Moving Beyond Access in K-12 Education
Saturday, May 1, 1999
Questions and Answers/Open Discussion
[These are edited summaries, not complete transcripts.]
Audience: I certainly appreciate your efforts at Wellesley. What is the turn around time between when you first talk with the teacher and when you get back to them with the projects?
Moore-Bensen: There is almost immediate turn around. I see a teacher one week and have the model ready for them the next week. I ask the teacher, "how soon does this fit into your curriculum and how soon would you like to go into the lab?" We look at the scheduling issue first, and then everything is based on that.
Audience: When it is all done, do you have to do it for them again, or do you enable the teacher to become literate in the technology that is being forced on them. I mean, the teachers are not the ones saying "we've got to have this". They are ducking. They don't know the technology, and they didn't ask for it.
Moore-Bensen: They do duck before they sit down with me, but they feel better when I tell them, "Don't worry, I am going to do the work for you, I am going to teach you how to use the software, you are not going to be there alone in the lab, and you are not expected to be the expert."
Soloway: I am impressed that they will do it after you do it for them. I am glad to hear it, but it has not been my experience in Ann Arbor or Detroit. We find that it is very difficult.
Audience: When you are working in Ann Arbor and Detroit, how do you get what you do to scale from one school to a district, and then to a state?
Soloway: That is a key issue. The Ann Arbor example is interesting. It is a small district with only five middle schools, and it was an enormous job to get it to scale there. I am even nervous about whether it will continue there next year, so we are going to the board and making a presentation to point out that about half of the teachers the middle schools in Ann Arbor have been doing this for a full year, and they are also willing to do it again next year.
In Detroit, scalability is improved by having the support of the Curriculum Specialists, the Associate Superintendent and all the people in between. Unfortunately, the reality is that we have problems in Detroit because we can not guarantee that there will be access on any given day, because the infrastructure is so antiquated and unsupported. Are teachers in their right mind going to make a curriculum, or even a lesson plan, that uses the Internet? No!
Audience: There is a struggle going on in education, and I think it might have to do with the relationship between how students learn and the impact that has on the structure of power.
Resnick: Particular media might make certain power structures more likely to emerge, but each media can also be molded in different ways. You see that happening with the Internet. The Internet can be used to put control in the hands of the child to create and share with an audience, but in many schools, it has just become a repackaged model of learning that is about the delivery of information from one person to another. I think with each new medium, we have to fight against that. There are a lot of entrenched things in the educational system that reinforce thinking about education as the delivery of information. The challenge is to chose the models of how the Internet can be used that we believe in and come up with strong examples of that to publicize and hopefully proliferate through the culture.
Jenkins: Media has always affected power, and media change has always led to questions of authority relations between parents, teachers, principles and students. My colleague, Shari Goldin, found that the same educational debates surrounded the introduction of radio. There were questions about whether radio was better than teachers, and there was anxiety about the power of kids using it because it was frivolous or even dangerous to society. At the same time, educators thought that it would mobilize kids to build things that they were not learning in traditional ways. Kids have frequently been the first adopters of new media which gives them the power to more directly participate in a larger community.
Audience: The discussion of this panel models a kind of multi-layered approach to looking at media in education. It ranges from looking at local classroom teacher based concerns all the way to cultural issues. Elliot Soloway suggested that change has to happen through multi-layered efforts. It can't be just top down or bottom up: it has to be systemic. I wonder whether there are any Internet sites where we can find this kind of multi-layered discourse about technologies?
Soloway: As far as I know, there isn't a public forum for that kind of discussion. In the schools I work in, we do have that kind of discourse. For example, the Detroit people are taking to the Chicago people. Initially they said, why should we talk to the Chicago people, we have enough troubles in Detroit, why do we need to spend our time talking to them? Now, they are finding that talking to each other is helpful, but it took a year to get them to talk across districts. It is interesting to see these conversations crossing traditional boundaries. I think we need to make more of that, and you made a good point, because I don't know of a good public forum. It is an excellent idea.
Audience: I am fascinated with the Computer Clubhouse concept. How could it be incorporated into a public school setting?
Resnick: The best approach isn't necessarily taking the concept and just plugging it into a public school setting. It would be better to take some of the underlying ideas and mix them into schools in many different ways. Right now, there are about ten different clubhouses funded primarily by grants from foundations and corporations. We are starting to talk about how we might put some afterschool clubhouses in school settings, hoping that if some of the ideas get used after school, some of them might filter back into the ways that computers get used in the school day itself.