Roadmap96: SMITH - Guest Lecturer: Richard Smith
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MAP-EXTRA: GUEST LECTURE -- RICHARD SMITH
As we bring the Roadmap workshop to a close, I want to give you an opportunity to think about what role the Internet will play in education in the years to come. I can think of no better person to speak on this topic than Richard Smith.
Richard Smith discovered the information resources of the Internet while doing work as a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh. He taught the use of the Internet in graduate courses and followed these by giving workshops called "Navigating the Internet" in 1991.
In the summer of 1992, Smith decided to offer a course on Internet training -- over the Internet -- hoping to get 30 or 40 people to participate. A total of 864 people from more than 20 countries registered for his "Navigating the Internet: An Interactive Workshop." A second workshop drew more than 15,000 participants from more than 50 countries.
The result of these ground-breaking international workshops is that Smith has trained literally thousands of people around the world in how to use Internet resources. This led to Smith being dubbed the "Internet Mentor" in the January 1993 issue of American Libraries. He plans to do bigger and better Internet workshops in the future because he enjoys offering a service that is much needed and appreciated. (1)
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to introduce *my* mentor, Richard Smith:
Patrick Crispen asked me to write a segment for his Roadmap distance education workshop. I'd like to give some general thoughts on this new form of distance education and the new technologies that are becoming a prominent force in the education community.
Vice President Al Gore speaks about building an information superhighway that will keep the United States competitive in the world of growing high technology. The National Information Infrastructure (NII) is already in the making which will include present computer, television and telephone, and telecommunication technology, and promises that it will be available to everyone as every classroom, library, hospital and clinic in the country should have access to the network. (Recently Post Offices!) It is now so common that comics stips make fun of it, and MTV, Nightline, FX and other commercial entities are now on-line.
This new means of communication is predicted to change the pattern of scholarly work. From the computer at home or office the educator can now access hundreds of library catalogs, journal indices, reference books, full text books and journal articles, major art exhibits, employment notices, or federal government information. Communication with colleagues on topics as diverse as diabetes research, history of the Ancient Mediterranean, women in science and engineering, university administration or the Pittsburgh Pirates take place daily. There are thousands of discussion groups available on almost any imaginable topic.
While this network of networks had its beginnings in the 1970's, it is only recently that this communication phenomenon has expanded beyond the computer and information science fields. Today librarians, health professionals, historians, lawyers, and many other professionals are finding the Internet a valuable research and education tool; the largest growing segment of the Internet community is commercial firms.
Yet an important impact of this network has yet to be developed -- the delivery of information in formal education. Formal credited courses are now being generated via the Internet that may change the way current distant education or distant learning takes place. This aspect of distance education will continue to grow as the number of schools equipped with telecommunication equipment and computers increases and costs of such equipment decrease.
An initial attempt to use this network for education was an experimental course attempted [four] years ago. In the summer of 1992 I decided to offer a workshop on how to use this network, not in a classroom or at a conference, but on-line over the Internet itself. I expected 30 to 40 people to sign up and ended up with 864 participants. The class consisted of e-mail instructions for accessing Internet resources and what to do once access was achieved. In theory, a person would read the e-mail in the morning and follow the instructions for an hour to master the particular segment being taught. In reality, the three week course was a bit much for most participants so that instructions were saved for perusal at their convenience, a major advantage of this type of distance education.
"Navigating the Internet: An Interactive Workshop" was so popular that a second class was given within two months. The announcement for the second class allowed two weeks for registration. The registration had to be stopped when enrollment reached 15,000. The last workshop given from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh "Navigating the Internet: Let's Go Gopherin'" (a popular Internet interface) attracted 19,994 people from 54 countries.
These informal basic e-mail courses demonstrate the potential of this communication medium for distance education. With the addition of graphics, hypertext, compression video, sound, and multimedia, information distribution for educational courses in distance education will be revolutionized. Several universities are now initiating degree programs that can be taken over the Internet.
Telecommunication technologies have provided a vast array of teaching opportunities for educators and librarians charged with providing information to students, staff, researchers and faculty. The technology permits expanded communication among teachers and students, and also provides a means of increasing teacher-to-teacher and student-to-student communications.
Narrow casting for specific audiences and for specific subject areas, both for formal credit courses and informal workshops, is an option being considered by many educators and librarians.
Unlike traditional distance education systems which relied heavily on print-based materials supported by audiotape, telephone contact, videotape, color slides, study pictures, or kits containing samples, the Internet gives increased access to graphics, sound, and video files via software such as [Netscape], as well as real-time communication. Innovative computer and telecommunication technologies expand and enhance traditional distance education by adding additional means of communication.
Effective and efficient communication between participants is required for distance education to be productive. Computer and telecommunication technologies are providing unique ways to communicate, and examples of the benefits and drawbacks of using these techniques are abundant in the literature.
Hiltz used computer-mediated communication as both an adjunct function of supplementing traditional classroom instruction and as a primary mode of course delivery for postsecondary education. Electronic conferencing, where students answered questions and reacted to other student responses, produced communication in the "virtual classroom" and was found to be a positive yet different type of communication from the traditional classroom. This change in communication was noted by others where the experience showed that communication within a paperless network tends to spread power horizontally across the writing community, with instructor's information equal to the student's, and every message, because of identical font and identical screen size, commanding the same respect when read by a student.
In a distance education class at Houston Community College System, years of experience in giving credited courses by modem found that distance education had several benefits over traditional classroom instruction and older distance education courses. Some of the results showed these benefits:
- Immediacy -- especially compared to print-based correspondence courses.
- Sense of group identity -- the computer system became a meeting place for students.
- Improved dialogue -- students corresponded more than when in a traditional classroom setting.
- Improved instructor control -- the computer system can log activities.
- Active learning -- student participation improved.
Finally, the Internet provides a convenient means of delivering information to thousands of people geographically dispersed and removes barriers such as distance and cultural diversity that are common in the traditional classroom educational setting.
For example, this segment was written in my house and transferred to my local account in Louisiana via a 2,400 baud modem; I then ftp'd the document, in seconds, to my account in Pittsburgh; finally, I e-mailed it to Patrick in Alabama who then distributed it to you. I co-authored a book, "Navigating the Internet" in three months without ever meeting Mark Gibbs, the co-author in California, or the Publisher, SAMS in Indianapolis. Distance education is a bonus for the Instructor also. "Let's Go Gopherin'" was distributed from numerous locations, such as Ohio, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and other locations while I was on the road.
Distance education via electronic delivery is not a new concept. Australia and the United Kingdom have made dramatic steps in providing electronic information to a multitude of people via telecommunication. In the United States, with the explosive growth of the Internet and the proposed National Research and Education Network (NREN), it is now possible for delivery of information in formal education in an economical and efficient manner.
Of course, promises of new technologies that would impact education have been made before and never reached their potential. Public television is the prime example. Predicted to impact education from K-12 to higher education, public television has only served as a minor supplement to the traditional classroom setting. Yet today's technologies are entering not only the classroom, but are commonly found on professors' and teachers' desks in their office and even at home. This easy access to the technology is mainly responsible for its impact on education.
Higher education will play a vital role in Al Gore's vision of the information superhighway. Major commercial telecommunication giants such as MCI and Bell are changing the current Internet into an information distribution system that is easy to use, providing access for the general population. Because of this widespread access, the way we teach and pass on information to learners around the world, with collaboration from educators from interdisciplinary backgrounds and from diverse institutions and cultures, education will change from the traditional teacher/classroom environment to a virtual classroom with no walls.
(Sorry, pulled from several sources so not all in one style.)
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(1) From "Navigating the Internet" by Mark Gibbs and Richard Smith
Originally written by Patrick Douglas Crispen