by FREDERICK BENNETT
Chapter 22: Grades
Chapter 23: Better Thinking
Chapter 24: Paying for Computerized Education
Chapter 25: Replication
Chapter 26: Inner City Schools
Chapter 27: Inclusion
Chapter 28: Foreign Nations
Chapter 29: The Milieu of Change
Chapter 30: Answering Objections
Letter grades and schooling seem inseparable. Suggesting they be abolished meets with reactions ranging from disbelief to fear. Standard questions immediately arise. Would students study if they weren't enticed by a good grade or threatened by a poor one? If they aren't necessary, why are they used everywhere?
Perhaps grades will be around forever, but I think another alternative exists. Before we canonize them as irreplaceable, some queries are appropriate:
- What are the benefits of grades?
- Can grades ever have negative features that are detrimental to learning?
- Are other means of achieving those same advantages in existence today?
- Is it possible that better results might be attained without grades?
Underlying this whole investigation is one point that I have stressed repeatedly in this book. Serious flaws cripple education in America. Little is now being done to removing them. Change should not be imposed merely to start something new. But many established procedures, such as grades, should be carefully examined. After some serious analysis, if grades prove to be totally beneficial, they should be retained. Otherwise it might be better to modify or discard them, if something better can be found.
Benefits of Grades
Grades are valuable in their own ways. Seeing the possibility of receiving a good mark, students often work diligently. Good grades are a reward, and I have stressed that rewards are psychologically necessary for anyone trying to succeed in any type of endeavor.
Grades also allow students, teachers, and parents to judge whether students are doing well in the learning environment. Through grades, teachers can decide which students need additional help during a course as well as identify those ready to be advanced at its conclusion. Grades help students judge whether they are succeeding. Even for those students just getting by, the prospects of receiving a low grade might push them to do more studying. A report card, with its curt but definitive set of marks, is a believable signpost. The suggestion to eliminate grades distresses parents and guardians because of the value of grades as a performance measure. Grades enable parents to reward good efforts or to encourage their children to study more when necessary.
These are the reasons that grades have endured for centuries, despite occasional attempts to dispense with them. Grades also remain because, until now, there has been no suitable replacement. Lack of an alternative has also been the justification for overlooking the inherent problems connected with grades. Now that technology makes it possible to dispense with grades, their true value needs to be studied.
Disadvantages of Grades
Grades depend not only on students but also on teachers. Similar marks may signify differing accomplishments with different teachers. Some teachers achieve a reputation for giving good grades without requiring much work. An unfortunate consequence is that students sometimes choose teachers because of their probable grade, instead of what they will learn.
Even the same teacher assigning grades will not always evaluate the work of every student with equal impartiality. The possibility of bias and prejudice is always a danger when a grade depends upon a subjective judgment of a teacher. This bias may not be deliberate and may exist even if the instructor is not conscious of it.
Grades are dependent not only on teachers, but on the standards of individual schools and these differ widely. Students sometimes transfer to another school and find that they have learned less than their new classmates although they received satisfactory grades in their previous school. A grade from one school may have a different connotation than the same grade from another school. Neither may accurately reflect how much learning has taken place. Grades contrast a student with a class, a group of peers, without reflecting the quality of education. Good grades may make most parents feel that their child is receiving a good education, but that indeed may not be the case. These grades contribute to a mistaken security, with parents never understanding that their children are receiving a poor education when judged by international standards.
Grades do not reflect the potential knowledge that students would have acquired in a different school or with another teacher or under diverse circumstances. One sign of this educational problem is the recent drop in SAT scores at prestigious colleges and universities. Students entering those schools have been earning as many high grades as their predecessors but their overall learning is less when compared to an earlier generation.
Grades confuse true learning and the actual mark for a class. The desire for of a good grade, instead of an interest in learning, generates inappropriate behavior in students. The common practice of "cramming" for tests illustrates the danger of stressing grades over learning. Research has shown that cramming is an ineffective learning tool. Although it may not be much help to learning, students use the practice widely as a means to get better marks.
Grades have the further disadvantage that they give a distorted picture of academic success. Many students who have received poor marks in school may actually have learned something, while others with good grades may have learned very little. Some students develop a knack for achieving good grades and not because they learn exceptionally well. Grades measure one type of intelligence, but intelligence is now known to be a multifaceted trait. The demand for good marks often outweighs the esteem of other talents.
None of these shortcomings are as damaging as another serious drawback of grades. They can devastate self-esteem. While an A or B may be rewarding, a D or F is not. Lower marks are punishing. Punishment of this sort can sometimes be effective, but the result is often difficult to predetermine. While an F might increase effort. it may also have the opposite effect by demoralizing a student. A succession of low grades will lead inevitably to complete discouragement.
Impartially, a low grade might be an indication that a student needs to try harder but that assumption could be false. Many causes, including the failure of schools to teach children to read well, could result in low marks. Lack of effort by students may bring poor grades, but it is only one of many possible causes.
The negative effect of poor grades was voiced by educational researchers at a conference on student motivation sponsored by the U. S. Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). They concluded
"Because high ability students usually capture the best grades and test scores, the labor of less-talented students is seldom acknowledged and the grades they receive for it do not inspire effort. Hence, low-ability students and those who are disadvantaged - students who must work harder - have the least incentive to do so. They find this relationship between high effort and low grades unacceptable, something to be evaded if possible. Some of them express their displeasure by simple indifference, others by disruption and deception [ 61 ]."
For this dilemma no one has proposed a viable solution. None is foreseeable as long as grades exist.
Obviously, grades are not perfect nor are they indispensable. Computerized education can eliminate them. However, in any new system, the authentic advantages of grades must be accounted for in another way.
Learning without Grades
The value of grades can be summarized as
Computerized education fills the human need for rewards well, as I have stressed largely in Chapter 12 (in Section I published in the December, 1996 issue of First Monday). This need is something found in all students.
- They stimulate students to work harder by providing rewards or by threatening to punish anyone who performs poorly.
- Grades allow students, teachers, and parents to form an evaluation of the progress of students, even if the conclusions are sometimes inaccurate.
Computerized education will eliminate the penalty of low grades, but the difficulty of achieving beneficial results militates against using punishment. It may seem contradictory, but with computers, rewards will replace most penalties. Even if a student falls behind the standards of what should be accomplished, computers will seek to praise rather than to criticize. Critics may dismiss this outlook as too idealistic. They forget that rewards are much greater stimuli to improvement than punishment. The more students achieve, the more likely they will be to strive further. The present method of punishing poor students is unsuccessful. Twenty-five million illiterates in the United States received in their academic experiences a liberal dose of poor grades and they remain illiterate. Students in the Florida "at-risk" programs had been receiving punishments in the form of poor grades for many years. Their poor performance continued. When they began to be rewarded for their successes in classes featuring computers, their accomplishments increased beyond expectations.
Any educational system must judge the progress of students by what they have learned. Grades are supposed to indicate learning, but they are not synonymous. Unfortunately, students and their parents concentrate on grades, not on learning.
Reports of progress in computer schools will be based on what was learned, not on a sometimes arbitrary grade. In computerized education, a report from a course will indicate that a student has mastered a specified amount of material. It won't say that the child received an A or a C. The report will also include how completion of this subject matter accords with what is necessary for the child to graduate in a suitable time frame. It will also relate the course to other goals established for the student.
Students will embrace different objectives. Some may plan to stop their formal education at the age of eighteen. Others may plan to go to continue in a college or university. Different requirements and norms will accompany varied goals. Students will have the flexibility to strive for any objective and to also change their programs as they progress. Underlying these variations will be certain standards that all students will be expected to complete, in basic subjects of English and other languages, math, sciences, history, and geography. With computers, software will determine when a student has learned enough to advance to the next educational step. This information will continually be available to Leader Teachers, who then can relay it to parents in meetings or in reports sent in the mail. Teachers will also reinforce what students already know about their progress.
Parents will know how their child's growth in learning corresponds with what should be expected, as a minimum, but also what students similar to their child will attain. Computer reports will present an extensive review of what the child is accomplishing, where particular strengths may exist, and what kinds of additional studies might be profitable.
If a student is showing extra ability, computers will do more than simply award an A. They will note and encourage the child to build on this capability. For example, in mathematics, some students could master sufficient skills in arithmetic to begin algebra at any age, regardless of the time it took to reach that mastery. It is also be irrelevant at what time in the semester these achievements take place. When algebra is completed, further advanced math courses will be available. Parents will be made aware of this progress. Standard courses will be given in a regular order, but age will not deter students from going beyond that normal pattern.
Computerized education will be geared to preventing students from falling behind. If a student fails to achieve academically at their age level, the Leader Teacher will be made aware of it through the regular computer progress report. A teacher may then wish to involve outside resources if other problems exist. Parents will also be informed.
Computerized education will help to equalize opportunities because computers can teach the same everywhere with equivalent software. National norms for education will be easier to establish. The smallest school in the country can have courses equal to the largest one. Although computers cannot eliminate the differences that pupils bring to school with them, they can provide the means for helping children from the poorest environments receive a suitable education. These children are virtually abandoned in schools today.
Students will be made aware of their progress toward minimum learning requirements that will enable them to graduate. They will also know, however, how they compare with ordinary and exceptional students in many subjects, including those that might interest them as a vocation. Student excited by a given subject can see how they match up with other students interested in the same field. Occasionally a comparison might point out that a student is poorly qualified, but more likely it will create another inducement to continue or improve. Usually, students become excited about subjects in which they have some talent so additional encouragement can only be beneficial.
Students have to look at their accomplishments realistically and honestly. They should be able to see how they compare with students not only throughout the United States but also in other nations. Students will quickly learn that the world is larger than the physical boundaries of the school they happen to attend.
In these cases, some national tests, such as the SAT, will still be valuable.
Computerized education can eliminate grades and still provide the two predominant contributions that grades make to education - rewards and notification of progress. Computerized education will accomplish both assignments better than grades. Computers will also eliminate the shortcomings of grades. Their indications of progress will not be dependent on variations of individual teachers. Computers will show progress in actual learning, using the same criteria for all students. This process will eliminate the punishing aspects of grades, concentrating on positive reinforcement.
Dropping Class Grades
Although we have concentrated on letter grades so far, we need to understand that class grades - like fifth grade or ninth grade - will also be eliminated. These grades are artificial molds in which schools confine children because they have no other option. Good education could dispense with them without harm. Alexander the Great didn't feel slighted that Aristotle didn't move him along at the same pace as the other students in Macedonia.
In computerized education, each academic subject will have a series of accomplishments needed to complete the course. Students have different abilities and their rate of advancement should and will vary. Pupils today cannot progress at dissimilar speeds because each class must move in lockstep unison to cover each course of the curriculum in the allotted time. Individualized instruction in computerized education will allow students to advance at precisely the rate that will be advantageous for them. Predetermined schedules will not govern their progress, nor will their advancement depend on the abilities of other pupils. Some will move faster, some slower. Some will show more skill in one type of course, but the same students may be weaker in other subjects.
Since grouping children according to similar chronological levels is advantageous, age will be the criterion for placement of children in schools. The number of age levels in each school can be adjusted according to the needs of the locality. The value of neighborhood schools will be an important consideration. Individual systems may want more or fewer age groups in one location than will be helpful elsewhere. Age divisions will depend on local conditions, but will be irrelevant to the schooling that children receive.
Grouping children only by age, and teaching them individually, will eliminate one destructive practice frequently found today: passing children to a new class in spite their lack of preparation for new and more advanced material. This system allows students to graduate even though they are not educated. Schools, however, have few alternatives, confronting an impossible dilemma. If they advance the child without sufficient learning, the student is unprepared for what will be taught in the next class. If they do not move the pupil to the next grade, the child will be viewed as a failure with consequent damage to self-esteem, and will be out of place with younger children.
This difficulty hinders not only students who are totally behind in their studies, but also affects those who are only deficient in one or a few areas. Even when a child is able to do some work for the next grade, he or she may be unable to do all necessary work. A student, for example, may have mastered the writing skills and the history lessons for grade four, but may not have succeeded in his or her struggle with mathematics for that grade. Sometimes an attempt is made in summer school to help bridge that gap. Often the choice comes down to keeping students in grade four where they have already mastered part of the material or sending them to grade five where they will be at a disadvantage in some subject. This problem will cease with computerized education. Children will be located in their right chronology with computer software teaching them exactly what they need to learn in order to move towards graduation.
In the initial years of computerized education, abolishing artificial grade differentiation will be particularly important because extensive remedial instruction will be necessary. Students who are older will still be studying subjects that will be taken only by much younger students after computerized education has made its impact felt in schools. After the present formidable weaknesses of students are worked out, variations in course work will be less pronounced. Whether the differences are large or small, however, computerized education can manage them without class grades.
After computerized education is established, virtually all students will be able to meet certain well established basic standards. Then divergences will develop because certain students will be able to progress much faster and will be doing more advanced work in fields that interest them. That variation will not hinder students. Children of the same age could be in the same school and in the same classrooms, but working on much different studies.
We began with the question of eliminating a venerable tradition in schools - letter grades. We expanded it to include class grades. After examination, proposals to eliminate both forms of grades prove to be reasonable. When grades exit from schools, their benefits and strong points will remain but their inherent problems will disappear.
Some argue in American education that students are not taught to think well, described by some "critical thinking," "higher order thinking," or "improved reasoning." Writers use these terms somewhat differently, but a basic idea is that students need to be able to progress from a knowledge of facts to arrive at more complex conclusions through intellectual activity. For simplicity, I'll use the terms interchangeably because of their common foundation.
Some explain that higher order thinking is weak because many children are poorly educated. If students lack sound learning foundations, they can't use facts as the stepping stones to advanced reasoning. With hundreds of thousands of illiterate students leaving school systems each year, many obviously aren't acquiring sufficient basic knowledge upon which they can build a better system of thinking. Improving basic education is, therefore, a major priority in any attempt to develop advanced thinking.
When suitable education is in place, it is vital that teachers formulate and use penetrating oral questions to develop reasoned thinking [ 62]. The execution of this technique creates a familiar problem for teachers. Widely different levels of student ability and knowledge appear in every class. No individual question can be equally helpful to all pupils simultaneously. Questions that aid some students may be too elementary or excessively difficult for others.
The diversity among student abilities has its usual counterpart among teachers, with their different abilities and skills. Developing good questions is an art. Some teachers have more talent for creating thought-provoking questions than others.
Some teachers also have more ability than others in posing their questions to the class. Many teachers find it difficult to allow sufficient time for students to think seriously about their responses to questions. This "wait time" is simply the interval a teacher gives students to answer before another question is given. Some teachers have a tendency to shorten this period. Quick reactions prevent uncomfortable pauses that might bore students. The unfortunate result is that shorter "wait time" makes it more difficult for students to become accustomed to think thoroughly about questions.
Computerized education will be far more efficacious for developing better reasoning in students. Keep in mind three of the requirements for developing higher order thinking: a good underlying education, thought-provoking questions, and sufficient time for students to think before responding. Computers can manage these assignments with ease.
Beyond the need for better education, good questioning is also important with computers as with individual teachers. Students must have an impetus to take information that they have acquired and use it as the basis for developing their reasoning powers. Thought-provoking questions aid this process. Computers can be programmed to ask stimulating questions with varying levels of difficulty that can be effective with different types of students.
This possibility of computers querying pupils may bring some initial hesitation. Can computers correct the answers to the questions that are beyond mere "multiple choice" queries? If computers must use multiple choice questions, can these help to develop thinking?
Let's look at the value of multiple choice questions the kinds that computers can obviously provide. A major difficulty with many questions found on today's tests is their poor quality. Many quizzes are not ideally constructed [ 63 ]. Consequently, the value of these questions cannot go beyond their inherent weaknesses. When programmers have a few outstanding teachers ready to formulate questions, these queries will be of consistently high quality. Moreover, all computer questions possess an advantage of enormous value - each answer can be immediately corrected, and feedback given. This capability of a rapid response and follow-up to every answer of every student, is a magnificent learning tool. When combined with well formulated questions, it can aid the development of critical thinking, a process difficult to duplicate except through individual tutors.
Satisfactory responses will bring additional questions aimed at helping students use their reasoning powers. If an incorrect answer is chosen, the computer can provide an explanation of the error. An additional question or questions can be immediately presented. Multiple choice questions, used this way, can lead students to understand material well, and can teach them to think better.
Can computers correct and evaluate responses to other types of questions? Software gives computers unequaled versatility that will allow them in the future to go beyond multiple choice questions. The gargantuan memories of these machines, combined with their immense power and speed, will make it possible to analyze many types of responses. Programmers working with teachers, will develop many of the correct or applicable answers to questions, and store them in the machine's memory. Computers will read a student answer and compare it to the stored answers. The computer in response will scan answers for keywords and phrases. By that, the machines can help guide pupils toward the crucial responses that accompany higher order thinking.
Although computers can analyze some answers today, this machine skill is in its infancy and will improve as computerized education is more widely used. Programmers will receive continual feedback about the results of software as it is being used. I have commented upon some effects of this return of data in Chapters 6, 7, and 13 (in Section I published in the December 1996 issue of First Monday). Programmers will be informed about the interactions of students and programs in examinations. Answers to queries then can be studied by teachers and programmers to decide how the computer could improve its methodology and how it could augment better thinking by students. Upgrades to software will be ongoing, so the teaching skills of computers will continually advance.
A further comment about the correction of answers is fitting here. Questions are intended to stimulate students to think. Analysis of answers will ensure that incorrect or frivolous responses are noticed, but they have a more important use: to direct students to delve deeper into problems. As in other phases of computerized education, answers will be ungraded. Questions, in this context, are meant to help students to think better, and thus to improve reasoning, not to develop a grade.
A potential objection to the use of computers in these situations follows from benefits that class discussions provide pupils. A difficulty for computers seems to be their emphasis upon individual instruction that eliminates exchanges between students. Class discussion, however, will predominate in seminars and workshops. These will form a crucial element in computerized education. Moreover, students will be taking seminars in subjects that appeal to them. This will enable them to become better involved in subsequent dialogues. Teachers who lead seminars and workshops will also have more time to develop these projects.
Nonetheless, instruction that is done individually can provide some of the positive features of discussions by other means. Programmers can film sessions with students responding to questions, editing the video so that the pace fosters student interest. At any point, the computer program could stop the film and request a given student to respond to the questions. Either the computer could comment on the reply immediately or students could compare their replies with answers other students introduced subsequently in the film. Sometimes, a question could be proposed, and pupils could be asked by the computer to give their answers. After that, the computers could provide examples of how other students have answered the question, and students could compare them side-by-side with their own answers.
Computers have two advantages over ordinary classroom recitations. Students will be able to respond to all questions and answers privately. Not every one of thirty students in a classroom can participate vocally in every recitation. Time is always scarce; as one student takes time to respond, every other pupil has less time available. All students in computerized education will be able to reply to every question.
Both shy and slow students are hesitant to voice their opinions voluntarily in class recitations for fear their peers will ridicule them and their answers. Sometimes these worries are justified. Computers are private. When students are formulating their responses, they don't need to be afraid of how they will appear before others. For some students, this will be crucial in helping them develop their thinking skills.
Computers can also be programmed to provide sufficient time to allow students to think out their answers. "Wait time" can vary and be adapted to the ability of the student. Sufficient time will always be available to aid pupils to profit from thought-provoking questions.
What has been said thus far in this chapter explains how computers can develop higher order thinking in social studies types of classes. Mathematical reasoning has a somewhat different form. The crucial key to mastering advanced thinking in mathematics is found in the student's ability to solve "word problems." These provide an important step beyond simple calculations. Initially, students must learn to arrive at solutions to basic problems such as
89 x .85 =
The more important question is whether the child can understand how to solve a word problem with the same figures:
"Lucy wants to buy a chair that costs eighty-nine dollars, but the most she can afford is eighty dollars. A few days later, the store advertises a sale and says that everyone buying furniture will receive a fifteen per cent discount. Can she now afford the chair? How much will it now cost her?"
This problem is elementary but the same basic difficulties are present in all word problems, whatever their complexity. Children must make the jump from knowledge of unadorned mathematics to the more important understanding of how to solve problems that contain words. These problems takes students into the world of higher order thinking, an essential step to master mathematics.
Some students have no difficulty in immediately adapting to word problems. Bright students usually find them interesting and absorbing. Their natural curiosity impels them to try to find solutions. Other students, however, find word problems to be a daunting barrier. They need individual instruction and some must begin at the simplest level. They can be taught, however, to make advances in solving word problems. It takes patience and time. Teachers have patience, but they seldom have enough time to help all students fully. Computers have both time and patience.
Teaching higher order thinking to pupils with real difficulties in mathematics requires individual instruction. Every incorrect answer by a student can be quickly analyzed by the computer. Some errors may suggest merely a calculation slip. The correct answer to the problem about Mary's chair is $75.65. An answer of "$74.65" would be recognized by the computer as merely a computational error, and the student would be asked to check on the figures.
Other errors will show a more fundamental problem. Sometimes one incorrect answer may be insufficient to diagnose the type of error. The computer can provide more questions and address possibilities until it finds the key to the mistake. It can then concentrate on providing a remedy for the difficulty. A computer has unique advantages in teaching students to solve these problems because of its ability to be an individual tutor combined with its infinite patience and capacity to keep students interested through rewards.
Computers will be able to break problems into small segments and to formulate questions. They will take students through each level, repeatedly and with many problems if necessary, until pupils begin to understand better. A human teacher could do the same with only one child in class.
Geometry is a form of mathematics that requires extensive use of higher order thinking. The U. S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment has commented on one computer program that has been developed to teach the subject. It illustrates some possibilities of computerized education.
"The Geometry Tutor is an intelligent tutoring system that employs audit trails and is currently under study at Carnegie- Mellon University's Advanced Computer Tutoring Project. It provides instruction in proving geometry theorems and focuses on teaching students to problem solve and to plan when they prove theorems. According to the authors of the Geometry Tutor, these skills are seldom emphasized in a standard geometry curriculum. Students often complete a geometry course with only a modest ability to generate proofs and little deep understanding of the nature of proofs. The Geometry Tutor monitors students while they are actually engaged in solving the problems and provides instruction and guidance during the problem solving process. Students do not have to wait until their papers are corrected to receive feedback. Feedback is immediate, precise, instructionally relevant, and based on a more thorough analysis of problem solving behavior than would be possible with one teacher and a classroom full of students. The Geometry Tutor was initially tested on a few high school students, some who had no geometry instruction and some who had just completed a high school geometry course. After 10 hours of instruction, all students were able to solve problems that their teachers considered too difficult to assign to their classes. In fact, a student who had almost failed geometry was successful and the students considered their time on the computer as fun [ 64 ] ."
With Geometry Tutor, computers can develop higher order thinking.
We started this chapter began with a comment by critics over the lack of instruction in schools that leads to better thinking. Educators face difficult conditions and should be astonished that a preeminent teaching tool like a well programmed computer is being neglected. Computerized education could help schools make giant strides in their efforts to produce students who can use advanced thinking.
Computers, properly used, can reconstruct the entire educational system in the United States. Even if the price of this advanced educational system were substantially higher, it would be worth it to the overall well being of the nation. Consequently, the primary reason schools should adopt computerized education is not to save money, but to improve learning. Nonetheless, full use of computers will eventually bring substantial economic benefits.
For those who are seeking reasons why computerized education is impossible, a seemingly unanswerable objection is the cost for new computers, software, and new wiring for school buildings. A computer must be provided for every student and school budgets are already stretched to the absolute limit. Opponents of computerized education will find these costs prohibitive.
What will computerized education cost? An important contributor to the widespread use of computers has been the dramatic increase in their power and speed coupled with their lower cost. Some have argued that if automobiles had improved like computers, it would be possible to buy a car that sped along at over five hundred miles an hour for five hundred dollars. The price of computers plummeted thirty-five percent in 1992 and another eighteen percent in 1993. Though future price reductions will be less dramatic, they will continue. With these reductions, a legitimate price estimate of one thousand dollars would provide a suitable machine and allow for unexpected contingencies. It should be noted that although each student will need an individual machine for their instruction, it is not necessary to have the total number of computers equal the total number of students. Class hours could be staggered and timing of seminars could be taken into account to reduce the absolute number of machines in a school.
The cost of software is hard to determine, but it is certain that competition will lessen this expenditure dramatically as more schools embrace computerized education. Additional expenditures must be made file servers, modems, multimedia equipment, and improved wiring. The total cost will probably not exceed US$2,400 per student. Computers, file servers, and software could be used for up to six years, and improved wiring should be a one-time cost. Based on these figures, the cost to the schools would be approximately four hundred dollars per year per student over the six year period, a tiny sum to spend for the benefits that will accrue. The lack of total significance of this figure becomes more apparent in contrast to the costs of inferior education to business in America today.
Remedial education in industry is a multi-billion dollar undertaking today., totaling about thirty billion dollars per year. It is equivalent to spending on each of the forty million students in schools today the equivalent of $US750 per year, almost twice the estimated cost per student per year for computerized education. Those savings will not be immediate, because there are still some twenty-five million illiterates that must be helped. Nonetheless, substantial savings will eventually result and make the original costs of computerized education seem trivial.
Business obviously is willing to contribute to improved education. Until now, major improvements have been scarce, discouraging industry from increasing their assistance to schools. When American schools are graduating students who are prepared educationally, business will be able to achieve meaningful savings because expenditures they make to provide remedial education will diminish sharply. With some promise that schools are improving, there will be a sharp increase in voluntary, private contributions for educational reform, providing a new revenue stream other than new taxes.
When the American public becomes aware of what is possible through full use of computers, they will support increased funding. In addition, however, other savings will lessen expenditures further, and will eventually make computerized education cost efficient. These savings must also be considered.
1. Reduction in cost of substitute teachers
In Chapter 16 (in Section I published in the December 1996 issue of First Monday), the elimination of substitute teachers in computer schools was detailed. This will bring an immediate savings since substitute teachers cost schools about two percent of their annual budget. If the average student cost is five thousand dollars per year, one hundred dollars per year will be saved from eliminating substitute teachers. By itself, this amount is about one quarter of the total yearly cost of computerized education.
2. Reduction of non-teaching personnel
Smaller schools, combined with students who are finding education more enjoyable, will reduce discipline problems. Improved discipline will make life easier for teachers and will also lessen the number of non-teaching employees that are needed. Disciplinary and security personnel will be decreased. Truancy and the need for personnel to track down truants will also be diminished. Non-teaching personnel must provide substitute teachers throughout the system. This includes those who must find and sign up subs and those who must complete the daily chore of making sure that every class is covered. When substitute teaching is eliminated, some reduction in this staff will be possible. Computers will cut paperwork not only for teachers, but also for schools. This will also reduce the number of non-teaching personnel needed.
3. Less vandalism
Schools are damaged and repairs cost money. Better discipline will save substantial sums of money.
4. Better use of school buildings
Because buildings will be used more efficiently, fewer classrooms will be needed. At present, schools are used at nearly 100% capacity from 8:30 AM until 3:00 PM for about nine months of the year, and at a sharply lower rate during the other months. Computer schools, could be open from 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM for twelve months, every year. Older students would be more likely to opt for later or earlier hours if they wanted to work part-time. Schools usually avoid staggered hours today because of scheduling, supervision, and teaching constraints. Computers will make these problems less important. Students wishing to avail themselves of later or earlier hours will be prepared to require less monitoring, as could be expected from those students who are more mature. Effective self directed learning is always desirable in education, and this will be another opportunity for advanced students to achieve this goal. Any student who is unable to work without a monitor will forego classes taken at unusual hours.
5. Less busing
Schools will be much smaller and will be located much closer to homes of students as explained in Chapter 21 (Section V in this issue). Busing has become a major expense in recent years and proximity of schools to homes will lessen costs. Since some teachers will provide different seminars than other instructors, some students may wish to take the opportunity to attend sessions in other schools. These will be for limited periods, however, and public transportation can be used by students who attend from different schools.
6. Reduced textbook costs
Although the creation of printed textbooks will continue, they will be smaller and used less than at present. Many will be replaced. One small CD-ROM can provide as much text as several books. In 1991, the World Library published over 950 works by authors ranging from Plato to Poe on one disk. In 1994, a revised version, still on only one disk, contained 1750 titles plus multimedia additions and the complete Bible. As the inexorable advances in computer technology take place, CD-ROMs will be replaced by Digital Video Disks (DVD) with at least a tenfold increase in storage capacity. Although remuneration of authors and profit for publishers is about the same for books or disks, a large part of the expense of books goes to paper and printing. With computer disks, the cost of material is minuscule. Savings will also accrue from the reduced expenses of storage, transportation, and disposal. The printing of textbooks also limits their flexibility. A substantial number of textbooks must be printed because of the initial costs. When an error is discovered in the text, sometimes the error can only be erased by destroying the book. With CD-ROM or DVD technology, the basic cost of the material is insignificant compared to the cost of textbooks. Moreover, video disks will eventually be alterable. As new information becomes available, it can be added quickly over network connections. One recommendation of a Texas Education Commission called for the reduction in the time that textbooks were used from eight years to from four to six years [ 65 ]. That will never be an issue with software since it will be updated continually.
7. Improved teacher morale
An important source of saving in computerized education is difficult to quantify - improved morale among teachers. Under present conditions, teachers must contend with many pupils who are ill prepared to do the necessary work because they are academically behind from earlier classes. That poses an insurmountable and devastating obstacle for someone sincerely trying to help children to learn. Teachers must also contend with discipline problems that are magnified because students are unable to advance in school and seek other outlets for their need to succeed. Poor morale and consequent burnout contributes to turnover among teachers. Turnover is a major expense among businesses and is costly for schools, although it is often overlooked. Poor morale also leads to higher medical costs for many teachers. Better morale will bring important savings to school systems although it will be difficult to quantify.
8. Reducing crime
The cost of crime is astronomical. The connection between illiteracy and crime was noted by James Bryant Conant as a "social dynamite," the result of inferior education climaxing in riots in some cities. Greater efforts must eliminate growing class distinctions, based on education. Computers can educate everybody. Failure to do this will cost more than mere dollars.
The cost of converting American education to computerized education is not large under any system of accounting that considers the real costs of the present system. In addition, actual dollar savings will reduce these initial costs appreciably and will eventually generate true economic benefits over present practices. In summation, the goal of establishing computerized education is not primarily to save money but it will be an important by-product.
The ultimate value of any innovation depends on whether it can generate similar results when used in another location. Scientists refer to this transference as replication. Whatever the innate excellence of any improvement, its worth is severely diminished unless it can be duplicated or replicated. This characteristic is especially important in education where new methods are desperately needed.
Highly creative teachers struggle continually to improve the educational system. This leads to new and original methods of teaching in individual classes with excellent results. When a promising new teaching method is developed, it often comes to the attention of the authorities. They want better methods to be copied to bring gains to other classes, and they often try make it known to other teachers. When an attempt is made to have other teachers emulate new approaches in other classes or different schools, the results often fall short of expectations.
A teacher who devised a new program can use their unique method with different students and in other schools. If other teachers who try to use the method achieve inferior results, there is some new variable affecting the results of the experiment, making it impossible to duplicate the results. These crucial divergences may reside within the teachers, not the students.
The basic hindrance to replication in education is that teachers are different, and education is dependent upon their individual skills. These differentiations between instructors prevent many valuable techniques being repeated except on a limited scale, if at all.
Some differences among teachers are obvious. For example, one teacher may have more skills in keeping a class interested in the material being taught. Another may be experienced in encouraging students to feel they can learn. A third may be better able to diagnose weaknesses in students from answers given. These are only a few of innumerable diverse traits that a skilled observer might deduce from watching teachers. Also present are other subtle variations that observers can't recognize and other teachers can't copy. The number of possible critical differences between one teacher and another is virtually unlimited.
In real experiments, every effort is made to control elements that may affect outcomes, those that may differ according to the subjects. For example, to judge which of two academic classes is more successful, testers must ensure that the intelligence levels of the subjects in the two classes are approximately the same, or else they must account for those differences called variables when evaluating the outcome. Failure to do this results in poor research with flawed or meaningless conclusions.
Researchers need to control as many variables as possible when arranging any type of experiment. In evaluating teaching methods, the differences among teachers need to be accounted for. Unfortunately, among the staggering numbers of variations, many are unknown or unrecognized. This inability to control many variables makes it impossible for researchers to pinpoint exactly what teacher characteristics are necessary to make a new program succeed. The result is that an idea that one teacher uses successfully fails to help others, and researchers are unable to determine exactly why one teacher is successful and others are not.
Hindrances to replicating individual classes are multiplied when attempts are made to duplicate new forms of schools. Difficulties are increased because many teachers are involved. Many different officials are also part of the new undertaking. Consequently, the number of variables expands.
Besides the individual differences, another important element is usually present when radically new ventures are attempted. Many people, especially innovators, benefit from an intense drive that motivates them when they are embarking upon something new and exciting. That same drive and excitement is absent in others who merely try to imitate what has already been accomplished. New schools usually begin with one or a few zealous and creative teachers or administrators who are driven by a new idea. These innovators then convince other teachers and authorities of the value of the system, and that the new program can assist education. After this intense groundwork is completed, the new maneuver is tried. Often it succeeds.
Publication of the report "A Nation At Risk" in 1983 intensified the search for new methods, leading to many original teaching practices in the last ten years. Many of these new schools have been successful. They have achieved noteworthy results and often receive national publicity.
These novel learning environments are seldom repeated. If they are tried elsewhere, results often fall short of those in the originating program. Few new experiments go much beyond the school or district where they begin. The reason is simple: other teachers and authorities in other schools lack the individual characteristics and founding zeal of people driving the original accomplishments. Consequently, these efforts cannot be repeated with equal success.
I mentioned earlier in this book that the introduction of blackboards seems to be the main innovation that has had universal acceptance in education in the last hundred years. They were a good idea, of course, but reformers have proposed many good ideas during that same time. Blackboards were accepted because they are independent of the individual traits of teachers. Purely physical, they can be used by all teachers, unaffected by individual talents and skills.
While the extreme difficulty of replicating new and innovative programs is a severe hindrance in making drastic changes in today's educational picture, easy replication is a prominent advantage of computerized education. This system is not dependent upon the varied skills and talents of teachers and administrators, but upon software.
Innovation can be duplicated since software can be the same in all computers. Teachers, working with programmers, can and will develop new programs. The combination of resources of the two groups will create radically new and exciting breakthroughs in learning. When a new program proves successful in one classroom, it will bring equal benefits in another, just as the teachers can succeed with their teaching methods in different classes and schools. A computer program that is able to teach well will never lose its value; it will only be improved.
The capability of being replicated is apparent in the Florida "at-risk" programs. Judy Jones began her program in 1987 in Vero Beach. Within four years, the program had appeared in twenty other schools systems within Florida, and in other schools outside Florida. Duplication of ideas is rare in schools, and new educational ideas ordinarily don't spread that rapidly. Not only was the computer system duplicated throughout the state, but the results in other schools were equally impressive, another rare phenomenon in education.
The ability of computer teaching to be duplicated exactly in other locations differs from rigidity. Computerized education will have unequaled versatility. A technique that can successfully teach many pupils in different schools may still not be perfect for every student. Needs of students will determine the programs used. When a pupil does not learn, the computer will know it and will often be able to select another method.
The replicability of computerized education will add a new asset to schooling that will become ever more valuable as improvements in computers and software continue their inexorable advances.
American society stresses punishment as the remedy for crime. That cure is ineffective, but when terrorized citizens demand more cells, the government complies. It spends staggering sums to build jails and prisons, yet lawlessness continues. Even though some inner city residents spend time in jail, crime continues to be worse than in other areas. Jails fail as a deterrent.
For many who live in the inner cities, there is no hope, new or old. In their world, despair rules. They aren't educated and so they can't get jobs beyond the most menial and low paying. Without jobs, there is no income. Without money, they endure living conditions that are deplorable. Yet if they have a television, they are confronted by the affluence of another, parallel world. Is it surprising that crime is so rampant among the poorly educated?
The problems are cancerous and will continue to grow until something meaningful is done. Conant's prophecy about the "social dynamite" of the inner cities remains alive because conditions have not improved. Schools have deteriorated since he wrote, further intensifying the crisis, while better education remains a precondition to any improvement.
In school systems in large cities, order and discipline have vanished. Youth in those schools are discouraged about education from the beginning. When disheartened students encounter discouraged teachers in a hopeless environment, results are foreordained. Inner city schools spew out tens of thousands of students every year whose illiteracy would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.
Something can be done. Despite the formidable obstacles, two reasons provide hope: the presence of dedicated teachers and the innate desire to learn.
Teachers are desperate to help students. The never ending illiteracy of so many students, however, shows that teachers alone can't change present conditions, regardless of how hard they try. A basic alteration in present schooling practices must occur before they can succeed. When that happens, the dedication of these thousands of inner city teachers will make a difference.
The second reason for a possible improvement in education is that the innate desire to learn is present in all young people. This desire can be squelched and made unproductive in stifling environments. Conditions in inner city schools obliterate academic aspirations, but the desire still exists because it is innate.
The Present Disaster
Blame for poor learning, and the environment that makes it inevitable, is easily heaped on students. "If only the students would behave, everything would be fine," goes the argument. "If students would only try, they could then learn." Students are viewed as the culprits, who could change schools by becoming better pupils.
Many children coming into inner city schools can't fight against the crushing obstacles that confront them. Almost every entering pupil will quickly join in the general malaise. To expect them to fight entrenched student mores is hopeless. Schools are supposed to train and mold students, not be reformed by them. Schools must create a new atmosphere. If present methods were enough, the many dedicated teachers and principals in inner city schools would now be graduating learned pupils instead of illiterates.
Youngsters didn't devise the system that defrauds them of learning, but they are trapped in it and by it. Most students were behind the first day they entered school and never had a realistic opportunity to catch up. Learning in that environment is beyond the ability of anyone who is not extraordinary, a rare quality anywhere. A poor education will harass them throughout their lives and will do the same to their children.
So whose fault is it? That is unimportant. Who can improve it? That is important. The kids can't do it. The teachers can't do it. The authorities must make the major changes that will allow children to learn. Somebody must take responsibility for providing a suitable learning atmosphere for students in inner city schools.
If authorities are ever to revamp inner city schools, they must correct one horrendous condition that now predominates in these schools - lack of order and discipline. Without these assets, no school can provide a suitable atmosphere for learning. No wish for academic advancement can ever be fostered without the obvious possibility that it can occur. Where order and discipline are lacking, learning is impossible. Present remedies for poor discipline do nothing. Establishing rules does not create order. Even adding punishments fails. If punishment could change evils, America with its unchallenged record of the most jail cells per citizen would also be the most law abiding nation on earth.
Size alone does not make discipline impossible, but if a large institution loses control, enough disruptive student leaders are always available to undermine any serious effort to impose it. Changing the attitudes of these leaders is also close to impossible while they hold court in their accustomed milieu. They, too, are hopelessly behind in school work and can only achieve a form of "success" by disrupting the school. They won't easily give up that sole claim to status.
Inner city systems, as they seek necessary changes, need to study how private schools foster and maintain discipline and order. Their first advantage over public schools is that they are usually smaller, but they have an additional and more powerful asset beyond their size - they accept and enroll only students who have an interest in learning. This sets a tone for the school and gives authorities the power of peer pressure to aid discipline. When peer pressure fosters responsible behavior, other obstacles disintegrate. If it generates unruly behavior, everything is lost.
Private schools benefit from another feature: they can enforce discipline. Students want to attend the school, and principals can, quietly and unobtrusively, keep in reserve the ultimate weapon - expulsion. If a student in a private school grossly violates discipline, the student can be expelled and must then attend the public school system. The ability to dismiss a student is a potent weapon that private school principals gain by having, though they seldom exercise it or even allude to it.
Order and discipline must be incorporated into public schools. While the major obstacle to regaining discipline is school size, even if authorities wish to build smaller schools, it will take years to accomplish. Since reestablishing order is impossible when it has been lost in large schools, some means of down sizing the present schools must be found. Students could then be offered the prospect of achieving an education. They still have the innate desire to learn, even when it is hidden. This will enable some students to choose an option where learning is possible when it is offered to them. If they found that they were learning they would have an incentive to remain in that environment. It also would be a stimulus for other students to go where they could learn. Public schools would then have the advantages of private schools: small size and peer pressure to behave.
Advocates of "choice" maintain that the way to obtain the benefits of private schools is to allow parents to choose to send their children to non-public schools. In theory, this option is very attractive. The negative side is that sufficient numbers of private schools will never be started in inner cities to teach all students even if "choice" were to be universal. Most inner city parents would be without the financial means to send their children to the private schools that will spring up in other parts of the cities. For this reason, "choice" cannot be a complete solution for the needs of the inner cities.
As powerful as computers are, they alone cannot change inner city education, but they can strengthen and augment a movement that has begun in a few places. Schools sometimes spin off part of their student body into mini-schools, within the same school building, but separate from the rest of the student body. Computerized education will make this step practical in more locations and will improve the chances for success. These schools within a school will help authorities impose order and discipline.
Computerized education will allow students to have choices of many classes without having individual teachers for each subject. Since computerized education makes it possible to break the student enrollment into appreciably smaller groups, systems can establish mini-schools or learning schools with fewer students and without unrealistic expenses that small classes would have formerly required. Minimum requirements of levels of learning needed by entering students will not be an obstacle. Computers, even with the weak software available today, can start the educational process at the pre-reading level. Students will need only the desire to get an education and the willingness to try, while separated from many current obstacles.
Parents and students could be notified of the start of a new mini-school. Parents and child will both have to be agreeable. Participation will be completely voluntary, and parents might have to agree to waive some legal rights. Some parents and students will immediately opt for an environment more conducive to learning. The enticing cachet of computers will be a powerful impetus for students to want to be in this type of school. Pupils will, therefore, enter with at least the beginning of a suitable attitude. They will be aware that acceptable behavior is a requirement to remain. The public establishments could use the same carrot-stick technique of private institutions. Learning by computers is the carrot that will appeal to the innate desire. Gross violations of discipline will not be tolerated, and infractions of the disciplinary code will result in the stick - a return to the regular school. The possibility of expulsion will be available in the public schools. Small schools with only students who wish to be there will create a totally different environment - one in which learning can take place. Discipline among those students will be integral just as in private schools. In that atmosphere, the demonstrated ability of computers to make learning enjoyable will be a sustaining force.
With computerized education, teachers will be working in a totally different ambiance from the one that now oppresses them. They will be guiding students who have an incentive to behave and to learn. They will be facilitators of learning and will have time to provide guidance and encouragement.
Students will have another asset, which is unavailable today - the sense of success and achievement that accompanies computerized education. Accomplishment is important for all students, but crucial for inner city youths. Kids who start behind and fall continually further back cannot have had much success. Teachers can use their skills to build upon the accomplishments of these pupils. Succeeding is absolutely necessary to provide self confidence and self esteem, and many children, for the first time in their lives, will succeed in an academic activity. It is possible that a mini-school could be located outside the main school when discipline has degenerated to an extreme degree. Community centers will provide possible locations. Many compromises are possible. Only the establishment of a learning environment where kids can learn is important.
An almost automatic source of new pupils for "learning schools" might be pupils entering the school. Every year a new class begins. Schools and children will profit if new pupils were offered the opportunity to attend a school where they could learn before they become enmeshed in the crippling educational surroundings of a school without order and discipline. Although loath to admit it, most kids prefer order and discipline in their lives, and many will choose that option if it is available. One successful mini-school could be forerunner of many more. One success could be duplicated innumerable times. It could mark the beginning of the radical changes needed in inner city schools because of the inherent replicability of computerized education.
A change of this magnitude may be criticized as impractical and utopian. Critics could protest that the plan might fail, a convenient objection to anything that is new and untried. Obviously, outcomes cannot be guaranteed without a trial. What is known is that the present system absolutely does not and cannot educate students. Moreover it has also been proved that computerized education has been able to educate "at-risk" students in other locations.
Another objection might be raised. If students who want to learn are transferred, only those students who most despise learning will remain, and the condition of the main school will be worse. Anyone suggesting that difficulty should evaluate it realistically. Inner city schools are terrible today, and it would be difficult for them to get much worse by moving some students. Moreover, eventually it will be possible to change many of those students who renounce learning today. Despite their present attitudes, they still have the same innate desire to learn. It needs better conditions in schools before it can change students.
Something radical must be tried in the inner city school systems. Without computerized education that will allow multitudes of smaller schools, probably no way can be devised to transform inner city schools into educational institutions from temporary dumping grounds for unhappy and delinquent youth. The present system has failed utterly to provide students with educational skills and no change is in sight without a drastic overhaul. Students are treated unfairly if authorities keep trapped in a school where learning is impossible. They should have the opportunity to receive a better education.
Computers offer the best possibilities, perhaps the only possibilities. Obviously, the lives of millions depends upon finding a solution.
Sally Brown is thirteen, blonde with an engaging smile. Boys, dances, and parties are on the minds of most girls her age, but social affairs are not part of Sally's life. She is seriously handicapped; her life is different. She lacks the control of movements of her upper extremities that most people have. Her arms sometimes jerk haphazardly and she can't speak clearly. When other people see Sally, they often don't know how to react. They don't blame her, yet there is a certain hesitancy, perhaps even fear, about someone so different. Sally agonizes over her condition, but can do nothing about it. She'll never lose her handicap; it will be her lifelong burden.
The suffering brought by serious handicaps usually comes through no fault of those afflicted. They may have been born with a genetic defect, or may have been injured in some accident. Sally is less concerned about the philosophical meaning of why she received her handicap, than what it means to her - a life that is always unlike and apart from most others.
Although she doesn't possess a superior intellect, Sally has average intelligence and can learn as well as most children. With extra work, she might be above average in some subjects. She doesn't have much incentive to work hard, however, because she sees herself as an outcast in society. Many other people see her the same way. If Sally had lived in the seventeenth century, she would have been considered retarded and a hopeless cripple; her family would have hidden her away in shame. We today know that this treatment was not only cruel but wasteful and inane. Consequently, authorities insist that children like Sally go to school. They set up programs labeled Special Education where children with handicaps can acquire basic learning in academic subjects and sometimes in vocational skills. Nonetheless, children like Sally are still deprived. They interact in school only with other handicapped children. This segregation accentuates the wide chasm that separates them from students who lead more normal lives.
Ordinary children who only see Sally from a distance, may easily decide that Sally is not only different, but inferior. At least, they can't understand Sally. Consequently, they probably will feel uncomfortable around handicapped people with whom they never interacted during their formative years. This reaction is unfortunate for the handicapped, but also deprives children without disabilities. They don't have an opportunity to really know people like Sally. Thus Special Education, with all its merits, may also intensify some problems of handicapped children.
Critics have found that Special Education is also the root of another difficulty. School authorities have a tendency to over expand the number of children classified as handicapped. It is often easier for schools and for teachers to segregate children with difficulties.
Unquestionably, disabled children today have advantages that their counterparts did not have in the seventeenth century, but still greater gains could be made if these children had additional contact with other children. Until recently, school authorities didn't seriously consider trying to put handicapped children into regular classrooms, an attitude not based on cruelty or lack of awareness of the emotional needs of these children, but on pragmatic reasons. To school administrators, handicapped children had unique requirements that seemed out of place in an ordinary classroom.
In the last half of the twentieth century, many disabled Americans were determined to try to enter fully into ordinary life. Many citizens supported their efforts and the federal government joined the movement. Laws were passed and incentives provided. New public buildings had to have entrances for the handicapped. Rest rooms required suitable facilities; sidewalks needed ramps where they crossed a street. Some public buses added means for the crippled to enter. Speakers were often accompanied by sign language translators for the hearing impaired. Traffic signs sometimes had sound for the visually impaired. These were expensive changes, but relatively easy to accomplish. Bringing all handicapped people, not just the crippled, the blind, or the deaf, into society is immeasurably more difficult. Problems abound and solutions are evasive.
Advocates for the disabled felt that removing children from segregated Special Education classes would be advantageous, and that became one of their goals. Several laws were passed including The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires that all children be educated in the least restrictive environment. There are many questions about the meaning of "least restrictive environment" and how it should be applied to a particular child. Nonetheless, all schools in America today must strive to attain this goal.
After these laws passed, a new movement began in schools. The underlying thrust was incorporated under the name "inclusion" - a movement to have all or most handicapped children included in regular classes rather than being in a separate section only with other handicapped children.
Almost everybody can agree that the goal is theoretically worthwhile and beneficial. When disabled children are included in mainstream classes, students with disabilities and those without, all gain in some way. Disabled children can begin to see themselves as part of society. Students without handicaps, who need as an important part of their maturing to learn to accept both themselves and others, can become better educated about those who are unlike themselves.
Conflict among Ideals
In a suburb of San Francisco, in a school that prides itself on being among the leaders in educational reforms, Jane Robinson instructs seventh graders. She became a teacher because she wanted to help children learn and progress. Jane is strongly behind several innovative changes that the school board started recently. She hasn't had much contact with Sally Brown in the Special Education section in her school, but she agrees that Sally and other handicapped children should be given extra help - as much help as possible.
When the principal of the school tells Ms. Robinson, however, that Sally Brown will now become a member of her Social Studies class, idealized theory suddenly competes with pragmatic reality. This instructor, despite her love of children and her desire to help, hesitates to have Sally in her class. While Sally Brown is gaining, other members of the class may suffer. Ms. Robinson has her hands full now. She knows that there are several students in her class who already need extra help and she can't squeeze out enough time for them. Sally will take more of her attention and her present students will receive less. Ms. Robinson feels that as good as a less restrictive environment would be for Sally, it also will impinge on the rights of other class members.
Thus the struggle for inclusion faces a serious and honest obstacle from a very sincere person. Jane Robinson still wants Sally to succeed, but the rights and needs of her other students are also important. Today's crisis with huge numbers of children falling behind accentuates the problems.
Moreover, inclusion in present classes is not always an unmitigated boon for handicapped children. When they have difficulty keeping up in the mainstream classes, more attention is focused on their handicap. This is one reason many parents of disabled children also oppose full inclusion.
Sometimes an attempt to offset some of the objections to inclusion is made by having a Special Education teacher sit beside and aid the handicapped child in the regular class. This solves some difficulties but creates additional ones. Other students are made even more aware that this child needs extraordinary help. Moreover, other students that the Special Education teacher might have helped may be deprived of the necessary attention, and there is never enough money to supply sufficient numbers of Special Ed teachers to help every child individually.
Inclusion and Computerized Education
Many difficulties encountered by inclusion in today's schools will disappear if computers teach all students. Handicapped children can be educated in a least restrictive environment without interfering with the rights of others.
Individualized instruction, the foundation of so much of the value of computers in education, will be the key element. Students will be together in all classrooms, with consequent interaction that will allow each child to meet and know the other children. No student's learning, however, will be hindered by the needs or difficulties of any other pupil. Moreover, the weakness of those handicapped children who are also slower in learning for any reason, will not stand out. Only the Leader Teacher will be fully aware of how rapidly or how slowly the child is progressing in school work.
Beyond the individual instruction, the unequaled patience of computers will be a boon for the education of handicapped children. That forbearance will assist them to learn as rapidly and as effectively as is possible with the least trauma to their psyche and damage to their self-esteem.
Handicapped children also will gain a familiarity with computers, machines that will aid them throughout their lives. Computers can offset many of their infirmities as no other machine can do. They will understand early that a computerized society need have fewer fears for them than a world without computers, due to the technical adaptability of the machines.
This adaptability will begin to aid them in their school years. For example, Sally Brown has difficulty controlling the movement of her tongue and arms, but her lower extremities are not affected. She could use her computer easily and effectively with her foot directing a mouse to control the keyboard. She might not type as fast as some other children, but well enough to complete successfully her education in the mainstream class. Her enhanced self-confidence will provide her with a different view of her future life.
If Sally Brown could not speak at all, she could learn to manipulate the computer to make it speak for her. If Sally were completely paralyzed, she could be trained to use only her eye movements, or any muscle that she could move, to operate the computer. Even sucking and blowing air, which any person must be able to do to live, can be used to make a computer function. Although these machines are only in their infancy, it is possible that they will alter the lives of the handicapped perhaps more than that of any other group of people. With computerized education, handicapped children will enter this new world at an early age.
Special Education teachers will still be needed for handicapped children just as teachers will remain essential in all education. They will be the Leaders and their training and creativity will help find new ways of aiding these children to become continually more involved in the full academic schedule.
Sally Brown, who faces a difficult life under all conditions, will have her obstacles lessened with computerized education. She will be a member of mainstream classes with the benefits from that position. Perhaps most importantly, as she interacts with other students, they will begin to understand what a sincere, human, and lovable person is Sally Brown.
Improving education is essential not in the United States but around the world. In 1990, the World Bank declared that "Evidence is overwhelming that education improves health and productivity in developing countries, and that the poorest people benefit the most."
Just as teaching of millions of illiterates in America requires computers, education of hundreds of millions of illiterates in other countries is impossible without these same machines. Just as merely placing computers in an inner city school would not solve all the problems, merely dropping computers into foreign schools will not solve all of the difficulties. Still, just as computers open a viable means of eliminating illiteracy in the United States, they can do the same in many other nations.
In those countries with little education, a additional problem complicates future computerized learning: an educational infrastructure is missing, and must be established. Computers, however, will make it easier to develop that infrastructure because they can be used to educate a cadre of educators quickly and more easily than ever before possible. Annabell Thomas learned to read and write at age 56 with computers. In other nations outside the U. S., many talented young adults are available who can also be taught to read and write by computers. They will form the foundation of a needed educational infrastructure that will hasten the computerized education of the balance of the nation.
With education, political environments can change, allowing for some form of representative government to take hold. When the United States in the eighteenth century was laying the foundation for its new venture of government by the people, Thomas Jefferson warned that democracy could not succeed without an educated citizenry [ 66 ]. His ideas are still valid today for no nation can have democracy in the absence of education. Education does not guarantee democracy, but education makes it possible, and probably inevitable.
I noted earlier that when computers are proposed as a solution for America's educational difficulties, critics point to other wishful solutions that have not succeeded. In the international scene the same objection will be made. Some people thought that radio stations broadcasting lessons would solve the educational needs of children far from schools. That electronic approach helped, but didn't drastically change illiteracy. Computers, however, have a feature not available with radio or television. Computers allow interaction between student and machine to ensure that the student never becomes bored or lost in the lesson, both of which will destroy the learning process.
Another obstacle for computerized education is language. With so many unique tongues, it might be impossible to translate computer programs into all idioms. The solution will be that computer programs will be written or translated into the major languages of the planet - English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Russian. Children, who can learn new languages easily, can be taught to read one of the major languages by the computer as they enter school. This second language would be the basis for education. Simultaneously, individual programs can be developed for each nation to teach in the specific language of the region, if that is desired, but the bulk of the education would be taught in the major language chosen by the schools.
In South Africa, education is still a major concern. At least half of the black population is illiterate.
There are some interesting parallels with the demise of slavery in the United States in the last century and the abolishment of apartheid in this century. The progress of South Africa caught the approving attention of the world. When America freed its slaves in 1863, the world was also enthralled. To make these gains permanent, education of former slaves was essential. Education of former victims of apartheid is crucial today in South Africa.
When slavery was abolished in the United States, educating all the children was probably impossible. Failure to provide effective schooling for former slaves and their dependents led inevitably to the some of the difficulties found in the United States today. In South Africa, however, education for the nation is possible. Full computerized schooling could teach every child and most adults in South Africa to read and to write. South Africa has an educational infrastructure that greatly aids the process. Since a portion of the South African population is highly literate, South Africa can more easily supply the human personnel that will make the computer system effective.
As in America, computerized education in South Africa would have benefits both for illiterates and for those with an education. Computers could make up for the years that poorly educated children lost under apartheid, but could also enhance and augment the further learning of educated school children, white and black. Nonetheless, the salient need is education of the uneducated. Wherever apartheid has left a legacy of illiteracy, computers could bring literacy.
An Additional Benefit
Computerized education around the world will produce another advantage: the machines and programs will be available after the regular school day. Adults will have opportunities to learn from the machines after the children have left school. The final result will be dramatic. For the first time in the history of the world, computers will bring what had never before even been considered: virtually everybody on earth will learn to read and write.
Computerized education will mean a profound alteration in the manner in which schooling is carried on. Those affected will, therefore, have differing opinions about the feasibility and value of this new approach.
Resistance to change is universal and often seems almost ingrained in the human psyche. In retrospect, it always seems strange that some improvements that are valuable and widely accepted today aroused vehement opposition when first proposed or introduced. When autos appeared, defenders of the status quo warned repeatedly of the dangers of replacing horses with machines. They were so insistent they created a still recognizable phrase, "Get a horse!"
Since the proposal to supplant horses with machines aroused spirited opposition, it is not surprising that a suggestion to allow machines to do what humans have done may bring resistance that is more intense.
The underlying reasons why new approaches are often in disfavor were enunciated clearly by Machiavelli:
"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success ... than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it [ 67 ]."
Although every major change meets intense opposition, changing schools may generate more than normal antagonism because of the importance of education. Moreover, fears will intensify because of history: education has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Long before computers, attempts to make meaningful changes met obstacles. Many new ideas have been proposed, but they have never gotten beyond the periphery of schooling and have made no substantial alteration in the system. None of these proposals was as profound as using computers to teach.
Opponents will bring up many reasons why they think computer teaching will be ineffective. Those are debatable, of course, because evidence is plentiful that computers can teach very well. Conversely, one conclusion is not debatable, but will be little discussed by this opposition: the present system has proved incapable of giving a superior, or even adequate, education to millions of American children.
The list of potential opponents is impressive:
- Some teachers, without thoroughly analyzing their potential gains, may feel they must salvage the present system because they fear that proposed changes may destroy their position. An analogy may exist here with the American Medical Association and their original opposition to the establishment of Medicare. Physicians were vehement in opposing this radical innovation. Today, after the passage of many years when they have worked with Medicare, they support it unanimously even if they at times disagree with certain aspects of the program.
- Substitute teachers will no longer be needed. Their opposition to computerized education is justified from their position.
- Many school administrators at local and state levels will strive to retain the present order. Less paperwork may mean that fewer administrators will be needed, but their big fear will be of the unknown. A change of this magnitude will have unseen consequences, which are always frightening. Hesitation or opposition of administrators is particularly troublesome because they have immense power: they can determine what are acceptable standards in providing education. For example, they decree today that some classes in which little learning takes place can be counted toward graduation. They can also decide that other classes must follow an arbitrary pattern, based on their traditional ideas of education.
- Another powerful opposition force will arise from over 1,500 schools of education that provide educational credits that teachers need if they wish to work in classrooms. Some of these teacher preparation schools are excellent, some are not. Although efforts have sometimes been made to weed out the poorer schools, the task is difficult [ 68 ]. As the role of teachers shifts, schools of education and professors in those institutions must change. They will need to prepare teachers for different responsibilities. It will be a waste of time to continue many features that are prevalent today in the system of teacher education. That will mean that schools of education and their faculties must also be altered, and some won't be able to make this profound switch. Schools that fear they will be threatened with extinction will, of course, be loud in rejecting a new type of education.
- Politicians have no intrinsic interest in retaining the status quo in education, but they are influenced by votes. They will also resist major changes if they believe opponents can deliver more votes than can indifferent citizens who might favor change. Politicians also hold power since they control the purse strings.
- Some parents will oppose computer education because they fear any radical change. The opposition of these parents will be increased as they recognize that some officials - teachers, administrators, and professors of education - strongly oppose this innovation. Many citizens will believe that these recognized authorities, involved intimately in education, must know what is best.
- Finally, computer manufacturers, although not opposed to computerized education, may give that impression because they will hesitate to act strongly. They fear that if they champion computerized education, and it doesn't come about, or until it comes about, teachers and authorities who are now responsible for purchasing computers and software will take steps to see that the offending brand is never purchased again in their school systems.
Despite the opposition that computerized education will generate, it will attract strong advocates from some of the same groups that will provide the opposition.
- After they examine it thoroughly, I believe that most teachers will be ardent proponents of this form of education. As I have been writing this book, I have talked to a number of excellent teachers who had no previous contact with the concept of computerized education. Universally, they opposed the idea when it was first suggested to them. After discussion, they saw that the potential advantages were magnificent. They based their approval both on the need to improve education which they all saw clearly, and on the advantages to the teachers themselves. I believe that in general, the best teachers in the present system will be the ones most in favor of computerized education. They are now excellent instructors because of their many talents and dedication. Despite their stellar accomplishments today, they are still bound by the usual restrictions. Once they are freed from the innumerable menial and time-consuming jobs, their results will be magnified. Although activities of teachers will be different in computerized education, the number of full-time teachers should remain about the same. As teachers develop new and better means of helping students learn and the costs of education decrease, additional teachers may be seen to be a worthwhile investment.
- Many administrators are openly dismayed by what is happening in education today and sincerely want change. They know that it is basic and fundamental. Even some administrators who might see the advantages may cringe, however, at the possible upheaval that will occur among some of their teachers if draconian measures are taken. They need to know that serious changes can happen without bringing havoc, especially to present teachers trained in the former system. The dramatic new role for teachers that will evolve in computerized education can be gradual, provided the basic change allowing computers to teach is implemented. In the Florida "at-risk" programs a teacher is present in every classroom, but does not do the customary teaching. These are capable teachers with a history of success. They discover that facilitating the learning of students in computerized classrooms is pleasurable, rewarding, stimulating, and satisfying. They can see what their pupils are accomplishing, and how they are assisting the children. Teachers will easily begin in this role. They can immediately be assigned as Leaders for students so that each child has an individual guide. Thereafter, teachers will begin other activities including seminars, cooperative science projects, and other new learning projects. As administrators realize more fully that computerized education can fulfill their dreams for improved schools without working undue hardship on teachers, many will become strong supporters.
- As for schools of education, many professors in the better institutions will see quickly the advantages of computerized education. They sincerely want to improve education. They will understand that they train differently, but they will also understand that they will be able to make the necessary changes.
- Parents, as they understand the potential of computerized education, will favor it. They already opt for adding computers, even though their present use adds little to the worth of education. One great advantage of discussion of computerized education may be that many concerned parents will realize that those who have controlled education have been unable to overcome many of the problems, or they would have done so.
- Politicians are aware of the difficulties in education today. As public sentiment switches to favor computerized education, many politicians will become ardent backers of the new format.
- Students, themselves will be another group that will select computerized education. Wherever and whenever computers are used in education today, children love them. If they were offered a choice, they would choose computers by an overwhelming margin.
How will it be possible to bring computerized education into American education? I believe that a strong impetus for developing change in schools will be an open discussion of the subject by all sides, proponents and opponents.
Several forces already mentioned may hasten this dialog. Crime, resulting ultimately from poor education, will act as a catalyst for educational improvements.
Another way that computerized education may begin is through "choice." I have earlier expressed my misgivings about this option. Nonetheless, there are many influential supporters of the concept and desire for better schooling is an integral part of their hopes. Even many of those who oppose the idea of parents being able to choose private schools have accepted the principle of parents being allowed to choose among public schools. When a new school is constructed, computerized education can be built into the structure. Enough students will choose the new education system to make a beginning.
It is possible in the present climate that "choice" will be forced on education by voters, and they will choose to make private schools also eligible. When these new schools are established, computerized education will be an obvious selection for many of them.
Charter schools, which differ from those that follow the "choice" model, offer perhaps the most fertile ground for the development of computerized education. These schools are started by parents because they want improved education for their children. Innovation is usually an important part of their thinking. When they study the inherent value of computerized education, they will want their children to partake in its benefits. As the Charter school movement continues to expand, its influence on all schooling will also increase.
Ultimately, of course, the main force behind the ascent of computerized education will be the intrinsic value of the system. This is the reason that advanced technology has been able to triumph in other industries that faced initial opposition. In spite of loud and vehement repetition many times on the value of a horse, these animals are seldom found on today's expressways.
The arguments against computerized education that were put forward in Chapter 6 (in Section I published in the December, 1996 issue of First Monday) have been answered over the course of this book. The replies will be summarized here.
- How could a machine do what Miss Smith did for me in the fourth grade?
Many effects of gifted teachers like Miss Smith cannot be duplicated by machines. Computerized education will provide more time for Miss Smith to do what she alone can do in education because computers will relieve her of the menial tasks such as providing information to students, correcting tests, and keeping current on paperwork.
- Machines will break down and students will be left with nothing to do.
Malfunctioning machines are not a major problem today and will become even less frequent as computers become ever more perfected. For the rare occasions that a machine fails, the computer of an absent pupil can be used. Machines will be tied in with the central computer where records and information will be kept. The worst mishap that could happen will be that a student must start again at the beginning of the day's lesson.
A main computer serving the whole school could fail. That disaster might seem to be equal to a failure of a boiler or central air conditioning system, but there is one major difference. Computers make a complete backup of everything at least once a day and usually more often. They guard themselves against major disasters. The computer hardware is the least important part of the system and could be replaced within hours. Data, which form the vital component, will be immediately copied into the new machine from the backup copy. The absolute maximum loss will be a few hours of work.
- Computer programs always have bugs, and students will be left with nothing to do.
Bugs in programs will be continually reduced owing to feedback to programmers from students, teachers, administrators, and parents. Since programs will always be improving and therefore, changing, bugs can never be eliminated completely. For those that occur, an outside expert will be contacted by telephone. This will be similar to computer installations in business today where software problems are often overcome by help from knowledgeable professionals. If the assisting expert can solve the problem immediately, little will be lost. If the outside source is also stumped, the problem will be left with the technical while a student works on a different project. Eventually, most of the problems can be solved.
- Computers can only teach certain facts, not higher order thinking.
This is a concern of many people who misunderstand the immense flexibility of computers. I have tried to give some examples of the possibilities of computers teaching advanced thinking throughout this book, but chiefly in Chapter 22 (in this Section).
- Computers can be dangerous because of the radiation that is emitted from screens.
Shields that prevent leakage of radiation from screens are common and should be installed on all computer screens not only in schools, but wherever the machines are used.
- Computers can be dangerous because of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that affects thousands of people in offices where computers are used regularly.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects some people who use computers continually for hours every day. In classrooms, students will only be at their computers between two and six hours per day and they will not be typing continually at the keyboard. There will be ample breaks from the keyboard to reduce opportunities for physical problems.
- Computers can be dangerous to the eyesight of students because of the need to read from the screen.
Students sometimes strain their eyes from reading books. Color makes reading less tiring than the old black and white screens, and actually improves reading comprehension.
- Some students will deliberately manhandle the computers and destroy them.
Discipline problems will be reduced materially in computerized education schools because learning will be more enjoyable than in present schools. The experience of the schools in Florida with "at-risk" students indicates that wanton destruction will not be a major problem.
- The cost of giving every student a computer is prohibitive.
The initial outlay of funds can be provided through capital expenditure, and the debt incurred can be paid back through subsequent savings. Computerized education will begin to save at least some money immediately with the elimination of substitute teachers and the need for fewer non-teaching personnel. In addition, textbook costs will be reduced. The savings resulting from better student discipline and better morale of teachers is hard to quantify but should be substantial. There will also be ongoing lessened costs flowing from smaller neighborhood schools, translating into lower transportation costs. Savings for industry, the present providers of remedial education, will be substantial. Eventually, the overall savings will be enormous.
- A machine is unable to make the judgments that a human can make.
Although computers can evaluate technical points like grammar, they cannot judge the value of original ideas needed, for example, in creative writing. Seminars, which will form a vital component in computerized education, will solve this dilemma. Evaluation and judgment of ideas will also take place through peer assessment which will be available in interchange with other students, both within and outside the school. Sometimes, feedback from a variety of other students might be as beneficial as that received from only one teacher, especially if that teacher is not creative.
- A machine cannot teach values.
A machine can be a channel of values because of the information that it provides to students. Many values that students learn today derive from what is taught about important issues. Knowledge about the Declaration of Independence, about events leading to it and about the personages involved in writing and ratifying it, contributes greatly to an appreciation of American ideals. Since computers will provide a superior education, they will also be able to impart values to students. Absorption of values by students will also be augmented by the frequent individual meetings of students with their Leader Teachers, and through seminars. Some groups have always been anxious to enhance teaching of their values through openly religious schools. This will still be an available option because they will be able to hire their own teachers. Moreover, programmers can make adaptations in software which schools can choose, just as these schools choose special textbooks today.
- A machine cannot develop interaction among students.
As computerized education develops, the computers will probably be able to develop more interaction, as is perhaps presaged today by the interaction that takes place on the Internet. There will always be interaction among students on the local level in the time outside of classes, but the lessened demands for absolute silence will allow exchange while the students are at their machines. There will be seminars and workshops which will be more frequent and more intensive than in today's schools. A new element will be added with the contact between students in other schools through computer networks. These interchanges will be with students who have markedly different backgrounds, since they may live in different places around the world.
- A machine cannot give the necessary and meaningful personal attention to students.
Computers will give more individual attention to students than teachers can hope to do in today's schools. Every student will have a private tutor in the computer that teaches at the pupil's pace. Computers will reward students honestly, but prodigiously, as the pupils advance in their studies. They will never criticize or condemn a student by words or by body language. Moreover, the feedback given to students will be immediate, which is of more value. Whether this attention is "personal" in a technical sense may be debated, but the effects are equally powerful. The attention given by the machine will be augmented by feedback from human teachers in the individual sessions that Leader Teachers will have with their pupils. This personal attention will add an entirely new dimension to the education of many students, for whom teachers cannot have sufficient time today.
- Students will waste time if there is no teacher to check on them.
Pupils fritter away huge amounts of time today while their teacher stands before them in classrooms. They become skilled at turning soporific classes out of their minds, daydreaming silently and passively in class. During these times, they don't pay attention and they learn nothing. Since they do not cause a disturbance, teachers don't fret. It would accomplish little if they did. Time wasted in schools under these circumstances is immense. That can never happen in computerized education. If students do not interact with the machine for a short, but specified period of time, the computer will be programmed to take appropriate steps to bring the student back to reality. Computers have an ability to stimulate and excite. Pupils will not wander off into daydreams when they are being kept busy and interested. This will be the normal condition in computerized education. The interactive features will be a powerful force to keep students working and enjoying their classes. Wasting time will become an issue much less often than in present classrooms.
- Bright students will discover how to use the computers to alter and destroy the system.
Only the brightest of the bright students would ever be sufficiently skilled to penetrate far enough into the system to alter anything. Even then, the system would not be destroyed as safeguards are built into every computer system. The chances of penetration of an educational system are lower both because less incentive exists, and because few, if any, students will have both the skill and the inclination to do so.
- One student will be able to take the test of another student since no human will be checking.
Today, a series of lessons with unknown results requires a test afterward to determine if the pupil has learned the material. The computer will be constantly evaluating and will not progress until the subject matter has been learned.
- A school system with computers as teachers will turn out automatons, not warm, friendly humans.
Undoubtedly, computers alone can't turn students into warm, friendly humans. Development of human assets like "warm and friendly" requires interaction with other humans along with direction and role models. Teachers will act as role models. Moreover, teachers will do it better than at present because they will have much more time to interact with students when computers are doing the instructing.
- Some students will be unable to use computers either through fright or incompetence and will receive no education.
Programmers will ensure that students will be able to work with the machines. Fears of this type are usually voiced by those without much experience with computers.
- If computers could be teachers, schools would already be using them in that way since schools now possess millions of machines.
Use of computers has been poor in education. The U. S. Congressional Office of Technology, recounted in Chapter 6 (in Section I, published in the December, 1996 issue of First Monday), analyzed the slow advancement of technology in schools. The advent of computerized education will involve a gigantic upheaval for educators. Major changes are seldom sought by those who will be deeply affected. Even when changes begin, new ideas are accepted only grudgingly and hesitatingly.
This condition is not unique to education. Many major industrial companies in the United States believed for years that they were making changes while the companies fell into deeper problems. Educators are the same. Whenever they make some use of computers, they convince themselves that they are embracing technology. Although we know that most humans don't like change, we always think of ourselves as different. Educators have that same characteristic. Although millions of computers have been used in schools, they have seldom been allowed to do more than serve as an adjunct to teachers. That pattern merely perpetuates the status quo. It does not show what computers could do if allowed to carry out that for which they are so well equipped: to teach.
In Chapter 1, I started by recalling the ominous prophecy of James Bryant Conant in 1961. Although the scene in America's urban areas was then peaceful, he warned that the underlying lack of education was contributing to "social dynamite." His foresight, including his terminology, was eerily accurate.
Twenty years after Conant's prediction, the U. S. government echoed many of his concerns about inadequate learning in the document whose title, "A Nation At Risk," expressed the magnitude of the concern. That publication generated more discussion than Conant's work, but still no substantive changes took place. As I write over thirty years after the forewarning of Conant, the problems and their results remain: education in the inner cities is abysmal.
The present disasters that stem from inadequate education are absolutely unnecessary. Computers could remake schools just as they have revolutionized other industries and institutions. The difference is that the whole fate of the United States rests on its schools. Despite the consequences of inferior learning that Conant foresaw so well, education dithers along in the same pattern it has used for centuries.
Objections to the effective use of computers will be rampant. To those who do object, I ask, "What are you going to do? What other effective ideas can you produce to solve this crisis?" Thus far, little has changed in education. It remains basically the same as when Conant wrote and when the National Commission on Education issued its report. Arguably, the condition has worsened. To all who wish to delay the effective use of computers in education, I ask: "What are you going to do? What other adequate solutions are available to solve this crisis unless you also join them with computerized education?"
Fred Bennett received his undergraduate degree in business administration. When he finished, he thought that he would never have to be in school again. After college, he started working as a salesman and later established a book distribution business.
Idealism then got the better of him and he decided to change the world. He chose to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. It was back to school again and he received an STL (Licentiate in Sacred Theology) from the Pontifical University Angelicum in Rome, Italy. Returning to the U. S., he taught Greek and performed ministerial functions.
He returned to school again and received M. A. in counseling from the University of New Mexico, and then a Ph.D. in psychology from University of Utah in 1971. After the advanced degrees, he helped set up a treatment program for clergy with alcoholism and also worked in an inner city mental health center. In these environments, he first confronted the reality that some people without education could not get a job, regardless of how much they wanted to work.
Eventually, he realized he was not changing the world and left the priesthood. He directed public addiction treatment programs in Colorado and Florida and married a Ph.D. chemist, who was an
excellent teacher. He then established, owned, and directed a group of private addiction treatment centers. He also became interested in computers and began to write programs to handle the paperwork for his company.
In 1990 he sold the business, moved to Sarasota, Florida, and began new projects. He wrote a computer program for artists, which he markets throughout the United States. He also started to think seriously about the problems in education and spent several years studying the subject. His wife's background in education was of immense help. Finally, he sought to bring together what he had acquired from his studying and education, from his experience working with people at all levels, and from his knowledge of computers. The result is this book, "Computers as Tutors: Solving the Crisis in Education."
Frederick Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The entire book is ©1996, Fred Bennett.
A Note of Thanks
My thanks go to Marge, above all, who was always so helpful and supportive as this book took shape, and to whom it is dedicated. A number of other people also offered many helpful suggestions, although they did not always agree with all my ideas. These people, in alphabetical order are Gene Best, Isa Dempsey, David Ellison, Margaret Kemner and Earl Krescanko. To all of them, my sincere thanks, and also to Paul Messink who first suggested that I put it on the Internet, and gave me so much help in getting it there.
61. U. S. Department of Education. Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 1992. "Issues in Education: Hard Work and High Expectations," Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, and at http://ericps.ed.uiuc.edu/npin/pnews/pnew396/pnew396b.html
62. Virginia A. Atwood and William W. Wilen, 1991. "Wait Time and Effective Social Studies Instruction," Social Education, vol. 56, no. 3 (March), pp. 179-181.
63. James Killoran, 1992. "In Defense of the Multiple-Choice Question," Social Education, vol. 56, no. 2 (February), pp. 106-108.
64. U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1988. Power On! New Tools for Teaching and Learning. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, p. 49.
65. Texas. Select Committee on Public Education, 1984. Recommendations. [Austin, Tex.]: The Committee, p. 42.
66. See Dumas Malone, 1981. Jefferson and His Time, volume 6: The Sage of Monticello. Boston: Little, Brown, p. xv, and Thomas Jefferson, 1984. Writings. New York, Library of America, p. 859 (Letter to George Wythe, August 13, 1786); p. 1222 (Letter to Messrs. Hugh L. White and others, May 6, 1810); p. 1226 (Letter to John Tyler, May 26, 1810); p. 1248 (Letter to Alexander von Humboldt, April 14, 1811); p.1387-8 (Letter to P. S. Dupont de Nemours, April 24, 1816).
67. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter 6.
68. See Texas. Select Committee on Public Education, 1984. Recommendations. [Austin, Tex.] : The Committee, 44 p.
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