instruction"
(CAI) or, as some prefer, "Computer Assisted Learning" (CAL).
In the lost original column I said some clever things about how
OFFLINE has promised for a long time to deal with CAI/CAL but
has not done so. I won't be so clever this time around. It's
Saturday morning, and I have other things to do. The reason for
this theme at this time is that the Computer Assisted Research
Group proposes to have a session on CAI at the 1990 annual
meetings of SBL/AAR/ASOR in New Orleans, so I'm priming you to
think about that subject. And the reason I have not talked much
about it before in OFFLINE is that I have very ambivalent
feelings personally about CAI. Now is a good time to try to
explain (or to figure out) why.

<Computing and the Educator-Scholar in General>

I have no abmivalence whatsoever about the value of the
computer in the life of the academic. "Wordprocessing" alone is
usually worth the price of the equipment. Not only can I write
and store (make backups!) books and articles and reviews, but
also syllabi, recommendations, letters, memos, addresses,
telephone numbers, bibliographical items, and so on. All of
this is easily possible in wordprocessing mode, although some
things can be handled even more effectively with other special
software (e.g. bibliographies, indices, address lists). On the
record keeping side (grades, budgets, taxes, etc.), a good
"spreadsheet" program is extremely useful, and can even be
adapted to various other needs that depend on column structure
for non-mathematical materials (e.g. word lists with
definitions and analysis). Updating and printing the results of
these various endeavors is usually a quite simple matter, and
very fancy "hardcopy" products are often possible (e.g.
multilingual text, inclusion of graphs or maps or even

At the various levels of basic research and information
access that undergird the life of an educator-scholar, the
computer can also greatly facilitate matters. For some things
you will need to be connected to an electronic network of some
sort -- for example, to access library catalogues or
collections of texts and data available only "online," or to
get at student records and other "administrative" data, or to
interact with colleagues and centers electronically. Some
things might still be done most effectively on a "large"
mainframe or a medium sized mini-computer, although in the
humanities, the number of such tasks seems to have shrunk
dramatically. In my own work, I use the mainframe as an access
to electronic networks (Libraries, BITNET, etc.), as a means
for manipulating certain 9 track tape formats, and for running
a complex morphological analysis program; I use a mini mostly
for largescale editing, uncomplicated tape handling, and
preparing data for CD-ROM publication.

Otherwise, mindboggling types and amounts of academic work
can be done on one's own personal "micro" machine. And you
don't need to be very expert, if you know how and where to find
the information and advice you need. Among the most obvious
general sources of which I am aware are John Hughes, BITS,
BYTES, & BIBLICAL STUDIES (Zondervan 1987), which will continue
for years to be an extremely useful introduction and detailed
reference tool despite the fact that many of the programs and
projects it describes will have changed (or perhaps
disappeared) in the period since the book was researched; THE
HUMANITIES COMPUTING YEARBOOK (volume 1 = 1988), edited by Ian
Lancashire and Willard McCarty at the University of Toronto
(Oxford, starting 1989), which updates and considerably expands
some of the information in Hughes; Susan Hockey, A GUIDE TO
which provides a good overview of the sorts of things that
researchers can do with computers, although now the machinery
has changed radically from 1980. To try to keep up with the
various aspects of humanities scholarly computing today
(articles, conferences, books and reviews, etc.), consult the
special journals in the field, especially LITERARY AND
(Kluwer). And see that your local academic library has them!

As I have mentioned before, and will continue to mention,
there often is a frustrating rift between the regular ongoing
activities of the older professional societies and the relevant
activities of computer oriented research. Journals such as JBL,
JAAR, RSR and BASOR need to be more aggressive about including
information on computer tools -- e.g. reviews of software or of
electronic data that is directly relevant to the clientele, or
even review articles covering computer related areas. By all
indications, the number of scholars who would profit from such
innovations is significant and growing. These needs deserve to
be addressed in the traditional contexts. Let the appropriate
persons in your professional societies know if you share these
concerns, and volunteer to be involved (e.g. as reviewers) if
you are in a position to do so.

<Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)>

But I am avoiding the main announced subject of this OFFLINE
column, namely CAI/CAL. By this I mean the use of computers in
the formalized student/teacher relationship, either by actually
incorporating computers as part of the formal classroom
experience or by using them as a formal part of the extra-
classroom components of the course (laboratory type drills,
homework assignments, supplementary assistance/tutorials,
examinations, teacher/student communication and interaction,
etc.). Most OFFLINE readers are probably actual or potential
CAI/CAL users. My suspicion is that in general, except for
language courses, the formal use of computers in classrooms is
rare in religious studies and associated fields.

Although I do not myself teach language acquisition at a
formal level, I would almost certainly try to use CALL
techniques if I did. Some of the reasons are obvious, in view
of the subject matter. Linguistic relationships are mostly
predictable. Practice and standard drills are usually important
for acquisition of language skills. What has traditionally been
done in language textbooks and workbooks can be done even more
effectively through interactive computer software. The students
can move at their own pace, to some degree, learning and
practicing everything from the formation of letters (e.g. using
an electronic drawing pad) and even sounds (on appropriate
equipment) to the analysis of lexical forms (morphology) and
relationships (syntax), to the simple meanings and usage of
words and constructions, to more advanced exercises. They can
test themselves, with cleverly written software assisting them
to understand their predictable errors. They can play
educational games (e.g. hangman) that help overcome feelings of
monotony or drudgery in the learning experience. In this type
of educational situation I have no serious ambivalence. For
some examples of what is available, see the literature
mentioned above (especially Hughes' book and the YEARBOOK).

The same factors that make CALL attractive for foreign
language learning are also applicable to some other subjects,
to some degree. A wide variety of programs have been developed
to assist with English composition, for example, both for
native English speakers and for "English as a Second Language"
(ESL). This is still "language learning," of course, but at a
more advanced level. And to the extent that one is
uncomfortable about dictating that everyone should write in the
same general style (e.g. regarding sentence length, use of
particles, repetition of vocabulary, sentence structure,
punctuation, etc.), the appeal of using software that might
suggest such a norm may lessen. Far along at the other end of
this discussion is the often controversial topic of "Artificial
Intelligence" (AI). To the extent that our machines can be
programmed to think like we do, to that extent our software for
such things as English composition can be sufficiently
sophisticated to avoid being guilty of deceptive

In many ways, subjects such as music or art would seem to
have aspects similar to language learning, for which CAI/CAL
approaches have obvious value, to a point. And some teachers
have been exploiting these situations. As the computer
technology gets more sophisticated with respect to sound and
graphics, its appeal for such fields will become all the
greater. Those of us who experienced the rock video
demonstration presented by Virginia and Norman Badler to the
CARG session in Atlanta in 1986, as an example of possible
archaeological modelling, will appreciate the possibilities.
More recently, the Perseus Project directed by Gregory Crane at
Harvard is combining various linguistic, literary,
archaeological, artistic, topographic, encyclopedic, and other
approaches to knowledge in a data bank for classicists that
will enable a much broader and more integrated approach to
CAI/CAL in that subject matter.

<CAI/CAL Ambivalence and Frustration>

Although my students, especially the graduate students, are
well aware of the value of computers in the sort of work we do,
I have not yet set up any formal CAI/CAL components in my
courses. (I am not counting the times that individual students
are encouraged to so some searching of ancient texts on IBYCUS
or other systems; or when I wheel a terminal into class to
illustrate some point or another.) The reasons for this are
varied, but probably the most important one is that I do not
know of any appropriate software already developed for the
classes I am teaching (mostly on Judaism and Christianity in
the Greco-Roman worlds), and I have not considered it a
priority to take time to develop such software at this point.
In the very near future, I plan to try at least one CAI/CAL
experiment, using John Abercrombie's CINEMA software that
assists the instructor in adding various supplementary types of
information and enlightenment to a video disk production. We
propose to annotate the film "The Last Temptation of Christ"
for use in a course on Jesus.

There are already humanistic subjects and courses (other
than CALL types) for which appropriate CAI software does exist.
Information about these projects is available from a variety of
sources. The large microcomputer manufacturers have funded such
developments and have established such aids as the periodical
entitled WHEELS FOR THE MIND (Apple Computer, P.O. Box 810,
Cupertino CA 95015), on Mac oriented projects by and for
educators, or the "WiscWare" distribution center for academic
software prepared with IBM Educational Grant funding (tel 800-
543-3201 or 608-262-8167). A variety of users groups (or
"special interest groups" = SIG) have been established over the
years and have often collected and distributed CAI/CAL software
of various sorts and in various stages of development as well,
with oganizations such as "National Collegiate Software" (Duke
University Press, 6697 College Station, Durham NC 27708)
refining that model. Indeed, the problem is not so much
locating sources for CAI/CAL type software, but in actually
choosing from the virtually undifferentiated mass of available
items some that might possibly be relevant and operative for
your purposes. That also takes time, and often at least an
intermediate level of computer competence.

But even if one has time to discover and search the
available catalogues of possibly useful CAI/CAL software, and
is able to obtain and test potentially attractive items, and
actually finds something appropriate, what then? To my
knowledge, there are few schools equipped to deal with serious
CAI/CAL humanities situations, my own included. Our audio-
visual center has not yet made the transition to computer
centered AV, although it is moving in that direction. We have
one small "humanities" workroom equipped with some IBM and some
Apple Mac machines, but hardly enough to conduct a class of 20
or more students comfortably. And there are many demands on
that room, especially for use by the "computers and humanities"
courses as well as for CALL needs. Probably more than half of
our students have their own computers, but they are not all the
same make of computer and usually are not networked to the
University. Thus there is no easy way to make classroom use of
computers or to require extra-classroom assignments that go
beyond personal wordprocessing types of activity or to
communicate with the students electronically.

<An Optimistic Projection>

It will probably be several years before adequate facilities
and software exist to make effective classroom CAI/CAL in the
humanities a reality for most of us. We all have our own
approaches to the subject matter, and it would be unusual to
find that software developed by one teacher in a particular
situation would be fully acceptable to another. Neverthless,
just as we now make use of required "textbooks" to provide a
common base of knowledge for our students, it should soon
become commonplace for course assignments to include electronic
data and approaches. General "authoring systems" are being
developed which establish a context in which the individual
teacher ("author") can tailor the subject matter to the
computer program. Whether and to what extent these will prove
successful in humanities courses remains to be seen. For
predictable "quiz" type of activities, with the instructor
supplying (modifying, annotating, etc.) questions and
acceptable ranges of answer (which could be automatically
graded and to some extent commented upon), this could be an
obvious benefit. For those of us who do not normally use this
type of quiz procedure, however, it is not so attractive. And
as the desired coverage becomes more broad and less predictable
(as in historical "modelling," where students can change
certain variables in the past historical situation to determine
what might have happened if ...), it becomes more difficult to
develop effective software.

Both in the short run and in the long run, the CAI/CAL
possibility that attracts me most is development of the
electronic "textbook," similar to the Perseus project for
classics mentioned above. Compact disk (CD-ROM) and related
technologies are making it possible for a wide assortment of
data and data types (text, notes, bibliography, graphs, maps,
still and moving pictures, sound and music, etc.) to be
integrated on a single disk, which can then be accessed in a
myriad of combinations directed by the user. These are the
textbooks of the near future, and they will be both exciting
and highly effective as educational tools. They need to be
produced by experts in the subject matter, working in
cooperation with experts in the presentation technology. They
depend on the availability of a large range of electronic data
that can be successully integrated, and on the sophisticated
software that can make it easy to get at such data in a high
variety of configurations. Assignments of the "find out all
that you can about ..." type will challenge the skills of the
individual users to move through, and beyond, the available
data in physical contexts of their own choosing (at home, in
the library, in labs), and to enter class more solidly prepared
for discussion and presentation (I'm such an optimist!).

It is not an easy road to the realization of such hopes.
Encoding of even textual data is still in its infancy in most
fields, not to mention graphical and sound data. While CD-ROM
technology is becoming widely used, it still tends to be
located in libraries and labs rather than on "private"
machines, and it cannot yet be considered "inexpensive." But
things change rapidly (do we need to be reminded!?) and our
very anticipation of the future may itself be an important
factor in making it arrive more quickly. One can already obtain
glimpses of that future in such products as the OXFORD ENGLISH
DICTIONARY on CD-ROM with special searching software, or in
GROLLIERS ENCYCLOPEDIA on CD-ROM, including pictures and sound.
Somewhere down the line I see an educational environment in
which the students and instructors have powerful portable
machines with CD-ROM type devices and electronic hypertextbooks
for consultation in private or in class, and a resultingly
enhanced educational experience for all. There will be stations
for plugging into networks or into special printers for
particular needs, and "drill" type of assignments, and
electronic quizzes, but the heart of it all will focus on
interactive information access on the one side, and interactive
discussion with knowledgeable students and instructor on the
other. Thus assisted by computers, the instruction and learning
will hopefully be greatly enhanced.

<Brief Notes>

The SBL ATARI ST User Group Newsletter 4.1 (January 1990) is
now available from Douglas Oakman, 870-120th Street South,
Takoma WA 98444 (tel 206 537-2376; OAKMAN_D1@PLU1.BITNET), with
the usual menu of valuable information (including some
attractive print samples in Hebrew, Greek, Coptic and Syriac).

Two articles in the September 1989 issue of ACADEMIC
COMPUTING on the ideal "scholar's workstation" may be of
special interest to OFFLINE readers, and also the article on
"The Future of the Scholarly Journal" (in an increasingly
electronic environment).

The American Philological Association has established an
Editorial Board for Non-Print Publications which will review
electronic materials including scholarly literature, utilities
and research tools for possible publication with Scholars
Press. This is a step to be lauded and emulated.


Please send information, suggestions or queries concerning
OFFLINE to Robert A. Kraft, Box 36 College Hall, University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA 19104-6303. Telephone (215) 898-
5827. BITNET address: KRAFT@PENNDRLS. To request printed
information or materials from OFFLINE, please supply an
appropriately sized, self-addressed envelope or an address
label. A complete electronic file of OFFLINE columns is
available upon request (for IBM/DOS, Mac, or IBYCUS), or from
the HUMANIST discussion group FileServer (UTORONTO.BITNET).