3.986 humans and computers (87)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Wed, 31 Jan 90 20:30:19 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 986. Wednesday, 31 Jan 1990.

(1) Date: Tue, 30 Jan 90 22:15:40 EST (14 lines)
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: dehumanizing computers

(2) Date: Tue, 30 Jan 90 10:00:00 EST (48 lines)
Subject: 3.974 tongue-checking applauded

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 90 22:15:40 EST
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: dehumanizing computers

Regarding the thesis, recently propounded by an administrator, that
computers were dehumanizing, let me add this simple anecdote. My 7 year
old son has a computer game that allows him to play against the computer
or against another human. Whenever one of his friends comes over, they
invariably play TOGETHER against the computer, not against each other.
The explanation is simple: they would rather lose against the computer
than against a friend. I suspect that students prefer CAI for similar
reasons. They would rather be told by a computer that they have made a
mistake than be ridiculed in a classroom or marked down by a teacher.
Computers are actually quite non-threatening. Is this dehumanizing?
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------59----
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 90 10:00:00 EST
Subject: 3.974 tongue-checking applauded

Well, I *did* suggest (in a quiet voice, and
only once) that we were finding, over in our networked classroom, that
it was possible to achieve *greater* contact with students that way: the
Daedalus InterChange program (which has been described elsewhere), and
other parts of the Daedalus system, encourage a great deal of back and
forth, and I've had much more discussion with students there than I've
ever been able to manage, even at my tip-top teaching form, in a more
conventional classroom setting. He said, "Oh," and went back to what
he'd been saying, so I dropped it. The most recent battle (this never
ends!) was with the Associate Chair of my department-- with whom I fight
this out every semester at least once. I tell him how many people I
need to staff the lab and support both the research activities going on
there and the people teaching in the classroom across the hall; he tells
me OK, then a week later changes his mind and wonders if I can't take a
slight reduction in staff (this semester he did this after classes had
started). Yesterday's battle was about summer session-- the secretary
who handles scheduling had asked me how many sections of freshman
English I wanted designated Computer Assisted for summer; I told her
three for each of the two sessions (out of 26 sections offered during
the first session, and 21 in second session); and my Ass. Chair. came
in a couple of hours later to tell me that we couldn't do that. First,
the previous Chairman had not, as he had told me he would, asked for
money to pay me for administering the computer lab/classroom; I was,
instead, scheduled to teach the first half of the American lit survey,
something I used to do quite regularly and still enjoy from time to
time. I said I'd prefer to teach freshman comp and teach it in the
computer classroom, so we were back to that point again. First, he
said, these are provisional students (most of the freshmen and -women we
get in the summers are admitted provisionally, because they don't quite
meet the standards for regular admission; it gives them a chance, if
they make it through with nothing lower than a B in 4 courses, to gain
regular admission), and most of them will fail anyway; this was, in his
mind, apparently a reason for not teaching them with our best resources.
I said I didn't buy that, so he tried again: this time, he said it
wouldn't be fair to the other provisional students, the ones who
*wouldn't* get to take the class in the computer classroom! So I said
that of course he must be right-- we really should make sure that all
those students had an absolutely equal chance at failure. Then I said I
didn't want to talk about it any more, not until he'd at least been over
to the damn lab to see what we were doing, to sit in on a class or two
and to take a look at the literary research going on in the lab. He
said he would, and suggested we see the chairman together to iron this
out. Well, we didn't need to see the chairman together: I got a note
this morning informing me that I had my administrative appointment, *and*
I had my three classes per session, *and* I had one (1) staff person
(FTE) per session. One ain't enough, but it was a lot better than I
thought I was going to do. Can things be looking up and down at the
same time?
John Slatin