IL95 Interactive Learning 1995
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
Summary of my Closing Address to the conference
The confeence has been running for some years. This year the delegates
were largely from within the multimedia industry. My comments were to
Slide 1: "Where are we?"
I started off by quoting from
the usual comments around this (and for that matter any other) multimedia
conference: "the market is about to take off", "We've
made great products, but we are still waiting for the market to evolve", "It
cost several hundred thousand $ to develop", "We could revolutionise
learning if it wasn't for skill shortages", "It took so long
to finish that technology overtook us on the way", "What's
a university for nowadays anyway?" and so on. These comments are
all what might be characterised as passive pessimism. In the light of
these comments I wanted to offer some "straws in the wind" of
education and its changing future.
Slide 2: "Measure or change?"
you put new technology into the classroom what the children do becomes
different (eg changes in the process of creative writing, or modelling).
The problem is that to demonstrate progress convincingly performance
is always compared to past tasks. We give children spreadsheets and
look at their mental arithmetic to see if the spreadsheets worked.
This is foolish. As a result we see contrasting newspaper headlines:
on the one hand "Cyber Wizz Kids" and on the other "Computers fail,
research says". In other words we are aware of progress but don't
reflect it in our curriculum, institutional structures or whatever. Famously
computers are trumpeted as collaborative and communication tools but
assessment models are still dominantly focussed onto individual endeavour.
The madness of an early UK Department for Education proposal (now abandoned)
to test children's awareness of the power of computers through an unseen
individual pencil and paper test in exam conditions is illustrative (if
you haven't yet seen the paper based spreadsheet questions get a copy
now for your archive, very collectable!).
Slide 3: "New Kids on
In essence I flagged the work we have done suggesting that
children are good with technology. See my web pages on our Survey of
Children's emergent capability
Slide 4: "WWW Revolution"
pointed at the evolution of the Web as a useful guide to how people
would have like multimedia to evolve if they had had enough autonomy
to make change happen:
Stage 1: Can be characterised as content heavy
at all this stuff", "what a lot of images / software / text
/ books / etc.
Stage 2: Sees the development of a sense of audience & presentation. "Stephen's
Neat Web Pages", "My great poems" etc. with accompanying
debate ("off stage" so to speak) about the future of publishing,
IPR, control, etc. Essentially this is still a disseminative / broadcasting
stage but at a more democratic level than was perhaps anticipated.
3: Presentation + audience starts to sound like communication when enough
people can do it and the Internet becomes (as it is now) a communications
structure. You are reading this, a hot link to my E mail is at the foot
of the page... etc.
Stage 4: Is not really a discrete stage at all, it
is a reflection of the previous three stages as the climate of expectation
starts people talking about entitlement and participation rather than
consumption. Tell this one to the cable operators and watch them pale!
Slide 5: "So what are we doing at ULTRALAB?"
was headlined around "Technology, Creativity and Education" and
I was tasked in my closing plenary address with drawing these three strands
together. I offered the above straws in the wind in the hope of deflecting
some of the passive pessimism sweeping through the industry. In short
rather than waiting for the "tidal wave" or whatever I was
suggesting that there were clear trends to take note of and I illustrated
that by talking about a number of the current prototypes that we are
involved with at the lab. Hopefully this illustrated a way forward (or
that we are off down the wrong route!!) and stressed people Creating
things together, new ways of assessing process, transcultural support,
'users as authors' symmetry, and so on. This got us to some interesting
questions, mostly around the "what do we do to make this happen
other than move to ULTRALAB? and my answers were around the theme that
the industry and education really need closer partnerships, they need
Feedback to: -- Heppell@applelink.apple.com
Compiled by Prof. Stephen Heppell on Wednesday, August 18, 1995 in