July, 1999 - Feature
Technology in education:
who, where, when, what, & why?
Nicholas C. Burbules, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
The essay is available at: http://lrsdb.ed.uiuc.edu:591/ipp/fivews.html.
For an explanation about the format of the essay, please read the about
the interactive paper section after the introduction.
This essay started off as a presentation to the faculty of the College of Education, at
University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign. It was never intended as anything more than a
discussion starter. What I tried to do, based upon conversations with Chip Bruce, Scott
Johnson, and Jim Levin, was to frame a set of issues about new technologies in education
that go beyond questions of effectiveness or efficiency, to raise questions about purpose,
access, equity, and how they might force a rethinking of our educational aims and methods,
not simply doing what we used to do, only "better" or "faster."
When we put this essay into Jim Levin's and Jim Buell's Interactive Paper format, we
realized that this was also an opportunity to extend the conversation beyond the College
of Education, to include educators and other concerned parties across the Internet. This
shift in focus reflects one of the things the essay is about: How the audience for
educational discussions that take place online can include more than just those in the
institutionally defined roles of faculty and students in a particular classroom or
Beyond this, such interactive texts also reflect a changing understanding of the
writing process, especially in two key respects: (1) a piece of writing is not necessarily
finished at any point in time, because readers or the author can continually add new
material and ideas to it and (2) the interactive design makes the "reader" into
an "author," because he or she can modify the text - and the 'author" into
a "reader," in following the lines of discussion, agreement, or disagreement,
that branch out from the original text. The two roles are blurred, and each has an
opportunity to define or redefine what the text is.
This cooperative or "dialogical" style of writing raises numerous other
issues about intellectual property, who should get "credit" for publications,
how academics or others weigh the importance of sole-authored publications, and so on.
(These issues are discussed in greater detail in the two papers cited in the reference
We welcome your contributions to the original text and to the comments of others. And
remember: It is not a "paper"!
The essay is available at: http://lrsdb.ed.uiuc.edu:591/ipp/fivews.html
About the Interactive Paper
In this interactive paper, Burbules digs beneath the usual concerns we have with
technologies used in education, issues of how the technologies are to be best used to
accomplish educational goals. He examines more fundamental questions concerning the social
and ethical impacts, often unintended, which new technologies may have both on learning,
teaching, education, and society.
It is then appropriate that this cutting edge article be the first that is formally
published as an "Interactive Paper," using a web-accessible format developed by
Jim Buell and myself to increase the productive interactions between writers and readers.
This "Interactive Paper Project" has provided a simple way to create an
Interactive Paper as a web-enabled database, thus allowing a wide range of writers to
create much richer ways to interact with their readers. An Interactive Paper is stored in
a database with each "chunk" of the paper to be commented on stored in a
separate database record. The author can select what these chunks are, whether multiple
paragraphs, single paragraphs, multiple sentences or single sentences. When a reader sees
the paper, a "button" for making or reading commentaries appears after each
chunk of text. Each reader can see the commentaries made by others, and can either add a
separate commentary or can respond to a commentary. By responding to a commentary, a
reader is joining in a "thread" of conversation between the writer and one or
more readers, contextualized by the part of the paper being commented upon. There are two
different ways of viewing and commenting on this paper. In the "linked
commentaries" view, a reader sees the paper and the commentary buttons, and only sees
the commentaries when he/she selects it from a selected button. In the "inline
commentaries" view, a reader see the paper with all commentaries displayed
immediately following the chunk for which they are a commentary. Each view is useful for
different purposes, but any comment entered through one view is seen through the other
view. This concept of an interactive paper being an entity that can be viewed in many
different ways depending on the viewer's goals is a way in which this use of interactive
media is qualitatively different from the more static medium of print on paper.
We of course welcome your comments on the substance of this interactive paper by
Burbules. We also welcome your comments on the use of this Interactive Paper format,
especially your feedback on whether this is useful for broader use in future issues of
this International Journal of Educational Technology.
Dr. James A. Levin, University of Illinois
Burbules, N. C., & Bruce, B. C. (1995). This is not a paper. Educational
Researcher, 24(8), 12-18.
Burbules, N. C. (1997). Digital texts and the future of scholarly writing and
publication. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 30(1), 105-124.
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