Higher Education in the Information Age



The Undergraduate Experience

Question and Answer

 

Stanley Chodorow: Floor's open. Anybody want to make any comments or join in. Yeah.

Audience Member (Charles Phelps): I'll start off with a question for Peter. Your commentary about the outcomes-based process rather than X number of course hours really got me to thinking how one does that in an undergraduate setting. And I just pose this as a puzzle for you and others. We do what you're talking about a whole lot in graduate education. We have core exams for competency and we have a demand for an original thinking project in the thesis, and I think almost every Ph.D. program in the country says, "The courses, the credit hours, is not the gist of this. It's the thesis and the proving that you're ready to do that." That's in a single field. We can do that in economics, my field, or mathematics or biology or whatever, and I think everyone's pretty comfortable that I could write a competent exam in economics, or my department could, we're all happy with. When you turn to the undergraduate enterprise, I think we have a very different goal, and that is it's not about conveying a particular body of subject matter. We all talk about training the future leaders of the world, about learning how to learn or-that's become recursive: learning how to learn how to learn and so on. How do you test for competency in that environment in a way that you're comfortable giving away the course credit hour structure and saying, "I'm comfortable that I've got an outcomes assessment for the students that tests, not about a given subject matter, but about how to be a leader, about how to learn"? I think that's a terribly puzzling and important problem and I don't know how to solve it in my own environment.

Peter Smith: Well, it is both important and puzzling-and I will tell you honestly-to us also. I think having said that,if you go back to the root cause, any of the weaknesses of a credit-driven, time-based system in undergraduate education are easily duplicable in an outcomes-based system. O.K.? They are. You just give away some of the pretexts for being that way. Have 12 degree programs that have been approved by the California Post-Secondary Education Committee, and it might be useful to show you, for instance, one in the sciences and in social and behavioral sciences because they do not pretend to evaluate a depth of knowledge. They state explicitly they evaluate the techniques and the methodologies that our social and behavioral scientists or our scientists have said people need to know and be able to use at the end of their baccalaureate study, however they come by them. And the connective assumption is that you can't do the one without knowing the other, but the emphasis is on showing what you know as opposed to putting in time.

I think the two examples that these two students just used suggest that the major assumption-you can't scale up our activity without giving students major authority and responsibility for much of the imputing of their learning. We've had students learning languages that we couldn't teach, but we could get them a mentor, and we've had students learning languages that we couldn't teach, exactly the way that Morgan described. They found it before we did. And it has been astonishing to try to figure out what to do with that learning.

But anyway, I think that the scaling up of it to six or seven or eight thousand students will be the test for us, and my own sense and I believe the emerging sense of the faculty is it can't be done without changing the relationship. I'm not talking about advising and mentoring and all that we all talk about. What does it mean when you have a mentor-based system as opposed to a teaching-based system? Those are tigers and penguins. They're not, you know, they're not the same cat in different stripes. And we are simply out there trying to figure out what it means to have an advising-based or a mentor-based system. I don't think our way, when we get it done, will be the only way, certainly, but it will be the way that we've learned real time that's worked for us. But maybe what I should do is send you the degree programs, and that would describe it a little bit better.

Chodorow: Yes.

Audience Member (Larry Litten): Another question for Peter. Peter, you mentioned being entrepreneurial with much of the stuff that's happening at the university. You must have to have already addressed some of the intellectual property issues that we will all have to face, who owns what parts of this entrepreneurial activity. How have you resolved them yourself, and you do you think we're going to have to address them in general?

Smith: Well, we do not have a resolution, but the principle that we invoke, which I think is common sense if not widely shared in the academy, is that if you're on our time and you're developing something of value, we own part of it. And then the question is how to sort out who owns how much of it. But essentially it is not logical or, we would argue at the end of the day, legal to say that I'm a professional and I work here and I do something in my profession, and by the way the fruits of my labor are mine alone any more than an engineer can walk out of Ford with a design for a car in the year 2001 and say that that's his or hers. But happily what has happened is most of our examples are in things that are done together.

For instance, we put together software called "Intern Net" in which everyone does community service. Big logistical problem. Anybody who's ever put together internships knows how time intensive they are and the program always sinks. We've, with students, faculty, and staff, designed something called "Intern Net" which the using agencies or businesses can be in. They can screen, they can go all the way through placing, and then once the curriculum is in place, they can in fact do assessments and shoot things back and forth to faculty using the software. It's working. We've beta tested it in 150 sites in Monterey County, and we think we have something now we will turn around and offer to institutions that do a lot of interning or community service, campus contact kinds of places. I think we may make some money out of it. Who knows? Then, as we go along, we sort out, well, who are the principal authors, in this case not me sure as heck, and we'll put it through our foundation and sort out the economics of it as we go. So, happily, we've got that sort of a situation. We do not have yet a claim by a member of the faculty that they own something, free and outright, as distinct from sharing that ownership with the university.

Audience Member (Larry Litten): What about something like a course where some entrepreneurial educational purveyor may come to a faculty member and say, "We want your course. We want you to appear as one of our star faculty."

Smith: We haven't had that happen, because in fact we're talking to our faculty about marketing modules and courses ourselves and are trying to make an offer that is as attractive as anything else they'll get. If somebody-we did have one star faculty approached on simply something he knows that he knew before he came, and it was a major publisher wanted to use his knowledge, and we concluded that was his business as long as we weren't paying him for the time he was taking to do it. In other words, it was not a course he had developed. It was a way of thinking about curriculum that was at a whole different level, and they wanted to use it. So we let him do it.

Audience Member (Uriel Reichman): I think the story about Monterey was fascinating. It seems to me that a major difference between our institution and Monterey is that you moved into a navy camp and we moved into an air force camp. My name is Uriel Reichman. I'm from Israel. Four years ago we established the first private university in Israel in the Gated Air Force camp in Israel. And it is amazing that we reached similar conclusions as Monterey. The place is based on absolutely interdisciplinary studies. We have by name independent schools, but they are one and the same. It's one university. Professors from all disciplines work together. The curriculum embodies the, at least in each element, at least the education in business law and technology, the place was founded on extensive use of information technology. Our view is global, and we work very much, we are interested to work with the institutions in the region and in the United States. And definitely we work together with the students in order to fill what they need and to establish the place. All of it very similar to the story I heard here. Let me just emphasize a few things that we did a little bit differently.

First, we abolished tenure. We, from day one, we said there is no tenure. Second, we emphasized having as little regulations in the university as possible. As I perceive it, one of the shortcomings of the university I must say after working for 30 years for a subsidized university in Israel, is that we tie our hands with regulations that prevent us from running forward in the future. So, since we are small, we're about 40 faculty, meanwhile we sit down and discuss the matters and we try not to put down regulations that will create difficulties for us in the future. Finally, we are looking, we are not only waiting for students to come, but we are looking actively for students who have the potential of leadership as we see it, and in that state, a little bit like Michigan, the story of Michigan, we are looking for a kind of strategic cooperation with industry and with governmental agencies, for example educating the diplomatic core of Israel and the elite, the people at the top of the career in the army. So the story is for me it was fascinating to see that so far apart and the stories are so similar. Perhaps we hit something genuine.

Chodorow: Yes. Mike.

Audience Member (Michael Lesk): Michael Lesk. This question is for Morgan Friedman. You gave a most eloquent explanation of how you found resources to learn German on the Web and resources to learn about the 1830's in the Harvard library. You're very smart and articulate. If you go out into business and become rich, where will you emotionally feel you should leave your money later?

Voice: Yes Morgan, where?

Voice: The University of Pennsylvania!

Morgan Friedman: Can I take a trip on that one? Well I think what this ties down to is a couple of us have been talking about mentoring as opposed to teaching courses. A lot of what I've been doing is being the mentee with a lot of professors, even though I have done lots of research at the Harvard archives and you know a lot of schools' archives and a lot of virtual work with a lot of different people, it's all been mentored and guided by faculty here at Penn, and that's what's proved more valuable than anything else.

Chodorow: All right. Al. This is the nutty professor over here.

Audience Member (Al Filreis): You didn't say where you were going to give your money, Morgan. Very slick. You'll become provost one day. This is not a question so much as a call for discussion of another topic that was raised, particularly by Mark and by Stan in his introduction: the question of faculty work load. And when Stan made his remarks, he paired it with student workload, and so therefore I would call on Morgan and Myra perhaps to talk about the change in student workload. So I'm really interested in hearing more from Mark and Stan about your worries about assessing faculty workload or-I think you both posed it as a problem and left it at that.

Mark Taylor: I don't think we should underestimate the difficulties with engaging faculty members creatively in these new technologies. The expression has been used several times in the course of the day, I mean, if we build it, it is not clear that they will come. And part of it is suspicion. Part of it is a certain understanding of the stakes of the shift, in terms of what careers have been committed to. Part of it is as I think you're suggesting, workload. I think that one of the real challenges I try to suggest for administrators is to find ways to create incentives for faculty to move into these areas. And I'm not convinced, perhaps it's the context in which I've taught for many years, that this teaching/mentoring distinction is quite so sharp as it's being made out to be here. I just don't buy that. But one of the things that I have found is that very, very often mentors in this relationship are the students. That is to say, it's the students who can teach the faculty members a great deal, and indeed Morgan you suggested that in fact that was what had happened.

Now, that's not good news from the point of view of many faculty members because they find that very threatening, and it gets all tied up with problems of authority and authorization and things like that. But I do think, and this gets back to this issue earlier of copyright that you're raising and the like, it's not just an issue of faculty owning this versus college owning this, but one of the only ways in which you can encourage to explore these new technologies is to convince them that they don't have to learn everything because the students know so much, and the students, they can work with students to do a lot of this. And that sets up what is for humanists-I don't think it's quite so much the case for scientists-but for humanists is a new kind of collaborative relationship with students. Right? And the CD ROM that I mentioned that I've been working on, that will be a joint authorship with a student. And I have learned as much from the students as they have learned from me in that process.

So, I mean, all these lines become very, very complicated in this. I think that there is a considerable increase in workload, not only in terms of learning new technologies, but as you, as has been suggested, the expansion of the day. I mean very often what's great for the admissions office publicity is a nightmare from the faculty's point of view. Right? In terms of accessibility, this, that, and the other thing-just in terms of managing. So I think that there has-I mean we found ways to create filters and barriers of sort of physical presence in all this. We're going to have to continue to find ways in these other areas.

We also are going to have to find ways to support faculty who are uncertain about moving into these new technologies, and that's going to be costly. In part it's going to involve creating a situation-I mean if a young faculty member comes to me now and says, you know, "I would like to spend a leave learning this new technology," I'm not sure what to say to that person. Until the evaluation process changes in such a way that this kind of work is credited. So that part of the problem becomes the advisability of spending time in these areas, as opposed to writing the books and articles and everything that they know they're going to be judged on on the basis of all of this. So that we have to find ways to create supportive environments, it seems to me, that encourage exploration on the part of faculty and find ways to ease their transition into this by not increasing workload to the point that it breaks. And that's going to cost money. There's just no way around that. I think it's absolutely critical to do.

Chodorow: I'll give a slightly different answer. What I think about the workload issue, particularly from faculty, I often think about it in terms of my, as provost, calling a faculty member and saying, "Would you serve on some committee or other?" Kind of ugly thing that Provosts have to do from time to time. And when that faculty member responds to me, he or she does a calculation. The calculation is: how many courses am I teaching right now, how many graduate students perhaps do I have, what other committees am I on. In other words, they are taking the units in which they've divided their lives and they're ordering them, and they're saying, "Is there a space here?" The questions go back and forth and they make a decision.

I think in this new technological environment, what will happen essentially to the course part is an atomization. That students and faculty will work together as Mark is describing on one-to-one or a small group basis, that you will not be able so easily to calculate how much time any given course, so called course, will take, and you'll be very hard pressed to answer that question. And if you say to me, "Well, hell. It's kind of amorphous, so I will take on your job of serving on this committee," you may in fact be short changing the students because your engagement with them is no longer in this orderly old fashioned way of you go to class, you prepare for class, you go to class, you mark their papers. It is not exploded into your time. They want more time. They need it. They're getting more. They're getting a better education this way. And I am taking you away from that and away from them. And you're taking yourself away as a faculty member. That's one aspect of the time management.

The other one that I already mentioned was that who your students are becomes muddier as not only the students we admitted to Penn but rather who are at Columbia or UCLA for that matter or anywhere else where they found you out-where you know Morgan and Myra were on the Net and they found you out and they started asking questions, you engage with them, and they become very much like your Penn students. And you give to them, because faculty tend to, and it absorbs you, and then I begin to wonder who you're working for. Right? Again, it's a matter of orderliness and distinctions and lines and it's breaking down. And it will not break down as a whole. It will sort of fray and disintegrate at the edges until I run into a problem as an administrator with some faculty member who is doing a fabulous job, in some respect, but I can't tell for whom. And neither can that faculty member.

Taylor: Stan, could I just follow up on that? Because I think that's part of what's at stake with the porosity of the boundaries of the university. Because it's not just that the students will find you out, but increasingly what will happen will be that you will have faculty members more or less formally teaching as it were on faculties at other institutions as you have this kind of globalization and internationalization, which raises all kinds of questions other than just about for whom do you work, but all kinds of questions of certification and legitimization with respect to the faculty of a given university.

Chodorow: Well, I have a right here. I'm an officer of instruction.

Taylor: Right

Chodorow: I have a legal right to give a grade and make a judgment, and if I make that judgment about the quality of a student's work, my colleagues in effect by definition accept it, and the institution accepts it. But what about someone in Monterey or wherever? I mean, I was in the UC system for a long time, and the folks at UCLA wouldn't accept the judgment of the folks at Berkeley, for obvious reasons, and so you have all those issues of certification that arise.

Audience Member (Steve Knapp): I wonder if it's worth asking in the context of the discussion we've just been having in the last few minutes what the implications for research might be in this redefined sense of faculty workload and the dissolution of boundaries that was just being described, I think, with some ambivalence because I think we do feel some ambivalence. Right now when a department comes to an administrator looking for a faculty position, those positions are often justified in terms of fairly clear descriptions of workload that has to be covered, which has to do with courses and certain numbers of graduate students and so on. As the departments become more porous, as institutions become more porous, as faculty time devoted to teaching because of this mentoring possibility expands, what happens to the space for research? By the way, one could mention other challenges as well, like the fact that we've got increasing pressure on journals, and I'm sure that will come up in the next session, but I'd like to hear a little bit of reflection. Even though this is about undergraduate instruction, there is a question, I think, of what the effects of what's potentially a radical expansion of the time and perhaps a reduction of the force, the work force, devoted to instruction has on what's traditionally conceived as the research path as it's often thought at least in a research university of a faculty member's involvement.

Chodorow: Graeme may want to speak to that.

Audience Member (Graeme Davies): Yes, in a sense. I was going to make three observations. One of them is the question of how you handle staff time, and we've struggled quite a lot with that. One of the great performance indicators that presidents used to like was the small proportion of their budget that they spent on administration. And we are absolutely convinced that as we go into this high technology age, we are willfully under-administered. We are not providing our faculty with the sort of support they need. There are many of them and I'm sure many of you end up doing some pretty low level, mundane jobs simply because you're under-administered. You take some of that away, they can start to deliver more teaching or more research. And then you play horses for courses, and you say there will be some people who will carry who are not the best of our researchers, and they'll carry double or sometimes almost triple teaching loads compared to their peers. And the brilliant researchers will end up doing less teaching, and you trade off on that. We have found that on the whole-of course you have the conflict between the ones who are both good at teaching and good at research, and you can't solve that one.

On the case of the mentor-mentee, we have in fact broken into what for many universities is the holy of holies: the medical school. And our medical school now, which is very strongly vertically integrated, almost has no lectures. It has a problem-based learning structure in which the staff actually operate as facilitators, rather than mentors or mentees, i.e. they warm the kids up. Of course they have to do in due course the classical hands-on, clinical things, but they come to that with a strong philosophy of problem-based solving. So they approach it not by hunting through the catalog in their mind, but by actually using the IT resource that they have become familiar with to hunt around. And if you talk to, in our experience, to most honest clinicians, they acknowledge that much of the basis of good diagnosis can be short circuited by making use of data bases that now exist and have been structured to work in a way that individuals can use most effectively.

And the third and passing point I was going to make, I had a strong sense of deja vu. I spoke at a meeting in Toronto about 18 months ago, and I shared a platform with the president of Toronto and the president of Princeton, in the middle of which we had a debate about tenure, and I said, I reminded people that tenure in Britain disappeared in 1988 and the world didn't end. And it goes on quite happily, and I think it is important because it has actually liberated us, largely, and I had a discussion over lunch about this, largely because we now have a mechanism for weeding the 55 year old non-deliverers, and that is quite critical at a time when there is resource pressures on the university, because if you can't weed them out, you can't expect the others to go on carrying increasing loads. At that time, both presidents said, "Oh, this is just not possible in North America. We'll never get rid of tenure." I do believe that the point was made this morning and the point that Mark made this afternoon: if you don't you will actually find yourselves very seriously constrained in the time that lies ahead.

Taylor: It's very helpful to be reminded of the situation in the UK, but also on Steve's question. It's a complicated one, Steve, you know. Again, I speak as one who works in the arts and humanities at a liberal arts college, and that's been a very deliberate decision on my part. It seems to me that one of the segments of higher education that is in the greatest state of denial are the graduate programs in the arts and humanities in terms of where things are headed. I mean, they really have their heads buried in the sand it seems to me very, very often. We don't need to rehearse why or the facts of the case there, but when we begin to sort through the impact of all this on research and the like, I mean it's not clear that research and so-called publication--I mean they're not going to have the same shape in the future that they've had heretofore. So that it's not a question of how's there going to be time for this if we do all this other stuff, but what is it going to be that people do when they do that? Right? Because, I mean the kind of scholarly publication that we've come to know is just not going to continue to exist in the same way. And I do think that part of what will then begin to happen as a result of the changes in technology is-I mean publication is rendering public, right? Then the lines between, if we talk about the Web-based teaching and the like, the lines between research and publication on the one hand and instruction and teaching on the other hand are not going to be as clearly drawn as they have heretofore. Right? So the terms of the debate, I mean it's not that we're dividing the time up and trying to figure out-what it is that we do when we do what we used to do is changing. Right? So that we have to re-conceive what it is that research and publication involve it seems to me and get over the notion that what graduate programs are basically designed to do is clone. That's over.

Smith: And I'll just say, we're not a research university, but we said it very simply: unless students are engaged as a learning activity in your research, it's not on company time.

Knapp: Maybe it's worth a little bit of dialogue on that point. Sure, but it seems to me that may be a little bit optimistic. It seems to me that it's difficult to say, to acknowledge what I think we all feel already, which is that the kinds of things that we're talking about are more time consuming, leave less space for reflection, just the quantity of e-mail and so forth, and one could list the many factors that have already been described here. To say that on the one hand, and to say, "Well, don't worry about the reduction in time for research. It's not going to really have an effect on research because research itself will be redefined." That could happen, but one could also imagine an evolutionary process in which institutions phase out a lot of their involvement in research, however defined, simply because the more immediate pressures, the more consumer related pressures are coming from the immediate demands of students, which are expanding through this technology. And by the way, I'm not passing judgment on this. I'm simply saying, if one listens to the description, it would appear that there is an intensification of the pressure on the teaching side, and while redefinition-one can optimistically hope-and it's a little bit like saying technology will solve it's problems. It's also possible the institution will change in such a way that the research involvement will shrink. And again, I don't know if it makes sense to bemoan that, but it might be something that one might reflect on if one has an interest in research. And again, not of course in the character of research as publishing for the sake of cloning oneself, but rather research in so far as it involves time, space for reflection, experimentation, and so on with some at least temporary distance from the immediate demands of one's audience.

Audience Member : I want to go back to an earlier issue. Just a brief response. I think that one of the things that we need to think very carefully about is the possibility that what we now think of as a unitary, economic activity, mainly a university, which has all of these functions going in its certification of students, maturation of students, research, technology training, and so on and is going to have, is going to be, as has happened in many other industries over the last decade, in fact broken up into a set of component organizations, and the notion of being able to cross-subsidize from one of our activities to another willy nilly, unless there's some kind of organized connection among them, is going to start disappearing from this space because of the way people are going to be able to operate in this new environment. So I think this issue of where research gets done and how it's connected with the future of our institutions is in fact a very important and very large issue.

Chodorow: I think Andries Van Dam deserves to get in here.

Audience Member (Andries Van Dam): Those few of you who know me probably have never heard me argue a conservative proposition in my entire professional career, but I am going to do so now. I feel moved to speak in favor of the tenure system. I'm just curious, how many of you have already bought into the notion that we can only make progress if we abolish tenure? Can I just conduct that little poll here? How many people believe that-don't need tenure, in fact don't want tenure?...Well, a fair proportion. I came to be a reluctant supporter of the tenure system because of my own personal experiences in the groves of academe. I went to school here, and I got nearly thrown out of the Moore School, my graduate school, because I had the temerity to start teaching high school teachers and high school students about computer science. Dr. Charp over here was my first pupil, in fact, many, many years ago. I went on from there to join an extremely distinguished Applied Math Department at Brown University, where I was told by one chairman I should stop working on that kind of foolishness. The foolishness he was speaking about was hypertext. I was one of the people who, in the sixties, started working on hypertext systems and particularly their use in education, which everyone takes for granted today, but back in those days was considered somewhat weird at best. If I hadn't had tenure I would have had to stop working on that. Another one of my chairmen told me that most of computer science, my professed field, was just so much bathroom thinking. I'm quoting. So I'm telling you these things because I want you to remember that tenure serves a purpose. It allows the tenured faculty member freedom of inquiry, freedom of expression, and it need not be paired with a lack of accountability. I was Chairman for many years, and I had weapons other than tenure review at my disposal to deal with dead wood, and it just takes some courage on the part of the department chairman and the administration to deal with the dead wood and non-productivity issue. Getting rid of tenure is not the answer.

Chodorow: Thanks. Jim.

Audience Member (Jim O'Donnell): I want to pick up a little bit on the point that Doug just made and point to something that I've been noticing by it's absence in the conversation now: how smoothly we seem to assume that we know what an undergraduate is-whereabouts you are when you begin that process and whereabouts you're supposed to get to by the time you get to the end of that process. Now, I think most of us do feel we know in some way viscerally what that is, but it's by no means clear that a little general education, a little distribution, one major, maybe a minor, done in the space of four years is the most intellectually coherent product that we could put on the market. We are impeded in moving beyond that because there's a huge market that also knows what it wants. It wants an undergraduate degree, and we exist in order to satisfy that market. But I would suggest if somebody will make a new market for themselves in here someplace by redefining the size and shape of the package either of the thing you need at age 18 or at age 16 or at age 21 and begin making inroads into everybody else's business by a concept that works that we don't have yet.

Audience Member (Michael Lesk): I want to respond to a number of the comments that have suggested that teaching and research don't need to go together and the university of the future will out-source them separately to different people or focus on only one of them. We have international models that work. I guess the Soviet Union was the best known place where they had research institutes and universities, and they were totally different staffs in different cities. As far as I can see, the US and the other systems in which teaching and research go together work very well. I can tell you, as someone who is a manager for many years in an industrial research lab, that the students here are brighter and more articulate than almost anybody we hire. In fact, that's almost true of the eighth graders. And I don't think it would be productive to say, 'Let's reserve all research to industrial research laboratories and all students to universities and not have anything to do with one another."

Chodorow: I want to just point out as a mediaevalist-I don't know if I'm the only one in the room-but the University was originally founded as a commercial organization to make and sell knowledge, and it was a guild, and it turned out that it's not like a leather shop or a butcher. The customer doesn't just come in, buy the stuff, and go out. The customer comes in and becomes an apprentice. The integration of research and learning or teaching is fundamental to the university. It's the only thing actually that makes it different from other kinds of organizations that have survived. And that problematic link which is-and anybody who's an administrator knows how problematic it is-between teaching and research is probably one of the reasons why the university is now virtually nine centuries old. That it has at its core a mystery we have never solved, and if we ever solve it, by separation or otherwise, I think we'll go out of business. Peter.

Audience Member (Peter Berek): I want to suggest a disconnect between what we've been hearing from the student speakers and what we've been hearing from the faculty about the degree of conceptual innovation as opposed to innovations in systems of delivery that technology brings about. What I heard the students describe was some very imaginative ways of doing time shifting, of using as tutors. You know, Myra's account of Jane Doe's shipping off her paper for advice sounded like a terrific enhancement of education that doesn't take more faculty time. Morgan's description of using the Internet as ways of promoting dialogue in German didn't sound as though they took much faculty time and also didn't sound as though they redefined the nature of learning German or teaching German, though they sounded awfully good. Now, Mark's description of his work with students seems to me to postulate something different. Putting together a multi-media presentation in which Mark describes himself, I'm sure truthfully, learning as much from his students as the students were learning from him. What I'm wondering about is, is what you're learning from your students, Mark, the same as what they are learning from you? And what's the mix on the one hand of technique of delivery and on the other hand of modes of thinking? Or is that distinction a false distinction that you want to reject? Because what worries me a bit is that in our enthusiasm, my own included, for these new techniques of delivery, we may be confounding systems of gaining access to information or giving others access to information with new ways of defining what knowledge is. And I would hope we can avoid that kind of confusion or move through that kind of confusion.

Taylor: Peter, I'm glad you underscored that because especially as I was speaking I did register that difference. It's complicated it seems to me. As I watch the best of my students come through and watch the ways in which they deal with information and watch the ways in which their imaginations work, there are significant differences between the way they-I don't like the word-"process" information. What the liberal arts institution or what the liberal arts education has to offer is, as I think I suggested, learning to think, read, and write critically. But again, thinking, reading, and writing are not universal activities. They're culturally specific in certain ways, and they're bound to different technology.

One thing I don't think that we've thought enough about, is that what we take to be logical and rigorous thinking is tied to a certain kind of technology. Right? And how, in different technologies, it's possible to be rigorous and thorough in different ways. Now articulating exactly what those ways are is not easy. That's part of the critical task, I mean that's part of the task of critical reflection it seems to me. But certainly part of what's at stake in it, as I say, again in my experience, is becoming much more literate about the importance of the visual and audio dimensions of experience, because that is the world.

I mean, I'm fully persuaded that the site of social and political contestation in the 21st century is going to be the symbolic order and that symbolic order is going to be a domain that is permeated by the image. And so part of what needs to happen is a more imaginative reflection on and use of that medium or those media, it seems to me. Now again, the very distinction between word, image, and sound is itself something that needs to be rethought. Right? Because, as I suggested, in the digital environment, you don't have those separations. And so trying to learn with and teach students about-I mean, how does one argue using images? You can. I've seen it done. You can construct arguments. You can construct critical arguments by the use of images and by their inter-relationship, and certainly for me that's been a very, very different kind of writing, in the broadest sense of that term, experience.

 

 

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