Ed 634 - Winter 2002

Shaping the Learning Environment

Gary S. Stager

Pepperdine University GSEP - OMAET


Email: gstager@pepperdine.edu

Fax: (413) 812-4767

Emergency phone number: (310) 874-8236

Newsgroup: pep.gsep.ed634.linkone

Website: http://www.stager.org/omaet2002/




BOOK 1 - Learning & computing

(All students)

The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer by Seymour Papert - Basic Books; ISBN: 0465010636


BOOK 2 - Learning environments

(Preschool through sixth grade educators)

The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach Advanced Reflections, Second Edition by Carolyn P. Edwards (Editor) - Ablex Pub Corp; ISBN: 156750311X


(Middle School and High School educators)

Rethinking High School: Best Practice in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership by Harvey Daniels, Marilyn Bizar, Steven Zemelman - Heinemann; ISBN: 0325003246


(Non K-12 educators)

Thinking in Jazz - The Infinite Art of Improvisation by Paul Berliner - University of Chicago Press (Trd); ISBN: 0226043819


The Long Haul: An Autobiography by Myles Horton - Teachers College Pr; ISBN: 0807737003

BOOK 3 - Challenging convention

(K-12 Educators)

The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and Tougher Standards by Alfie Kohn - Mariner Books; ISBN: 0618083456


(non k-12)

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom Demarco - Broadway Books; ISBN: 076790768X


BOOK 4 - Citizenship and social justice

Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Jonathan Kozol - Harperperennial Library; ISBN: 0060974990


One course requirement (a big one) will be to choose an educational software environment (MicroWorlds, StarLogo, StarLogoT, NetLogo, Agentsheets, Yellowbrick/Cricket Logo, Stella, Squeak, Stagecast Creator...) and construct something interesting in that environment. We will then discuss affordances and constraints of the software environments in addition to the real learning environments discussed in the course. The first two books listed below are good sources of information for those of you who choose to work with StarLogo or Squeak during the course.


Note: Other software environments may be nominated, but I'm looking for ones explicitly designed for learning, not tool software.


You should be able to find information about all of the above-mentioned environments on the web.






 This course has the following goals:

  1. To explore the social, cultural, emotional, physical, political, curricular and technological aspects of learning environments - real and virtual
  2. To design technology-enhanced opportunities intended to improve the learning environment
  3. To better understand the learning environment in which you work
  4. To develop effective skills for advocating change in the learning environment
  5. To evolve standards for personal and professional conduct.

This class requires active participation through collaboration, discussion, design, research and development. All of the required reading, personal reflection, research and technical fluency will culminate in an exciting collaborative project designed by the students.

All students are required to share ideas and skills with their classmates and to expand their own personal knowledge in ways beneficial to their classmates. Simply put, you need to learn whatever is necessary to support the learning and growth of your peers.

IMPORTANT! Student work should be easily accessible via the student's web space on the hale.pepperdine.edu server or another server. This means that students should have an INDEX page from which to navigate to clearly labeled individual assignments. Student email links should be available on major project pages so I (and other users) may provide feedback. Be sure to put a mailto: link on each page so comments may be returned to you.

Please feel free to share with your classmates any materials or articles that you believe may be of interest. We will all profit from tyour extra effort.

Assigned texts, articles, newsgroup discussions and synchronous sessions will be used to shape our own learning environment. Active participation in all appropriate media is expected. The nature of the course requires all students to check their email and class newsgroup daily.

The role of technology in learning (even the role of schools in learning) is far from decided or agreed upon. This class is designed for risk-taking and no educational tradition should be safe from scrutiny, revision or elimination. Some of the books were selected to provoke reflection and discussion. Feel free to share your beliefs, opinions and expertise with the class via classroom discussion and the class newsgroup. This class is highly collaborative. Your educational success is inextricably connected to the learning of your peers.

Getting Started (Very Important!)

In facilitate my ability to communicate with each of you, please send an email to linkone@stager.org from your preferred email account. My email client will automatically enter you in my address book and store all correspondence from you in one folder.

Course Details

All students must have and maintain Internet access for the purposes of exchanging email, communicating in the class newsgroup and publishing on the World-Wide-Web. You are expected to check your email and class newsgroup daily.

Macintosh users should strongly consider upgrading to OS 9 or OS X and using Apple's new iTools for collaboration.

Course Requirements
This course's requirements include active online participation, timely completion of assignments, reading of assigned articles, a collaborative projects and a demonstration of technical fluency. Creative thinking, problem solving, risk taking, humor and joyful exploration will be valued highly.

This course is designed to provoke thinking, reflection and perhaps even argument. Feel free to share your views. This is expected. However, your personal opinions are much more valuable when supported by evidence or citations from the work of others.

Think of the newsgroup as a book club in which you are expected to share thoughts, questions and topics of discussion inspired by the assigned books and articles. You do not need the professor to initiate such discussions.

You are expected to share your ideas and be able to defend them.

Class participation & homework assignments
This includes attendance, in newsgroups and synchronous (Tapped-In) participation, homework and assigned readings. Students are strongly advised to read educational journals, books, computing magazines, and any trade publications that would enhance their understanding of education and educational computing. Such information makes a welcome contribution to classroom and online dialogue.

The instructor reserves the right to announce assignments throughout the course.

A variety of online technologies and publishing tools will be used for learning, communication, collaboration and expressing one's knowledge. Students who believe they need additional assistance are expected to ask for it.

Tapped-In sessions will be synchronized with your ED665 professor, Ms. Fett. This class will meet in Tapped-IN approximately six times during the semester.


All work should be of such a caliber that it could be published in a professional setting. If it's not your best work, do not submit it.

The standard rubric is that you should use your knowledge, experience, intellect, creativity and technological fluency to create work better than you thought you were capable of generating.

40% Class participation, online participation & homework assignments This includes posting, online class participation, homework, readings and reflective practice. Students are strongly advised to read educational journals, books, computing magazines, and any trade publications that would enhance their understanding of education, educational computing and school design. Such information makes a welcome contribution to the learning environment and student projects.

Students should keep notes on the assigned readings and any other materials that may contribute to personal understanding or the learning of the cadre. Each week, students are expected to post their thoughts and/or questions about the assigned reading and respond to at least one other student’s published comments. Online dialogue is a critical aspect of this course.

A notable improvement in technological fluency is also expected as part of the participation grade.

I expect students to ask questions, follow their curiosity and use all of the learning resources - human, digital and tactile - available to them.

Share your views. Tell us what you think and be able to support your arguments in a thoughtful colleagial fashion.

30% Exploring the Digital Environment
No educational technology program would be complete without an exploration of the role of software environments in the construction of knowledge. Successful completion of this project requires that each student do the following:

  1. Choose a software construction/programming/modeling/simulation environment from the list above
  2. Do whatever is necessary to develop a level of fluency in that environment
  3. Construct something interesting in your chosen software environment
  4. Document your learning process on the web (and in the newsgroup)
  5. Discuss the affordances and constraints of the software environment
    • What can the software do? Not do?
    • Is the interface effective or intuitive?
    • Does it allow the construction of understanding/knowledge?
    • Does working in the environment lead to an understanding of powerful ideas?
      • What are those powerful ideas?
    • Who is the intended user of the environment?
    • Compare and contrast the environment to other other software environment

20% Improving the Learning Environment
Each student is to design aand implement a plan to improve some aspect of their learning environment - whether it is a school or other setting. A web site should be created containing: a rationale for the implementation; description of the current environment; notes on the implementation process; guiding principles behind the change(s); required materials; and scenarios for what the resulting change might look like. Constructionist models of learning should be emphasized in the design of the unit and any accompanying activities. The site should be usable by others without a great deal of background experience. Clarity, persuasiveness and skillful communication are highly valued. The work should be ready to publish.

10% Heroes and Villains
Each student is expected to write three letters during the term to either educators who are worthy of praise or policy makers (publishers, politicians, superintendents, school board members) who could profit from some constructive criticism. The recipients of these letters need not be people you know personally, but the letters need to be sent via mail, fax or email. Each letter should contain thoughtful support for your praise or disagreement, based on educationally sound principles and documentation where warranted.

You can make the day of a fellow educator with a kind word and perhaps even influence education policy. Critical letters may not be sent to individual teachers. District-level administrators, publishers, newspaper journalists, columnists, TV commentators and politicians are fair game.

A copy of each letter must be submitted to the professor.

Acceptable Software Environments for the Digital Environment Project
Many of these packages are free, low-cost or have trial versions available for download

Spectacular Environments

Merely Wonderful Environment

Course Calendar

In the tradition of learner centered education, this calendar will respect the needs of the students and teacher by remaining flexible. Topics may be introduced at different times than they appear below as I strive to “seize the teachable moment” and provide meaningful contexts for learning. Additional readings will be assigned in order to supplement class discussions and stimulate thinking. The syllabus will be updated constantly.

Most of the course schedule will be determined by the needs and interests of the class. The sequence of reading from the assigned texts may be changed to meet the needs of the students.

Technical issues associated with computer use will be addressed as necessary.

This syllabus is a framework for this course. Changes will be made. Teachers know all too well the perils of planning too far in advance. I hope my crystal ball and optimism don’t fail me. We WILL seize teachable moments.

Guest speakers may be arranged based on availability.

Discussions of the assigned reading is due in the class newsgroup by Midnight Monday of each week!

Additional reading assignments and video viewing will be announced in the class newsgroup.

Reading and Assignment Schedule
You are expected to post your thoughts, questions and comments regarding the assigned reading to the class newsgroup prior to the time of the class in which it is due. Assigned readings may be shuffled, deleted or supplemented as necessary.

Reading assignments will be posted each week in the class newsgroup. We will begin with the Papert book.

Remember... You are always encouraged to share interesting ideas, thoughts, links and articles in the class newsgroup. Check your newsgroup and email often! Homework assignments not listed in the syllabus may be required when necessary.

Do not wait for the professor to start the discussion. When you encounter an interesting idea, share it with your classmates in the newsgroup!

A more complete reading calendar will be posted shortly in the newsgroup!

January 14 - Read Chapters 1-3 of Papert

January 21 - Read Chapters 4-6 of Papert

January 28 - Finish Papert

February 4 - Read First third of Book 2 (depending on your area of interest)

February 11 - Read Second third of Book 2

February 18 - Finish Book 2

February 25 - Read first third of Book 3 (depending on your area of interest)

March 5 - Read second third of Book 3

March 12 - Finish Book 3

March 19 - Read first half of Savage Inequalities & watch Kozol at Pepperdine movie

March 26th - Finish reading Savage Inequalities & watch other Kozol QuickTime movies

Course Values and Expectations

Gary’s Assessment Rubric
Ask yourself, "was I able to accomplish more than I thought was possible?"


A Few Course Principles...

Ted Sizer’s & the Coalition of Essential Schools’ Habits of Mind...

The habit of...

Deborah Meier and the Central Park East Secondary School’s Intellectual Habits

  1. Evidence - How do you know that?
  2. Viewpoint - Who said that and why?
  3. Cause and Effect - What led to it, what else happened?
  4. Hypothesizing - What if...?

These habits should be in evidence in your work!

Feel free to ask yourself why what you are thinking, planning or doing is important. Relevance is a major component of learning.

Course values for students
(Additional items welcomed throughout the trimester)

1. We are all WiReD...
We all have an Internet e-mail account and will read our email/newsgroups regularly. Students are expected to share resources and raise topics for discussion as well.

2. We assume responsibility for our own learning...

3. We are ethical and moral individuals...

4. The best way to learn it is to live it...

Students will seek and indulge in relevant experiences. People who rely upon just passively sitting in class (or online) will shortchange their learning and grades.

5. Part of living it is reflecting about it with others...

6. We will ask three before me (Gary). Students should ask questions of classmates, peers and use other resources before automatically asking the teacher for help.

7. We will read manuals and software menus for information.

8. We will not whine...
'Nuff said

9. No puppets

From The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas that Make Computers Work
by Daniel Hillis

The philosopher Gregory Bateson once defined information as “the difference that makes a difference.”... A lot of things are different in the world today, but the difference that has made the difference has been computers.

These days, computers are popularly thought of as multimedia devices, capable of incorporating and combining all previous forms of media - text, graphics, moving pictures, sound. I think this point of view leads to an underestimation of the computer’s potential. It is certainly true that a computer can incorporate and manipulate all other media, but the true power of the computer is that it is capable of manipulating not just the expression of ideas but also the ideas themselves. The amazing thing to me is not that a computer can hold the contents of all the books in a library but that it can notice relationships between the concepts described in the books - not that it can display a picture of a bird in flight or a galaxy spinning but that it can imagine and predict the consequences of the physical laws that create these wonders. The computer is not just an advanced calculator or camera or paintbrush; rather, it is a device that accelerates and extends our processes of thought. It is an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we ever could have taken them on our own.”
(Daniel Hillis, 1998)