9.166 learning and IT

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Mon, 18 Sep 1995 18:48:41 -0400 (EDT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 166.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)

[1] From: Hugh Nicoll <hnicoll@funatsuka.miyazaki- (9)
Subject: Re: 9.162 - req. citation for _Alt-J_

[2] From: Ted Underwood <wu10@cornell.edu> (26)
Subject: re: 9.162 learning and IT

[3] From: Judith Edwards <ucyljae@ucl.ac.uk> (21)
Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

[4] From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk> (30)
Subject: Re: 9.162 learning and IT

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 1995 10:33:39 +0900
From: Hugh Nicoll <hnicoll@funatsuka.miyazaki-mu.ac.jp>
Subject: Re: 9.162 - req. citation for _Alt-J_

Greetings all,

Very much enjoying the continuing discussion of learning and information
and the application of IT in meeting instructional goals. Dave Postles
mentioned an article from the _Association of Learning Technology Journal_.
Could Dave, or anybody else, post contact information for the publisher?

Thanks in advance,

Hugh Nicoll, Miyazaki Municipal University
Funatsuka 1-1-2, Miyazaki-shi, Miyazaki-ken, 880, JAPAN
tel 81-985-20-4788, fax 81-985-20-4807

Date: Sun, 17 Sep 1995 23:07:58 -0500
From: Ted Underwood <wu10@cornell.edu>
Subject: re: 9.162 learning and IT

I've been lurking on this thread, and enjoying it. It seems to me, though,
that the discussion so far has had two important blind spots.

1) We're mostly professional teachers here, so we naturally think of
colleges and universities as places where teaching and learning get done --
which they are, of course. But that's not actually their sole raison
d'etre, and from the customer's (the student's) point of view, it may not
even be the main one. Eighteen-year-olds go to college because all their
friends will be there, and because it's a rite of passage with icons of
autumn & antiquity attached; they want to live around other
eighteen-year-olds and carry books to class. They don't want to live at
home and socialize through a screen. All this may or may not be relevant
to learning, but it's probably the main factor that will prevent schools
from dissolving into the web.

2) We also have a different sort of bias that pulls us the other way.
We're mostly professional humanists here, so we have a Socratic view of
education. Willard McCarty, for instance, talks about "real teaching and
not just information-transfer." But in fields that don't depend so heavily
on discussion, mere information-transfer might not be such a poor option.
Not, at least, if the students have a chance to work problem sets.

The upshot of all this is that I think we need to think less abstractly
about "learning and IT," and more concretely about the different
constituencies and social purposes we serve. In particular, it seems to me
that for students in continuing education and various kinds of professional
certification, remote learning may very likely be the more convenient
option. On the other hand, the whole purpose of a small liberal-arts
college would be negated by going virtual.

Ted Underwood wu10@cornell.edu

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 1995 10:06:08 +0100
From: Judith Edwards <ucyljae@ucl.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.158 learning and information

>I am interested to see which major university will be the first to set up a
>full-fledged virtual campus. I suspect it may initiate a stampede similar to
>that witnessed in the commercial sphere, with faculties anxious to appear W
>not T.
>Andrew Armour
>Keio & Oxford

What about the Open University in the UK? Its first students started in
1971, and its courses have always been "virtual", if not, until recently,
delivered in electronic format. Although it's the UK's largest university
(in terms of student numbers), we seem to hear less about it than we used
to; I guess it and its students are just too busy getting on with it!

If you're not familiar with it, take a look at its WWW pages:


(no connection whatsoever with the OU!)

Judith Edwards, Assistant Librarian
University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Tel: 0171-380 7833 Fax: 0171-380 7373
e-mail: j.a.edwards@ucl.ac.uk
URLs: (Institutional) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/UCL-Info/Divisions/Library/
(Personal) http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucyljae/home.html

Date: Mon, 18 Sep 1995 15:15:14 +0100
From: Andrew Armour <armour@pncl.co.uk>
Subject: Re: 9.162 learning and IT

>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.

Shouldn't we define what we mean by "IT" before we write it off? Do we
include all forms of computer-mediated communication? If we mean the sort of
outdated CAI software found on the BBC micros that many UK schoolchildren
are lumbered with, we run the risk of looking like a gathering of stable
hands pooh-poohing the first ungainly breed of horseless carriages that
rattle past our doors. "They'll never be any substitute" we reassure
ourselves, as we turn away to avoid seeing what is next to steam up the
road. The future is not going to be as bright as some of the hype would have
us believe, true, but then pessimism is notoriously unfruitful. A balanced
view of possible "scenarios" is what we should aim for. Only then can we
hope to prepare ourselves, our students, our institutions adequately for the
future. If, as seems likely to me (am I alone?), the Net or its offspring is
to play a major role in higher education, the pressing question is how can
we best harness it?

How can we approximate face-to-face teaching using the best tools currently
available to us (e-mail, IRC, MOOs, etc.)? We should identify their
inadequacies and see if they cannot be improved. Then again new tools (such
as Internet telephony) are appearing one after another, and perhaps we can
help to direct some of the considerable ingenuity and creativity that is
being funneled into Net-related developments. Members of Humanist are well
qualified to provide expert advice, even if we cannot write code ourselves.
Damage control may be required (though I'm not sure exactly what damage is
envisaged), but I hope it doesn't involve slamming the stable doors shut.

Andrew Armour
Keio & Oxford