Can Computers Turn Teaching Inside-out?

      Once upon a time, long long ago, I played professor of psychology at Concordia University, teaching 700 day students in the matinee and 700 evening students in the late show. After five years, my courses evolved into books, which made me obsolete. There was no point in standing reading them until my tenure was up in the year 2000. So I took a decade off to explore alternative styles of living and learning.

      This decade crystallised into a book called The Psychology of Teaching [Gardiner 1980], in which I argued for a shift from the traditional concept of teaching as an outside-in process (that is, I know something, you don't, and I'm going to pass it on to you - the psychic transplant operation I had been conducting for those five years) to teaching as an inside-out process (that is, you have a certain intrinsic potential in there and I from out here may be able to help pull out this potential by arranging congenial environments for your growth).

      When I published this book, advocating that teaching be turned inside-out, I didn't know how to do it. However, this does not prevent an academic from publishing. My colleagues at GAMMA Institute (Groupe Associe de Universites de McGill et MontrČal pour l'Etude de l'Avenir), a future studies think tank, and at the Department of Communication Studies in Concordia University, lured me out of my premature retirement and kindly invited me back into the academy after such a long sabbatical. Through my work with them studying the human impact of new information technologies (and especially with hands-on experience of working with computers) I am beginning to get a glimpse of how we may finally turn teaching inside-out. The short answer is that we recruit our new electronic colleagues to perform the outside-in information-providing aspect of teaching to set us free for the inside-out inspiration-creating aspect of teaching. This chapter is the long answer. It could be considered as a progress report on my project for this decade.

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