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The Teacher - ITS the vanishing point?
J. F. Schostak
The Orfeus ITS seminar, Aarhus, Denmark, December 1990
As ITS becomes more sophisticated, driven by advances in hardware, software and AI what role remains for the teacher? The more self-sufficient the ITS-pupil relationship becomes the less important is the Teacher-pupil relationship. What is at issue here, is not simply an occupational role, a career, a way of earning money; it is education itself, the way it is managed in society, its social construction as a 'value', a 'means', an 'end', and its functions for societies and individuals. The paper constructs alternative scenarios for the role of the teacher in ITS environments discussing the implications for the role of the teacher against the extremes of a) propaganda, censorship, surveillance and control, and, b) the rights of freedom of expression, understanding and action. It ends by formulating the ethical principles under which an educational role for teachers in an ITS environment can be enhanced. Fundamental to these explorations is a focus on the repertoires of discourse through which people make sense of IT and locate it in their lives. In particular, the focus is on the discourse repertoires available to teachers and pupils enabling them to unlock, break into, and de-construct the construction of electronic environments for the production and flow of information whether through the public media, commercial networks or educational and personal networks. It is argued that the role of the teacher has increasingly to be seen within this wider context in which the development of information technology is being driven by a diversity of motives.
Education and Propaganda
It has been said that propaganda aimed at the masses was born with and is inextricable from modern mass media (Ellul, 1965). Radio, cinema, television and now networks of computers together with the printed media provide a powerful means of image manipulation as well as of surveillance and thus the control of entire populations. It is not wise to talk about the use of information technology and teaching without thinking through the implications for propaganda, surveillance and control.
Ellul analyses propaganda in terms of the way in which it addresses itself both to the individual and to the mass. Television has created mass audiences composed paradoxically of isolated individual viewers. Each of the media - radio, TV, cinema, the press, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing, telephone canvassing - have their own manner of penetration, their own particular target and dimension that is reached by the propagandist:
Propaganda tries to surround (people) by all possible routes, in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on (his or her) will or (his or her) needs, through (his or her) unconscious and (his or her) unconscious, assailing (him or her) in both (his or her) public life. It furnished (him or her) with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides immediate incentives to action. We are here in the presence of an organised myth that tries to take hold of the entire person.
Ellul did not add to this list computer based information technology. Its implications in the propaganda armoury are today obvious. In Britain at least, the majority of schools are not yet close to being entirely information technology based. Nevertheless, schooling is ripe for such exploitation. Schools are already organisations dedicated to the training, control and surveillance of the mass. Pupils at their networked terminals offers powerful control and surveillance of the mass. IT, then, can be readily integrated into an already existing discourse of control, monitoring, assessing. Schools are also pervaded by a discourse of preparing pupils to meet the demands of the world of work. This was placed high on the political agenda of the 1980s, particularly in response to the recession of the early 1980s.
There was the hope during the first half of the 1980s that information technology would lead Britain out of recession and create the new economy after having shed surplus labour in the old heavy industries. The education system itself was made to take a large share of the blame for the poor performance of the economy. Schools had failed to train pupils up to standard. In 1981 the Department of Trade and Industry introduced the pound-for-pound scheme whereby, in the first instance, secondary schools and then primary schools - would be subsidised to buy a microcomputer. The aim was to place one in every school. In introducing The Micros in School Scheme, the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, wrote:
Britain's greatest natural asset has always been the inventive genius of our people. This is the asset which we must tap if we are to profit from advances in technology. In microelectronics and and Information Technology, we must do everything to encourage and train people with the ability and skills needed to design systems, write software and develop new business products.'
It is important to keep in mind that the initiative was funded not by the Department of Education, but by the Department of Trade and Industry. Education was seen as a service industry for the fulfilment of commercial and industrial needs and the goal of employability to meet the needs of industry and commerce. The whole rhetoric of the document introducing the scheme is that of 'revolution': a revolution in the nature of future employment, in the production and processing of information.
The scheme was introduced into Primary Schools with a similar ring to the rhetoric: 'We know how enthusiastically and skilfully young children can use technology in problem-solving and as an aid to learning across the curriculum. Our future prosperity as a nation depends upon encouraging this enthusiasm to flourish from the earliest days at school.' Industrialists such as Huffell (senior manager responsible for introducing new technology into IBMs UK manufacturing operations) in the TES (28.10.1983) argued for increased 'keyboard skills' which were now necessary for an increasing range of business activities, not simply typing; and Sir Dennis Rooke in 1984 spoke to the Standing Conference on Schools' Science and Technology of the future citizen as technician, innovator and consumer. The rhetoric of economic benefit underlying the early introduction of information technology into schools can hardly be clearer. This was not a phenomenon restricted to Britain.
Schiller (1986) argued that the world market system is in crisis and 'Information technologies have been seized upon as the means to alleviate and overcome the crisis. At the same time, they confer greater authority and offer increased returns to information controllers and powerful users.' (p.xii) Throughout the 1980s unemployment has been high, reaching in 1984 amongst the highest rates since records began. Paradoxically, one of the effects that can be expected of increased automation and the shift towards the new information technologies are still higher increases in unemployment. A considerable effort by all government administrations has been aimed towards making information technology acceptable to their publics:
Popular understanding about what is happening, therefore, is an urgent need. But how to achieve it? Information is being applied to the production side of the economy in a particular way, for private, corporate advantage. Yet, it is also being applied to the human side. Here it is used to make people accept and believe that current developments are benign, if not beneficial. It is applied to minimizing or deprecating opposition and to denying alternate options that might provide a more humane direction to the emerging information-based economy. ...
Messages designed to persuade and to cajole the people into believing that information technology holds the key to general improvement saturate the media, receive corporate support, are echoed in University courses and conferences, and account for a considerable chunk of governmental informational effort.
Schooling itself is also such a vehicle for the spread of the message through which a culture and discourse on the benefits of It is produced. The personal computer has been sold as a form of entertainment in the children's market and as 'user friendly' in school and the business markets. The education system has smoothly and easily integrated the discourses of the political and economic rhetoric into itself.
In a study by Beattie (1988) on Further education students following Higher
National Diploma studies, found no innovative approaches to the teaching of
new technologies. She found a clear gender division between male students doing
programming and female students doing wordprocessing, spreadsheets and general
office practice. Both were dominated by expectations of what employers wanted.
Thus it is not the responsibility of programmers 'to ask why a program to should
be designed but only to design it as well as they can'. As one of the students
following the course for legal secretaries 'I don't think we've actually been
taught the use of the computer - we've just been taught the use of a program.'
Kramer and Lehman (1990) report on American evidence showing that among 'secondary
aged children (eleven to eighteen years), boys are at least three times more
likely to girls to use a computer at home, participate in computer-related clubs
or activities at school, or attend a computer camp. This 3:1 pattern continues
through the postsecondary years.'
Indeed, Sanger (1988) in a study with students in the same college on a two year National Diploma computer theory course described teaching in terms of programming the students. In this teacher-dominated mode the teacher had to 'compensate for its lack of appeal to the affective, by careful classroom management, by the degree to which he communicates his own biography, and by his sensitive handling of individual learners.' Here there is no counter discourse able to de-construct the rhetoric of economic purposes. Learning to programme becomes indistinguishable from learning to be programmed. This raises the issue of the extent to which the logic of electronic environments shapes human thinking as against the extent to which the logic of human thought shapes the use of information technology. To what extent is the machine, or the logic environments of the screen and the network becoming the paradigm for thought against which human thought and decision making is judged rather than vice versa?
Even the apparently positive, or at least benign universe of LOGO steeped in Piagetian and progressive educational presuppositions can be discussed in terms of its covert logic of control (Schostak 1988: 15):
... the computer could offer Rousseau much. It can provide the supremely controlled environment where 'all experiments are connected together by a chain of reasoning' and in a way which would 'have him learn without awakening his suspicions'. Exemplifying this approach are the experiments of Lawler, du Boulay, Hughs, and Macleod (1986) in the use of LOGO-based programs. ....... The imagination of the child is directed strictly towards those problems which the program's framework has set up. Like most progressive approaches the emphasis in the curricular aims is upon imagination, independent learning, discovery, and experience. But the framework is clearly manipulated by the adult.
For example, using LOGO with:
a pre-reader, this is the teacher's opportunity to explore the child's understanding of number and to work out with the child the way numbers are applied in this turtle world. The common technique in our lab called 'playing turtle' has the child and the teacher, away from the computer, take turns pretending to be the turtle and acting out the directions the other gives. Thus the child has a chance to connect his knowledge of himself, his own body and its movement, with the new knowledge he is learning in the computer drawing world. He can ask and answer for himself the ways in which he and the turtle are similar and different.
(Lawler et al. 1986: 22)
The beneficial use of LOGO as a way of introducing children in a concrete way to the complexities of mathematical thinking is not in doubt. Turkle and Papert (1990) have discussed the different styles of thinking through which programmers work where some 'use concrete and personal approaches that are far from the cultural stereotypes of formal mathematics.' However,
We were also able to observe people reacting poignantly to what they felt as a pressure to conform to an officially imposed style. Although the computer as an expressive medium supports epistemological pluralism, the computer culture often does not. Our data points to discrimination in the computer culture that is determined not by rules that keep people out but by ways of thinking that make them reluctant to join in. Moreover, the existence of diverse styles of expert programming supports the idea that there can be different but equal voices even where the formal has traditionally appeared as almost definitionally supreme: in mathematics and the sciences.
Whether through the logical structure of its frameworks, the apparent concrete 'realness' of the virtual worlds it creates on screen, the apparent impersonal authority of its data management and analysis through expert systems, or the cultural discourse of the computer culture that closes off access, information technology is a powerful tool for propaganda.
Couple this with the fact that during the whole decade of the 1980s there has
been a powerful political interest in the control of information as it is broadcast
through the media and taught in the schools. In fact the Index on Censorship
devoted an entire issue on the threats to freedom of information in Britain
in its September 1988 issue. There has been considerable pressure placed by
the Government on schools to be 'balanced', which in effect means to reduce
the political content of subjects, to increase the promotion of a sense of British
identity and culture (See Schostak 1986, 1991). In July 1988 the Education Reform
Bill passed into law which is seen by many critics
- which grants 415 new powers to the Education Secretary - as, in The Independent's words, 'an irreversible shift of power to the centre, the biggest attack on local democracy this century'. Others see it as ' a charter for the rich and powerful, reversing the 1944 principle that children should enjoy equality of opportunity, perhaps even paving the way for a private education service'.
(Index on Censorship, vol 8, 1988, p. 26)
There is a sense in which curriculum development has given way to curriculum interpretation based upon a close reading of the National Curriculum documents flowing from the educational reforms. Discussions of what is legal rather than what is educationally appropriate now are increasingly underlying discussions of educational action.
It is vital to situate the role of education, and in particular the role of the teacher, in the context of the developing world networks of information technology and their political and economic purposes; otherwise, education will slip naively into propaganda, having lost all initiative. Teachers have a vital role in the construction of empowering and liberating discourses. However, to do this, they must themselves be aware of the way in which information technology can be employed to create its very opposite.
The Nightmare Scenario
What happens in schools, colleges and universities cannot be cleanly separated from the developments in the world of politics, business, law and order and defence. Information flows in the age of information technology do not respect boundaries and according to some, are creating a significant change in the basic infrastructure of societies, a move from the heavy industrial and manufacturing base, towards electronic based, service, and clerical work. Work that was once complex is now increasingly broken up into simplified tasks and automated. This is as true of services as of production industries. For example, social workers can find that their caring functions have been lost and replaced as "financial assistance workers" (Perry and Greber 1990). Similarly, the nightmare scenario will begin to be achieved as Headteachers of British schools under the impact of LMS begin to redefine their roles as managers, schools become businesses seeing each pupil as a 'bag of money', and a National Curriculum becomes increasingly delivered, monitored and assessed via computers. Education then becomes defined according to the managerial discourses of efficiency, accountability, productivity, monitoring, surveillance and the control of input and output. The world of business applications provides a paradigm for what may in some cases be already happening in schools.
As Perry and Greber (1990) point out in the case of clerical work:
Automation also enables managers to monitor more easily each individual's work - how much, how quickly, how many breaks he or she takes. Word processing programmes, for example, can monitor an operators keystrokes or the amount of time he or she logs in on a machine. As more offices use computer networks instead of personal computers, the possibilities for monitoring increase. Network file access tends to be organised hierarchically; supervisors can read their employees' documents and memos before the employees have finished them - but not vice versa.
They then refer to an account recorded by Garson (1988) where an airline reservation agent beginning her shift, plugged in her headset saying to her friend 'The doctor says it's cancer ...' Shortly she was called by the supervisor who asked 'Is there any way we can help about your cancer'. Until that moment, none of the shift workers had known that their voices could be picked up as soon as they plugged into the system. Translate this kind of monitoring to the school system and it can be seen we already have the technology to reduce both the curriculum and monitoring and control functions in the role of the teacher. As soon as schooling becomes networked and the virtual school system is created, what is there left for the teacher to do but become the ghost in the machine?
In summary, there are four central themes underlying this nightmare scenario:
1. with advances in information technology, rendering them cheaper, faster, more powerful, and intelligent the ITS-pupil interface will need no third party in the form of the teacher,
2. with the advent of the National Curriculum in the UK the legal and bureaucratic structures exist, at least in embryonic form, to define the role of teachers and of schools as a delivery system of pre-developed curricula and testing procedures.
3. with the increasing role of big spending government departments related to employment and industry influencing research and training in education the educational agenda is being hi-jacked by the needs of the economy rather than the personal fulfilments of the growing child. Again education is charged with delivering what the economy needs in terms of skills, knowledge and attitudes.
And the fourth theme is the reduction of the role of education itself:
4. with the lack of a clear substantive base and methodological perspective education can be reduced to a rag-bag of bits derived from a multiplicity of other academic disciplines charged with delivering a service rather than pursuing the development of a discipline of education. Too often it is seen as being incapable of standing independently alongside philosophy, psychology and sociology and incapable of critiquing each of these. In the eyes of many, education is simply the way one delivers the real subjects that the world needs.
If education is defined as simply a delivery system to meet specifiable economic and political goals, then the most efficient (and cheapest) means of delivery will be sought. It is not yet, but there is little reason to doubt that information technology can become the most efficient delivery system on a number of counts:
1. it is teacher proof because it bypasses the teacher, reducing the teacher's role to zero
2. mass data concerning performance can be collected, monitored, and analysed
3. information can be selected and delivered in prescribed forms
4. training can be precisely defined according to specifiable skills and objectives.
The rhetoric introduced by the National Curriculum has been dominated by the discourse of delivery. The focus in information technology has been on the production of more and more sophisticated learning environments. Although learning is a key dimension of education, it is not the sole dimension. Indeed, a focus on learning alone is likely to skew education towards forms of training, monitoring and control that are managerial in design. Within this scenario the teacher has been progressively re-defined and eliminated from the system. An alternative scenario is to explore the full meaning of education as a discipline in its own right
Discourses of Education and of Schooling
Educational discourse I have argued in Breaking into the Curriculum breaks the discourse of management and delivery and thus re-constructs the role of the teacher. It is reconstructed through a fuller conception of education. To explore this conception I have always kept education quite distinct from schooling. Education is, in my view a critical and creative perspective in its own right along side and quite independent from other disciplines which have been closely associated with it: philosophy, psychology, sociology. Its field of study is precisely the education (or drawing out) of forms of expression through imagination, communication, reflection, organisation and action that is fundamental to all human activity. As such its function is not the delivery of already formalised areas of knowledge and action, but rather a study of the processes underlying the development of such formalisations. Its function is to break into the formalisations, show how they have been constructed, subject them to critical review and imagine alternative forms of expression. Education therefore has a creative and critical function that goes well beyond any notion of delivery in the sense implied in a National Curriculum or the construction of learning packages devoted to specified areas of a curriculum. These should not come to define what education is all about.
It is when defining education in terms of expression rather than learning that a more active perspective begins to emerge. As a tool for expression the computer has massive potential. It is not simply in the use of wordprocessing or art and design software; it is in the relationship of the computer with television, and telecommunications. It is here also that its potential for information manipulation and its relationship with propaganda becomes most apparent. It is the business of education to draw out the processes underlying the forms of expression, the forms of representation, and the structures underlying the management of knowledge and information as they are constructed through social action.
The key to this de-constructive process is the education of challenge and the discourses of inquiry and the interrogation of taken for granted social forms. At this point I want to give an example derived from a project involving the placing of computers in rural schools in the Northern part of Portugal (see appendix one). The computers were seen by the project developers as tools. Through the use of these tools the pupils were able to plan, record, write and publish. Through inquiry the pupils explored their culture, their communities and natural environment. There had been a concern that the unique culture of the region was disappearing. The intention was not to replace the culture through technology but rather to regenerate. Since the villages are relatively isolated the object was to try to overcome the sense of isolation that many teachers felt and establish networks of communication and as the area had been designated a s a Park to establish a sense of identity with it. The children of the schools with their pupils, in effect, became the archivists of the culture, the environment and also interrogated the changes being carried out in the region. For example, a study was made of the building of a dam, the effects of pollution as well as the possible benefits were explored. Construction workers, engineers and local people were all interviewed and recorded for their views. These were then written up on their computer.
Here the role of the computer is kept in a service role, aiding the expression of views and the management of data. The children gained direct experience of the processes of information construction and information handling. It is at this level - the construction and exploration of systems of information and the formation of expression and action - that the role of the teacher becomes vital. The children and their teachers had made the computer a useful tool in the construction of their own cultural discourses.
One of the purposes of the Teaching, Handling Information and Learning (THIL) project (1983-6) was to inquire more closely into the processes of handling information in the context of the classroom in ways which could empower both children and teachers. Following a close study of children, aged 9-12 , trying to program a spectrum computer in a non-school context, Sanger (1988: 51-2) concluded:
In the process of pupil's styles of minimalist teaching and maximum demonstration the teacher's interventions can be seen as requests for explication of turning points in an algorithmic process. Noting a group's response to the act of demonstration by a pupil, a couple of questions can open up a process, reaffirm a problem-solving strategy, or ensure mutual on-task understanding from the group. Teaching can be seen to be a response to experience and pupil-owned knowledge, a delicate counterbalance to single-minded ownership of that knowledge and a resource for communication, explication, linkage to deeper structures of understanding. Because the teacher is essentially in a responsive/resource/service role rather than a dictatorial role s/he has time to watch the processes of discovery, problem solving, infrastructural learning, and need intervene only for positive reasons. The timing of interventions then becomes the art of teaching and for the pupil the demand for teaching becomes an art in learning.
In the study, the teacher was a child recognised by the group as having expertise. Nevertheless, in the classroom it was frequently found that the structures of schooling reinforced cultural practices which either closed down or overlooked the opportunities for these kinds of interplay.
The computer can be drawn into either the dominant discourse of schooling, integrated with it, to reinforce the delivery mode of teaching within largely formal and authority driven environments. Or, it can be drawn into a counter discourse of co-operation, and pupil-centredness - it depends to some extent upon the social climate of the classroom. Beattie discusses this in a study of 8-12 year olds. She concluded that the contribution the computer makes to social climate is like the two-edge sword where:
It may serve to promote a redistribution of control and influence over classroom life, away from the teachers to the children. However, the distribution among the children of that power may ultimately generate divisive and uncooperative attitudes. (Those with computer expertise, due to home experience or 'braininess', may be resented or admired excessively.) But let us assume that the benefits in terms of co-operation and pupil autonomy outweigh the disbenefits of occasional conflicts among children. What of the other edge of the sword? Dependence upon, and acceptance of, a technology one cannot control or expect to understand must surely impede the development of autonomous, independent, creative thinkers and actors. A new divide - one between educational technology and the learner - may replace the traditional one between teacher and taught. And it may help to create an autocratic social atmosphere.
The counter discourse of pupil empowerment may be enhanced with the teacher practising what Labbett (1988) has called 'skilful neglect' in order to promote flexible and adaptable learning in children to meet the changing demands of information technology. This latter kind of discourse meshes firmly within the tradition of curriculum development promoted by Stenhouse (1975: 143) where:
A curriculum (is) a particular form of specification about the practice of teaching and not a package of materials or a syllabus of ground to be covered. It is a way of translating any educational idea into an hypothesis testable in practice.
Labbet is concerned that computers are to help pupils what they want to do, that pupils' purposes are paramount in the classroom. In order to realise this in practice he promotes the idea of the teacher as 'space creator' who 'starts by neglecting to invade pupils' space by being the regular decision-maker about what pupils need to know, and in the space that he creates, uses his/her greater experience to help pupils achieve the objective of classroom work - pupils becoming more experienced today than they were yesterday in the activity of devising and implementing their learning purposes (p. 91). This role places greater demands upon the pupils to generate their own purposes and their own procedures for fulfiling their purposes. The role of the teacher is to engage in a discourse that helps the pupils to clarify his or her own purposes and practices in order to develop 'a more dynamic relationship with the world of their own ideas,' and to use 'the technology to create and communicate publicly those ideas' (p. 103). This transforms the teacher's role fundamentally into one that depends upon taking a research focus rather than a delivery focus. The teacher will:
1. identify and describe the world of purposes of the child, expressed as an agenda of concerns,
2. identify and describe the conceptual maps through which the child expresses and executes the agenda
3. identify and describe the relationship between these conceptual maps and the conceptual structures of systems of expertise
4. identify and describe the discourse structures and repertoires available to the child, through which the conceptual maps are framed and expressed, and through which the self as an actor is constructed in relation to others
5. formulate intervention strategies or strategies of 'skilful neglect' in relation to the developing needs and patterns of action of the child in the world of discourses through which knowledge, ignorance, action and inaction are managed
Action research as it has developed in Britain through the work of Elliott (1985) and others, provides an important resource for teachers to conduct research into their own practice as the basis upon which to develop curricular and pedagogic action. The PALM project directed by Bridget Somekh provides an important example of how teacher research networks can form the basis of curriculum development, focusing upon pupil autonomy in the use of information technology. The move from teacher as deliverer to teacher as researcher is one which is fundamental to educational uses of information technology if the teacher is not to be squeezed out by technological developments as they increasingly development virtual environments independent of teachers.
Distance learning is already creating the infrastructure required to squeeze the teacher out of the teaching-learning equation. The previous section has argued the centrality of the teacher in the formation of discourses through which the child can both explore and deconstruct the structures which position him or her in relation to others in the world about. With increasingly powerful developments courses are being constructed where the student and the teacher meet only through the screen. Campus 2000 provides the structure for computer conferencing allowing what may be termed the electronic classroom to become a reality. Here the teacher and the pupil can exist in virtual realities, each constructing a screen identity which may or may not bear much relationship to their 'real' everyday personas. Indeed, there is no reason for a 'real' teacher to exist at all in such an environment. The opportunity to create what Ellul describes as the ideal setting for propaganda is ideal: the virtual reality, all enveloping, multi-media to create the illusion of real action in real worlds; yet, all expressed in absolute isolation within mass produced environments for crowds alone at their individual terminals. At this point we have returned to the nightmare scenario. What then in more detail is the alternative scenario which has already been prefigured as its opposite?
The detail of the alternative scenario is defined less in terms of technology and more in terms of ethics and human expression and action. It is to do with the ends of education within the life of the child that enable the child to break through the restrictive structures which manage the social, political and commercial boundaries between knowledge and ignorance, empowerment and apathy. It has long since been the case that the total body of information or knowledge is well in access of any one individual to be able to know it in totality. In the face of this it could be said that the development of a National Curriculum is either the outcome of a misplaced nostalgia for a long lost age when it was still possible to master the world's knowledge; or, it is a deliberate attempt to limit the access and thus the social distribution of knowledge for political reasons: restricting dialogues to the official discourses of schooling. It is the role of the teacher, in the alternative scenario, to promote the moral discourses underlying the ends of education.The Ethics of Virtual Environments
It is no longer advisable to lean on or take for granted a nineteenth century moral discourse for the justification of school organisation and teaching relationships. With the move towards information technology based environments in education the principles upon which action within these environments must be re-thought. There has recently been some discussion within the UK on the introduction of a Bill of Rights. Against the introduction is the argument that over a thousand years there has been the sophisticated accumulation of case law. Even in the case of a Bill of Rights there would have to be its test within the courts of law, subjecting it to interpretation and the accumulation of rulings. Through a kind of case lore I have begun to draw up a list of principles which help me to think about any new educational situation or project that I am undertaking. These seem to me to underlie the processes of educational action within the classroom :
1. All personal, or sensitive information provided in the process of the negotiation of activities will not be made public outside of the negotiation group unless otherwise permitted by the individual or group. As a general rule, in the release of such information, all names of people and places will be anonymised (or fictionalised) unless otherwise negotiated and agreed. That is, a principle of confidentiality will underlie all research and educational transactions.
2. A principle of openness will underlie all research and educational transactions. This promotes the value of laying bare the underlying agendas, interests, needs, desires, hopes, and so on that motivate, block and either make life worth living for turns it into a nightmare for the individual. It is through openness that the agenda for educational action can be formed. Such openness will be protected by the principle of confidentiality.
3. All actors (staff, children, parents) involved in the research have an equal right to be informed, and to engage in any decision making directly affecting them. These rights relate to the principle of empowerment fundamental to all forms of educational action and research if it is to generate change in a community of actors.
4. All actors have the right to say 'no', the right of reply and the right to have a voice in the affairs of any research or form of action that affects them. These rights refer to the principle of freedom fundamental to human rights.
5. All actors have the right to self expression, initiative and action. This is the principle of action. Acts of domination are subjected to the principle of freedom, the right to say 'no'. As a principle which protects the rights of self expression, it is important to underline the need to protect minority views and the diversity of opinion and forms of cultural conduct.
6. All actors have the right to support. This right refers to the principle of mutual support.
This list may not be exhaustive. Furthermore, no one principle acts in isolation from the others. Together they form a basis for further discussion, in order to avoid abuse of rights and freedoms. Within the community of the classroom, teachers are powerful figures in the lives of children. Similarly, within the community of the school Headteachers are powerful figures in the careers of their staff and their pupils. Such power relations, may lead to abuse. Knowledge is power. And knowledge of other people is power over people. Education which promotes expression and action must be subject to the exercise of ethical principles. Within an information technology environment I think the ethical bases of information flows has to be seriously considered. The following rights, in the light of the earlier discussion of propaganda, surveillance, control and censorship, I think, need to be considered:
1. rights of access to information
2. rights of privacy
3. rights to self expression and action in relation to one's own agenda
4. the right to say 'no' and rights to make independent decisions concerning one's own life
5. rights to equal opportunity
The Reappearance of Teaching
Teaching is not a role but a relationship that emerges between two or more who are together exploring an issue, theme or object of mutual interest. Who will take the role of teacher or of pupil in such a relationship cannot be pre-determined with certainty; it may shift from individual to individual during the dynamics of discussion, construction and inquiry. Only in predetermined training situations can the roles of teacher and pupil be precisely defined and distributed. However, the professional education seeks to adopt the role of teacher through intervention strategies. These strategies should be guided by ethical principles of practice and by an understanding of the rights that should be accorded to individuals. Too often children's rights are overlooked. Rather they have duties and adults act 'in their best interests'. It is not enough to say that they have 'rights' to receive care, because the definition of care is always in the hands of adults whose purposes are framed within adult agendas. The solution, I would suggest is to accord children the rights which all individuals would want to have. The role of the teacher is thus to educe or educate principles of action, expression, critical reflection. The increasing power of the information technology advances currently underway and their implications for the control of information and the management of people, make a re-conceptualisation of the teacher role urgent.
Recalling the discussion on propaganda, it is important to stress the power of information technology to handle and deliver information in ways which are impersonal in one dimension but very personal and intimate in another, represent information with a pervasive sense of cinematic realism and authority which together disguise the levels of construction that have gone into the presentation of the information and the imagery. The essential role of education is to deconstruct and reveal the levels of construction that have gone into the finished product. At the heart of the education is the subversion of an uncritical reverence for 'informed opinion' and professional expertise. It is at this point that the role of the teacher is at its most vital.
The projects that I have been involved in which underpin some of the thinking in this paper include: Teaching, Handling Information and Learning Project (funded by the British Library, 1983-6); The Evaluation of the Part-Funding Scheme for Micros in Schools (funded by the Department of Trade and Industry 1988), The Talking and Listening Project (funded by Norfolk LEA, 1988-89), The Evaluation of the UK DELTA Helpline (funded by the Training Agency 1989), The Evaluation of the Paneda Geres project, Portugal (funded by the European Commission, 1990). The methodology underlying these projects were/are case study, employing largely qualitative techniques. Each involved studies of IT in education.
Beattie, C. (1988) 'Computers and the Social Climate of Computers' in: J. Schostak (ed) Breaking into the Curriculum. The impact of information technology on schooling, Methuen: London, New York
Beattie, C. (1988) 'Packaging computer knowledge: The further education classroom' in: J. Schostak (ed) Breaking into the Curriculum. The impact of information technology on schooling, Methuen: London, New York
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An Example of Educational Action from Portugal
The context for action can be briefly illustrated with reference to a project in the process of being developed in a poor rural community in the mountainous region of Northern Portugal. The school (consisting of just 12 children) is isolated, the teacher works alone, her own under school aged child at the back of the classroom. These range from 5 to about nine years old. She is not used to this kind of school. She has worked with older children following distance learning television programs. A school based project was set up involving the theme of 'hygiene'. During a meeting with a team of visiting support/advisory teachers the remark was made that the program could begin with a good hosing down. The children were dirty and their hair full of parasites.
The village economy was largely subsistence. However, with the building of a new dam nearby, migrant workers were disrupting the culture although adding to the economy. The role of the support teachers was to develop the quality of education in relation to the needs of the community. Besides developing an educational project, the team also tried to establish links with a health care team. The initial thoughts were to establish a project centring upon health. However, as the teacher at the school pointed out, the parents believed that the children were healthy and were clean. They objected to being told that the children's hair was infested. The teacher had tried to make the mothers help. She bought the medicine that was needed and gave it to the parents. But the parents refused. The teacher also pointed to several children and said that they and their parents had a problem with alcoholism. Again, the parents refused to listen to the teacher.
It became important to tackle the problem from a different angle. It was decided
to introduce the teacher to a style of working being developed in other schools
in the region. Essentially, it consisted of empowering the children by eliciting
what was on their own agenda of concerns. If health matters were important to
them, it was reasoned, then the agenda of concerns would reveal this.
Through the children's concerns the agenda of concerns of the community itself could be mapped. Health and welfare could be seen not as a set of concerns that outsiders pressed upon the community but as integral to the community itself. In this way the work of the Project through the advent of the computer in the classroom and the Project's philosophy was able to generate a real change in practice.
By comparing this example with other more developed approaches from teachers with more experience of the project, a pattern emerges. This pattern can be outlined as follows:
1. Identify the agenda of concerns
The children must produce a list of issues that they are concerned about. This can involve aspects of the community or their own personal interests or situation.
The procedures required to do this are:
a. form the children into manageable group sizes
i. ensure each group has an older child, or an adult who can ensure each child takes a turn to contribute their own ideas,
ii. the adult or older child writes down each child´s contribution
b. write the combined list of issues on the black board
2. Discuss the list of issues.This can be done by getting the children to discuss the following kinds of questions:
a. which issues/questions/problems can be categorised together?
b. if there is more than category, do each of the categories fit together to produce an integrated study of a village, region, or a way of life?
c. How could a study be produced that the class would be interested in doing?
d. what would be the purpose of doing a study?
e. how should the study be organised?
f. who should be the audience for what is produced ?
3. Decide how the study is to be organised
Each child must have a role to play. The important task is to ensure that nobody is excluded from the project. It is here that the teacher must be very aware of group dynamics. Dominant children, the talkative ones, the ones who seem to have a lot of good ideas can very easily take over the project. It is important to ensure that the social skills and the educational skills of the quiet ones and the one´s who have problems expressing themselves are developed. Therefore ensure that there is a clear distribution of tasks amongst the children.
a. what are the different tasks to be accomplished in order to develop the project? These may include for example:
i. interviewing: parents, neighbours, experts, administrators, employers, government officials, politicians etc ; and recording the interviews.
ii. observing and making an account of for example:
- social customs
- traditional or modern ways of working
- a typical day in the life of a member of the community
iii. collecting artifacts, documents, artwork, songs, proverbs, stories etc of the community past and present - collect also the accounts of how these are used, what they mean etc
iv. illustrating the theme imaginatively as well as historically by describing, making stories, poems, paintings
4. Identify the curriculum potential of the project
Once the children have decided upon a project they consider to be worth developing, the teacher can explore the wider curriculum potential of the project with the children. This can be done by considering:
a. its historical dimensions:
i. is this a local history? Are there historical documents available? Is it an oral history? Are there people alive who can recall that history?
b. its geographical dimensions
c. its potential for the stimulation of talk and of writing
d. its potential for using information technology software
e. its scientific and mathematical dimensions
5. identify the potential of the computer as a recorder, processor and mode of
The computer provides a range of possibilities at all stages of the development of the curriculum project in relation to:
a. storage and retrieval
b. word processing
e. desktop publishing
f. data processing
6. the use of the products of the study
The children should be involved in decisions concerning what use should be made of the work they have done. Possibilities include:
a. exhibitions - locally, or to a wider audience
b. publishing locally or more widely books, articles
c. contacting the media
d. computer networking - i.e., transmitting data to others