9.162 learning and IT

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sun, 17 Sep 1995 10:19:54 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 162.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Dave Postles <pot@leicester.ac.uk> (51)
Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

[2] From: tomdill@womenscol.stephens.edu (35)
Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

[3] From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca> (13)
Subject: means of learning

[See also the related announcement in Humanist 9.161 by Gloria McMillan.]

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 1995 11:16:58 +0100 (BST)
From: Dave Postles <pot@leicester.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

I pretty much agree with Larry Poos, but perhaps I can offer a transatlantic
perspective. With the expansion of higher education over here, the
student-teacher ratio, according to some, is eroding staff time, with demands
for redressing the balance by more 'effective' delivery of material. I doubt
how far IT-based material answers that problem, or would indeed satisfy
students ('customers'), many of whom have (implicitly, even explicitly) paid
for 'traditional' forms of education. I would prefer that IT-based material is
additional to 'traditional' forms of education.
I want too to second Larry's point about IT-based materials being as directive
and instructive as lecture format. Much IT-based material does not encourage
what we call over here 'independent learning'. Partly that is the fault of the
designer (I have this problem, myself), but partly it is inherent in the
technology. In this respect, I found benefitted greatly from Pat Paterson and
John Rosbottom, 'Learning style and learning strategies in a mutimedia
environment' _Alt-J. Association for Learning Technology Journal_ 3 (1)
(1995), 12-21. In this format, and with some of the software available, it's
very difficult to construct IT-based material which is not directive and simply
instructional (it's possible to do it, but it requires a great deal more
investment than people like me can make).
That's not to say that IT-based material doesn't have a role, even with these
1) It helps to deliver a standard curriculum, because people, after lectures
(let's put aside seminars and tutorials) can go away and recapitulate in their
own time. For example, with our part-time students here, one group comes after
work (6.30 to 9.30 in the evenings) -- pretty anti-social time for learning.
2) It helps to build up a knowledge-base, which is presumably how courses start
out -- supplementing the lecture format as above.
3) There is increasing pressure on 'traditional' course materials (books);
IT-based material is not a substitute, but helps in the interstices whilst
people wait to get their books.
4) It recognises the changing technology of learning and different cognitive
styles -- some people will be as conversant with IT as with books for learning
-- but it doesn't have to be pushed on everyone.
5) For some people it will help with the acquisition of personally transferable
skills, even if it's only coming to terms with using the Windows-environment
and clicking the mouse button -- this may be a bigger issue over here than over
6) There is increasingly restricted time allowed for delivery of courses --
modularisation over here prescribes permissible contact time. I'm not happy
with this and would bend the rules willingly, but IT-based stuff may help too,
especially if instruction is what's required (and building that knowledge-base
is important to start out).

I guess what I'm trying to say is to reiterate the considerations of the
caveats and to find an appropriate role for IT-based materials as a supplement,
but not a replacement, for 'traditional' forms of learning.

Dave Postles
+ Dept of English Local History, 5, Salisbury Road, Leicester, England,     +
+ LE1 7QR	pot@le.ac.uk			                            +
+ Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbetur				    +

--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sat, 16 Sep 1995 20:40:21 -0500 From: tomdill@womenscol.stephens.edu Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

I am entirely sympathetic with Larry Poos's position on the relationship of technology to teaching. The existing technology, and even the projected possible technologies that come closer to approximating human intelligence, primarily organize and transmit information--some may even generate information and then organize and transmit it. But except for the few who still imagine that education consists in standing before a packed hall and reading a prepared lecture (sometimes for the 8th or 20t time), I cannot imagine that serious teachers will accede to the notion that education (as opposed to information transmission and storage) can be supplanted. Of course, some operations (including some aspects of research) may be simplified or speeded up, and no one can complain about that. Those of us who still teach English composition (that is, faculty members at small colleges) have long since realized that there is little or no benefit to students, and little likelihood of real education taking place, if we simply tell them what we want them to know or how they are to do what we want them to do. The emphasis on process in composition teaching has moved over into advanced literature classes (to their benefit) and I see colleagues in other fields experimenting with process-oriented pedagogy. This not only engages the student more effectively in her learning process, but it makes real the claim that the teacher learns with and from the student. I like the "potluck" version mentioned in another post--now we could alter that to "potlatch" and think of an infinitely expanding body of knowledge--not merely the transmission of existing materials. I realize that I am oversimplifying the possibilities of on-line teaching and learning, but I can see no possbility that face to face teaching can be supplanted, even if we reach a level of technology comparable to the teaching machines disguised as historical figures created for Martian children in Philip K. Dick's _Martian Time-Slip_. I should say that I am not a neo-luddite, not even a resister in the realm of the digital classroom--but I hope we can avoid the idiocy of sneering at every traditional method of teaching (including the old-fashioned lecture, which could be electrifying when delivered by a great lecturer) simply because we have some neat new toys. Tom Dillingham (tomdill@womenscol.stephens.edu)

--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sun, 17 Sep 1995 09:59:59 -0400 From: Willard McCarty <mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca> Subject: means of learning

Two brief responses in the ongoing discussion about information technology and learning: (1) of course IT provides no substitute for face-to-face teaching, i.e. face-to-face contact between someone whose job is to teach and others who have elected to learn, when real teaching and not just information-transfer takes place; (2) some in positions of power are thinking that it does. That they are wrong, dreadfully wrong, may be beside the point in the short-term. Much damage can be done in the short-term. So discussions like this one are very important, because some of us are in positions of power and others have influence with those who are. We must be clear about what we are doing, yes?


Willard McCarty, Centre for Computing in the Humanities (Toronto) (416) 978-3974 voice (416) 978-6519 fax mccarty@epas.utoronto.ca http://www.cch.epas.utoronto.ca:8080/cch/wm.html