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Teachers teach computers to teach

Jury Mohyla
Flinders University, South Australia
In this paper we trace the transition from media enhanced paper based pedagogical tools to hypermedia. This transition has taken place in an environment of preservice and in-service teacher education. At first, teachers were taught a great deal about computers and computer programming. Now the emphasis has changed dramatically. Some teachers are now teaching computers to teach. The majority of teachers, instructors and presenters teach in the mode that they were taught. They were and most still are paper trained. Paper is still the primary teaching and learning technology in educational institutions, and although it is an essential technology, it should not be exclusive.


At Flinders University, undergraduate as well as graduate students in the School of Education have been and are offered courses in Educational Technology. The emphasis has changed from audio visual linear presentation to interactive multimedia, in which teaching methods and student learning reflect current trends in information technology.

Multimedia teaching resources that we have designed and used heighten the learning experience of students by:

Teaching with hypermedia

Hypermedia may be seen as an extension of hypertext to multimedia. When multiple media is accessed and controlled by a computer the synergic system becomes multimedia. "The difference between a hypermedia system and hypermedia is comparable to the difference between a database management system (software) and a database (the information itself)" (Mohyla, 1993). A number of hypermedia systems are available, such as HyperCard and IBM Linkway, most of them implement in one form or another the facilities of an "author" that permits the creation and editing of content and the "browser" which provides access to information in hypermedia.

Whilst the hype is on hypermedia, certainly an exciting teaching tool, the pedagogical aspect deserves proportional attention from practitioners and researchers alike. Studies of classroom behaviour of teachers and students working in hyperspace environments should be paramount in every aspect of computer enhanced education (CEE).

In teacher education, the introduction of the microcomputer in late 1970s was also the beginning of the Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) age. CAL is literally what the words mean. Teachers have long been enhancing their presentation by radio, television, films, slides, recordings of music and voice. Teaching with audio visual aids, assisted the students' learning experience. Despite the advantages of audio visual presentation, the learner remains a passive receptacle. of information and knowledge. The advent of the computer changed this. At first, it was the university students who had access to the mainframes and later the minicomputers for interactive learning. The learner had some control of the learning process. Using the computer to acquire and assimilate basic skills or to model and simulate real events and physical systems the student had access to a powerful learning medium. Secondly, the introduction of the personal computer (PC) expanded the accessibility of this learning medium to all levels of education. In each case the computer provided the learner with increased control, flexibility and greater opportunities for exploration of new knowledge and skills.

The R-12 teachers

Once teachers had an access to computers and associated "authoring" tools the doors were opened for Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) A few gurus as well as the novices knew that CAI does not just happen. 'Me early versions of CAI software were the products, of single authors. Collaborative team approach was further down the track. A lesson, whether it be in the traditional or CAI mode, is effective only when "the lesson is guided by the learners' knowledge, skills, understanding, expectations, and motivation.' (Steinberg, 1984) Some of the difficulties experienced by a single author as in contrast to a team was that an author had to have at least the following: Somewhat unique requirement to be met by a single person, though not impossible. Nevertheless, teachers and lecturers were offered the opportunity to learn the art of preparing CAI material.

In the 1970s CAI and Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) were already very popular in the United States of America (USA) and was also in England. Particularly in undergraduate courses in Mathematics and Science. We followed the same trend with our Maths and Science students.

Our students in the Teacher Training and Education programs were able to benefit from the second generation of Personal Computers (PC) introduced late 1978. The first of the authoring software that we used had its origin in USA. In 1971, the Palo Alto Unified School District received a grant to develop a series of computer assisted instruction lessons. As the teachers who were to write these lessons did not have the necessary computer programming skills, an author language based on the PILOT language was developed. This new language, COPILOT, was written by Aram Grayson in 1971-1972. Further developments on COPILOT were made by Dr Bruce Keepes. In the period 1975-1982 in Australia COPILOT was modified by Dr Keepes and a number of coworkers to run on a number of platforms. This product was packaged under the AUSPILOT label.

The hallmark of a good authoring languages is that it must be elegant and powerful. AUSPILOT had that hallmark. It had a large number of what was then considered "powerful features" such as, selective branching to route the student through different materials according to their responses, storage of student responses for later insertion in the lesson, search for selected word in a student response, graphics and sound. Initially this software was available in two versions. We purchased the Apple II and the BBC Microcomputer versions for our students use in the computer laboratories.

In 1986-87 we replaced our BBC Microcomputers and Apple II networks and "stand alones" with IBM PCs and IBM Compatible Computers (IBMCC) running on Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS). Progressively we upgraded the graphics from initial CGA through EGA to super VGA. The system " authoring software had to be upgraded accordingly.

We reviewed a number of authoring systems. Up to now we have been using the DRIVER/ AUTHOR system. The DRIVER of the DRIVER/ AUTHOR system had its beginning in 1980. It was developed by John Mann in the CAI Unit of the School of Medicine at Flinders University of South Australia. It is written in PASCAL and can run on a number of platforms including microcomputers. It has seven modes of interaction. These are:

There have been further developments and additions to the DRIVER/ AUTHOR system. Student teachers can now use a Picture Mode to display Paint files in EGA graphics. "The DRIVER/ AUTHOR system is a lesson development tool that has been successfully used over a wide range of curricula" (Mohyla, 1992). It has been used by undergraduate students in the B.Ed. and B.Teach. programs to prepare CAI and CAL material across a broad range of topics. These future teachers by using their practical and pedagogical skills are teaching their computers to teach.

AUTHOR, another Australian authoring system was chosen by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 1985. It had a number of upgrades since that time. Besides delivering the modes outlined in the DRIVER/ AUTHOR system this system runs colour screens and animation. "AUTHOR works with dBase data files, with the text, choices etc, in the data file as fields. All the material needed for an individual question is contained in one record of the file." (Cochrane, 1993)

Teachers that are currently studying to teach in the range from Reception (R) to year 12 have the opportunity to learn how to use multimedia in the classroom. The majority of well qualified and experienced teachers are currently in the workforce. They did not have this opportunity. The question arises, do they wish to incorporate the products of Information Technology (IT) into their work? The problem is that if their answer is yes, how can this be achieved?

Collaborative technology and teleteaching

Collaborative Technology (CT) arises out of multimedia set of tools and techniques based on theories that support communication and logistics aimed at enhancing the ability of people to work together, in particular when the people are separated by large geographical distances. The use of fibre and satellite telecommunications systems is growing in Australia as well as overseas. CT facilitates teleteaching and teletutorial environments. At Flinders University postgraduate students in the Master of Education Studies course, which is also offered in the Off Campus mode, have experienced a teletutorial session using the TAFE Channel. Staff in Adelaide communicate in real time interactive mode with the students in Whyalla. At the start of 1992 the TAFE Channel Video Conferencing Network linked the campuses at Adelaide, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Regency Park, Port Lincoln, Gawler, Barossa Valley, Clare and Whyalla. We were the first Flinders University staff to use this channel with a feeling of success coming from the students and staff.

Collaborative Technology can be part of an Open Learning.(OL) Network. The education and training can be delivered by CT over a wide range of space and time. In CT lies the flexibility for the learner's entry, path and exit to any program. Open Learning with CT may expand and the growth of Open Universities may also follow providing an alternative mode of education in Australia.

Hypermedia expert systems

There is a significant development in Hypermedia Expert Systems (HES). The goal of an HES is to provide decision making in a complex subject area (SA). HES models are "the human expert's method of reasoning in a given SA. Expert systems are applicable in various fields: medicine, geology, engineering and others." (Dovgiallo, 1993).

Our research plan for 1994 is to offer research staff and students training in expert systems using BESS and HELENA Hypermedia shells. This research plan has been developed in collaboration with Dr Valery Petrushin of the Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics, Kiev, Ukraine.

Since 1989 at the Research and Training Centre IIP/UNESCO of the Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics, Dr Valery Petrushin has offered two courses, Introduction to Expert Systems and Expert Systems in Education. Dr Petrushin has suggested that he could offer modified versions of these at Flinders University. Apart from informal interaction with academic staff and research students Dr Petrushin has suggested a series of research workshops which would be organised and presented jointly by Dr Petrushin and Dr Mohyla. Preceding the research workshop Dr Petrushin would present a survey of the state of art incorporating data and results from the Gluslikov Institute of Cybernetics which deal with student knowledge assessment and diagnosis using Bayesian Belief Networks and Dempster-Saffer theory. Staff at Flinders University will be given the opportunity to develop adaptive student knowledge assessment and diagnosis programs using the above techniques in a series of three workshops.

First workshop

Available to anyone but also essential introductory information for those who will participate in the subsequent research workshops. A 10-12 hour (2 days) workshop Introduction to expert systems for research students and/or academic staff. This workshop would use BESS as an ESS for producing expert system prototypes.

It is designed for those who would like to have a working knowledge of the principles of expert systems design and applications. The main objective of the course is to create motivation in the students, hence its practical orientation. The course is based on lectures, demonstrations and mastering a simple expert system shell BESS, which is based on the Bayesian approach to decision making.

Second workshop

A 30-36 hour (5 days) research workshop Expert Systems in Education for research students and/or lecturers. This would be also based on BESS. This research workshop is suitable for graduate students in the faculty of Education, Humanity, Law and Theology and lecturers in tertiary institutions such m universities and colleges of further education. The objective of the workshop is to teach the educationalists about expert systems, how to apply them in education with an emphasis on using expert system shells as cognitive tools. The workshop is in two parts. The first part is similar to the former one and takes into account the target audience awl objectives of the whole course. The second part includes lectures and demonstrations of using expert systems in education.

Third workshop

A 16-20 hour (3 days) research workshop Hypermedia for Education which is based on the HELENA Hypermedia shell. It is an authoring system that consists of three programs: administrator, executer and constructor, and is a powerful tool for implementing multimedia and open learning Courseware.


In this paper we discussed the presentation and delivery of information in education. This discussion focused on three aspects, teachers, computers and students. The designing of instructional material for delivery by collaborative technology has become a complex process. Teachers who know the procedures and principles of courseware design can teach computers to teach.


Cochrane, T. et al. (1993). Computer based education in Australian higher education. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Dovgiallo, A. (1993). Brief report on the consultancy and the one week course "Expert systems in education". Education & Computing, 8, 363-366.

Mohyla, J. (1993). Pedagogy with hypermedia. Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Technology in Education (ICCTE93). Kiev, Ukraine. September 14-17, 1993: 13-15.

Mohyla, J. & Mann, L. W. (1992). Computer enhanced education. Proceedings of the East-West Conference on Emerging Computer Technology in Education. Moscow, Russia, April 6-9, 1992: 62-63.

Steinberg, E. R. (1984). Teaching computers to teach. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Author: Dr Jury Mohyla, Senior Lecturer in Education, Faculty of Education, Humanities, Law and Theology, The Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide SA 5001 Australia. Tel. +618 2013382 Fax. +618 2013184 Email: edjm@cc.flinders.edu.au

Please cite as: Mohyla, J. (1994). Teachers teach computers to teach. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 351-354. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/km/mohyla.html

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