FETC 2000 Interviews

T.H.E. Journal had a chance to speak to a few of FETC’s featured speakers. Following are their comments on various issues in educational technology today.

Chris Dede is a Full Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he has a joint appointment in the Schools of Information Technology & Engineering, and of Education. He currently has grants from the National Science Foundation to develop educational environments based on virtual reality technology, from the Joyce Foundation to aid urban school districts using technology, and from the U.S. Dept. of Education to create and assess technology-based education materials for learning disabled secondary students.

T.H.E.: How can virtual reality and other types of immersive, interactive environments be used to help special needs students?

Dede: It is hard for special needs students to succeed when conventional pedagogy is based on their limitations, rather than on ways in which their "trapped" intelligence provides strong learning capabilities. Textbook-oriented learning is the predominant instructional approach in many classrooms, particularly at the secondary level. However, students with learning disabilities typically exhibit problems with reading fluency, text comprehension skills, vocabulary learning, and abstract reasoning from textual presentations. In fact, students with learning disabilities read complex subject matter, such as science textbooks, at only about half the fluency rate as students without disabilities.

Immersive, interactive environments of many types — including multisensory 3-D "virtual reality" — can aid special needs students. Through simulations that enable guided inquiry, collaborative learning, and mentoring, virtual environments provide access to complex concepts and skills across the curriculum for students with learning disabilities. With guidance, special needs students can bridge qualitative understandings from sensory experiences to more abstract, quantitative representations in textual and symbolic form. Special needs students often "find their voice" in these shared virtual environments, becoming active, motivated learners as they are freed from the verbal/textual focus of the typical classroom. Particularly at a time when standards-based instruction and high-stakes testing dominate education, this pedagogical strategy is vital for enabling individuals with disabilities to attain their full learning potential.

T.H.E.: How long will it be before "virtual reality" becomes a ubiquitous learning technology? What will have to happen to make this kind of learning a reality?

Dede: Exploring the potential of home-based devices for learning is particularly important because of the high costs of keeping school-based instructional media current with technologies routine in business settings. The goal espoused by many today of multimedia-capable, Internet-connected classroom computers for every two to three pupils carries a staggering price tag — especially if those devices are obsolete five to seven years after installation. While providing adequate, sophisticated school-based instructional technologies is extremely important, it is vital to leverage this investment via simultaneous utilization of entertainment and information-service devices in family and community settings. Such an innovation strategy necessitates developing learning materials for home-based devices such as video games, which are evolving toward shared, multisensory, 3-D "virtual realities." In other words, using technology to aid educational reform through systemic innovation must occur on two levels simultaneously: drawing one boundary of the system around the school, with student-teacher-technology partnerships, and another system boundary around the society, with classroom-family-workplace-community-technology partnerships.

Within the next decade, via the video game industry, inexpensive devices capable of multisensory immersion will be ubiquitous in rich and poor homes, urban and rural areas. To compete with the captivating, but mindless types of entertainment that will draw on this power, educators will need both beautiful, fantastic, intriguing environments for "edutainment" and models of distributed learning that link homes, schools, workplaces, and community settings in partnership. Collaborations of designers, researchers, and practitioners to explore these possibilities are an important next step to achieving this vision. We have the technical and economic capabilities to develop technology-rich learning environments for children that prepare them for life as adults in a world very different from what we have known. Whether we have the political and cultural will to accomplish innovative, equity-enhancing shifts in learning and schooling remains to be seen.

 

Gary Becker holds three degrees from Syracuse University and has been in the field of education since 1965. Since 1975, as an avocation, he has been a national copyright law consultant and has published books and produced videotapes that are in educational institutions in all fifty states. He has been and continues to be a presenter, at state and national conferences, in the areas of technology planning and copyright law. He also provides consulting services and in-service training for the public school, college/university and public library communities.

T.H.E.: As a result of the Internet and online technologies, we are seeing new copyright issues, such as digital watermarking, online content protection and ownership. What kind of impact will these issues have on schools and universities in upcoming years?

Becker: All of the issues being posed, related to the Internet or other online electronic media, are in reference to protecting the rights of authors when their already protected works now appear in wide scale, electronic publication. At issue, and greatly impacting schools and universities, is whether the electronic media will result in placing greater limitations on use and "Fair Use" than have existed in the past. At this time, one may freely browse a wealth of copyrighted material in a library. Will the same privilege continue to exist when placed on the Web?

At the university level, another issue is that of ownership of online content. If professors create lessons for online presentation, do they own the content, or d'es their employing institution? In some instances, their employment contracts define ownership. Where this is not clear, there are past practice precedents that may come into play. Depending upon the outcome of these discussions will be the degree to which creativity will apply to online, instructional delivery. We experienced the transfer of "drill and kill" to the standalone computer environment early on in computerized instruction. Hopefully online instruction will not succumb to that level of activity.

Having worked in the area of copyright, as an avocation since 1975, I am optimistic that the challenges offered by electronic media, its ownership and distribution, will be dealt with successfully by all parties involved. The reality is that for the Internet and other electronic media to be successful, creativity must take place. Since the purpose of Copyright Law is to stimulate and protect creativity, the needs of both the owners and end users need to be met, as they have in the past.

T.H.E.: How d'es school technology planning today differ from ten years ago? How do you see it changing in the next ten years?

Becker: School technology planning ten years ago was heavily driven by the technologies, and most often the plans developed were equipment acquisition plans. With the high cost of technology and the questioning as to whether education is getting enough "bang for the buck," technology planning is being driven more by first identifying instructional needs and attempting to identify appropriate strategies for meeting those needs. This will have to become the primary approach for the next ten years, along with a change in facilities design planning, which should be highly flexible to accommodate changing technologies.

Today, many technology plans are still trying to fit technology into highly structured classrooms, where the technology becomes an add-on feature and is not integrated into instruction. Plans for the future will need to make technology, if proven to be worthwhile, as integrated as the marker board and projection screen have been in the past, but with less rigidity to orienting the classroom in one direction. Although the E-rate has assisted in moving schools to recognizing that there is a wealth of available outside information that needs to be accessed within the school, technology plans for the next ten years need to recognize students with special needs. These are students who are not able to attend the classroom. They must be able to access the school-based instructional materials and data from their homes or other sites in the community.

Finally, if we are to truly integrate technology into the classrooms over the next ten years, teachers and instructors will need to be more involved in the planning process and setting of goals. Sadly enough, many of the technology plans of the past ten years were written by a small group of people who were technologically knowledgeable or were highly motivated themselves to use technology. However, the majority of the staff were not involved in the plan development and were not committed to the successful implementation of the plan.

Dr. Gary Bitter has been the principle investigator for several NSF grants. Two of these projects, Math-ed-ology and Understanding Teaching, provide online professional development to enable pre-service and in-service teachers to integrate the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) content and professional teaching standards into their instruction. He is a past president of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and served on the NCATE Technology Task Force.

T.H.E.: Where d'es online professional development fit into the technological education framework?

Bitter: A successful technological education framework must include extensive online professional development to meet ever-changing technology needs, as well as the limited available release time for teachers to attend professional development sessions. My vision for the future is online training for all aspects of technology education. In fact, I can foresee online training for any topic anytime, anywhere.

T.H.E.: Do you think the current trend toward increased accountability will continue, and what will be its impact?

Bitter: Accountability in education through the years is a cyclical event. We are now in a strong political climate for accountability. I definitely see accountability continuing in the near future but it will only play a role when it is politically necessary or expedient.

T.H.E. Journal had a chance to speak to a few of FETC’s featured speakers. Following are their comments on various issues in educational technology today.

Chris Dede is a Full Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he has a joint appointment in the Schools of Information Technology & Engineering, and of Education. He currently has grants from the National Science Foundation to develop educational environments based on virtual reality technology, from the Joyce Foundation to aid urban school districts using technology, and from the U.S. Dept. of Education to create and assess technology-based education materials for learning disabled secondary students.

T.H.E.: How can virtual reality and other types of immersive, interactive environments be used to help special needs students?

Dede: It is hard for special needs students to succeed when conventional pedagogy is based on their limitations, rather than on ways in which their "trapped" intelligence provides strong learning capabilities. Textbook-oriented learning is the predominant instructional approach in many classrooms, particularly at the secondary level. However, students with learning disabilities typically exhibit problems with reading fluency, text comprehension skills, vocabulary learning, and abstract reasoning from textual presentations. In fact, students with learning disabilities read complex subject matter, such as science textbooks, at only about half the fluency rate as students without disabilities.

Immersive, interactive environments of many types — including multisensory 3-D "virtual reality" — can aid special needs students. Through simulations that enable guided inquiry, collaborative learning, and mentoring, virtual environments provide access to complex concepts and skills across the curriculum for students with learning disabilities. With guidance, special needs students can bridge qualitative understandings from sensory experiences to more abstract, quantitative representations in textual and symbolic form. Special needs students often "find their voice" in these shared virtual environments, becoming active, motivated learners as they are freed from the verbal/textual focus of the typical classroom. Particularly at a time when standards-based instruction and high-stakes testing dominate education, this pedagogical strategy is vital for enabling individuals with disabilities to attain their full learning potential.

T.H.E.: How long will it be before "virtual reality" becomes a ubiquitous learning technology? What will have to happen to make this kind of learning a reality?

Dede: Exploring the potential of home-based devices for learning is particularly important because of the high costs of keeping school-based instructional media current with technologies routine in business settings. The goal espoused by many today of multimedia-capable, Internet-connected classroom computers for every two to three pupils carries a staggering price tag — especially if those devices are obsolete five to seven years after installation. While providing adequate, sophisticated school-based instructional technologies is extremely important, it is vital to leverage this investment via simultaneous utilization of entertainment and information-service devices in family and community settings. Such an innovation strategy necessitates developing learning materials for home-based devices such as video games, which are evolving toward shared, multisensory, 3-D "virtual realities." In other words, using technology to aid educational reform through systemic innovation must occur on two levels simultaneously: drawing one boundary of the system around the school, with student-teacher-technology partnerships, and another system boundary around the society, with classroom-family-workplace-community-technology partnerships.

Within the next decade, via the video game industry, inexpensive devices capable of multisensory immersion will be ubiquitous in rich and poor homes, urban and rural areas. To compete with the captivating, but mindless types of entertainment that will draw on this power, educators will need both beautiful, fantastic, intriguing environments for "edutainment" and models of distributed learning that link homes, schools, workplaces, and community settings in partnership. Collaborations of designers, researchers, and practitioners to explore these possibilities are an important next step to achieving this vision. We have the technical and economic capabilities to develop technology-rich learning environments for children that prepare them for life as adults in a world very different from what we have known. Whether we have the political and cultural will to accomplish innovative, equity-enhancing shifts in learning and schooling remains to be seen.

 

Gary Becker holds three degrees from Syracuse University and has been in the field of education since 1965. Since 1975, as an avocation, he has been a national copyright law consultant and has published books and produced videotapes that are in educational institutions in all fifty states. He has been and continues to be a presenter, at state and national conferences, in the areas of technology planning and copyright law. He also provides consulting services and in-service training for the public school, college/university and public library communities.

T.H.E.: As a result of the Internet and online technologies, we are seeing new copyright issues, such as digital watermarking, online content protection and ownership. What kind of impact will these issues have on schools and universities in upcoming years?

Becker: All of the issues being posed, related to the Internet or other online electronic media, are in reference to protecting the rights of authors when their already protected works now appear in wide scale, electronic publication. At issue, and greatly impacting schools and universities, is whether the electronic media will result in placing greater limitations on use and "Fair Use" than have existed in the past. At this time, one may freely browse a wealth of copyrighted material in a library. Will the same privilege continue to exist when placed on the Web?

At the university level, another issue is that of ownership of online content. If professors create lessons for online presentation, do they own the content, or d'es their employing institution? In some instances, their employment contracts define ownership. Where this is not clear, there are past practice precedents that may come into play. Depending upon the outcome of these discussions will be the degree to which creativity will apply to online, instructional delivery. We experienced the transfer of "drill and kill" to the standalone computer environment early on in computerized instruction. Hopefully online instruction will not succumb to that level of activity.

Having worked in the area of copyright, as an avocation since 1975, I am optimistic that the challenges offered by electronic media, its ownership and distribution, will be dealt with successfully by all parties involved. The reality is that for the Internet and other electronic media to be successful, creativity must take place. Since the purpose of Copyright Law is to stimulate and protect creativity, the needs of both the owners and end users need to be met, as they have in the past.

T.H.E.: How d'es school technology planning today differ from ten years ago? How do you see it changing in the next ten years?

Becker: School technology planning ten years ago was heavily driven by the technologies, and most often the plans developed were equipment acquisition plans. With the high cost of technology and the questioning as to whether education is getting enough "bang for the buck," technology planning is being driven more by first identifying instructional needs and attempting to identify appropriate strategies for meeting those needs. This will have to become the primary approach for the next ten years, along with a change in facilities design planning, which should be highly flexible to accommodate changing technologies.

Today, many technology plans are still trying to fit technology into highly structured classrooms, where the technology becomes an add-on feature and is not integrated into instruction. Plans for the future will need to make technology, if proven to be worthwhile, as integrated as the marker board and projection screen have been in the past, but with less rigidity to orienting the classroom in one direction. Although the E-rate has assisted in moving schools to recognizing that there is a wealth of available outside information that needs to be accessed within the school, technology plans for the next ten years need to recognize students with special needs. These are students who are not able to attend the classroom. They must be able to access the school-based instructional materials and data from their homes or other sites in the community.

Finally, if we are to truly integrate technology into the classrooms over the next ten years, teachers and instructors will need to be more involved in the planning process and setting of goals. Sadly enough, many of the technology plans of the past ten years were written by a small group of people who were technologically knowledgeable or were highly motivated themselves to use technology. However, the majority of the staff were not involved in the plan development and were not committed to the successful implementation of the plan.

Dr. Gary Bitter has been the principle investigator for several NSF grants. Two of these projects, Math-ed-ology and Understanding Teaching, provide online professional development to enable pre-service and in-service teachers to integrate the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) content and professional teaching standards into their instruction. He is a past president of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and served on the NCATE Technology Task Force.

T.H.E.: Where d'es online professional development fit into the technological education framework?

Bitter: A successful technological education framework must include extensive online professional development to meet ever-changing technology needs, as well as the limited available release time for teachers to attend professional development sessions. My vision for the future is online training for all aspects of technology education. In fact, I can foresee online training for any topic anytime, anywhere.

T.H.E.: Do you think the current trend toward increased accountability will continue, and what will be its impact?

Bitter: Accountability in education through the years is a cyclical event. We are now in a strong political climate for accountability. I definitely see accountability continuing in the near future but it will only play a role when it is politically necessary or expedient.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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