Could you briefly describe your educational background and your professional preparation?
My educational background is probably pretty typical of people in our profession:
I too was fortunate in having a real mentor, but I know other students who didn't have that experience. I had an interesting discussion recently with some Ph.D. students on the expectations and responsibilities of faculty and students. How do you go about mentoring your own students? Can every student expect to have a mentor?
Mentoring is becoming increasingly tough, as the number of doctoral students increases and the ratio of students to faculty increases with it. For centuries, professors (in most fields) had one or two "proteges" (and/or protegees -- the female version -- (I'm unaware of a unisex term such as "proteg-persons" (-: )). The faculty member and the protege worked closely as colleagues for years, usually on research the professor had underway that attracted the student in the first place. Now, things are quite different. Faculty members have many students as "advisees," and they are also expected to spend more time attracting external funding, and on other tasks that detract from the mentoring process, like serving on the "Committee on Committees and rules" (I'm not making that up!). In other words, I guess we've slipped from "mentoring" to "advising" as the general rule. It's a shame, in some respects, but then again, perhaps it's a natural byproduct of making graduate level education available to more students, which is a good thing.
How did you become interested in the role of technology in education?
As a teacher, I gravitated naturally to the use of media. I saw the level of interest good media generated in students, and the knowledge students took away from them. Then, Leah Schuster, (Media Specialist in the middle school I taught in at the time) told me what she had heard about the coming "videodiscs," and how they would be controlled by microcomputers, making branching, adaptive video-based instruction possible. Wow! I was hooked. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to attach videodisc players to my TRS-80 to create powerful video-based learning experinces, that would adapt to what students know and need.
On your web page you list your personal goal as:
What is your vision of what people will do then in the name of education?
An editorial in Wired magazine referred to this time we live in as "Renaissance, version 2.0." I think we're going to break the "one-size-fits-all" mentality, and encourage different educational programs for different students. Some will be multidisciplinary, problem-based, activity-oriented, and based on Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory." Dozens, if not hundreds of others will include science magnets, "back to basics" approaches, and technologically rich alternatives.
I know many in the field have an impression that public education has not been receptive to Instructional Technology, beyond a media/computer level. This "technology as hardware" mentality doesn't seem to allow the inclusion of any of the theoretical approaches that abound in IT research. It's more of a mindset of "Just put the computers in and tell me how to run them. Don't tell me how to teach." Do you agree with this assessment? Who do you see driving this Renaissance?
Good question! Educating a human being is a very complex proposition! There's certainly not one right way to do it. For this reason, I rather like the "don't tell me how to teach" reaction. On the other hand, the computer is a tool that Seymour Papert describes aptly as "infinitely plastic" -- it looks pretty much the same, but it can be used for so many, drastically different purposes that I don't think anyone should feel like they can't use some advice or benefit from some conversation about the possibilities it presents.
I do have a problem with the "Don't tell me how to teach" mindset, however, but it's the presumption that the "teacher" is supposed to "teach." I believe that new roles for teacher, student and technology will be concurrently redefined -- that is, we'll start by figuring out what the students should be doing, and at the same time we'll redefine what teachers and technologies have to do to support students in this new role. Those redefinitions of the roles of educators (I'd prefer to call them "educators" to reflect this new role) and technologies will allow us to revisit the student role, as well.
You ask who might be driving the Renaissance... I think that, almost by definition, nobody is driving it, or perhaps more accurately lots of people are driving it, each, perhaps, in a different direction. It's a blossoming of new ideas -- like the amazing variety of plant life that grows after a fire removes a forest that had dominated the landscape.
What are a couple of interesting and useful areas that someone just beginning in IT research might want to explore?
Gee! There are sooooooo many... I'd like to think that we'll place less emphasis on media comparison studies, and investigations of single variables in contrived settings, and will begin to undertake more holistic, more authentic investigations. I realize that we are encouraged to isolate variables and investigate their effects while controlling other factors, but the real world of classrooms doesn't behave as well as the world of physical science, and such separations are often artificial. The questions of most interest to me are complex, like "What are the effects on academic performance, confidence, creativity, problem solving, and teamwork of a new model of education that includes new roles for teacher, student, and technology, a multidisciplinary, theme-based curriculum, cross-age grouping, well-specified academic standards, and authentic assessments." (Which brings me add that today's researcher should be versed in both quantitative and qualitative research methods and should use them in a complementary manner.)
Could you recommend two or three books or articles that are "must reads" for graduate students or others beginning a career in IT research?
My current interests surround innovation in schools, so these may not be what you expected from me, but I'd recommend...
I have two "writing processes," one for when I'm under the gun, one for when I have plenty of time. When I have plenty of time, I develop an outline, I review the literature looking for topics identified in the outline (starting with electronic resources), insert my notes into the outline, then work over the outline to create a first draft. Then I put it away for a week. (After a week I can read it as if it were "new," or written by someone else.) I print it and then edit it (I find more things to change when I read it on paper). I then take the second draft and give it to colleagues (usually students, faculty, and public school educators). I incorporate their feedback, and put it aside for a week. Then I "tweak" it, and call it done.
When I'm under pressure, I begin by creating a detailed outline. For the sections of the outline for which there is little detail, I do some quick research, filling out the outline. Then, I use the outline as notes, and speak into a tape recorder, as if making a conference presentation. Then, I transcribe the tape, not allowing myself to change anything at this time (Don't get hung up in finding the right word or phrase, just get the words on paper. Then I print it and do a thorough edit pass, and give it to one colleague to read (overnight, please?). I incorporate the reviewer's comments, and then make one final pass myself, and send it on.
(As may be evident by this point, I didn't follow any of these processes in responding to these questions. I have developed a "pact" with people with whom I use email frequently -- email is an informal communication. It comes with the bumps and warts of a hand-written note - no editing. Otherwise, it would take too long, and we wouldn't get as much done.)
You were recently elected president of AECT (okay, you were actually elected "president-elect-designee" but I think that means you'll eventually be the president). First of all, Congratulations! Second, why did you want to be the president of AECT? What do you hope to accomplish in that office?
Yes, it's true. I'll become President Elect of AECT in February of 1998, and will become President in 1999 and will serve in that capacity as 2000 arrives.
One of the reasons I accepted the nomination is that I think there will be a lot of attention on technology during that year. Clinton and Gore will still be in the White House, and there should be good opportunities for the professionals in our field to make important progress. However, I'd like to add that it is very possible that by the time 2000 arrives much of the attention paid to technology may not be positive. I think we're in for a backlash about then, during which people will be asking us to justify the expense of the increased presence of technologies in schools, and we'd better be prepared to address it.
Another reason I accepted the nomination is that I think I'm a pretty effective speaker -- largely because I use technology well when I speak. As President, I'll be asked to present (or defend) often, and I know I'll be able to do that pretty well, because the technologies I use help me get the message across. I also believe that we should feel an obligation to serve our profession. I have not always been able to respond to requests for my involvement, because I tend to be very involved in may important projects. (Older readers will remember the "plate spinners" on the Ed Sullivan Show who ran back and forth from one plate spinning on top of a long pole to another -- adding plates to see how many they could keep in the air at once. That's what life in our field feels like sometimes, and it's just not possible to add another responsibility without several crashing down.) The request to run for President came with plenty of warning, so I am able to complete projects gracefully and "make room" for service to AECT.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in IT?
Develop your knowledge of learning and technology, and develop your
abilities to write and to use images and media well, and then... Hang on
tight, and never stop growing. It's going to be a wild (and exciting)
ride for those of us who are ready for it!