Dorothy Gabel, professor of science education, has been a member of the Indiana University Bloomington faculty since 1974. She is president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching and editor of the Handbook of Research in Science Teaching and Learning.
Guy Hubbard, professor of education, has been on the faculty of the School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington, since 1962. He has published extensively in the area of art education curriculum, and focuses on electronic media applications to all areas of education.
Richard Pugh, professor of education, has been a member of the Indiana University Bloomington faculty since 1965. He serves as director of the Office of Education Technology Services, which plans, operates, and maintains the voice, data, and video networks of the School of Education.
Jean Umiker-Sebeok was recently appointed associate professsor of semiotics and information science, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University Bloomington. She has been an associate research scholar at the Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies with a special interest in marketing and museum semiotics.
Moderator: Jonathan Barclay
RCA: Do you use technology in your research and teaching? If so how? Let's begin with Professor Hubbard.
Hubbard: I'm interested in technology as a transmission medium in its own right, and I am using a program called Electronic Artstrands. It is really a translation of a book we have been using for many years into an electronic form. I'm also very interested, because my background is in art education, with the accessibility to images of all kinds. One particular program which has been especially interesting to me and to my students is a visuals database called Fetch.
I find that the use of the computer for communications is vital. I don't give my students any opportunity but to have to do it. We communicate much better, and I think the relationship between me and my students is improved.
Umiker-Sebeok: I come out of social and cultural anthropology with a focus on linguistics and semiotics. With respect to technology, I am interested in why people do or do not use it, how they use it, what meaning it has for them, and what role it plays in their social lives. For example, in a study of visitors in a cultural gallery of the Indianapolis Children's Museum, I found that some of the low-tech displays were more successful than some of the high-tech exhibits in attracting, holding, educating, and entertaining visitors primarily because the high-tech exhibits did not adequately address the social, psychological, and cultural needs of visitors. This is why I am currently turning my attention to research on the needs of users of interactive museum information systems, which are now being developed quite rapidly, but without the benefit of sufficient knowledge of the complex wants and needs of visitors. For example, in August 1994, my students and I will begin to study Microsoft's CD-ROM-based Micro-Gallery--a program designed to introduce people to the collections of the National Gallery in London. Using information about novice art museum visitors gathered in a study we did this year in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, we will look at how people who may feel intimidated by art and art museums respond to this program, and why.
Duffy: I view technology as an enabler. For example, over the last three years, we have been developing a system called Strategic Teaching Frameworks, designed to aid teachers in adopting a problem-solving approach to instruction in mathematics. We went around the country finding good teachers who use problem-solving, and we videotaped them in the classroom. We asked the teacher and other experts to comment on the strengths and weaknesses. This rich database enables preservice teachers and teachers in the schools to analyze alternative teaching practices and obtain different points of view on what's important.
Our other major effort is a School of Education initiation of a new program in Corporate and Community Education. I find it really exciting because it's taking the notion that with the move into the information age and all the technology we have, everybody, regardless of what their job is, is going to have to become a lifelong learner, and they're going to have to aid the learning of others. The core courses will engage the students in solving real-world problems and creating instructional products as part of that solution.
Pugh: We are in a room that is the focus of my comments relative to research as well as teaching. [Ed. note: Panelists met in Education Room 2140, a fully equipped distance education studio.] There are three of us on a research team--[Director of the Management Support Systems Laboratory] Jim Siantz from the Bloomington campus and [Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Office of Instructional Technology] David Silk from the Indianapolis campus--that has been funded by the Intercampus Education Research Fund to conduct an evaluation of the distance education classes that are originating from this room. Two products coming from this project are a standard evaluation plan and procedure for the courses and a faculty handbook for the instructors to use. Beginning this fall, I will actually be team-teaching a course in intermediate statistics that will originate from this room with [Professor of Education] Gary Ingersoll.
Gabel: I teach Introduction to Scientific Inquiry, a requirement for all the elementary education majors, in which we try to use a lot of technology so that they see that technology is a useful aid in instruction. In the laboratory sections we use various kinds of probeware, and we have developed CAI [computer-assisted instruction] lessons on topics the students find most difficult.
I have another large project which was partially inspired by Tom Duffy's program plus [Assistant Professor of Education] Kris Bosworth's material. We made videotapes of exemplary and poor teaching behavior for the teaching of high school chemistry for the SourceView project. We are in the process of making a HyperCard program, a decision-making program for the teaching of chemistry and mathematical problem-solving.
Now concerning e-mail. Last summer I had this wonderful idea that I was going to use this extensively. Well, without student use I get about twenty-five e-mail messages a day. If you have 240 students and you put them on e-mail, it creates even greater problems. I agree wholeheartedly that it was a good mode of communication and students ask things freely, but it was extremely time-consuming.
RCA: Yes, how are we going to handle the idea that technology can allow us to present so much more? What are students going to have to do to deal with that?
Pugh: I think that one of the things I've done in my teaching to handle that is conferencing. I've called it VAX notes for the last several years. I find my students occasionally not wanting to ask a question when their classmates can see the question, so they'll send me a note privately on my e-mail. I can stick that question up there and have the response to the question come from other students in the class.
Hubbard: The work that students are doing individually is very interesting. How can they share it? I've been using the Electronic Classroom. The students put into this what they've been reading--a paraphrase and a citation--and what has happened is that they, individually and independently of me, are engaging in interaction within the Electronic Classroom about some of these articles they have read. They also are asking questions that go beyond the paraphrase.
Duffy: I guess I view e-mail as a significant part of my teaching, engaging in conversation. I'm dealing with a graduate seminar of twenty people, and I insist on the conversation. We've had a model of teaching that says, "Here's the textbook, and you have to master the textbook," and that's now an inadequate strategy. To aid students, get rid of the notion that there is something you have to master that's a fixed definable content, but say, rather, that you need to learn how to think in a domain and deal with issues in a domain.
Hubbard: We frequently think of words as the main medium of communication, but having my students think of nonclichˇ images is causing them to have to think differently and go to different kinds of sources for information. They are not used to this independence, and I have to nurture that process. But that's the direction, this autonomy.
RCA: Does that mean discipline boundaries are blurring?
Hubbard: In the high schools more so than in the universities if I am not mistaken. I think of the Cincinnati Country Day School, where the entire curriculum is designed by the students and where teachers are guides more than directors.
RCA: Professor Pugh, you mentioned that you had embarked on a sample distance learning course and had come to some conclusions. One of the things you noticed was difficulty at the remote site in getting students involved . . .
Pugh: . . . engaging students, or getting students to interact. We have written a proposal, and if it is funded, we will develop some interventions that will address that, a training package we will put together. I think strategies have to be developed on the part of the instructor to address this problem.
Duffy: In Indiana we have a system called the Buddy System that is designed to inundate schools with computers. The goal is to give every kid in an Indiana school a computer, modem, and printer for use at home. A year ago, there were about twenty-four schools and 1,200 children involved, and there is a network connecting them all. We did case studies of four schools, and found it really depends on the lens with which the teacher looks at the world that determines how you work with this stuff. At one school, they changed the classroom and they put the computer on a table with three students at the table, so that whenever the computer became a useful tool, the kids could boot it up and use it. As opposed to other schools where the computers were in a row off to the side and kids were rotated through, or another school where the computers were off in a laboratory.
Umiker-Sebeok: This raises the question of the culture of the organization. The introduction of new technologies may be sabotaged by influential staff members who see it as a threat to core institutional values and aesthetic standards. Because of this conflict, interactive programs tend to be relegated to basements or niches near bathrooms or restaurants rather than in the galleries, among the works of art themselves. This greatly decreases the technology's effectiveness. In addition, some art museum professionals feel threatened by suggestions that art be presented to wider audiences in ways which they can easily understand and relate to. As one recently said to me, "We would not want people to get the idea that art is easy to understand." It is critical that an educational institution have all its staff and external supporters in full agreement and understanding about the importance of technological innovation.
RCA: One of the issues I wanted to raise is the whole issue of school reform and school restructuring, which I think has to do with the nature of the organization, that is, what is a school going to look like? How does a school work? Does anybody have an opinion as to whether school reform and school restructuring need to move very closely with getting technology into schools?
Pugh: I think when you go across organizations you have to have a flexibility in scheduling. For example, we want to showcase what our response capability is to a representative of the Office of Educational Research and Information. We know that one of the strong points for a proposal to be written in the future is connectivity to schools, so we arranged for a connection with University Elementary School [in Bloomington].
Now to dovetail the scheduling of this time slot with what is a rich experience at University Elementary School, we had to juggle some times!
Umiker-Sebeok: If you really have sharing of facilities and teaching, who begins to make decisions about what should be presented in the curriculum and what should not?
Hubbard: I think that the factors that are being discussed are all very important to us, but in the big picture there is no alternative. Education and communication and exchange of information are utterly unstoppable in this new environment we're entering. We don't understand much about it, but it's happening.
Umiker-Sebeok: Yes, and with that tidal wave of change, people cling for safety to their comfortable niches. For example, you can imagine how faculty would respond to a proposal that the current IU units devoted to Education, Library and Information Science, and Telecommunications be merged, even though there is quite a bit of overlap in the activities of the people in those units.
Duffy: I worry about teaching and learning, and my sense of restructuring is that it should begin in that teaching and learning environment. I was talking about the Buddy System and the kind of impact of the Buddy System in the schools, but we've had the same sort of thing happening in the School of Education.
We've been inundated with technology, tremendous opportunities to do things, and a great support service. I've found it very exciting to see the kind of changes going around in the school as a function of this building environment that we have. Attitudes have changed dramatically.
Hubbard: I'd like to extend that. I think much more about the campus as a resource than I probably did before. This building is a part of it, but it's not restricted to this very nice building.
It's as though it has helped expand me to think of the campus, and then beyond the campus to colleagues within a broader family.
Umiker-Sebeok: May I, as an outsider to the field of education, play devil's advocate? Do you think that bringing technology into education is going to help improve the education system in the United States? In the social context of the school can technology do anything . . .
Duffy: See, I don't like talking about technology doing things . . .
Umiker-Sebeok: Or can people with technology do something . . .
Duffy: Technology enables. In most instances you can do a lot more if you have the technology available than if you don't, but what you do depends on a much larger context. It really does take changing the lens through which you are looking at education and looking at learning. That's really central, and once you've done that, sure, then technology works. If you haven't changed it, if you view it as this kind of babysitting and pouring stuff into kids' heads, then you've got the set of computers sitting over on the side and you've probably hindered education as opposed to aiding it.
Gabel: See, the change, I think, has to occur at the college level because the view that people have of education is what happens at the university. So when you see chemistry taught as "memorize the vocabulary" and so on, that creates the public image that that's what science is, and then there is a lot of resistance to try to do anything else. If you adopt a program--let's say Windows on Science--and there's no textbook, then you've got parents crying, "This isn't science because the children aren't bringing home their book. It's not like what I had." As long as people hold up the university--"this is learning"--and people go through all of these introductory courses and are taught in these abysmal ways of just memorizing so much with very little thinking going on, I don't think we're going to make any progress. I really think that reform has to take place at the university, and maybe technology will be one way to do that.