The Thirteenth International Conference
on Technology and Education

Technology and Communications: Catalyst for Educational Change

Susan Lang, Conference Reporter

From March 17-20, 1996, delegates from over forty countries met in New Orleans for the Thirteenth International Conference on Technology and Education (ICTE). The conference draws instructors and administrators from all levels of education and from many disciplines. Unlike at some conferences, finding technology-related sessions is never a problem; choosing between them is usually the challenge. This year's conference, with its theme "Technology and Communications: Catalyst for Educational Change," again promised to make participants' choices difficult.

The 1996 conference had several new features. The first two, most appropriate for a technology and education conference, were a website and listserv. Both appeared well-received by conference delegates, with the website averaging 1,000 hits a week over the nine months preceeding the conference. The third new component was not really part of the conference; rather, it was a means by which more educators could attend--the Chong Moon Lee Educational Technology Scholarship Program.

This year's plenary and keynote speakers discussed several issues of importance to computers and writing professionals. Sandra Welch, Executive Vice President of the Public Broadcasting Service, discussed the role of emerging technologies in public broadcasting. Rick Spitz, Apple Vice President for Education Strategy and Market Development, demonstrated QuickTime VR technology, while Gregory Farrington of the University of Pennsylvania considered how the Information Age is redefining and will continue to redefine what we think of as learning communities and institutions of higher education.

Perhaps the session with the most immediate significance to the computers and writing community was that of Michael Kaplinger of the Patent and Trademark Office, who considered "Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure." Kaplinger supplied delegates with a short history of intellectual property law in both the United States and Europe but focused the bulk of his talk on the White Paper produced by the Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights. Kaplinger maintained that the White Paper contains only modest changes to the Copyright Act of 1976. Kaplinger spoke to an audience that seemed largely unconvinced by his argument, though they clearly appreciated having the chance to hear the government's position from an official actively involved in the Patent and Trademark Office.

The remainder of the four day agenda featured over two hundred panelists, speakers, roundtable and poster session participants. One topic treated by many participants was that of teacher education, whether preservice or inservice. B.J. Eib, of Indiana University, chaired a panel on "Teaching the Teachers," which examined a number of teacher-education programs throughout the United States to determine what percentage of time was devoted to the use of technology in the instructional process. Michael Odell and Elizabeth Mowrer-Popiel described the Idaho Science and Technology Project, which illustrates some ways in which universities, public schools, and industry can collaborate to effect change in the classroom.

Another popular topic was distance learning. Presentations by thirty or more participants discussed various strategies for preparing instructors and facilities to teach via videoconferencing or the Internet. Particularly, Stefan Brandle and George Smith's presentation on "The Realities of Teaching the Distance Learner" provided conference participants with video footage of sessions that succeeded or did not succeed, along with thoughtful commentary about the pitfalls of teaching simultaneously to on-site and remote participants.

As English departments consider how their structure may change in the 21st century, it is refreshing to know that other disciplines are facing the same questions. Donna Schaeffer and Patrick Olson considered the "Evolution of Computing in the Curriculum of Higher Education in the United States" and found that while the number of computer-related programs has indeed increased, there is little consensus on what constitutes such a program. Schaeffer and Olson even note that it is possible that computer-related programs may be absorbed into the larger curriculum or may evolve into minor programs that students combine with another content-based fields of study.

All in all, the thirteenth ICTE provided participants with four days of thought-provoking presentations. At the closing session on Wednesday, it was announced that the conference site for 1996 would be Germany, and participants were encouraged to check back periodically at the website for further details.

KAIROS Kairos: A Journal for Teachers of Writing in Webbed Environments.
Vol. 1 No. 2 Summer 1996