The following article is a new feature of Computers and Composition and we welcome your feedback. Inspired by the Forum articles occasionally published in Harper's Magazine, we gathered a number of experts on academic software to discuss software develoment in composition studies. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion which was taped at the 1992 Computers and Writing Conference in Indianapolis. The participants are as follows:
C&C: Within English studies there has been a tradition of faculty producing their own software. Bill Wresch, Nancy Kaplan, Jim Strickland, Helen Schwartz, the members of The Daedalus Group, and of course Hugh Burns all come to mind, and there are many others. However, recent years have seen a drop-off in the number of faculty-developed software in our field. Is it too difficult for faculty to develop software today? Can a faculty person bring a software program to market?
Burns: The answer is of course they can. It's going to depend on the dimensions of how we define software development and the motivation for doing it. We need to offer kudos to reward those teachers who try to think about software design and instruction and who try to make their instruction and curriculum explicit enough for effective delivery with computers.
Haney: I agree. Of course they can develop software. But why do they want to? What are they looking for? Is it for the fun of it, recognition, to solve a problem they couldn't solve any other way? Faculty need to assess their desire to create software and assess the rewards or lack of rewards they face as software developers. One of the most persistent problems facing these faculty is that of professional recognition for their efforts--will the establishment see their work as having promotion value and tenure value?
Selfe: Is there a difference between design and development? In the collaboration of teachers and commercial firms there is the identification of a problem and the design of an approach to that problem. And then there is the actual development of software, and that can be seen as a second and separate stage.
Hepler: When a faculty member approaches Conduit with a version of the software they have designed and have been using in the classroom, we look at that software as a prototype--that's the word we use--and then working as a team with that faculty member we provide whatever other services are needed to bring that program to market. We develop it to a stage where it can withstand wide distribution. That's the key. There's a huge difference between the software someone develops for a given course and the software that goes out to a mass market with all the necessary support.
C&C: Molly, you said the faculty member comes to you with a product you see as a "prototype." What are the misconceptions that faculty most often bring to you when they bring their newly developed software programs?
Hepler: Those misconceptions can range from the very smallest detail or technical issue to the person neglecting the fact that there are 20 different word-processing programs out there, or 20 different graphics programs that have to be supported so someone can import or export text. It might be that the author has considered some pedagogical implication of the design--the interface, for example. Software authors create within the confines of their particular environment and have few opportunities for the wide field testing to which we submit new software.
Haney: You bring the market realities to bear.
Hepler: Yes, and if a product is going to be successful on the market, it has to find use in the widest range of classroom contexts. That's why we feel that teacher-consumers should be able to customize the software they purchase, to apply it to their local situation. They know their students, they know what they're trying to teach, and we provide tools. Those tools include utilities that allow teachers to take a starting set of activities and apply them to their students, their students' writing abilities, and all the different variables that shape the classroom context.
Selfe: I think that's important for accommodating the diversity that currently defines composition studies both in theory and pedagogy.
Burns: The misconception that faculty bring, as Molly implies, is that their software is completed, a done deal. Good programmers realize that users, customers, need only a few minutes with a program to start telling what different specifications they would like to see in that program. Sometimes it's technical--how to make it go faster, that the electrons could be lined up this way or that. Sometimes it's functional--what the program isn't doing that it should. In our community, composition studies, the functional is a challenge because we're still exploring and developing some basic science about how the mind works, how it uses and arranges information.
Short: I'm not surprised to see a drop off in the number of faculty developing programs on their own. At the Institute for Academic Technology, we mostly see team development approaches, where the faculty member is a content expert, a professor of French or music for example, who brings ideas and insights based on software he or she has already been using. The day of the person sitting alone in the basement office creating a finished product is long gone. We will see teams of people that will combine content experts and technical experts. The programmers will provide technical expertise and the actual coding skill, and they will often make the content expert aware of capabilities that person was unaware of, so they help redefine and enhance the original design. And then the documentation will be done by another team member not involved in the actual program development. We find that those involved in design don't produce good documentation because they get bored with explaining how the thing works. And then if the project grows, you need a project manager who minds the "Ps and Qs" and keeps the whole thing rolling along.
Selfe: That's the problem. For someone to become a content expert and remain integrally involved throughout the development process, they often have to lose ground in the tenure race, or the promotion race, or the scholarly race.
Short: Absolutely. Right now, one almost needs to be a full professor before getting involved with software. And we haven't even addressed the question of ownership when faculty are involved in a team approach. If the university claims a stake in the product, are they of a mind to market it, will they strike an arrangement with commercial publishers?
C&C: Yet the team approach as just described has not been very successful in bringing writing software to market.
Selfe: I know! In 1986, in Create Your Own, I emphasized the team approach and it's been pretty much ignored because it doesn't necessarily work in composition studies--at least not yet.
Short: However, that may have to change. Consider the magnitude of what's involved these days. Expectations among consumers has escalated. As Molly mentioned, people expect to import and export text and graphics and import different proprietary file formats for other programs. It's become very complicated for even two people to handle. It requires a team.
Hawisher: Carnegie Mellon has done well addressing the issue of faculty recognition and tenure. Their programs are aimed first at research questions--finding out how a writer revises or how editors collaborate with each other. Only after the fact is it ever mentioned that these programs might be marketed as well.
C&C: Yet those programs and the programs of other large research institutions, John Smith's (WE) comes to mind, have not generally reached a wide audience or made their way into many classrooms.
Hepler: That's because the other way to come at the question is to say, "Here's how we're teaching composition in our classrooms today," and then to ask, "How can the computer help that and what computer tools can improve that situation?" That's what Bill Wresch and Helen Schwartz did.
Selfe: As well as The Daedalus Group.
Hepler: Right, and I don't see that happening as much today--because of the barriers we've described. The expectations are high, especially as more and more teachers use more and more new software and new technology. So the classroom teacher who decides to develop a program can't possibly find the time to produce a program with all these options and features that run on six different computers and networks and meet all the technical requirements.
Selfe: You're so right. I was in a conference session where Michael Joyce and others were working with STORYSPACE, a mammoth, wonderful, sound program. And all these participants were saying, "Why can't we do interactive talk?" and "Why can't we do this and that?" Everyone was looking ahead, becoming aware of the possibilities, and poor Michael was just glad that thing was holding together!
Hawisher: Ah. . . yet another example of a sophisticated program that was faculty developed.
Haney: I have to say, with all the issues, there's still a lot of software out there. It's true for the Macintosh, and I'm sure it's true for the DOS world. We're putting together a CD for our sales force, and we've already assembled something like 322 packages in arts and humanities. Professors are out there developing stuff for their classes and never thinking of getting the software marketed. But it's not easy to find the stuff and then to make it solid enough for mass marketing, as Molly pointed out.
Short: However, many of those programs are now being created with HYPERCARD, GUIDE, TOOLBOOK, and other authoring programs. These are wonderful programs, but I wonder if they have empowered people only to that application's ability to create a finished product. The faculty are then not working in more robust languages like C++ that enable a truly professional and finished software product, one that has the speed and functionality that people have come to expect from software.
C&C: It sounds like you're saying that these authoring programs are really only prototyping programs?
Short: I think they give prototyping capabilities. They're certainly excellent for individual faculty members developing things for their own classes, what Steve alluded to, or for their own departments. They fit into a long tradition of programs, an astronomical number, that are born, live, and die on the same campus. With faster hardware making up for the speed shortcomings of these authoring programs, we are getting programs that can create more sophisticated applications and faculty don't have to be professional programmers. But there's another leap yet before they can match the level of quality you get working in C++ or something like that.
Hawisher: And the issues are changing. I'd suggest that because of the interplay of technology in our theory and teaching, the problems with writing that existed in the late 1970s do not exist today. We have sophisticated word-processing programs that enable the kind of invention that Hugh once described. We have synchronous networking where we can do group brainstorming and enable a social constructivist pedagogy. The problems that exist today, and the way we theoretically conceive the field, is evolving with the technology.
Selfe: Yes, that's true to some extent. In some ways, the problems in composition that Hugh addressed in the late 1970s are not the problems we address now. But on another level, we're grappling with many of the same problems. We have learners in our classrooms who are experiencing the same problems of being silenced and marginalization. For instance, we have increasing economic gaps between students. Technology hasn't addressed those issues.
Burns: The two expectations we had when I was designing software was that: 1) we would help writers hone their skills, and by skills we meant mechanics; and 2) this computer would grade all the papers for us. The skills people wrote things, and I did a lot of these "five usage toughies." You know, the difference between effect and affect. There's a lot of that out there. It didn't take very long to write that software so that you could do that and do it magnificently well. The feedback of students using those kinds of programs at different universities was that they never used it again. They went to it once, and they may not know the difference between effect and affect, but they weren't inclined to make that a major concern of their undergraduate career. Another focus was on the generative power of producing language, so we got a lot of random number generators generating all the poetry we could ever write, hoping at the end of this, by 1980 at the very least, we'd have Hamlet finished, randomly put together. That didn't happen either. There wasn't a muse in the machine waiting to fire off Hamlets for us. That didn't work. And then there were people in the 1960s who were trying to grade papers, so instead of writing "awk," you could pick #3 and the computer would say "Your paper is awkward." So you had this wonderful generated marginalia. Now, it occurred to some of us that were developing closed systems and that open-ended programming would be more promising in the tools-generating process. That began a change in the way we looked at something that would be helpful, and would be used again. That's the real secret, y'know, "I want to do this again, I want to do this again, I want to do this again, I want to do this again."
Hawisher: So that's why word processing, and other kinds of programs like INTERCHANGE and some of these commercial products continue on. What software in composition is available today that we are still using?
C&C: Wresch's program [WRITER'S HELPER] has probably sold more than any other single program in composition studies.
Selfe: Schwartz's SEEN and ORGANIZE as well.
Burns: I'm biased, but I continue to use invention programs. But, I use them over and over again. Oh no, I'm a sick person.
C&C: Collaborative programs have been doing well, ASPECTS and of course INTERCHANGE, which has got a lot of attention.
Selfe: prep editor.
Korhanis: But, are these not sort of more generic products, rather than the ones meant for the classrooms and lectures. We see collaborative technology as a feature rather than a product. I think ASPECTS, as it is now, contains features or tools teachers can integrate in their teaching in various ways. I think it fits in well with things like HYPERCARD and the object-oriented- programming applications where we're going to see all sorts of tools that we can combine in various ways and that lend themselves to a wide range of pedagogical uses.
Haney: Regarding the need to produce a professional program easily; hopefully, that's one of the things that object-oriented-programming is going to take care of. When you will operate in that O-O-P environment, so to speak, and not so much within programs, you'll have different tools that you plug in, tools that do certain things again and again. Files will be active. You might have a spreadsheet object on the page, and have text objects, and graphic objects, but everything is just one file. And whenever you click on a spreadsheet object, the menu bar changes for spreadsheet functions. When you click into a text object, then the menu bar changes, and it's all the text manipulation capabilities. And so, not only will you get more professional applications easily developed, and get them much quicker when it comes time to update them; it's not going to be so much of a hassle. But you'll have a compound document type that any object you plug in will be able to act on and do it's thing, whatever it's thing is.
Selfe: Where does a faculty member fit into a system like that? Or, is their role in the development of those initial tools?
Haney: Yeah, that's an issue. . . . My hope would be that it would be so easy that you wouldn't have to have a content person and a programmer--that dichotomy would go away.
Hepler: I was thinking that, again, he's talking about tools, and a collection of tools, and we think of WRITER'S HELPER as a tool. We're beginning to move into a new era where teachers work with tools, where they pick and choose from what's available to them on the market. But the context into which those tools are placed is shaped by the teacher. So, we can discuss computer tools, but then there's this whole other discussion and support structure that's needed. We need to talk about and show people how to effectively use these tools, and that's a component of academic software that isn't built in but can profoundly impact the success of that software in the classroom. There are all these materials extant to the tools themselves that one needs to develop to support the whole process. So what we end up saying to a given teacher is, "Now, if you want to teach X to these types of students, then you can put together this combination of tools." And I don't care if it's on the Mac, or the IBM, or if you use this graphics program, or that one. These are the basic features you need, these are the kinds of tools, and you put them together to help you solve your teaching problem.
Selfe: So teachers work with context, then? Or applications?
Hepler: They take the applications and develop them as solutions to particular teaching problems or situations.
Selfe: I want teachers. . . the problems are going to be forming the tools, so I still want teachers in on design, too.
Hepler: They become so in the process I've described. Okay, the teacher takes those tools, and starts using them and trying to come up with this solution. And they say, "Oh, but I need this feature or that one." That's where you turn around and you go back to the publisher of the tool, and say, "Listen, I'd like to use your tool in this way, and you need this feature, and have you thought about doing this?" And that's where you create the dialogue between the person who's using the tool, and the person publishing it. It grows from there, it's an iterative process, and hopefully a dialogue.
C&C: Has it been a problem for you all, that as a field, we have not done a very good job identifying for you our problems?
Richardson: Well, I guess I consider that part of my job, and what all of us publishers do. You go out and figure out what the market wants, even if they don't know it yet.
C&C: Is that accurate, is that your sense of our field, that we're not giving you much help?
Richardson: Certainly not. I don't expect you to give me help. I think it's for me to go out and establish that dialogue with you. It's my responsibility to say I'm interested, and I want to know what things you need, and how you see the future going. I don't want to tell you, I want you to tell me.
Haney: I was just going to say, I think more important than any publisher or hardware maker trying to get information from these folks, what's more important is the dialogue between the two. One of the things we always find with our technology is that people don't know what kinds of things are available. People can wish for things and we can often say, "We can do that!" The dialogue is important because teachers have ideas about things they didn't even know could happen. And we can say, "We've got that capability and this new technology." And I think it's in the dialogue that we come up and create something that neither of us knew was a do-able thing. Or a needed thing.
Richardson: Our review process is where we create the dialogue. We work closely with the reviewers and carry their feedback back to the author and developers.
C&C: Textbook publishers have had a mixed history with their handling of software. Interestingly, part of your charge is to develop a catalog of stand-alone software products for Harper-Collins, products not tied to texts. That marks a departure from the practice of more recent years. How are you finding software products? And what are you looking for? What sort of criteria are you using as you go out there and try to create a catalog?
Richardson: You did use the word "challenge," I hope. Because it is that. I look for new software by coming to places like this. We consider this conference the cutting edge conference for computers and composition. What people might be using three years from now is being used and discussed now by the people who attend the conference. Stand-alone software is a difficult thing for us as textbook publishers to do, because people are so accustomed to us giving away our software. Now convincing them to pay money for something they used to get last year, five years ago, for nothing is the challenge. It has to be valuable.
Short: In my opinion, the book publishing industry is going to be absolutely turned upside down within the next couple of years as the CD ROM becomes a standard feature of all microcomputers. I expect to see happen in 18 to 24 months. You won't dream of buying a microcomputer without a CD ROM drive installed, in the way that today you wouldn't think of buying one without a hard disk in it. I think what that's going to do is gradually, and maybe relatively quickly, begin to erase the line between the text and the software. When the text in the book is actually deliverable in a CD ROM format, I think the traditional publishers will be pressured increasingly to deliver their product in that format. And then, all of these tools that are maturing now can be stitched together through object orientation modules and users can easily and quickly access all that information. It will absolutely revolutionize the whole publishing industry, the software industry, and in ways that I don't think we can even begin to imagine or predict. The critical factor, reaching a critical mass of CD ROM drives, will change everything.
Haney: I wonder what one of these books will look like? With our QUICKTIME technology that we're licensing out and expect to see on MS-DOS machines and OS-2 machines, video is going to be available very easily, playing off of CD ROM, and that changes the whole reading experience. Is it reading? Is it a book? We've had publishers come to us and show us some of their textbooks. Publishers like Harper-Collins who are starting to come out with their books on CD ROM, and they told us they're committed within the next three to four years for it to be the primary medium for these textbooks.
Short: That's the dream come true from a production cost standpoint, stamping out CD ROMs for coins. . . dollar, dollar fifty.
Haney: But the thing is, you've then got graphics and you've got text, you've got video very easily playing off of a cheap, compact media.
Short: The public acceptance of that will really require the video quality to increase to 30 frames a second refresh, with sound synchronization and the ability to go full screen, to be able to go from a postage-stamp size video to full screen. And I think once we have that in CD ROM format combined with all of the kinds of object-oriented access tools.
Haney: That all seems to me to be a matter of time with the technology. It's inevitable. But the issue, it seems to me, for people like Cynthia and Gail and all the teachers and researchers gathered here at this conference is, "What does this mean pedagogically, that I've got video in my book?" If I open my electronic book and if I can drop a CD in and then tap on the screen to call up a piece of video. . . something significantly different happens. Is that important, or isn't it? I don't know, but I think reading is basically an interactive act, and if all of a sudden, there's all this video integrated into their primary medium for getting information.
Selfe: They're going to be reading, reading different texts, and text becomes a different thing. And the reading process becomes different; that doesn't mean they're not reading. Students can make the shifts because they don't have the baggage that we carry around. We have to learn from our students.
Hawisher: There is a whole generation of people that have been clicking the television and able to watch four or five shows at once by switching them. And when you're working with these young people, they just take to this technology and think of ways of using it that don't occur to us.
Short: Laser technology will enable us as educators to use that capability in a way that we can't effectively now in an educational mode. I mean, we do some, but the lack of flow control until you get to laser disks and Digital Video Interaction technology. The ability to have data files of video right on a computer disk and to play it full-screen revolutionizes our use of video as an instructional tool--to be able to start and stop it at any point, play it forward, play it backward, speed it up, slow it down. See, when we're reading, we're constantly practicing flow control. We go into skim mode, we back up, we re-read it again, we look at it upside down, so forth. But with video, with the cassette recorder, you have some crude capability of fast forwarding and backing up, but you can't do much more than that. Now, in the presentation I was doing yesterday with Romeo and Juliet and video disk I have the ability to stop, to pause, to back up, to see the scene again. To click a button and see the text of the scene while I was listening to it, the text scrolling by with the video.
Selfe: But that's the stuff you can imagine. I went into my lab the other day and there was a student there watching video disk with dark glasses on. We have an interior lab, there are no windows, and they're sitting there with dark glasses on. So I said, "What are you doing?" and the student said, "It makes it look different. It makes it look different, and I can see different things when I'm wearing my dark glasses." Now this may seem like a silly example to us, but it is the truth. We can try to imagine everything we would do with a traditional text mapped onto video, and we can't begin to touch a thousand thousandth's of what our students will show us within the first week when they start fooling with the technology. Their entire world is turned 180 degrees in hyperspace from ours. So we have to be ready to learn. I think that's going to be the most exciting thing for teachers, to just understand that you don't have to be the authority. Give it up!
Richardson: That seems to be the theme of this conference. It seems to me that our definitions of reading and writing and coherence and authority are redefining themselves before our very eyes.
C&C: The motto, then, is "Give it up!" Interestingly, in terms of future software development, we move away from this notion of teachers defining problems, issues, or things they would like to do to students, and to some extent the media, defining or creating the new possibilities and the problems and the new things we'd like to do.
Selfe: The teachers become the translators. The teachers are the best observers of their students. They understand when an action is significant, if the dark glasses have meaning or are just dark glasses.
Korhanis: They mediate between the students and the software producers. They become the people who say, "This is important, that my student tried to do this thing with your software." And she really should be able to do that.
C&C: Can the machine help redefine itself for the student and the classroom context? There seems little discussion of artificial intelligence in software design.
Burns: It's becoming status quo. So it's starting to disappear, trying to be transparent. The first rule of AI is if it works, if it runs, it's not artificial intelligence anymore. Our development of the object-oriented symbolic processing tools is an example. As we make those symbols have meaning, represent knowledge as an icon, and that icon becomes an interface, it moves from the symbolic object that we were concerned with in 1975 to an icon that's just present and goes and does its thing. So the smarts that are invented in that icon are now going to manifest themselves, they are transparent to the user. AI seeps into things. Intelligent tutoring is alive and well in knowledge domains that are well understood. The challenge in our field is if we can develop a model of expertise, a modeof instructional expertise and a model of what the missing concepts would be. What the missed concepts would be in a model of student performance. Then the program can help make a better theme for you. "Did that make a better argument, that change?" So, you really get back to Socrates walking with his students, saying, "Let's try that again. Listen, let's get that speech again!" So, you get these over and over performances that can be modeled and improved. So, ITSs (Intelligent Tutoring Systems) are alive and well, but you knew I'd say that. The researchers are really pushing hard on some of the techniques to get AI tools ready. But, what is not happening fast enough is the things we call "knowledge acquisition" and "knowledge representation."
Short: When we enter the realm of advanced technologies like AI, we also recognize the gap between the, not so much the have and the have-nots, but the technologically leading edge people. The kind of people at this conference and. . . 4 Cs perhaps. At 4 Cs, most people make it through the exhibit hall, and they rubberneck a bit. And then they're off to their traditional papers and traditional formats. And working with their little postage stamp areas of expertise. As we go out to the community colleges and secondary schools, regional campuses, we are finding that people in those are more technologically better off. Is the gap increasing, is it staying about the same? Or is it?
Selfe: Community colleges that I've been to are oftentimes much better equipped than universities. Take, for example, Jackson Community College, where Michael Joyce is. It has wonderful equipment. And yet, there are also community colleges that have minimal equipment.
Short: Right, and if you are interested in software development, how do you come at it initially? You look at the research aspects of doing it because you're trying to protect your own career advancement and so forth. Whereas, here we're talking about institutions that are first and foremost and exclusively concerned with structural learning. I guess I do get concerned when I make the rounds of some of those less fortunate than a Jackson Community College and see people with no technology at all, or with decrepit, broken down machines. I see a school with 40,000 students and four computers.
Richardson: We have 150 sales reps out in the field, and the feedback I get from them so often is, "We can't do anything with the software, so few people have the equipment necessary to run it." If it needs more than 512K or if it can't run off a floppy disk, then it's often a problem. I still get so many requests for just drill and kill software and nothing more than that.
Haney: There are people that are way, way, way ahead and doing amazing things and really integrating the technology all the way across the curriculum. And then there are the people who have haven't a clue, and a very few in the middle; it's just these extremes. It's like the very, very rich and the very, very poor.
Burns: So, there is this technological apartheid. . . it's so visible. And, I live in Texas now, and it's real striking to see the haves and the have-not's. And it's not going to happen for a lot of folks.
Selfe: There's a wonderful moment in Paul [LeBlanc]'s session today, where the woman that was speaking after him had a slide show, and she was showing her high school. She had 35 computers, 35 white computers with 35 white kids using them. And Paul said, "When I look at that, all I can think of is the national ratio is 33 to 1, 33 computers to 1 student. That picture right there means that there are 32 schools, other classrooms, with only one computer in them." What he was seeing in the wonderful example were the other schools, the inner city schools, the school he discussed in his talk. What that presentor said was heartrending, even though she was experiencing absolute success and was doing wonderful things. It was heartrending because some schools just don't have the resources to do these wonderful things. It is happening in some places; it isn't in others.
Haney: Part of that problem though is that there are certain people who get it and other people not getting it at all. The first group understands the power of technology and what it can do. When I worked for Holt, Rhinehardt, and Winston we had some wonderful software for the K through 12 market. One package, "The Voyage of the Meanie," was multimedia before multimedia was multimedia. It had videotapes, it had workbooks, and it had software. And you would use all three. Our sales force were going out to the customers and the customers wanted this drill and practice stuff. And we'd say, "Wait, we've got this wonderful thing, show the kids the video, it's half drama, story, and then it's half documentary." One of the characters would talk about some aspect of, well, research or something. And they had the stuff in the workbooks where they could go and do the problems. And then they could get on the software; they could be the characters in the video, get stranded on an island; so it's a simulation, they've got to survive and walk around, and pick up food. Some teachers got it, they understood. They said, "Oh, I see this." And it became a very powerful tool. The kids loved it totally and got into it. And these other people who don't get it, they have the technology, but they're still using the software as a fancy workbook.
Selfe: Why did this happen? What's your hypothesis about why some people get it and some people don't get it?
Haney: It's a fundamental paradigm change. And it's hard for me to make judgments about K through 12 teachers, because I've never been one--I haven't had to face a group of children. I haven't had to plan lessons. But it seems to me with "The Voyage of the Meanie," you really had to work to get this program going in your classroom. It wasn't the situation where in your first year, you plan out all your lessons. With "The Voyage of the Meanie," you really had to think and change, and your kids were challenged. So, you had to be challenged, and it was a difficult process to get going. But once you made the transition, you were there! You had that magic.
Selfe: But there are so many teachers around now that are just struggling to survive. When you've got 150 kids a day, most teachers build these fragile little ecosystems that allow them to cope with the day-to-day existence. When they're running the yearbook and doing lunchroom duty, and then doing bus duty after school, and then going home to grade 150 papers. And the thought of just one more piece on your back, one more thing to do. . . like a kid will write in her workbook; or they'll have to order a videotape machine that never comes, and when it does come, you have to go out of the room to get it; and when you're out of the room, there's a kid with a knife who might go after the other kid. No kidding! I mean, I'm telling you the truth; teachers are in such a fragile state now. These are the cultural problems that influence software design and curricular integrations at a fundamental level. I could not have left my classroom when I taught in junior high to go get a videotape machine, even if the school had a videotape machine. Which it didn't; it didn't even have a principal who could spell.
Hepler: You mentioned trends you've been noticing, as you left the conference. The trend I have noticed comes up in every session, every person I have heard speak, is teacher training. It's the situation of the teachers as, in their jobs today, and the circumstances that they're facing. And then, when you add to that the complexity of trying to integrate a new curricular approach using computers, it's just beyond the situation that exists. The resources are not there. The teachers that are there, they cannot handle that one more proverbial straw.
Short: It comes down to major ingredients: money and management.
Hawisher: And when the government says, "It's not the money," they're wrong. It is money. If there were money, we wouldn't have teachers teaching 150 students a day. They could teach three classes, have the time to have the training that Molly mentioned, so they could cope in this fragile space.
Selfe: That's where the administrators come in. If the administrators don't even understand that you have to buy software when you buy a computer, they surely will never budget for things like connecting to networks or for teacher education. The administrators, the education of the administrators, has to be an ongoing effort.
C&C: How can the software companies help with this problem of training? Or education?
Hepler: We are doing training. Both the hardware and software publishers, that's part of our job, is educating the people out there in the sense of not only showing them we have this wonderful computer, or this wonderful piece of software, but explaining to them what they can do with it.
Hawisher: But are you reaching as many people as possible?
Hepler: Of course not.
Short: It's purely a matter of money costs. Somebody has to bear the costs, whether it's a hardware vendor, or a software manufacturer, the local government, state, or federal. This is cost. We live in a culture that unfortunately pays some lip service to education, but does not really give any evidence of really valuing it.
Selfe: And when they say, Gail, that money really isn't the matter that's not true. Money really is the matter. It is!
Hepler: I've heard people talking about in-service teacher training because they are in-service. What is happening in the colleges of education around this country? Who is turning out these teachers who are ending up in schools? I don't see colleges turning out technically prepared teachers.
Hawisher: Education departments are so beleaguered. I think society not only underrates teachers, perhaps, but also colleges of education. I think the funds are being taken away.
Hepler: But in a way, they've made their bed as well because they've put on so many requirements. I mean, I've been in this business since the early 1970s, and in that entire time I've talked to colleges of education just like I've talked to teachers around in the field. At least in the field, teachers are actually teaching and trying to integrate technology into the curriculum. But I see very little of it in the colleges of ed.
Selfe: Here's one problem with the colleges of education. Why should I as a teacher in a teacher-education institution fight like a dog and ignore my tenure to build up a lab where I can have the time, the facilities, and state-of-the-art, facilities to educate teachers with the best and newest equipment? After all, when I educate them and they go out to their schools, they will come back to me and say, "You didn't tell us that we wouldn't have video disks in our schools. You didn't tell us I wouldn't have access to this. Why? But you also didn't tell us that our students will be so scheduled within classes during the day, that if they're going to use the lab, they have to use it after school, or that there's really no money to pay for a teacher to stay after school to keep it open. And there's liability problems when the kids come in after school because they have to walk through a neighborhood that's not quite safe." So, the teacher-education programs are caught within a context as well. And they have a choice--they can pay faculty, or they can buy equipment. They can give their faculty money to travel to a place like this, or they can buy equipment. And it's all a tradeoff, so I'm not so sure that their best expenditure is to prepare people for a world they're not going to enter. And maybe some will make that tradeoff.
C&C: Well, we've circled around back to the college, the university, the research versus the teaching, the tenure-track faculty. I mean, we're back at that juncture again.
Selfe: Exactly. It's a contextual web of circumstancesand relations. We're not far afield when we're talking about software; I think we're defining the field. We're defining that web, that contextual web that makes changes in software a very difficult, systematic sort of problem to conceive.
Haney: Seymour Papert once made this metaphor that if you
took a doctor from 1792 and dropped him in an operating room of
today, he would have no idea of what was going on. I mean, the
gowns and masks and all this weird high-tech equipment, and what
was going on there. He would just be clueless. But if you took
a teacher from 1792 and dropped him in a classroom in 1992, he'd
be able to function. There's the blackboard, there are the books,
and there's the chalk. We talk about fitting technology into the
classroom, but the classroom must fundamentally change to take
advantage of the technology. At Apple, there's a deep feeling
among a lot of the education people that the classroom of tomorrow
is just going to have to be completely different.
Hepler: Yet, I'm not sure we've even done a good job linking the cutting edge represented at a conference like this with classrooms all over the country. How do you bring the rest along?
Selfe: I think it happens in small spaces, when one teacher gets inspired, and that influences her colleagues. That can happen even when your budget gets cut like our budget; you're down to the nubs and you can only afford a Powerbook TM every 10 years. But on that one Powerbook TM, on that little local site of resistance, there's going to be teaching taking place, if you get it to the right people. So there's hope. I don't think it's hopeless; I'm thinking that it's around those little sites of struggle, one computer or one lab, that the action will take place if we commit ourselves to that process.
Korhanis: Seems that technology at least has us on the right track to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The way that cost drops on technology, it may be that in 5 to 10 years from now we can get adequate technology to a much larger percentage of schools. So, that may turn out be a way of addressing some of these problems.
Short: If we can solve the education problem, of educating the teachers to understand it, to use it right.
Selfe: There's no evidence that that's happening, that the drop in costs is passed along to urban schools, or lower socioeconomic schools, or schools that serve mainly black students, or third world countries, in ways that would fundamentally change education in equities.
Short: So on one level, the real issue is political. How do we fully educate the American public to value education? They need to invest in our future--and you do that through education--and they need to see technology as one part of that. On another level, we need to educate educators about technology; to shape their worlds in ways that allow them to embrace technology and then to see it in new ways.
Haney: One of the things I think we like to hold close at Apple is that it's got to be a lot of fun. Y'know, if it's not fun, who cares?! The fun must be at the core of it.
Selfe: I think it's that aspect of working with technology that keeps people plugging away at it. It might be the reason that faculty who are getting few rewards for creating software keep working at it.
Burns: That's why I do it. Ultimately, when you place people, and particularly students, in front of technology, they have fun with it, and that is an educational revelation.
C&C: We've run out of time, and perhaps
it is appropriate that we end on this hopeful note--that fun or
enjoyment is a significant by-product of technology's use in education.
Thank you all for your time and contribution.