Being Digitally Educated, Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning

Michael Brint
Associate Professor and Director, Integrated Program in Humane Studies
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio

I. The Experience of Education in Digital Life

In his 1995 book, Being Digital, Nicholas Negroponte signals what many believe to be a paradigm shift from “atoms” to “bits”–from an “atomic” orientation to the world consumed by material interactions to an orientation unburdened by such impediments as space, time and atomic weight. Racing unfettered at blinding speed over vast distances of space, the bit, the smallest unit in the “DNA of information,” [1] has done more than help usher in the post-industrial age of information. According to Negroponte, it has become the basic commodity of interaction in the post-information age–an age in which the possibility of digital living has become increasingly viable:

The industrial age, very much an age of atoms, gave us the concept of mass production, with the economies that come from manufacturing with uniform and repetitious methods in any one given space and time. The information age, the age of computers, showed us the same economies of scale, but with less regard for space and time… [By contrast,] in the post-information age, we often have an audience the size of one. Everything is made to order and information is extremely personalized… The post-information age is about machines’ understanding individuals with the same degree of subtlety (or more than) we can expect from other human beings.Such customized digital living entails more asynchronistic communications (like e-mail), billions of bits of information on demand (in such forms as TV programs, videos, music, and news), and less and less dependence on being in a specific place at a specific time. [2]

In examining the educational implications of living digitally, Negroponte captures many of the central pedagogical points now being advanced by prominent policy analysts urging the development of distance learning opportunities. [3] In most instances, such approaches consist in the creation of highly individualized asynchronistic learning programs accessible on demand. This form of delivery is said to particularly aid the growing numbers of non-traditional students whose lives require that learning be less and less dependent on one’s ability to be in a specific place at a specific time.

Whether delivered to a classroom, laboratory, workplace or home, learning digitally as an experience is said to be one of individual exploration, experimentation, and expression. Emphasizing the benefits of computers as learning tools, Negroponte notes that

While a significant part of learning certainly comes from teaching–but good teaching and by good teachers–a major measure comes from exploration, from reinventing the wheel and finding out for oneself. Until the computer the technology for teaching was limited to audiovisual devices and distance learning by television, which simply amplified the activity of teachers and the passivity of children. The computer changed this balance radically. All of a sudden, learning by doing became the rule rather than the exception. Since computer simulation of just about anything is now possible, one need not learn about a frog by dissecting it. Instead, children can be asked to design frogs, to build an animal with frog-like behavior, to modify that behavior, to simulate the muscles, to play with the frog. By playing with information, especially abstract subjects, the material assumes more meaning. […] Anecdotal evidence and careful testing results reveal that this constructivist approach is an extraordinarily rich means of learning, across a wide range of cognitive and behavioral styles.[4]

“Learning by doing,” “finding out for oneself,” “playing with information,”–Negroponte’s orientation sounds a lot like an updated version of John Dewey’s educational approach. Stressing similar ideas, Carol Twigg, a senior analyst for EDUCOM and one of the leading advocates of distance learning, claims that “what we know about high-quality learning, cooperative learning, and discovery learning-implies a learning-by-doing model rather than the passive, classroom-based model that typifies the teaching infrastructure.”[5] Against such passive learning, Dewey notoriously stressed the importance of experience as an active process. “To ‘learn from experience’ is to make a backward and forward connection between what we do to things and what we enjoy or suffer from things in consequences. Under such conditions, doing becomes a trying; an experiment with the world to find out what it is like; the undergoing becomes instruction–discovery of the connection of things.” [6]

In a similar vein, discovery labs for physics and other natural sciences (like the CUPLE program developed at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) stress the experience of discovery through exploration and experimentation. By using a studio approach to learning, computer simulations allow students to discover scientific principles through their own active engagement. Jack M. Wilson, Director of the Anderson Center for Innovation in Undergraduate Education, explains the basic premise underlying such initiatives: “The focus is on student problem solving and projects,” he tells us, “and not on presentation of materials. The emphasis is on learning rather than teaching.” [7]

While the CUPLE program uses multimedia tools authored by experts for student use in the discovery, experimentation and exploration of science, multimedia offers new domains of student expression as well. “We are entering an era when expression can be more participatory and alive,” Negroponte tells us. “We have the opportunity to distribute and experience rich sensory signals in ways that are different from looking at the page of a book and more accessible than traveling to the Louvre.” [8] Rather than simply interacting with a designed exercise, students can become their own authors–designing and architecting multimedia projects that integrate both different disciplines and media.

CITYSCAPES at Kenyon College is just one example of a course developed to focus on the student as the creative agent of learning.[9]From a literary walk through the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires to an analysis of the role of women in the agricultural economy of Nairobi, students in this course become authors of multimedia projects that focus on specific themes related to particular cities or regions of the world. In addition to the Internet and library resources, these projects, currently produced as a CD-ROM, combine videos, photographs, recordings, interviews, and journals made by the students themselves. As authors guided by both local scholars and distant experts in various fields related to their study, students become increasingly fluid in coherently drawing together and creatively comingling function and form, method and subject, narrative and design.

Along with their expressive and experiential potentials, many see the greatest advantage of computer learning environments in terms of their potential for customization. Course materials can be delivered to fit the different learning styles of students and developed to help students realize their unique potentials and capacities. According to Massy and Zemsky, the two most fundamental advantages of information technology are the new “economies of scale” it offers and its ability to provide what they term, “mass customization.” “Technology allows faculty to accommodate individual differences in student goals, learning styles, and abilities, while providing improved convenience for both students and faculty on an ‘any time, any place’ basis.”[10]

In the post-information age, most surmise, the advent of sophisticated and customized simulations across the curriculum will increasingly provide the basis of experience for engaged learning. Many who are helping to lay the foundation for the future of information technology and education advocate the creation of a National Learning Infrastructure that could deliver these sophisticated simulations “anytime, anywhere, to anyone.”[11] If these trends continue, the experience of education in digital life may well be one of more convenient asynchronistic communication, customized educational services on demand, and less and less dependence on being at a specific place at a specific time. Yet, for all of the Deweyean-sounding practices that are supposed to accompany these educational delivery services–learning by doing, exploration and experimentation, play and discovery–I doubt it is time to begin celebrating the realization of Dewey’s educational philosophy in the post-information age.

II. Learning as a Social Environment

If many proponents of distance learning follow Dewey’s lead in emphasizing experiential and constructivist models of education, few follow his views regarding the inexorably social and relational nature of learning. Most of their accounts portray distance learning (at least at the level of higher education) as a highly individualized process of self-development, driven by the student’s own initiative toward the successful acquisition of specifiable skills.[12]

For Dewey, no matter how individualized or customized the material that is being explored, learning is not an isolated enterprise that takes place within the self or between the individual’s mind and the material it confronts, but a social activity that takes place within the context of a social environment. “As matter of fact,” Dewey tells us,

every individual has grown up, and always must grow up, in a social medium. His responses grow intelligent, or gain meaning, simply because he lives and acts in a medium of accepted meanings and values. Through social intercourse, through sharing in the activities embodying beliefs, individuals gradually acquires a mind of their own. The conception of mind as a purely isolated possession of the self is at the very antipodes of the truth. The self achieves mind in the degree in which knowledge of things is incarnate in the life about him; the self is not a separate mind building up knowledge anew on its own account. [13]

From Dewey’s point of view, even the ideal of education as self-development must be understood as a social process achieved through interaction and relation with others. Rather than fostering this ideal, advocates of distance learning, particularly those who stress self-paced, independent study, tend to reinforce individual isolation. “The effort at isolated intellectual learning contradicts it own aim,” Dewey claimed, for it “precludes the social sense which comes from sharing in an activity of common concern and value.” [14] In examining the economic efficiencies gained by computer innovations, Massy and Zemsky tellingly report that without a supportive social environment, “the students who would most benefit from self-paced learning have the least motivation to do so.”[15]

The prevailing attitude toward teaching is also particularly telling on this point. In Twigg’s words: “Because of the widespread availability of self-paced learning materials, direct faculty intervention throughout the learning process will lessen.”[16] Like a small country being invaded by a foreign power, the idea of faculty interaction is not said to be condemned simply because of the enormous costs of the labor involved (although one suspects that this is the most significant issue). Rather advocates of information technology assume a notion of independent learners at the center of the enterprise who simply do not depend on faculty as the primary source of their learning. While Dewey was among those to argue against a teaching-centered model of education, he would certainly reject the radically asocial dimension of distance learning as it is currently being discussed. [17]

Once again, Dewey’s position is that the social environment–the interdependence and engagement of individuals in the performative acts of learning–is a necessary condition for developing the unique capacities of individuals. Even if such a model as the National Learning Infrastructure could develop an individual’s dispositions for distance learning; in its current direction toward individualization, it would be difficult to account for the experience of sharing in a common activity that is central to Dewey’s understanding of both the social environment of learning and the social aims of democracy.

In contrast to Dewey’s concentration on the social functions of education, the individual ends of distance learning are most frequently described in terms of the acquisition of definable skills. “It seems to me,” Carol Twigg writes,

that our definition of learning is changing in a number of ways… Increasingly, viewing a college education as mastery of a body of knowledge is becoming outmoded. Instead we recognize that graduates need to have acquired skills… along with such abilities as finding needed information and working well with others.[18]

With this emphasis on acquired skills, we are also beginning to see more stress placed on educational outcomes. “Because of its capacity to focus on individual assessment,” Massy and Zemsky note, information technology “will make the teaching and learning enterprise much more outcome-oriented.”[19] In large measure this growing emphasis on skills and outcomes is related to a greater consumer orientation to education. Increasingly students are looking “for increased competition between higher education providers to work to their advantage as consumers.”[20]

While Dewey too understood the importance of acquiring skills, he would no doubt be disturbed by the instrumental and pecuniary ends of distance learning. In his essay, Individualism, Old and New, he claimed that “the development of a civilization that is outwardly corporate–or rapidly becoming so–has been accompanied by the prevailing mentality of the ‘business mind'” and the prevailing standards of value derived from pecuniary success alone.[21] On the educational front, the ability to buy economic success is understood in terms of the acquisition of skills of technical mastery sold at the best price. Yet paradoxically, Dewey argued, even if these skills are quite broad and fluid, such narrowly conceived individualist attempts to find economic security in an increasingly insecure economic world produces the conditions under which individuals become increasingly lost, unable to “find support and contentment in the fact that they are sustaining and sustained members of a social whole.”[22]

For Dewey, a highly individualistic or libertarian model of learning severely narrows and restricts the meaning and practical effects of education’s social function. In his view, the purposes of education in a democracy are necessarily both individual and collective in nature. They consist in developing individuals’ natural capacities and acquisition of skills in concert with their preparation for the activities of engaged citizenship and reflective thought. Indeed, without pathological effect, the growth of the individual–the unique development of the individual’s talents and skills– cannot be separated from the social environment of shared activities, values and common interests within which the individual is sustained and grows.

Although information technology has the potential “to increase learning productivity in the areas of codified knowledge and algorithmic skills,”[23] it may not serve these larger social purposes. Indeed, even if one could argue that sharing in common activities that are primarily non-algorithmic can take place within the social environment of distance learning, Dewey would strongly criticize the disembodied nature of such a “social” environment.

For Dewey, learning digitally may well push Cartesian dualism to new heights as minds connect over vast distances without the inconveniences of time, place and body. In his view, the separation of body and mind culminates “in a sharp demarcation of individual minds from the world, and hence from one another… [This] dualistic philosophy of mind and the world implies an erroneous conception of the relationship between knowledge and social interests, and between individuality or freedom and social control and authority.”[24] In educational practice, it often assumes the form of a body of knowledge distinct from its social purposes and a mind free from its social context and physical constraints. As Sidney Hook explains, a dualistic theory of mind and body, according to Dewey, “converts functional distinctions in the ‘moving unities of experience’ into separations of existence. Thus mind is considered separate from the body, whose activity is viewed as an alien influence on how the mind learns and the self is divided from its environing physical and social world.”[25]

Even as a real time-interactive-talking heads-model, being digitally educated decontextualizes the experience of learning and realizes in practice what Descartes only separated philosophically: Minds communicate through bits, bodies move through atoms. The most elemental dualism of the post-information age is thoroughly Cartesian. Detached from the motion of our bodies and disengaged from our local physical and social surroundings, education in the post-information age does not connect, but separates the self from the world, and thus from others. Rather than fulfilling its promise, learning digitally seems only to compromise the most significant elements of Dewey’s educational philosophy.

III. Learn Locally, Think Globally

Although information technology, like the printing press, opens up radically new options for education, Dewey would remind us that computers are, after all, tools. And, like all other tools, they provide ways of getting around and fulfilling one’s purposes in one’s environment. The question is how can we best use the tools of information technology for our educational purposes and aims?

In terms of delivery, advocates of digital learning often argue that information technology provides a better option than the traditional university. With its relatively fixed economy of scale and centralized location, the university has become a legacy of the industrial age. In Twigg’s words: “Our institutions of higher education are reminiscent of other kinds of industrial age organizations such as the factory and the department store–characterized by size and centralization–in contrast to the distributed, networked organization and mail-order shopping services of the 1990s.”[26] Twigg predicts that the ability to transmit through networked organization high quality learning tools customized for the individual student will begin to replace the traditional (teacher-centered) functions of the university. While there will still be a role for faculty and institutions of higher education in terms of certification, student services, and some collaborative experiences, she suggests, its centrality in the process of learning will significantly change as students become more independent and self-reliant and as physical contact becomes “less important to them.”[27]

Although Twigg may well be correct in arguing that the industrial designed university no longer provides the best option for educational delivery, her vision of the future predicated on independent learning, as we have seen, is not without its serious defects. In analyzing the profound implications of the printing press in America, Dewey noted that localism with its infinite variations and specific contexts tends to become stronger as the world (or at least information about it and our connection to it) grows closer.[28] And just as industry and politics are witnessing a tendency toward both decentralization and globalization, the best option for educational delivery may well be the more local community and small college system with new neighborhood and workplace learning centers further developed to meet the educational needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. Within these small colleges and decentralized institutions, the physical proximity of students and faculty would help to embody learning and knowledge as a social process.

To learn locally and think globally, students must have access to the tools of technology. Information retrieval, communication systems, and independent and collaborative learning tools are now necessary and even elemental parts of learning. But they are not sufficient. They must be contextualized within a learning environment. As most agree, learning tools can “stand in” for a physical and social environment, but they cannot replace it. One simply cannot replace the direct and palpable gravity of social interaction that is intrinsic to the atomic weight of learning with weightless bits traveling at blinding speed through thin fine fibers of glass.

As global communication systems eviscerate time and space, digital learning may transform the mode of educational production and delivery. It may even make the traditional university and large state institution obsolete. But as our access to the tools of technology become less dependent on space and time, as distance learning increases, the proximity of social interaction in the process of learning should increase proportionally: The more distant the means of delivery, the more proximate the learning experience should be in terms of the intensity, relation, and quality (if not quantity) of interactions between faculty and students. Rather than becoming less so, the physical and social environment may become more important as distant learning tools become more available. As in the case of localism and globalism, physical proximity and intensive social interaction may both compliment and counterbalance distance in learning. Although learning digitally may promise to make us less dependent on time and space, it is only within a social environment of learning that we can begin to celebrate the experimentation, exploration, and expression–the idea of learning by doing–central to the spirit of John Dewey.

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[1] Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, (New York: Borzoi-Knopf, 1995), 14.

[2] Ibid., 163-65.

[3] For example, see William F. Massy and Robert Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity” 4.

[4] Ibid., 199f. Return to text

[5] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure” 5.

[6] Dewey, Democracy and Education, in John Dewey, The Middle Works, 1899-1924, ed. Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 147.

[7] Jack M. Wilson, “The CUPLE Physics Studio,” The Physics Teacher.

[8] Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, 224.

[9] A description of CITYSCAPES can be found in “Strengthening Teaching and Learning in the First Two Years,” PEW Charitable Trusts (Number 9, January 1996), 4.

[10] Massy and Zemsky, Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 2. (

[11] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure.”

[12] Although one of these skills may involve collaboration, it is nevertheless described as a kind of “pull yourself up by your own boot straps” social environment of independent learning.

[13] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 304.

[14] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 44.

[15] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 4.

[16] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure,” 8.

[17] On the role of the teacher and the social purposes of education, see Dewey’s The School and Society in The Middle Works, vol. 1.

[18] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Infrastructure,” 1. See also, Jeremy Shapiro and Shelley Hughes, “Information Technology as a Liberal Art,” Educom Review (March/April):31-35.

[19] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 3.

[20] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Infrastructure,” 4. Return to text

[21] Individualism, Old and New in John Dewey: The Later Works, vol 5, p. 67f. Return to text

[22] Ibid. Return to text

[23] Massy and Zemsky, “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity,” 2.

[24] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” 300.

[25] Hook, “Introduction to Democracy and Education,” x.

[26] Carol Twigg, “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure,” 5.

[27] Ibid., 8.

[28] See “Americanism and Localism” in John Dewey: The Middle Works, vol. 12, p.12-16.

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Women: Lost in Cyberspace?

Laurie Finke
Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies
Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio
Date of publication: 1997

The Culture of Virtual Communities

In one passage from A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf’s fictional narrator finds herself walking across the grounds of an Oxbridge college deep in thought, contemplating an essay by Charles Lamb on Milton’s “Lycidas.” She remembers that the manuscript of that famous poem that Lamb cites in his essay is housed in the library of the very college whose grounds she walks. She imagines herself literally retracing Lamb’s footsteps “across the quadrangle to that famous library where the treasure is kept.” Finding herself at the door of the library,

I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel, barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction. (Woolf 7-8; emphasis in original)

The narrator’s response shows how quickly alienation follows from exclusion, how quickly intellectual curiosity can become indifference: “Venerable and calm, with all its treasures safe and locked within its breast, it [the library] sleeps complacently and will, so far as I am concerned, so sleep forever” (Woolf 8).

I found myself returning to this scene again and again when I was asked to think about the consequences of emerging information technologies for the teaching that I do in a Women’s and Gender Studies program, particularly in relation to the kind of student-centered pedagogy that we, for the purposes of this project, are calling “proximity learning,” and opposing to the “distance learning” so often extolled as information technology’s future (Twigg, Alley). Surely such scenes of exclusion as Woolf describes in 1928 could not be repeated in an American university at the end of the twentieth century? No student of ours–female or male– would be turned away at the doors of our colleges’ libraries by kindly silver-haired librarians guarding the doors and rebuffing the unwelcome. Yet the refrain heard constantly among cyber-touts these days is that the locus of the library is rapidly changing. Soon the “treasures” about which Woolf writes so eloquently will reside not in atoms–in weighty volumes stored on scores of shelves in monumental stone buildings–but in ethereal bits, floating around in a non-place we’ve come to call “cyberspace,” capable of being disassembled and reassembled at our merest whim in any format we desire (Negroponte). Knowledge–or at least information– will no longer be “locked away” and apportioned out by the gatekeepers of culture, but will be available anywhere, anytime at the press of a button or the click of a mouse.

This enthusiastic assessment of the democratizing potential of information technologies, however, merits closer scrutiny. What will the effects of this dematerialization–this transformation of information from atoms to bits–be? In particular, we ought to pay close attention to the rhetoric of the sales pitch through which the benefits of cyberspace are being promoted. While the term is often used rather loosely to refer to everything from computer games to the World Wide Web, “as though each computer screen were a portal to a shadow universe of infinite, electronically accessible space” (Markley 2), it is worth noting how the experts talk about the concept. Michael Benedikt defines cyberspace as “a globally networked, computer-sustained, computer-accessed, and computer-generated, multidimensional, artificial, or virtual’ reality” (Benedikt 122). Marcos Novak characterizes it as “a completely spatialized visualization of all information in global information processing systems, along pathways provided by present and future communication networks, enabling full copresence and interaction of multiple users, allowing input and output from and to the full human sensorium, permitting simulations of real and virtual realities, remote data collection and control through telepresence, and total integration and intercommunication with a full range of intelligent products and environments in real space” (Novak 225,226). What both definitions have in common is their thorough erasure of human agency in the transition from a material to a virtual reality [1]. In both definitions machines are remarkably lively and intelligent. They “network,” “sustain,” and “generate.” They provide access; they “enable”interaction, “allow” input and output to circulate, and “permit” simulations. Humans, on the other hand, have almost entirely disappeared or are completely passive. Indeed we no longer have people attached to computers at all, but “human sensorium.” People have become little more than inert receptacles for “input” and “output.” As Donna Haraway writes, “Our machines are disturbingly lively and we ourselves frighteningly inert” (Haraway 152). This way of talking about computer technology is not limited only to VR visionaries. Most educators writing about the benefits of information technology use the very same rhetoric:

  • IT will change teaching and learning profoundly, no matter what the response of traditional higher education institutions. (Massy and Zemsky 2)
  • IT enables students to work at their own pace with continuous assessment, in contrast to the traditional post-secondary education method which can be described as batch-processing with episodic assessment. (Massy and Zemsky 4).
  • For not only will information technology accelerate the move toward a process focus and collaborative learning, it may change the fundamental relationships and understandings we’ve developed during the era when most information was stored on paper. (Batson and Bass 44)

In the first sentence, information technology is characterized as having the power to transform higher education in spite of whatever paltry resistance its institutions might mount (notice it isn’t educators, but only institutions that resist). Human agency can amount to little more than a pallid and ineffective imitation of computer efficacy (“batch-processing with episodic assessment”). In fact, in the technological determinism that marks most writing of this kind, human actors appear only as obstacles to the electronic transformation of higher education. Faculty and administrators who resist the inevitable digitalization of the university are seen as the problem to be solved: “faculty will have little interest in IT’s capacities to boost academic productivity to the extent that they lack an appropriate vision of learning productivity” (Massy and Zemsky 6). Sentiments like this are so common nowadays that they fly by unnoticed. But their consequences for how we think about information technologies and for the problems we gloss over are profound.

The effect of this discursive logic that endows machines with agency while erasing human actors is to write out of existence a whole host of material and cultural institutions and practices that create and sustain information technology, but which also determine who is allowed access to this information. Gone from the analysis are the programmers, designers, factory workers, sales workers, service technicians, patent and copyright lawyers, policymakers, executives, college faculty and administrators, as well as the hardware, software, electricity, and raw materials necessary to keep the production line moving. A whole host of technoscientific, economic, social, and cultural practices that regulate both knowledge of and access to information technology simply become invisible. Those who extol the democratizing potential of new information technologies rarely talk, for instance, about the complexities of copyright law, the economic costs of access to this information, or the inevitable pattern of breakdown, repair, and obsolescence involved in maintaining electronic equipment, all material practices that involve human actors who serve as gatekeepers, determining who will have access and who will be denied.

Even the most superficial examination of the material practices that sustain the illusion of “cyberspace” reveal that far from being a cultureless and egalitarian meeting place in which “status, power, and prestige are communicated neither contextually. . .nor dynamically,” in which “charismatic and high-status people may have less influence and group members may participate more equally” (Taylor et al. 18), emergent information technologies, because they are situated in networks of material and cultural practices, institutions, and economies, replicate all of the inequities and hierarchies that currently plague academia and the larger world of which it is a part. As colleges and universities celebrate the
promise of brave new technologies that will fundamentally change the ways in which faculty and students interact, it is important to keep in mind the very real danger that some of our students, because of where they are situated in these networks, may, like Virginia Woolf, find themselves locked out of the technological campuses of the future.

I believe that both faculty and students can use computer mediated communication (CMC) and IT to teach and learn in new ways that are more collaborative, interactive, and ultimately more effective, but I am also wary of the very real possibility that gender, race, and class hierarchies will (and have) all to easily become part of the “circuitry” of the new information technology on our campuses. I worry that these technologies could have unforseen and undesirable consequences for the politics of gender, race, and class in academia. The question I want to pose is, as teachers, how do we responsibly integrate new information technologies into our classrooms without excluding or alienating the very students we want to empower? My answer is that we can do so only when we pay attention to the material and cultural practices that accompany the adoption of new technologies.

The cultural practices that have sprung up around computer mediated communication (CMC) and information technology (IT), far from being gender-neutral, are, if anything, more male than the culture they mirrors. By almost any measure we might choose, men dominate the computer world through sheer numbers. 87% of all doctorates in computer science go to men (and two-thirds of all bachelors degrees); 92% of all computer science faculties are male (and 97% of all tenured faculty) [Shade, Simmons]. These numbers suggest that those who are designing hardware, software, and networks, supporting and servicing them, and teaching about them are most likely to be men. This is not to suggest, however, that women have nothing to do with computers. Women figure heavily in the global production lines of the computer industry (Taylor et al., 15), in data entry, and in secretarial positions. In other words, they cluster disproportionately in those areas of computer technology that are low-paying, repetitive, and routinized, those areas that are least likely to influence decisions about how CMC and IT will be used and who will have access.

On the internet, the heart of the revolution in information technology, depending on how you count, men outnumber women in proportions that range from 2 to 1 to 9 to 1. If you measure access men outnumber women only by two to one. If you measure actual use the disparity can be as high as 10 to 1. A survey conducted in 1994 by the Graphics, Visualization, and Usability Center (GVU) at Georgia Tech showed that male internet users outnumbered female by a ratio of 9 to 1. A year later, the same survey showed that , at least in the U.S, the disparity had begun to shrink; women accounted for 29.3% of users in the 4th Annual GVU Survey. However, to be counted in a survey of this kind a user would have to find the GVU web site and complete the questionnaire. To avoid the potential biases that might result from self-reporting, Matrix Information and Directory Services (MIDS) and Texas Internet Consulting sent electronic surveys to the domains representing organizations on the internet. These surveys counted the numbers of men and women who could send e-mail outside the domain. In 1994, this survey showed only a two to one discrepancy between men and women who had active email accounts (64% to 36%, MIDS Survey). John Quarterman and Smoot Carl-Mitchell suggest that the proliferation of email on college campuses explains the smaller gap between male and female users in this survey. Students have become the largest proportion of internet users and the average university student population is pretty evenly divided between men and women. But the MIDS survey still leaves a 2 to 1 “gender gap” even for relatively simple electronic technology like email. Collectively what these studies suggest is that while men and women are becoming more equal in opportunities for accessing the internet, there are still wide disparities in how men and women use electronic media.

The reasons for this disparity, I believe, are not all that well understood. Much of the research on women and computing, even the feminist research, begins with the assumption that women are disadvantaged and even deficient users of computer technology. Such analyses locate the problem in the resistance of users rather than in the technology they are being asked to use, or better in the network of material and cultural practices that sustain the technology. Women, in this view, are intimidated by the technology and the communicative style of the internet because they communicate differently from men: men are comfortable with the kind of adversarial exchange characteristic of the internet, while women prefer a more supportive communicative style (Herring). Indeed, women’s and men’s communicative strategies are
so different that they inhabit different cultures (Mulvaney). Such views, however, are based as much on stereotype as on any empirical evidence. Michele Evard’s research on fourth and fifth grade children using a netnews-like forum in a classroom setting suggests that, before they encounter the culture of the net, boys and girls act in CMC in almost identical ways: girls speak as often as boys, they give instruction in equal numbers, and they flame just as often as boys (Evard). This study suggests that what ever discrepancies exist between men’s and women’s use of CMC and IT result less from profound psychological differences between men and women than from the practices, values, and institutions that
constitute and are constituted by the virtual communities that have sprung up on the internet.

To understand the discrepancies between male and female computer use and their implications for classroom use of CMC and IT, we must investigate the material practices that discourage women from participating. These include:

  • Economic barriers. Access to information technology requires hardware, software, and, increasingly, internet access, all of which require a significant financial output. Since women on average make less than men, they may be more disadvantaged as buyers of computer services (Shade, Simmons). Cost may have less impact on college students as the cost of some (though certainly not all) of these services are borne by colleges and universities. Nevertheless, as educators we must constantly remember that the increasing dependence of higher education on electronic technology will always work to the benefit of more advantaged students who can afford the cost of cutting edge technologies.
  • Lack of familiarity with computer technology. As children, girls are often have less access to computers than boys. When they do, their use of the computer is almost exactly the same as boys (Evard). The computer game industry, however, is notoriously male-oriented, producing few titles that would appeal to girls.
  • Learning styles. While the literature on infotech frequently promotes the potential of technology to appeal to a variety of learning styles (Negroponte, Batson and Bass, Alley), it is not always clear that training in the use of infotech accommodates a variety of learning styles, especially when the learner in question is resistant to technology or anxious about it. For some users (and here I would include myself), the rapid obsolescence of technologies once learned can be quite daunting and a disincentive to investing the time required to learn still newer technologies every six months.
  • Harassment and pornography. Information resources like the internet are not always friendly places for women. The kind of harassment that often plagues women in face to face communication  has, not surprisingly, become perhaps too frequently a fact of life in CMC (Anderson, Brail, Kendall). The libertarian, anything goes culture of the Web has made it an attractive place to sell and disseminate pornography. Without advocating censorship or indeed any reigning in of the Web’s decentralized (non) organization, I would point out that the climate for women on the web can be chilling; one need not actively look for pornography to find it. Recently I logged onto a popular search engine, looking for information on “women and the internet” for this piece. My query
    yielded some fifty entries, half of which advertised “the hottest women on the internet,” “lingerie lounge,” “Asian playmates,” and “SEX PORN XXX FUCK ADULT GAY WOMEN VIDEO.XXX.COM” repeated over and over in capital letters (the electronic version of shouting). My students have reported similar experiences. Women on the internet are both subjects and sexual objects.
  • Discursive inequalities. Although CMC was supposed to eliminate status markers like race, age, physical appearance and physical abilities, empowering those in low status positions,(Lee Sproull and Sara Kiesler, Taylor et al. 54, Stone), gender seems to be a status marker that persists even in  electronically mediated situations[2]. Recent studies of usenet groups show that, even when the subject matter focused on women’s issues, in mixed sex groups men contributed significantly more posts and that when women’s participation rose above 30%, they were perceived as dominating the discussion (Taylor et al. 17, 55, We). In a study of the relative participation of men and women in usenet groups devoted to women’s issues (where we might expect women’s interest, and hence their participation to be higher than elsewhere), Gladys We reported the following discrepancies between men’s and women’s contributions:
Newsgroup #responses %female %male %unknown
Alt.feminism 303 11% 83% 6%
Soc.women 292 13% 78% 9%
Soc.feminism 47 53% 40% 7%


These findings validate the experiences many women have had in internet discussion groups and raise questions about the consequences of their use in a classroom setting.

The Pedagogies of Virtual Communities

As colleges and universities invest more heavily in information technology and as IT becomes more integral to our teaching, educators need to think about those we may be leaving behind. And yet such discussions seem to me to be precisely what is missing from the literature on information technology’s pedagogical potential. Although much of this literature discusses forms of faculty resistance to classroom uses of IT (Twigg, Massey and Zemsky, Gilbert), rarely does it acknowledge that student resistance will also be a barrier to the successful integration of electronic media into our teaching. In fact, students will show the same diffusion curve in adopting IT that experts predict of faculty; there will be a small group of early users, the majority will only follow once a critical mass is reached, and the resistors are in real danger of being left behind altogether (Green 29). It would be useful to have some information on, for instance, how gender, race, and socioeconomic class affect these categories. Are men really more likely to be among the early adopters of IT? Are economically privileged students with access to the resources required to access cutting edge technology more likely to be represented among early adopters? Are women more likely to resist the change to electronically mediated classrooms? Are there students or even entire institutions who lack the economic resources to participate in the IT revolution? It would be preferable to rely on some empirical data to answer these questions rather than on stereotype. Once patterns of student use have been established, educators have the more difficult task of determining the causes of resistance. As I have tried to suggest above, resistance to IT among women students (and faculty) may result less from deficiencies in the individuals than from their resistance to the culture they are being asked to enter. Overcoming this resistance will require paying attention to the developing cultures of virtual communities.

We must also pay attention to the pedagogies we adopt within these virtual communities, and the assumptions that underlie those pedagogies. Enthusiasts of IT will often point to the shift electronically mediated learning requires from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered one (Twigg, Alley). As Carol A. Twigg quotes Alan H. Leader, dean of the School of Business at Southern Connecticut State University:

The purpose and outcome of our educational enterprise is learning, not teaching.
Teaching is what we do. Colleges do not exist in order for us to teach but so that
students can learn. . . .The focus must be on the student, not the instructor (Twigg 13).

The pedagogical writing about IT and distance learning extols the advantage of student-centered learning, but what is its vision of student-centered learning? Critiques like Twigg’ s of the traditional teacher-centered classroom, in which the scholarly expert, having distilled the truth from the best minds in the field, transmits it to students, identify real problems in traditional teaching methods. But what do they offer in place of what Paolo Freire has described as the “banking method” of teaching in which teachers
make deposits of knowledge in their students’ minds (Freire 1968)?

Even the most sophisticated writing on distance learning and the pedagogical applications of IT, as, for instance, Twigg’s call for a national learning infrastructure, views the primary goal of education as the delivery of information transplanted from the teacher’s brain into the student’s (Freire’s “banking method” of teaching under a slightly different guise–the scholarly expert has been replaced by a
computer). Such transfers, educational analysts like Massey and Zemsky or Twigg claim, may be more efficiently accomplished with greater convenience to students (who may even be able to learn in the comfort of their own homes) by computers in an individualized, asynchronous learning environment, which is an elaborate way of describing a student sitting in front of a computer terminal. (see “Being Digitally Educated: Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning“) And if this is all education is about, they are undoubtedly correct. Computers can more efficiently convey information than human instructors. They can store, search, sort, transfer, transport, organize, replicate, and compute information much faster than any human can.

But do these enthusiastic claims about information technology confuse knowledge and information, transmitting with educating? Does student-centered learning refer only to students’ passive assimilation of data or does it require more active participation from them, more interaction both with their teachers and with their peers? Perhaps we cannot substitute a computer for the social interactions we claim occur in
proximity learning anymore than we can create a computer program to parent or an electronic therapist. Like parenting or therapy, teaching (and learning) does not involve a simple exchange of information. Information gathering is not the central activity. Like parenting or therapy, education integrates students into particular social networks–in the case of education we call these social networks disciplines. These social networks have customs, rules, procedures, and specialized languages. Some
of these are explicit, but many are unstated, taken for granted by those who have already been integrated into the social network. These rules, procedures, customs, and languages dictate what questions can be asked, what counts as an answer, what counts as evidence or explanation, who may speak at any given time, whose answers count, and how information is gathered. Students learn the customs, rules, and procedures of their chosen social networks or disciplines by acting as participant-observers, by learning the “culture” of their discipline, and not simply by acquiring the discipline’s content. A students become a member of the social network as she learns to create new knowledge, not as she learns to regurgitate information ( Brown and Duguid). The goal of higher education then only partly the transmission of knowledge; it also requires the creation of new knowledge.

Missing, then, from discussions of the technological classroom is a sophisticated analysis of pedagogy that unpacks the social networks students must learn to navigate during their college years. Those pedagogical discussions are, however, available in many other places. Feminist scholars, for instance, have explored these issues and their impact on women for nearly two decades. For two decades they have mounted a challenge to teacher- and information-centered models of education which has been remarkably successful at many institutions. That challenge has gone unnoticed in the literature on classroom uses of IT, this despite a virtual explosion of information on the subject. In the 1970s, feminist teachers, convinced that a female-friendly education required not only a transformation of the content of higher education but of its method of delivery as well, began to explore new teaching approaches. They found useful strategies in many different sources: the consciousness-raising practices of the early women’s movement, the progressive tradition in American education created by John Dewey (see “Being Digitally Educated: Dewey, Technology, and Distance Learning“), and the liberatory teaching promoted by Paulo Freire and others. What makes feminist pedagogy unique, however, has been its attention to the particular needs of women and its grounding in feminist theory as the basis for its multidimensional view of how classroom knowledge is constructed through the formation and maintenance of social networks (Tetreault and Maher). This information is voluminous and readily accessible [3].

Yet, despite this wealth of information, discussions of both feminist pedagogy and information technology’s impact on the women who constitute upwards of 50% of our students are notably missing in most mainstream discussions of the IT revolution, which tend to treat students as largely featureless and interchangeable cogs.

Obviously I believe that IT and CMC can and ultimately must have a place in a feminist classroom. I have use these tools–e-mail, electronic discussion groups, the internet, multimedia programs– on a daily basis in my own classes. And my experience has taught me that these tools, along with the networks of social, cultural, and material practices in which they are imbricated, will change how we teach. But finally it is up to us as teachers (and as members of our own social networks) –and not the technology–to determine the nature and extent of these changes. It is my hope that by understanding the particularities of our students, the nature of the social networks to which they seek access, and the nexus of material and cultural practices that IT both embodies and sustains, that we will not, to paraphrase Anne Fausto-Sterling, create an electronic academy in which cyberspace seems an illegitimate place for women and gender issues seem an inappropriate enterprise for the gatekeepers of infotech.


Albright, Julie M. “Of Mind, Body and Machine: Cyborg Cultural Politics in the Age of Hypertext.”

Alley, Lee R. 1996. An Instructional Epiphany. Change. Mar: 48-54.

Anderson, Judy. 1996. “Not for the Faint of Heart: Contemplation on Usenet.” In Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_ Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, WA: Seal Press.

Brail, Stephanie. 1996. “The Price of Admission: Harassment and Free Speech in the Wild, Wild West.” In
Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and the New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. 1996. “Universities in the Digital Age.” Change. July/August: 11-19.

Cherny, Lynn and Elizabeth Reba Weise. 1996. Wired Women:Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle: Seal Press.

Evard, Michele. 1996.”‘So Please Stop, Thank You’: Girls Online.” In Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba
Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Finke, Laurie A. 1993. “Knowledge as Bait: Voice and the Pedagogical Unconscious.” College English 55:5-25.

Finke, Laurie A. 1994. “Pedagogy of the Depressed: Feminism, Poststructuralism, and Pedagogic Practice.”
Teaching Literary Theory, eds. Dianne Sadoff and William Cain. MLA: 154-168.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Herder and Herder, 1 968

Gilbert, Steven W. 1996. “Making the Most of a Slow Revolution,” Change. March/April: 10-47.

Green, Kenneth C. 1996. “The Coming Ubiquity of Information Technology.” Change. March/April: 24-29.

Grusin, Richard. “What is an Electronic Author? Theory and the Technological Fallacy.” In Robert Markley.
Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996: 39-54.

Haraway, Donna J. 1991 “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Herring, Susan. “Gender Differences In Computer-Mediated Communication: Bringing Familiar Baggage To The New Frontier.”

Kendall, Lori. 1996. “MUDder? I Hardly Know ‘Er!: Adventures of a Feminist MUDder.” In Lynn Cherny and
Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds. Wired_Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle WA: Seal Press.

Kendrick, Michelle. “Cyberspace and the Technological Real.” In Robert Markley. Virtual Realities and Their
Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996:143-160.

Maher, Frances A. and Mary Kay Teatreault. 1994. The Feminist Classroom: An Inside Look at How Professors are Transforming Higher Education for a More Diverse Society. New York. Basic Books.

Markley, Robert. Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,

“History, Theory, and Virtual Reality.” In Robert Markley. Virtual Realities and Their Discontents. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996: 1-10.

Massy, William F.and Robert Zemsky. “Using Information Technology to Enhance Academic Productivity.”

Milroy, L. 1980. Language and Social Networks. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Mulvaney, Becky Michele . “Gender Differences in Communication: An Intercultural Experience.”

Neville, Nicholas. 1995. Security and Privacy in a Surveillance Society, London: Ninja Books

Quarterman, John S. and Smoot Carl-Mitchell. “Is the Internet All Male?”

Shade, Leslie Regan. “Gender Issues in Computer Networking.”

Simmons, Susan. “Democracy, Women, and the Internet.”

Stone, Allucquere Rosanne.1991. “Will the Real Body Please Stand Up? Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures.” In Benedikt, Michael, ed. Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.

Taylor, H. Jeanie, Cheris Kramarae, and Maureen Ebben. 1993. Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship
(Taylor et al.). Urbana, Illinois University Press.

Twigg, Carol. “The Need for a National Learning Infrastructure.”

We, Gladys. “Cross-Gender Communication in Cyber-Space.”

Woolf, Virginia. 1929. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.


[1] I am indebted to Richard Grusin for this point (see Grusin 1996, 40-41).

[2] Though “computer crossdressing” in CMC is by no means unheard of and given the lack of bodily cues, relatively easy to achieve, it is not at all clear whether such behavior has challenged or simply reinforced traditional gender stereotypes, see Stone, 82-85, Kendrick 155-159, and Kendall.

[3] A gopher site maintained by the Women’s Studies librarian at the University of Wisconsin contains a searchable bibliography on women and information technology with seven hundred entries. (gopher://

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The Rise of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses)

It’s often been touted as the rise of a new form of education which will eventually transform the world. The MOOC is certainly transforming the way the world’s Universities are delivering their courses. What’s more they are allowing people to access world class education irrespective of their location or circumstances.

Massive Open Online courses are uniquely flexible as regards time, finance, geography and many other normal restrictions. Universities throughout the world are designing all their courses with the potential to be delivered online at little or often no cost to people through an internet connection. There are still some restrictions, at least with some providers in order to maintain quality and stop people just enrolling on everything. Some require entry interviews, tests or locks based on geographical areas however these are the exception rather than the rules.

the geographical blocks are similar to those used by the big media sites, however these can be bypassed easily using this technique. You can see how you can easily use a proxy based in the required country like this video –

So what will the future hold for education in 10 years? Well if you look at traditional University and college courses you’ll see most of them now contain an online component. There are obvious advantages in that courses can be recorded and rerun year after year if they are stored in a digital format. This also increases the amount of time available for tutors to help their students individually, freeing up time that would normally be spent in vast lecture theatres with an audience of students.

One area that will hopefully increase the benefits to the standard of global education is collaboration. This will allow Universities and colleges to specialise in specific areas and utilize other academic resources for related studies. Imagine being able to tap into technology courses from MITT, Economics from LSE or business schools in Harvard. Collaboration will allow experts and academics to study and teach their own areas and use others to help educate in related areas.

Education Will Save South Africa?

This year, the World Economic Forum published it’s educational rankings for several subject areas.   South Africa didn’t fair well, in Mathematics and science it came right at the bottom and overall the quality of the education system was close to worse of those rated.


It’s fairly depressing news for what is usually thought of as Africa’s most advanced economy.  However there is hope, in Africa incomes are starting to rise within the huge population and it’s creating an important factor that drives improvement.  That factor is ‘demand’ or more specifically ‘effective demand’.  People with a desire to educate their children are finally achieving income levels in order to support that requirement.

There are options of course, and the internet where available is offering a real choice for the African student.  For example a small investment in something like an IP address changer –

The result is that there is an explosion happening in the African education sector.  All across the continent private schools are being created with quality education and relatively inexpensive prices.  These schools reflect the growing demand, and are producing big profits for the companies investing this sector.

“By any metric – demographic growth, economic growth – or by demand for better educational outcomes, the circumstances are ripe for African education to significantly improve in the next two decades,” said Katelyn Donnelly, who runs the Affordable Learning Fund sponsored by Pearson.

There are lots more investors, and one of the biggest is Curro Holdings which operates low cost private sector schools across Africa.   The growth in this sector is phenomenal and many investors are flocking to invest in similar funds.   The theme is obviously high profile and many investors feel that ineffective African governments offer little challenge in producing low cost education across Africa.

The complaints on public offerings of education are growing – classes too big, low quality of teachers.  You can find more and more middle class parents who now invest in private education for their children.  Although the costs are relatively small compared to say Europe or North America, they are still substantial in relation to African salary levels.

For many other parents however, the choices on offer remain too expensive and their children continue to struggle through public schools where classrooms may be a patch of grass under a tree, or a dilapidated shack with a leaking roof.

“If I had a choice, I would send my child to a better school,” Gladys Mahlake, whose child is in Masiqhakaze Secondary School.

With Thanks,

Buy IP Address 


Successful Utilisation of Psychotherapists E-Learning Training

Applying on-line training programs to educate psychotherapists the best way to use newer evidence-based treatments can not be as unsuccessful as in person education, in accordance with a RAND Corporation study that is new.


Psychotherapy treatments can lag behind what because there just will not be enough clinicians trained in new procedures, research has proven to be successful. Meaning that lots of people who have mental health illnesses will not be receiving the nonpharmacological treatments that are best, RAND researchers say.

“This could be a means to enhance patient care and solve the issue of getting new treatments to the frontline mental health work force.”

The therapy strategy highlights healing techniques in helping individuals with bipolar disorder, in addition to social relationships maintain day-to-day routines so that you can assist in preventing exacerbation of symptoms.

In three of the mental health facilities, clinicians received 12 hours of interactive training that was online at their convenience. Men and women supported them from every practice participating in a learning collaborative, who helped direct Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy execution through quality enhancement attempts. Most clinicians had monthly hour long phone seminars with the specialist in Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy for the initial three.

Associated Reports
Bipolar disorder affects life expectancy in the youthful
New study reveals that depression can get your brain go ‘fuzzy’
Clinicians in both of the other facilities received conventional training comprising a two-day, 12-hour in person training directed by Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy programmers. They received weekly onsite oversight of Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy instances, and were motivated to contact specialists by e-mail or telephone with questions.

Researchers subsequently requested 136 patients from just trained clinicians in all five mental health facilities. Clinicians trained either manner used the new techniques with patients. Moreover, both groups of clinicians slowly raised their utilization of the signs- in annually and established technique at half a year after finishing training.

Because there are only a handful of people qualified to train clinicians in many new therapies, the task of getting tens of thousands of mental health practitioners up to speed on evidence-based therapies through traditional in-person training is a nearly impossible challenge, Stein said.

“We know that front-line mental health clinicians turn over at about the rate of 35 percent a year,” Stein said. “That’s where mental health centers have a problem. Do they bring in the expert again, or lose what they’ve gained from this new effective treatment model? By using online training, new clinicians can more easily get instruction.”

Referenced Here

Important Irish-USA Awards Announced

Alimentary Health Xilinx Ireland and Dublin City University were named the overall winners in the inaugural US-Ireland research invention awards in Dublin.

Higher education associations and fifteen businesses were shortlisted for the awards, which are the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland as well as a combined initiative involving the Royal Irish Academy.

Xilinx Ireland was named the victor in the group that was transnational, Alimentary Health won Dublin City University and the SME group was named the victor in the higher education group.
DCU researcher Prof Oliver Dolly analyzed the manner nerves management muscle action, developing new insights into how neuronal signalling is reduced by botulinum toxin.

Xilinx Ireland designed a fresh type of microchip to empower compact, power-saving, next-generation, high end electronic equipment.
Talking in the awards ceremony, Eamonn Sinnott, president of the American Chamber said lots of the inventions that also have a direct effect on an international scale, come in the city of US FDI here, and emanate in the isle of Ireland.

DCU researcher Prof Oliver Dolly examined the way nerves control muscular activity, gaining new insights into how botulinum toxin reduces neuronal signalling.

“This impact has been viewed throughout the entire spectrum of business with innumerable innovations being found in regions like ICT where Irish designed computer chips and software programmes are powering systems world-wide,” he said.

The American Chamber likewise presented to Glen Dimplex creator Martin Naughton a unique Lifetime Achievement Award.

With Thanks

Report on Adult Learning Goals

Many of us especially as we watch our kids grow up, tend to wish we’d picked up more skills when younger.   I was watching a discussion on the Irish TV Channel, TV3 online where a adult education teacher was trying to encourage adults to come back and learn.  Incidentally you can only watch TV3 online from the Republic of Ireland unless you use this method.

Nearly two fifths (39%) of adults want to be better cooks or bakers, in accordance with a survey commissioned to found a festival of education.   Half told researchers for the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), they’d be prepared to take a class to improve their abilities.

“This demonstrates how much we all would like to understand new things… but in addition, it reveals that individuals need help to take steps to discover where and the best way to learn.”

  • The top abilities respondents expressed an interest in obtaining additionally contained learning a language, singing and photography.
  • Playing with a musical instrument – 23%
  • Learning languages or a language – 21%
  • Dancing – 13%
  • DIY – 13%
  • Artwork – 11%
  • Horticulture – 11%

Among 25- to 34-year olds, the percentage considering taking a class within their favoured area up grew to 60%.

Learning new skills is “about individuals expressing themselves”, said David Hughes, of NIACE
Mr Hughes said the survey results demonstrated how significant it was to motivate individuals “to take the jump and go for this, whatever their degree of schooling”.

“All of the top abilities folks would like to learn most are about individuals expressing themselves, who they are, the things they stand for,” he said.
“The assurance learning those abilities brings are vital for all in life as well as in work.”

He explained the reason for the festival was to help make lifelong learning more accessible, using some have-a-go occasions in cities throughout England.

Chef Rachel Khoo said the best thing about cooking “is anyone may do it and you do not want a large space or all the latest gadgets”.
“After you have learnt the principles you will not look back.
“It is never too late to get cooking.”

Technical Source:

The Future Development of Online learning

It has been largely heralded that the future of education will be heavily linked with distance and online learning.  Although some people have doubted this, the evidence suggest that this transformation has already begun and is only going to speed up over the next few years.

To summarise, technology is simply moving the traditional campus base learning to the internet.  Lectures can be listened to, in a traditional manner whilst sitting in a lecture theatre with a lecturer delivering the lesson or a video watched online from anywhere in the world.  Obviously your options depend on a number of factors including location and finance.



However the method of distance learning – commonly known as MOOCS (Massive Open Learning Courses) has a huge advantage that it can be offered for either free or a low cost and further there are virtually no barriers to entry.

In the UK, we have been monitoring the expansion of these course with great interest, through utilising technology like VPNs almost all are accessible – to access the UK only ones simply use a UK VPN like this.  The Financial Times (FT) has been tracking the number of these course available in the UK and it’s counted a huge increase in executive education courses available online for example.

The survey doesn’t count any course, only those run by reputable educational establishments and most actually lead to certificates and further qualifications.  The other common factor is that they are all free, which is of course a huge driver for the majority of students.

There are definitely issues still that need to be resolved with these MOOCs, for one that of the completion rates. Although the number of students who complete a traditional course varies widely they are all much higher than online course which currently often fall under 10% completion rates.  It is of course, probably due to the effort and stake invested in the course.  A traditional student will have invested a large amount of time and  money to attending a physical course – whereas a distance learning course can be signed up to for free with a few clicks of the mouse.

Jenny Williams

UK TV Online



Public Health England to Release E-Learning Lessons

Public Health England (PHE) has made a preliminary expression of interest in nationwide rolling out an eLearning class that was designed by Warwickshire County Council and its own associate Learning Pool in cooperation as well as neighbouring local authorities and wellness partners.

Components contain scripts to assist frontline staff start and execute a dialogue to handle sensitive behaviors and lifestyle variables like alcohol abuse, enhancing mental health and envisioned scenarios experienced in the views of environmental health professionals, youth workers and librarians as well as other public service workers.  These should be available across all the UK and from outside Britain if you use a UK IP address changer like this.


The class was designed in collaboration with Public Health England Health Schooling West Midlands, Walsall Council, Herefordshire Council Solihull NHS Primary Care Trust, NHS and Warwick District Council and is directed in a variety of users. “We have developed the elearning [class] so that anyone accessing it could comprehend it”, said Rachel Faulkner, Supervisor, Learning and Development Service at Warwickshire County Council.

There are 105 elearning modules on WILMa accessible to the work force of the council, almost all of which are additionally open to associates including independent, voluntary and private sectors. Between December 2014 and November, some 4000 users logged in to make use of the system. Some classes are ‘mixed’, to contain an element of face to face classroom learning.

Other classes developed in collaboration contain ‘Prevent’, an elearning module on ‘radicalisation in a non-criminal surroundings’ created with West Mercia Police.

Hefin Campbell

UCAS Extended to European Universities

There’s an exciting development beginning this year, in the higher education sector for UK students.   For the very first time, six formers will be able to apply to Universities based outside the UK using the Ucas system.

This is a huge change and will bring much wider choice for students across the country.  It has been promoted by Ucas themselves who aim to try and mirror the growing globalisation of the education sector.  The result is likely to see a significant increase in the number of UK students who are studying abroad.


It’s a logical step particularly with regards the growth of online teaching which is increasing competition too.  In fact many British Universities are already being accessed from many countries across the world with or without using UK proxies like this.

This change is not just for language related students, although that would certainly be one of the biggest benefits.  Many European universities are now offering many courses taught entirely in English.  What is more, the fees for some of these courses are often heavily subsidised and are much cheaper than the £9k cap that is implemented in the United Kingdom.

One of the first universities to join is that of Maastricht which is planning to target many students with lots of English taught courses.   There are still some problems however, the main one is that currently the student loan system is only available for British universities.  This has already changed in Scotland however and there is hope that the Government will extend that decision to England and Wales.

Although there has been nothing to stop Uk students applying to foreign universities already – bringing in the application to the Ucas scheme will greatly increase the profile of this option.

For example there are many English taught courses in Maastricht already and the course fees are approximately £1500 a year, significantly cheaper than the equivalent UK University.

A spokesperson for Groningen University, which has 23 undergraduate programmes taught in English and is 90th in global rankings, said the university was in the process of giving evidence of its accredited status and financial stability to Ucas. If approved as expected it would be on the admission service’s lists of institutions by the summer.

David Willetts, former coalition universities minister and a vocal supporter of overseas study as beneficial to the future economy, said he “warmly welcomed this opening up of the system”. Rejecting fears of a brain drain from the UK, he echoed calls for portable loans to ensure students could access continental courses.

James Beweather

Further Reading

The Impact of Class Sizes

It is generally agreed that in traditional education, the smaller the class size the better the educational experience.  For many of us who sat in dull lectures thirty rows back while at University, it’s a statement that rings true.

After all just from the practicalities it makes sense, you can hear, remain engaged and feel your actually participating in the learning experience.  That is only the initial lecture, think of all the assignment evaluation, tutorial times.  It’s common sense that the smaller the class, the more time the tutor is able to give each student.   It’s not surprising that in most major educational ranking systems – the smaller the classes – the higher the University will score.  It’s also something that prospective students will likely consider too when choosing a course.


However for online courses this appears to not be the case, at least as far as the latest studies seem to indicate.  It’s an interesting area especially as it opens up education to the world, you can  access US only courses by using a USA VPN too.   Some very large surveys have suggested that when you increase the size of online course, i.e increase the number of participating students then the results do not suffer.  In fact it seems that the standard of the educational offering is pretty much unaffected.

The study was fairly comprehensive and it only included classes which required some sort of interaction.  Mainly this was in the form of online discussions,  crucially the professors were all engaged in these comment and message boards to help remote students.

There are caveats to these findings of course, no normal in person classes were covered just the remote offerings. Another important area that wasn’t covered was looking at very large online classes, where any interaction with professors is not really possible.  However these findings do have important ramifications for educational establishments.

Consider the financial pressures that many colleges and Universities are under then this is an important part of the puzzle.  The simple fact that online courses are much cheaper to run and can scaled up with little reduction in the quality of education is crucial.  Obviously there are caveats as mentioned but it is likely that you can focus resources on small scale classes in some areas whilst expanding online access in others.  The details are obviously going to vary depending on the subjects, there is no doubt that some areas work better with online courses than others.  Something like media or film studies where students can do a lot of work online obviously might work better than a more practical subject (one college offers US Netflix access as part of their delivery schedule).


UK Education – Liberals Pledge to Eliminate Child Illiteracy

The general election in the UK is looming and unusually education has had rather a back seat when it comes to election promises so far, at least from the major parties.  Now the liberals are pushing education as one of their central ideas with a pledge to get rid of child illiteracy in the UK by 2025 if they manage to remain in power.

The commitment would be funded with extra money targeted for the poorer pre-school children with a promise to also ring fence the current education budget which would be kept protected.  They claim that the coalition had already cut illiteracy levels in England, however there was much more to do.  Figures suggest that more than 20% of 11 year old leave their primary schools without a basic level of reading skills.   There are some useful literacy guides available on the UK national broadcaster channel the BBC – you can access these from outside  the UK by using this guide.

The proposal suggest that the provision should be assessed by using the Key Stage 2 exams that children take in the final year of their primary education.   The idea is that there would be an extra 116 million distributed to the nursery schools and childminders specifically at the poorer children.   This would amount to a tripling of funding that would be given for the education needs of underprivileged children.  They claim to be the only major party who is prioritising education spending as part of their manifesto.

This has long been seen as a huge area of concern, with children leaving primary schools without a decent level of literacy.  This of course significantly effects their prospects further down the education system and perpetuate the under achievement of many under privileged children.   Without these very basic levels of literacy, further education has a very minimal impact and many children feel frustrated and effectively opt out of education and hugely decrease their potential.

The levels are much higher with poorer children for a variety of reasons, and it is essential that extra money is made available to target these children.  Experts point out that it is much cheaper to make an intervention at this age than to deal with the anti social problems that are caused later in life.

Helen Cartwright

Technical Citation: here.