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Computer science education using media

Dieter Kamm
Institut fur Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterricht

The new information and communication technologies will mark culture and education in the computer society. The use of external sources of information, the significant use of media and of the computer must be applied and practised. Cultural techniques such as reading, writing and arithmetic will be extended and supplemented.

At the FWU, (Institut fur Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterricht), the media institute of the "Lander" of the Federal Republic of Germany, audiovisual media and educational software is produced for the necessary computer science education. Within an all encompassing network of regional, local and municipal AV centres, media is distributed to schools of general education and to vocational schools, as well as to centres for further education.

The FWU's informative and advisory service with written and electronic media informs the user from pedagogic, technical and economic points of view about the purchase of equipment, thus supporting the use of media in schools.

Computer society

It sounds heavenly. Scientists say the following about the future of human labour: "the microelectronic revolution will eliminate the necessity of human labour" as Adam Schaff wrote in his report for the Club of Rome ("Where does the road lead us to? - Survival in the computer society").

Will we have the "Brave New World" described by Aldous Huxley? Will the conflict described by Karl Marx more than a hundred years ago find its solution in the fact that there are no longer any workers? One thing is certain: if the increase of production efficiency through intelligent technologies does indeed occur demand for human labour will continue to decrease rapidly.

How will we come to terms with the changed work? Will man be satisfied with material independence if he has lost his job? In the nineties over 50% of man's production will consist of information rather than material goods. The motto "Knowledge is power" gains tremendous significance as soon as the command of information, access to data banks connected by glass fibre networks and communication satellites on a national and international basis become a decisive economic factor. It seems that our society will in future be even more marked by scientific and technical developments. Automation, robots, telecommunication, computer science and artificial intelligence and especially gene technology will offer solutions to practically all problems in our industrial society - but also pose new, perhaps even more serious problems.

Education and culture in our computer society

The cultural change will be one of the most important results of the second industrial-technical revolution. By way of computer science and communication technologies, works of literature, music and the arts, as well as examples of everyday culture, can be disseminated in no time at all to the furtherest corners of the earth. Culture becomes more and more international.

In this computer society, man will continue to place his social accents on his religion, in his district, in his community and his town. At the same time, however, he will be able to be a cosmopolitan and world citizen, for the telecommunication means will enable him to make connections throughout the world at the speed of light.

A new stage of scientific democracy is opened up with the possibility of storing information on computer diskettes, CD-ROM discs, video discs, magnetic tapes and in biological systems. The discovery of the printing press approximately 500 years ago enabled the broad distribution of the knowledge available in monasteries, universities and courts. This was only available through learning the cultural techniques of reading, writing and arithmetic. A form of popular education had to be established, which became the basis for democratic forms of ruling and for today's industrial society

Do the storage and access possibilities of the computer lead to quite different dimensions of knowledge democratisation? To open this possibility in principle to all people, to place at the disposal of all correspondingly educated and trained people all technical-scientific possibilities, this is one of the greatest social tasks of today and tomorrow.

Both schools and extra-curricula education will have to make allowances for the changed working and living conditions of the computer society. It will not be sufficient to increase the amount of material in the curricula, or to lengthen training periods, but new forms of transmission of culture and knowledge will have to be set up. This does not mean that we will cast aside our complete school and training system. We will, however, have to continue to develop it sensibly, and accommodate it to the changed conditions.

There are three fields which are already emerging, and which must be directly included into our present work:

The cultural further education must be greatly extended and adapted to the people in this computer society. Here, interesting and motivated educational offers must be made to the people: not by pointing an accusing finger, like at the obligatory event "school" but aimed at a target group. Both the contents and the form, the technique, the handling and the method must be user-orientated.

Working and learning will once again be annexed in a more developed vocational training. In rural society there were no agricultural academies, where milking the cows or mowing of a field were taught. This was taught to the children by "learning by doing" in the family on the farm. It was the industrial society that separated these subject areas, to the state today where a university student can only start work for a trial period after his second major examination at the age of 30 or thereabouts, or even be jobless right from the start.

The turner at a CNC-controlled tool machine, the constructor working with CAD, or the clerk at her word processor, they all become more and more aware of what they must master in their professions, in close connection to their work. Company information and employee training courses for new products can be passed on by electronic mail, telefax and in future by ISDN to branches in Melbourne, New York or Munich directly and simultaneously. Here interactive training and learning systems with media and computer software will probably be the most important components.

The focus is on man himself, in the computer society as well, and the pedagogic principles developed by Comenius, Pestalozzi and Piaget meet with suitable realisation and application here too. But what is "suitable" in this computer society? And what role do media, and especially educational software, play here?

Media in the computer society

Pedagogues are closely connected with the learner's field of experiences. And, in the field of media too we must ask: what experience have people had in connection with these? What consequences must we accept in order to use media in education in a selective and effective way?

Even little children are served with such a poetic version of the musical story of "Peter and the Wolf" by the "electronic grandmother" that the real grandmother is muted. The audio cassette is soon replaced by the more "impressive" television program, and is then replaced by the video cassette. The walkman is an indispensable companion on the way to school, and keeps disturbing sounds such as birds chirping or the sound of raindrops at bay. It is almost no longer in to listen to music via the stupid path of the acoustic duct. A video clip of Michael Jackson is more comfortable. There is no longer any need to imagine the pictures provoked by the music: they are delivered at the same time.

Children of the computer society consume the products of information, culture and entertainment which we produce for them. And they take them in by the channels which we provide, electronically, optically and acoustically. Are we educating them to illiteracy?

Of course we think about the results of this unchecked media consumption in our children. Especially then, when fellow citizens discover how the instincts, curbed with difficulty through education, can be re-awakened, so that lucrative gains are made. The legal gaps are closed in a jiffy, campaigns of enlightenment are established, or harmful media results are destroyed - apparently? - by media.

Indeed, in a broad sense it is a matter of media education. In a world in which information is increasingly passed on and taken in by organised pictures, man must be in a position to decipher the message and informative contents of the picture, to order and classify them. The capability of analysing the media, a film, a television program, and in future a computer picture, this capability must be learnt, practised and perfected.

Media as an integrated component of education

Just as painting a picture, driving a car, all mental or manual activities can only be learnt by "doing it yourself", by dealing with the problem yourself, similarly media competency is acquired by actively dealing with media. "Writing" a picture, taking photographs or filming require an independent, active "discussion" with the technology of sound and picture recording, the treatment, alienation, presentation and reproduction of pictures.

The technical development of media through the computer and communication technologies increasingly enables this active dealing with media. The media itself has become smaller, more compact, cheaper, has been accepted as consumer goods and can be used creatively by school children as a supplementary resource. It can enable a previously impossible approach, for instance to the classic medium film.

Photo 1

The film is a work of art in its own right, a creative product, which, just like theatre, awakens emotions, feelings, fear or relieving laughter. Who can elude Humphrey Bogart's and Ingrid Bergman's fascination in "Casablanca", or Volker Schlondorff's successful film "Death of a Salesman" with Dustin Hoffmann's impressive acting? With this film on a video cassette the German teacher can continue the literary analysis of Arthur Miller's drama with a film analysis, and "electronically dissect" the production which has come about through directing, acting, filming, cutting, editing and mixing. With the video cassette the pupil can thumb backwards and forwards as in a book, extract individual pictures, analyse and thus acquire a personal approach to the work.

Media as educational means, although in leisure time media is gaining the upper hand? How can audio visual teaching media be pedagogically used? As long as media has existed, armies of media researchers, communication scientists, media pedagogues, teachers and ministers of education have been racking their brains and brought out context models, enrichment models, electronic classrooms, language laboratories, Leaching machines - manual and electronic, interactive PC-operated video disc players, a network of educational media and other "media-pedagogic outfits" adapted to technical progress and/or spirit of the age.

Should we ban the media from the classrooms, in the sense of suspended pedagogics, and describe the irrigation of an oasis in the Sahara either with an entertaining story or - even better - in connection with the next school outing?

Complex educational material cannot be presented in a pedagogically profitable way without the illustrative, motivating assistance of a medium. The dimensions of time and place, social connections in society or complicated planning, shaping, production processes from the world of work can often only be explained to the pupil using didactic reduction with the medium. This definitely applies to contents in computer science education; what takes place in the chip of a micro processor, the terrestrial or galactic transmission of data and information can otherwise hardly be explained to pupils in their complexity, speed and extent. Media, as a didactic aid, is indispensable.

Photo 2

Even if a well made film or video cassette is most successful as a medium in educational and vocational training, the other pedagogically more significant media should not be forgotten: the transparencies which offer an unrivalled supplementary function as static medium in class, or the slides, which depict a situation and often are superior to a fleeting picture.

The computer has now joined these ranks. Lately some companies have developed LCD projectors enabling the projection of a visual display unit (VDU) onto a screen. This enables the teacher to explain typical facts, operational errors, and program peculiarities to all pupils in the class.

The next step is already possible today, the so-called "film from the computer", even if it is at high financial and technical expense. With artificial intelligence and expert systems, computer programs, pictures and graphics could be produced in an adaptive and auto-creative fashion and further developed by each respective user in a learning process.

The question is: how is all this to be significantly used from a pedagogical and cultural-technological point of view? At school pupils must be made fit for life in a computer society. The three 'R's (reading, writing, arithmetic) are techniques with which we have access to cultural goods. They are the basis for all qualifications and skills in professional life. Must we extend the classical cultural techniques, or supplement them, in order to teach people to read and write pictures, calculating processes, networks, codes, programs, analyses, structuring or even humanising and ecologising? What form should this new knowledge and skills take in school curricula, private and state training measures in further education and at universities? Do we need new general education, or should computer science become an intrinsic part of general education?

Computer science education in the Federal Republic of Germany

In the sixties, some "Lander" had already introduced the computer as a school subject. At first it was primarily used in computer science in the fifth form. At the same time, introductory courses on how to use a computer were offered in adult education courses and at other establishments of adult education. The major proportion, however, was occupied by company-internal training courses for all fields of computer science and communication technology. In the mid-eighties, a good basic equipment with computers was attained in all schools and universities, at fourth and fifth form level. And an all encompassing network of private, company- internal and state training measures was established in all fields of extra-curricular adult education with the introduction of the Personal Computer.

The substantial and pedagogic development, however, could not keep up with this rapid increase of training measures in the field of computer science and communication technologies.

There were only few pedagogically adapted curricula. From a didactic and methodical point of view, these technologies were very rudimentary. Especially the pedagogically suitable software was and still is today only barely available. And so the "Lander" in the Federal Republic of Germany decided in the early eighties to develop a communal framework of computer science training for all fields of education. This concept for computer science education succeeded in working out an adapted and conclusive program for all fields of education, namely schools, universities and establishments of further education in the Federal Republic of Germany, a basis for specific individual measures.

Of course the key question is that of the contents. What should the people - pupils, students, adults - understand, know, master to set them up for a computer society? Are the cultural techniques, writing, reading and arithmetic, developed in the course of centuries, satisfactory, or must new ones be discovered in order to obtain a comparable "democratisation of knowledge", as happened with the printing press and now on an even wider scale with the computer?

Both front line pedagogues as well as educationists in the rear ask this question: how and with what means should computer science be taught?

Computer science education can be carried out almost unaided with the help of software, didactic standard-software, or teachware - that is most people's opinion. But at the moment the situation in that field is rather grim. More than 50% of the available didactic software is practically unusable. Most of these programs are no better than the teaching programs of the sixties known as "cast iron crank operated" teaching machines. Just a bit more electronic. And the publishers of school books, who five years ago threw themselves at this apparently lucrative compensation for the decreasing textbook business, nod sadly and carefully withdraw from this flop business. For if it was and is difficult to produce a good book for biology for 16 year-olds, it is far harder to produce computer software for just this subject which can be used all over the country, which is adapted to all types of schools and form levels and at the same time is non specific; it must of course also be suitable for all operating systems, hardware configurations and a series of peripherals. Will the nightmare, as feared, become reality in which the computer in the nineties is the language laboratory of the eighties? Perhaps, however, after the first public discussions, the power of reason or belier still the force of reality will lead to an adaptation; perhaps a standardisation of contents, methods, operating systems and hardware configuration, will be reached via the frame concept of the Government and "Lander" Commission, offering incentives for the professional, didactic, software production.

But "computer science education" cannot just mean purely instrumental command of the computer generation on the market at present. It is more comprehensively, more pedagogically adapted to the teaching and education of man. Teaching and education in order to cope with life in the computer society encompasses all fields, both the personal, social as well as vocational ones.

Computer science education is realised in schools, in training, at universities and in further education. It is composed of

Basic training in computer science plays the largest role in schools. It is primarily taught at secondary level. Primary school has - so far - been excluded. It is not expected that new subjects will be introduced, that is, basic training in computer science is integrated into the existing subjects. In several "Lander", the emphasis of computer science basic training is laid on the main science subjects.

What consequences result from these aims for formal and material aspects of learning?

To extend or complement classic cultural techniques such as writing, reading and arithmetic, pupils must understand, structure, analyse, and combine complex events and acquire and use new knowledge . The linear approach, mostly sufficient in our industrial society, loses ground to a dynamic, more complex "network" approach. The significant use and inclusion of external data storage units must be conceptually understood and useable in a specific situation. Even in this complex computer society, everyone must be given the chance to reflect his personal position and to arrange, create and develop his individual, social and vocational life field.

Computer science is realised to a great extent using media. As well as films and video cassettes, educational software is an intrinsic part of this. The production, the distribution and information and advice on the use of media is a complicated and expensive process. For this reason in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Conference of Ministers of Education has commissioned the media institute supported by the "Lander", the "Institut fur Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterrricht" (FWU), to carry out key functions in computer science education for all "Lander" in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Measures taken by the media institute "Institut fur Film und Bild in Wissenschaff und Unterricht" (FWU) concerning computer science education

The FWU is an institution supported by all "Lander", charged with the production of media, the distribution and information and advice on the use of media in schools and establishment of extra curricular youth and adult education. In the Institute, located in Grunwald near Munich, and in a branch in Berlin(West), approximately 150 employees develop media pedagogic concepts for educational media which are distributed to approximately 500 regional, local and municipal AV centres, to schools, libraries, establishments of adult education as well as other establishments of further education in the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and South Tyrol/Italy.

Photo 3

Media production

In the Institute, media is produced for all subjects at school and in extra-curricular adult education, annually approximately 110 films and 160 video cassettes, as well as slide series, transparencies and audio cassettes. Each medium is accompanied by written material for the teacher. At the moment the FWU's production encompasses approximately 5000 media.

As a rule, in the FWU, innovative work concerning the use of media in schools and in adult education is carried out as a model experiment promoted by the state. This includes computer science and communication technologies with computer science education. For the introduction of computer science education in schools of general education and vocational schools, in 1985 to 1988 more than 120 films (16 mm), video cassettes, video discs and transparencies were produced, of which more than 15,000 copies were distributed. This includes approximately 15 films especially for teacher further training.

Production of video discs

In a model experiment concerning the development and testing of the use of the video disc in educational measures 15 titles were taken to produce 1,500 video discs with didactic accompanying material for the following subjects (amongst others) biology, geography, arts, and physics.

Production of educational software

The inclusion of educational software as a didactic medium occurred step by step. At first standard software was taken over by license, didactic accompanying material was provided and it was distributed to schools. This consists of word processing programs, data processing programs, graphics, data bases, tabular calculation, program language, and operating systems. In a second step, special CAD- and CAM-programs for vocational schools, as well as programs for special schools, were added. At present the Institute has 37 programs for schools of general education, 3 programs for special schools, and 18 programs for vocational schools.

In the development of expensive educational software, we collaborate with the hard- and software industry. The basic concepts of didactic software which have been developed up to now indicate that the computer is a tool in a pupil's hand. The computer is used in computer science education to reach educational targets which would be unobtainable with other methods. Software is primarily developed according to special didactic aspects. As in the medium film, this software is formed aesthetically and dramaturgically.

In the equipping of schools and extra-curricular educational establishments in the Federal Republic of Germany with computer soft- and hardware, a great variety of types emerges. However, a certain standardisation is aimed at, making the expensive software production worthwhile. A possibility here is the MS-DOS operating system, already in use the fifth form and at university.

Interactive learning systems

The computer could become a major medium at school and in further education. For this, however, educational software must be available, hardware which is neither mathematically nor technically orientated but primarily didactically and dramaturgically.

Newer developments with the hypercard or hyper-media-technology enable the necessary inclusion of other media. Video discs, video cassettes, current television programs, teletext and electronic mail are fed to the master program by way of interfaces.

Photo 4

These interactive learning systems must, despite all technical possibilities, be equipped for the pedagogically determined educational target. The use of external "sources of information" must be applied and practised. This must be brought about by the didactic structure of the software. The learner must be able to increase his cultural techniques for a significant usage of information and communication technologies.

Information and advice

With its 500 regional, local and municipal AV centres the FWU has an all encompassing network for the distribution of media and for information and advice on the use of media in schools and in further education. This infrastructure enables a target-orientated and precisely aimed information and advice from pedagogic, technical and economic points of view.

At the FWU engineers, technicians and pedagogues test new technical equipment from the point of view of its use in schools. They give advice about the purchase of all types of media equipment, especially film and slide projectors, overhead projectors, video equipment, computer hardware and peripherals. Criteria here for recommendation are: pedagogic suitability, handling, technical quality as well as the equipment's profitability.

With the inclusion of didactic software in the FWU's media program, "hotlines" were established for advising the user. Thus information concerning the use of media can be obtained via telephone, telefax, electronic mail, newsletters and teletext.

This service of the FWU supports the use of media and contributes to keeping as low as possible the investment expenses and resulting costs for media in schools and in further education.

Author: Dieter Kamm is the Director of the Institut fur Film und Bild in Wissenschaft und Unterricht (The Federal Republic of Germany's Media Institute).

Please cite as: Kamm, D. (1988). Computer science education using media. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (Eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 20-29. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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