Michael Eleey: Welcome back. I've been watching my teleprompter
for the technical cue and just got it. Curtains have been closed,
as opposed to open, and the show goes on. We turn now to "The
Future Student" segment of the symposium. We're fortunate
to have with us four future students, all in the 8th grade. They
are Sasha Kinney of Drexel Hill from Drexel Hill Middle School,
Tina Carroll of Philadelphia from Shaw Middle School, Michael
Caputo of Lower Merrion from Bala Cynwyd Middle School, and Adam
Flicker also from Bala Cynwyd Middle School. A few weeks ago
Tina, Sasha, Adam, and Michael participated in a focus group we
commissioned in preparation for this symposium. Twelve 6th, 7th,
and 8th graders from 6 school districts in the Philadelphia area
participated in this focus group. In a few moments you'll see
a short video condensed from the record of that session. Following
the video, Tina, Sasha, Adam, and Michael will explore with Kathy
O'Connell the role computers and networks are playing in their
lives and speculate a bit on what they might find when they arrive
on our campus in the year 2001.
Kathy O'Connell is Producer and Host of Kid's Corner, a nationally
recognized radio program produced at Penn's non-commercial radio
station, WXPN-FM. Kid's Corner, which Kathy originated nearly
ten years ago, features a live mix of modern popular children's
music, interviews, science segments, and call-in quizzes. It's
received every significant national and regional radio award,
including the Armstrong Award.
Following the student's conversation, Dean Susan Fuhrman of Penn's
Graduate School of Education, will provide some color commentary
and lead a general discussion to close this segment of the symposium.
The George and Diana Weiss Professor of Education, Dean Fuhrman
is also the founding Director of the Consortium for Policy Research
in Education. After teaching history at the secondary level,
she received a joint Ph.D. from Columbia University and Teacher's
College in political science and education, taught politics and
education at Teacher's College, and joined the Eagleston Institute
of Politics at Rutgers in 1979 where she was professor of education
policy in '89 until coming to Penn in '95. From '94 and '95 she
was also professor in the department of public policy at Rutgers.
She serves on a number of national advisory panels, and was a
member of the K-12 Task Force of the Clinton-Gore transition team.
Now let's take a look at the video from our focus group.
Video-voices separated by paragraphs:
Probably most of my time is spent on-line. I have an Internet
account. I have a web page I designed.
I realize that if you want somebody to go on your Web page the
key is to have good graphics.
I learned everything just from poking around at it until I figured
I also read the help files and lots of programs until I figure
out how to do stuff with them.
The Web page was probably the hardest thing to learn. I got a
book on html and tags and coding and stuff like that.
I think the most exciting thing is when a program you wrote works.
I was up all night one night just working on it, and then the next
day it was so great to see it, how it was all done and everything.
It looked like a real professional Web page.
I don't know. Like when an artist's painting turns out really
good, something like that.
Last year we were responsible for writing a book on the Macintosh
computers. So everything we do now is on computers.
I guess the most exciting part is the most convenient part about
And you can get more information more precisely off your computer
than like you can from a book. I mean you have to manually copy
down the information from the book, whereas you can just select
it, copy it, paste it, and then do some text alterations so you're
not totally plagiarizing.
In our classes, we're running businesses, you know, doing all
that stuff, and money's actually coming out of the businesses.
Yeah I like--I used to go to the library every week, and then when
I got into the computer I realized I hadn't gone for over a year.
I like how on the computer you can save and erase it. You can
just go right back to it. You don't have to like, you know, you
don't have to go searching for some pieces of paper and stuff
I guess things get on my nerves because they get broke and they
mess up and you know like Error 28 and Error 46 just screw up. So
just stick with the paper and the pencil.
The teachers, they pretty much don't know how to use the computer.
As of right now, I'm teaching adult staff and fellow classmates
how to use the computer.
The teachers, they get paid to go to these computer literacy classes,
and they come back not knowing a thing.
I did a lot of things for my principal on the computer. So now
it's like a trend. They always come after me, looking for me to
Everybody in my family keeps coming to me whenever they don't
know what to do.
I tried to teach my mom, but it didn't quite work.
I tried to teach my family, but they're still looking for the
I taught my dad how to use our computer. At first he was kind
of like really stubborn and kept on saying that he wasn't going
to get it. But he finally got it after he read a couple hundred
books. But I believe that using the computer, it requires a way
of thinking that's like a new kind of logic. He hasn't quite
gotten it yet.
I know it's changed my way of living. I used to kind of be pensive,
and all information came to me somehow, you know?
But in the computer lab you can go explore, and they can teach
you so many things that, you know what I mean? It's so open.
I don't know why, but I learn better at the computer. I prefer
looking at a screen.
The screen is in front of your face, and you have what would be
both your book and your writing area in the same place. It's
like you can access both aspects at the same time, and quickly.
Well like in a book there's not this place where you'll click
and they'll show you a video or where you can hear a sound clip.
The main reason we got our computer in 6th grade when I got it
was because I couldn't... like I don't write. It would take me to
12 or one in the morning just to get my homework done, and I can
word process for like 5 hours a day and I'm perfectly fine with
And on the screen you also have that sense of real time but not
real time. It's all changeable, but not kind of like how on a
piece of paper if you make an error or something, you have to
erase it with a pencil. So you scratch the paper or rip it or
something and you have to totally rewrite the whole thing.
I still write on paper, try to think the way I think, and paper
will just do it for me better than computers.
I'd rather get information from a computer encyclopedia, but I
don't think using Netscape and looking at, you know, stuff that
won't make a difference in a week and a half isn't as kind of
enriching as reading a book. And like a lot of time I'm thinking,
you know, am I the product of what I'm doing on this--you know,
am I making the Web page, or is the Web page making me?
At times I begin to hate technology because it seems like its
making us this...
Sometimes it makes me look dumb. We use our brain more when we
go looking in books and we go searching for information then when
it's just right there in front of our faces.
And that's better?
I think our generation is I don't know, somehow we have like a
built in logic system. It just helps us out a lot better when
you see things electronically. I think my needs are going to
stay pretty much the same as they are now is to keep absorbing
information and never really stop.
I think that the older you get, I think you need to do more hands-on-like
I always thought learning would be better if you go out into the
community. If you go out into the neighborhood, you go out into
the community, you work positions. Like if you want to be a reporter
you stand next to another reporter, you know, do her footsteps.
Going on-line, you know, you just get opinions and stuff like
that, but if you go and you experience it for yourself, not you
know from someone else's position.
Yeah, I agree with how she says the hands on experience is really
important, versus what you can get on the computer and what you
Senior year and the junior year they're going to have you looking
for colleges, and on-line you can find like different colleges
What the requirements are, what the tuition is, what is actually
going to be taught there, and maybe who some of the teachers and
some of the students who have been there.
Basically what they specialize in and everything that I need to
know to live there, like tuition or requirements to get in there
or the classes.
Definitely tuition, which is steadily going up every year.
I think tuition is just plain too high. And then you get computers
in there and electricity and that's going to make it even more
[End of video]
Kathy O'Connell: I want to reintroduce Adam, Michael,
Tina, Sasha, four of the panelists from the initial focus group.
The first thing I want to address is, you have all this information
coming at you, unlimited information and opinions. Why bother
going to college at all? Is that still part of your future?
Sasha Kinney: I think it's more interesting to learn from teachers
and other people, and also something that if you don't understand
they can explain it to you. And there's ways to learn from college.
You're exposed to different things that you might be exposed
to further in life.
O'Connell: How, specifically, Tina, could going to a university
give you more help in becoming a reporter in your future? All
the information's right there on the screen.
Tina Carroll: Well, I prefer going--I'll just say, it's a chance
to get away from home. To give you a chance to, you know, explore
different things. Like the reporters in Philadelphia maybe have
a different technique than someone far out maybe in Texas somewhere
O'Connell: Let's talk about that built-in logic system,
Adam. Let's get right to that. Let's talk a little more about
that. What kind of built-in logic system does your generation
have? And how are colleges going to have to anticipate that?
Adam Flicker: Well I guess we just kind of have problem solving
Adam: Like when you can figure out stuff a little bit
better like on a computer, I guess. I guess for me it's you have
to explore every aspect of if it's something that goes wrong with
the computer, you have to try everything out no matter how obscure
or unlikely it is because eventually you're going to find the
answer. I mean, in my experience, there's no real problem that
can go unanswered. Unless of course your RAM is shot, you know.
But if it's a software problem, I mean, it's going to happen
and you can be able to fix it eventually if you keep trying.
And I think that's what I meant by that.
O'Connell: Yeah. And having that, and that makes perfect
sense. You know, keep trying until you find the right answer.
It's got to be out there. So what do you expect from the way
you're going to be learning once you hit the university?
Adam: I think I'd expect like the classes to cater to
that sort of way that it works I guess. You know, like give more
problems to solve. More fixing things and figuring out things
for yourself and stuff like that. But still like given a fixed
situation in order to do it.
O'Connell: Michael, jump on in.
Michael Caputo: Well I think, like a lot of teachers are, right
now are, if there's something that now you can do on a computer,
they're giving you an assignment that's harder so it will be harder
to do on the computer. Which kind of doesn't make much sense,
because if you always have the computer, in real life you won't
be given a situation that's harder than you can do. There won't
be someone trying to give you something that you can't do on a
computer. So I think that possibly even competency from the professors
or the teachers, you know, knowing about the computers and knowing
that it can be done somehow is beneficial.
O'Connell: You talked somewhat about how actually having
the computer and having the information on the screen has changed
the way that you take in the information. You said that you used
to be more of a passive learner. How is, and this is for everybody,
how is sitting there looking at a screen making you a more active
learner? Sasha? Michael? Go ahead.
Michael: Well I guess like if you're on the WorldWide
Web or in a computer encyclopedia, you can kind of, there's the
"See also" menu that you can keep on branching off to
more topics of the same area. If you start in World War II,
you can go to the Holocaust or the battles or biographies and
all these people, and you can, you know, you're pointed to the
right direction, and you basically can get everything that you
want. And actually you can probably get a lot of things that
you don't want. Kind of a bad side effect I guess.
Sasha: It's very convenient and easier to do it on a computer
because you can just minimize a certain document or something
and go right to what you're trying to do. Or if you find information
that you want, you can just copy it and you have it right in front
of you, instead of having 20 books open on a desk and trying to
find what you need.
O'Connell: Yeah. A couple of you also talked about you
still like books, you still like going to the paper. Tina?
Tina: Well, as we all know, we're all different types
of learners. Everyone learns from different perspectives. And
I still believe in paper and pencil because a computer just gives
you all the information right there in front of your face, and
right now, since I'm in middle school, everyone's giving us these
tests that are open ended. You have to really use your brain.
You can't get the information off the computer. So you have
to like, it's like you have to explain what you're doing. And
on a computer, you can't explain every step. You can't explain
everything. So when you go to the library and look up the information
for yourself, you learn more instead of just copying off the Internet
and handing it into the teacher, because that's what most kids
are going to do anyway. But if you go to the library and look
at the information, read the information--you have to read in order
to know what you want. Also, in order to read it you're learning
more than what you expected to learn when you go to the library
instead of just going to the computer.
O'Connell: Yeah, so you have kind of an independence there.
Adam: Yeah, because I have a Newton, and I don't know
if anybody knows about like the Newton books that you can just
download off of the Web or something like that. There are like
lots of novels and encyclopedias and dictionaries. And I tried
to read that kind of stuff off electronically, and I seem to get
distracted constantly, like by trying to hack into something else
on the Newton or something like that. I mean I also tried electronic
books on my desktop computer, and it just doesn't work out because
I'm always interested in something else. I have to sit down and
read a book. It's much easier to do it when it's on paper because
there's nothing really else you can do with that paper except
for read it.
Michael: Yeah, I guess much like Adam said, with the Worldwide
Web--especially with the web, if you're looking at a page on something
you're interested in, you get down to the bottom and they might
have 15 links or so. So you, you know, read one of the links,
go to that, and ten minutes later you're in a topic that's completely
different, and an hour later, you forget what you were on the
computer to begin with for, and then you know you have a mom calling
O'Connell: So you're still doing your homework 'til midnight.
Let's take you to the day you get accepted to whatever university
you want to attend. What information can be made available to
you. You already know you're going to go there, so it isn't a
matter of finding out what courses are offered or tuition or anything
like that. You need to find out about kind of the big transition
that your life's about to take. What kind of information can
be made available to you? Sasha, let's start.
Sasha: Well through a university there's people who have
already learned what you need to learn again, and if I'm going
to be a veterinarian or something like that, it's important to
have the hands on learning.
Michael: I still think that visiting the college is still
probably the most beneficial thing you can get out of it. My
brother is a freshman in college, and he has a friend who went
to a college without even visiting it. And his only opinion on
the college was what you read in books, and he kind of has a different
opinion of the college now than he did when he entered it. And
probably looking at a Web page, I mean no college is going to--if
it's a bad college, they aren't going to flat out say, "Don't
come here." So whatever they do, they're going to show all
the, you know, prettiest pictures of the campus on the sunniest
days of the year. But visiting there and meeting the students
and the professors and you know looking at the campus. I mean
there's nothing wrong with real life.
O'Connell: Tina, you want to go to college away from home.
Tina: I want to go to UCLA. When I first get to the college
I guess I'm going to be expecting extra-curricular activities.
I guess to stay in line I'd consider taking an activity like
a sport, maybe volleyball, track or basketball because I guess
it keeps me in line with my academics. And I guess I'd be looking
for a computer. But I would only take a computer as a tool in
my learning, not as something that I'm going to depend on every
day. I guess like you say, you can communicate with the computer
with another computer, and I guess that's better than the phone,
even though the bill's going to be about the same once you've
added in electricity.
Adam: I guess the whole point of college is that there's
somebody like, no matter how good you are at no matter what you
want to do, there's going to be somebody whose going to be better
than you. And so it's vital that you learn from that person that's
better than you so you can learn to top--or whatever limit you
set for yourself.
O'Connell: Let's talk about when your actual college career
begins, when you set foot on the campus. What are your expectations?
Are any of you, first of all, really satisfied with what your
learning on now in your schools? Michael.
Michael: Well, just before, we were at a period and a
half of school before we came here, and the first period our teacher
sat us down in the computer lab and said, "Just start writing,"
because we're reading science fiction novels in school, and she
said to start writing about your science fiction novel. And it's
a group where there's 20 other students sitting around, you know,
just typing. And all I know is that, when I'm at home and I have
the computer there and it's just me and the computer, it's a lot
easier to not be in a lab where there's tons of other people and
distractions and people playing games they aren't suppose to and
that sort of thing. But I think that having access to a computer
where it's just you or just a small group or you're in a, I don't
know, a booth or a small room or something is probably it's a
lot easier to work in that sort of situation, especially if it's
a hard topic that you need to concentrate on.
Sasha: I think that they can specialize in what you want
to learn more in college and as our education progresses rather
than now when they're just trying to give you kind of samplings
of what we want to get into in the future.
O'Connell: Let's talk about having access to a computer.
Tina, do you have a computer at home?
O'Connell: And how is all this information about the university
and about what's out there, how's that supposed to get to you
if you don't have a computer at home?
Tina: I guess I'm dependent on them. Well, it depends
on the person. I think it depends on the person theirself. If
someone is, I guess, active and going towards it, they're going
to go look for it instead of the information coming to them.
Like maybe go see a counselor I guess. It depends on the person.
If the person is active, they're going to go for it, go for it
themselves, instead of waiting for it to come in. But I guess
I would just have to wait on mail because there's no way I could...
O'Connell: Or find access to a computer.
Tina: Yeah, or find access to a computer nearby.
Michael: People have done it before. I mean, people
have gone to college 20 years ago, and there was, you know, no
such thing as the, or not such a large thing as the Internet.
And even people ten years ago. There's ways of finding information
to get to college. You don't need a computer for everything in
your life. And it's kind of, it seems like some places, like
places that say you can order stuff from our Web page, it's kind
of useless. You could just order stuff from the catalogue that
comes in the mail of the exact same thing. It seems like a lot
of people are just having--a lot of companies and universities
are getting Web pages so they can, I don't know, so they can feel
big, so they can feel that they're technologically superior.
If they have a spinning icon of a spinning "E" for their
e-mail or you know some sort of neat animation when you click
on. It's not for the person looking at it. It's so they can
feel bigger themselves.
Adam: The thing with like the information on the computer--everything
that's available on the computer, in some way or another, if you
look for it, you'll find it on paper or in a book or something
like that. And the main thing is, like Sasha said, is the convenience
of the computer. In five minutes you can jump from 15 different
topics, as opposed to if you were at a library you'd spend like
two or three hours there. And I'm not saying the computer's better
for that. It's just much faster. And it's an easier way to access
O'Connell: One of the things you said is that one of the
things you can do with the computer is to keep absorbing information,
having the information just come at you. How can we make it easier
for you or better for you to process that information once you
get it? You have all this information. What are you going to
do with it?
Sasha: Well when you need to write a report or something,
you try to learn as much about that topic. And sometimes if it's
a topic that's more recent than, like, history, it's easier to
do it on the computer because there's not as many books written
about it because it's just too recent information.
O'Connell: Tina, one of the things you said, "Out
on the Net, it's a lot of opinions." Talk a little bit more
Tina: There's a lot of opinions instead of facts and stuff
on the computer. It's like if you go on the Internet and you're
looking for maybe you want to join another religion, and you want
to know about the religion. There's a lot of opinions about the
religion. There's not enough facts. I'd rather speak to a person
to get more--someone who has been there, someone who knows all
about it, someone who can go step by step with me, instead of
a computer. It may come in faster, but I'd rather be right than
O'Connell: That's kind of a revolutionary idea, you know,
to be right instead of faster. O.K., back to the first day of
school. What do you want there?
Michael: Jeeze. I guess I'd like a, although it seems
kind of impossible, I'd like maybe a computer just for, like a
computer designated to maybe ten people or a dozen people, so
you can come in and it's kind of not just you, but you're one
of the people working on it on a computer, not half the campus.
And I guess I'd like easy access to computers. And I know most
colleges, if not all colleges right now, give their students Internet
accounts, and I think that's a real good thing, because if you're
a student probably the last thing you want is to pay for that
sort of thing. But that's very useful because, I mean, you can
talk to your family. You can write back and forth to your family
without spending any money, and that's a very good thing that
I think colleges are doing. And I think they should keep with
that as much as possible. And I guess I kind of just want
colleges and universities to know that, you know, people use the
computers and some people really use the computer and feel that
the computer is necessary, as necessary as food. But I think
that if professors or teacher or, I don't know, deans or whatever--the
person that's most fit for the job--realizes that people are going
to be at a computer for several hours of the day and would probably
want to get there as easily an fast as possible. That is probably
a good thing.
Adam: I guess from the moment I step on the campus I 'd
expect--well, since a college, it thrives on what the students
give the college--like, you know, tuition--I'd expect only the high
end stuff. Like I wouldn't expect anything lower than middle
high end I guess, you know, because I'm paying to be there
and that's just it. If you're paying to be somewhere, they should
cater to what you want and only what you want.
Sasha: I agree with Adam when he says that if we give
them money to do what we want, then we need--we want to go there
for a reason, and they should really cater to that reason and
really try to be what I want it to be and try to give me the information
that I want.
Tina: I expect a college, but a college can be what you
make it yourself, so I guess when I first step on the campus I'm
going to be looking for some great dorms maybe.
O'Connell: Let's talk a little about that in closing.
It's not just going to be an academic change that you go through
once you go to the university. It's going to be a big social
change in your life as well. What changes, what can a university
do to kind of make that transition a little easier? Sasha.
Sasha: Well I guess the computer can never take the place
of real people, even, well, through the computer if you're talking
to somebody you don't care about what they look like because you
can't see that, but when you're in with real people then you have
to interact and you have to learn with different people, rather
than you can't just shut them off or anything.
Tina: Well yeah. Like I said, I want to go far away so.
Since I want to go far away, I'm just moving down there by myself
so I guess communicating with people would be the best most next
thing to do.
Michael: I guess just extra-curricular activities, where
you can go out and meet people that, you know, know who you are
and everything. I think that would be good because you can pretend
you're anyone if you're on a computer. You can pretend you're
40 years older than you actually are if you're on the computer.
Probably most people would believe you. But, you know, there's
nothing wrong with real people. You know, people are--some people
are so hung up on using the computer that they develop these circle
of friends with five letter words and numbers and they aren't
real people, and I think people have to realize that human contact
is not obsolete yet.
Adam: Yeah. I guess the thing when you get to college,
you're bombarded with all these different opinions and you have
to be able to learn about these opinions and process them, interact
with like the actual people that have the opinions, in order to
figure out what they mean and to share your own opinions. And
I guess that's the only way you can get by.
O'Connell: One more question for you, Tina. Has doing
a business--how is doing a business on the computer different from
your academic studies? Do you think you've learned in a different
way by actually running a business?
Tina: Well, in school we work on Macintosh. And the business
that I ran, I ran it on an IBM. So this way I got to learn IBM,
too, with a Macintosh. And I guess a business--well, I wasn't
really planning on, you know, going into business and all. I
was just planning on getting an "A"!--just getting a
grade. Well, being an overachiever and going further, I guess
a business was right on the target for me. So let me see. The
business mostly got me, I was most interested in the business when
I heard the word "money". When I heard the word "money",
I was like, "Well, hey, that's me." Well, I guess,
working at--academically, I mean in school you have your--you have
to do this and you have to do that. In a business you can do
it on your own time. You can go as fast as you want, as slow
as you want, and you're getting paid here, and in school you're
O'Connell: Thank you all for being part of this.