EDC 664 - Technology and Learning

Visiting Professor - Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.
Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology
Fall 2009

(Version 1.0 - 9/7/9)

Contacting Gary Stager:
Email: gary@stager.org
Web site: www.stager.org
URL: http://www.stager.org/omlt
Class Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/learningadventures09

Twitter: garystager
Phone: (310) 874-8236
Fax: (413) 812-4767
TI sessions to be announced
Students interested in learning about Gary should visit: http://www.stager.org/bio or http://www.stager.org/articles or more than you could possibly want to know about your professor.


EDC 664 is a masters degree course, and as such, it is designed to advance the quality and efficacy of your teaching by expanding and updating your understanding of pedagogy and the psychology of learning. This class is designed as an opportunity for you to experience the ideas discussed in EDC 633. It should support, challenge and expand upon the theories taught in EDC 633.

The backbone technology for much of the course is the Internet. We will be using the World Wide Web, Tapped-In, Google Groups and email extensively. You are required to have ready access to the net. In addition to the Internet, you will use other software packages that support learning. Some software will be provided by the professor, other software may be the responsibility of the student.

It is impossible to understand the intellectual potential of learning technology or constructionism without a solid grounding in the work of Seymour Papert. We will read one of his seminal books as well as several papers, articles and video clips of recent speeches. Papert, a mathematician, artificial intelligence pioneer and protegé of Jean Piaget began talking about every child having a computer nearly forty years ago. His ideas were influential in the invention of the personal computer and continue to inspire intellectual debate around the world. Papert makes the case for computers as "objects to think with," but his revolutionary learning theories transcend the high-tech world.

We will also examine alternative learning environments that offer what Seymour Sarason calls, "productive contexts for learning." These environments demonstrate that some of the best learning occurs in non-school settings and without being taught. Since PowerPoint and effective communication have become such an important aspect of education, we will explore these issues as well.

You will mess-about with computers in ways that test your creativity, habits of mind and ability to reflect upon those experiences. These learning adventures will last a week or two at a time, be guided and helping one another is always welcome. Some adventures will be collaborative. Others are for you to tackle by yourself, but you are always free to ask for help, share your work and make contributions to the work of your classmates through constructive feedback.

Frank Smith, Seymour Papert and the learning environment books reinforce each other in incalculable ways. They also put some meat on the bones of the theories presented in your other class.

The big ideas of this class include:

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. The texts were selected to provoke reflection and discussion. Feel free to share your beliefs, opinions and expertise with the class class forum. This class is highly collaborative. Your educational success is inextricably connected to the learning of your peers.

You will be expected to eagerly embrace new knowledge and learn as much as you can. Most of the class adventures and projects can be personalized to explore a particular area of interest or to enhance the teaching of specific subject or skill set. Let your personality shine and most importantly, HAVE A GO! Be present, take some risks, stretch yourself.

This course's requirements include active online participation, timely completion of adventures, 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.

This is NOT a course about teaching or curriculum!
It is a course about learning - preferably yours.

My goal is to create authentic contexts for learning. This makes it neither desirable or possible to create a precise calendar of events, adventures and discussion topics in advance. We will seize the "teachable moment," engage in timely discussions and offer appropriate time necessary to do the job. The syllabus is a a blueprint - an invitation to engage in the social construction of knowledge. I appreciate your course-load, work and family responsibilities and will give as much notice as possible. Take a deep breath, walk around the block and then get back to work. Lots of students have handled the demands of OMLT.

You will receive all sorts of formative assessment throughout the term. The process of your learning is being assessed more than the product. Students are expected to share their work with classmates and the professor on a regular basis in order to receive feedback. This feedback is critical to your learning process.

It is always acceptable to ask for input and feedback from your classmates and the professor. This means that it is your responsibility to do the best work you are capable of. There is no excuse to hide your work from peers who may help you make it better. Your classmates are the first line of assistance and you are responsible to reciprocating when your colleagues request feedback.

Tapped-In sessions will be scheduled at appropriate times throughout the term and in rotation with your two other courses. You are of course welcome to schedule your own TI sessions.

Think of this class like a research and development facility or art studio where we collaborate, engage in discussion and learn to use specific software packages when a "teachable moment" occurs. Synchronous sessions will be spent, discussing the assigned readings and current events. There will also be opportunities to solve student problems. Do not wait until the last minute to begin research, project development or online communication!

Evidence of learning is provided via Construction, Collaboration, Reflection and Exhibition.
Creativity, intellectual rigor and innovation are highly valued!

Attempts will be made to invite guest speakers to meet with the class at the guest's convenience.


  1. Dewey, John. Experience and Education - Scribner Paper Fiction; ISBN: 0020136609

  2. Papert, Seymour. The Children’s Machine - Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer - Basic Books; ISBN: 0465010636

  3. Tufte, Edward. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition; ISBN - Graphics Press: 0961392169

4. Choose one of the following:

  1. (K-12 educators) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach Advanced Reflections, Second Edition by Carolyn P. Edwards (Editor) - Ablex Pub Corp; ISBN: 156750311X

  2. (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: 080773700

Strongly recommended optional books:
Radio: An Illustrated Guide by Jessica Abel and Ira Glass. ISBN: 0967967104
Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. ISBN: 1412959721

Optional optional books:
Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth by Herbert Kohl. ISBN: 1596910526
Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol. ISBN: 0307393712

About the texts

Experience and Education is a small, but profound book about learning by one of the giants of progressive education, John Dewey.

The Children's Machine is the father of educational computing's 1993 book about the power of the computer in learning.

The 4th (final) book may be chosen based on your vocation or interest. There are many common ideas in the three books. I used to assign a different book for elementary and secondar educators. This year I decided to use the same book, The 100 Languages of Children, for all K-12 educators. Although the book is "literally" about preschool education, the ideas, research and wisdom of Reggio is relevant to every educator, parent or friend of children. Non-educators, particularly parents are of course invited to select this book for #3.

The two books offered for non-K-12 educators are about learning in the jazz and civil rights communities respectively. They are both fantastic books.

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint addresses the affordances and constraints of PowerPoint and similar presentation styles while offering alternatives.

My goal is to use primary sources, not boring derivative textbooks, as the basis of our discussions. I am delighted if you keep the book around to read again or pass along to a colleague rather than sell if back to the bookstore for 79 cents.

Many articles and even some multimedia elements will supplement your reading in this course.

We will also watch Comedian, a fascinating documentary with Jerry Seinfeld, later in the semester. In the past, some students have had a virtual film festival and agreed to chat while watching the film at the same time. You may rent or purchase the film during the week I will announce later in the term. Warning: There is adult language, even a bit of profanity in the film. Therefore, nobody is required to view it, especially if you are offended by R-Rated films. There is no nudity or violence whatsoever. The educational value of the film and it's ability to generate serious discussion contextualizing the theories we learn in OMAET makes Comedian a worthy modern text. Again, you are not required to watch the film if you have moral objections to it, but it is well worthwhile. The R-Rating may be overkill and is based on the language used by professional comedians when they hang out with one another socially.

There will be a requirement to purchase a copy of MicroWorlds EX software. It will shortly be available via a special web site I have spent several months arranging. The software will cost $40, instead of the normal >$100. The download instructions will be provided.

All of the other software we use will be open-source or freeware.

MicroWorlds EX offers a rich environment for thinking about thinking and learning in a constructionist context. The experiences should be fun, challenging and in some cases nothing whatsoever to do with your job. It will however help you think, develop some technological fluency and set the stage for thinking about constructing knowledge with computers. Even if you do not teach children, the software will help you think about the big ideas of the course. You may of course work with your own children, neighbors or relatives on the MicroWorlds adventures. If you have no use for the software after the term, I am sure that one of your teaching classmates would appreciate an additional license.


Course materials consist of assigned texts, articles shared by the professor for reference and discussion purposes, the World-Wide Web, email, Google Groups and reference materials. All student work must be word processed or transmitted electronically. Students are responsible for storing their work on disk and maintaining backups of their files. Students are expected to spell-check documents and employ design elements conducive to solid communication.

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 adventure. Student email links should be available on major project pages so I (and other users) may provide feedback. Be sure to put a mailto: youremailaddress on each page so comments may be returned to you. This allows me to provide immediate feedback while looking at the work, rather than having to search for your email address.

All students are expected to read the assigned books and articles so that they can discuss them intelligently synchronously, asynchronously and in written adventures. Students will be evaluated based on their ability to discuss the readings during virtual discussions. The best evidence of successful reading may be demonstrated in how well you are able to integrate knowledge gained from the texts and discussions in your course adventures. I will attempt to stream video on the web. Tutorials in specific software environments such as, MicroWorlds, video editing or graphics production will be arranged by the professor as necessary.

Students are always encouraged to supplement the resources distributed by the professor with materials they believe may be of use in their personal projects or of interest to their classmates. Don’t hesitate to post the URLs of web-sites in our class Google Group if you think they may be of interest to your classmates. Students are expected to pursue and read any materials that may enhance their understanding of their topics.

Student work should be stored on the web with clear links to each adventure easily found. A suggested format for reflections in your web portfolio may be found here.

This course will use computers extensively in the creation of personal projects and while exploring the nature of “virtual communication.” You are responsible for acquiring any technical skills necessary for you to succeed in the course. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

You should assume that all coursework and communication is public and archived. Act accordingly.

Any work you produce in this class should reflect the fact you are a candidate for a Masters degree and be ready for publication outside of the university. If it is not your best work, do not submit it.


The dominant form of communication in this course will be asynchronous. We will use the Google Group as our discussion forum constantly. While I would not recommend that you post yes, ditto... as a response to every message, I do expect that you will maintain a presence in key discussions. Post when you have a question or something to say, but without some artifacts of your thinking (e.g... a message in the Google Group) it is impossible for me to gauge you participation.

There will be a good deal of activity in the Google Group. Therefore, you are expected to keep up with the discussion. The good part of asynchronous communication is that you may participate when it is most convenient. However, if you fall behind and decide to respond to a week's worth of discussion at a much later time, do not expect the same level of feedback from either me or your classmates. It is very difficult to try and recreate a discussion after more than a couple of days have passed. It is also inconsiderate of your classmates.

I expect frank, thoughtful and polite exchanges in the Google Group and TI (or other synchronous environments). The discussions may get a bit heated and that is fine, but we must strive to maintain civility. If you disagree with a point made by me or a classmate, speak up! Your personal opinions are much more valuable when supported by evidence or citations from the work of others. Hunches, intuition and feelings are welcome too, but must be labeled as such. Thinking out-loud is a good learning strategy in a community of practice. I will work hard to inspire you to make your thinking public. I expect deliberate thought, cheerful participation and a willingness to try new things.

My 27 years of experience in this field and slightly askew world-view often lead me to ask provocative questions and challenge you to support your thinking. This should be viewed in the spirit in which is offered, to help you learn, think about thinking and grow as a professional. There may be perspectives offered that never occurred to you. I was recently asked, "do you play devil's advocate online?" My short answer is, "No. I don't play rhetorical games." When I say something that seems outrageous, it's probably an idea I have struggled with for a long time. Take a moment to consider what I said. If I do play devil's advocate, I will announce it. I will do my best to make my thinking transparent.

Many years ago, a colleague announced that "This is not a cocktail party. All of your postings need to be pithy, scholarly and purposeful." In other words, the Google Group does not belong to all of us and this is School (the capital is for emphasis). My response to her was, "Apparently you don't go to cocktail parties with smart people." Parties and all sorts of other casual events offer wonderful contexts for learning. Feel free to share good and bad news, interesting information found online and other trivia (in moderation) in the Google Group. This is the glue that binds our community. If it takes too long to read every posting, just skim the unimportant ones. Do not impeded the rights of others to express themselves.

You might imagine the Google Group 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!

Try your best to consider the views of authors without interpreting their motives - at least the first time you read a text.

Know that I read EVERY posting even if I don't respond to each of them. Sometimes I want to leave some wait time for you to talk before I weigh-in. I often ask more Socratic questions and will try and remember to respond to everyone on a regular basis so you know that I'm engaging with your contributions. Just remember that I'm reading everything.

This class requires active participation through collaboration, discussion, design, research and development. Any work you produce should provide evidence of participation in the intellectual life of the course.

I'm passionate about the issues in this course, including: creating more productive contexts for learning; offering greater learning opportunities for all; cutting through the polarization of education; the unprecedented ways in which technology can enhance learning; community of practice and creativity. I do not mess around when issues may affect the welfare of children. I neither care nor expect you to agree with me on every issue. I do expect you to speak up when you disagree. My feelings will only be hurt (and your participation evaluated) when you fail to make your voice heard.

One of my primary goals is to help you refine what you think so you may effectively articulate your beliefs and experience in more precise language.

We will use Tapped-In throughout the course, but not as often as Google Groups. You will receive notice of a few days to a week before a TI session and they will always be on the scheduled night for this course.

I read and respond to email quickly. Since I travel a great deal email is the best way to communicate with me. You may also call in an emergency.


Participation is the major activity in this course. Candor, honesty and insight are appreciated nearly as much as humor.

Rather than large terminal adventures, we will engage in a number of shorter learning adventures designed to provide NEW learning experiences that form the basis for reflection and connection to the assigned readings. There will be roughly one learning adventure per week. Some will naturally run longer than intended, so the precise number of learning adventures is impossible to predict. There is a lot to learn in the world and we'll tackle as much as we can :-)

This class requires active participation through collaboration, discussion, design, research and development. Any work you produce should provide evidence of participation in the intellectual life of the course.

Participation 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.

Participation includes attendance in synchronous sessions, sharing ideas in the Google Group, cooperation, and the quality of effort expressed in our learning adventures.

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. Students are expected to not only complete all individual and collaborative tasks, but be active discussants.

Highly successful students are distinguished by vigorous participation, in the Google Group 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 Rubric

I have strong reservations about both grades and rubrics. I believe that both practices have a prophylactic effect on learning. Doing the best job you can do and sharing your knowledge with others are the paramount goals for this course. I expect excellence.

Therefore, I am trying a new experiment this term. You should evaluate each course artifact you create according to the following “rubric.” The progression denotes a range from the least personal growth to the most.

  1. I did not participate

  2. I phoned-it in

  3. I impressed by colleagues

  4. I impressed my friends and neighbors

  5. I impressed my children

  6. I impressed Gary

  7. I impressed myself

We will discuss whether this reflective self-assessment should be shared publicly or just with the professor.

Average work will receive a B. This includes meeting the minimal requirements for each adventure and regular class participation. Exceptional work will earn an A and work failing to meet Pepperdine's requirements for graduate level quality will receive a lower grade. Enthusiasm, risk-taking, questioning curiosity, creativity, sharing, mentoring, ingenuity and imagination are qualities often exhibited in A caliber work.

Students who earn As should be able to do the following:

  1. Understand the distinction between instruction and construction in light of theories by Smith, Papert, Lave, Wenger, Vygotsky and others

  2. Appreciate the context(s) in which such theories succeed or fail

  3. Reflect on personal learning while constructing personally expressive and intellectually challenging computer-based projects

  4. Produce evidence of ingenuity, critical thinking, creativity and scholarship

  5. Demonstrate the acquisition of new technological fluency

  6. Make connections between information garnered in your classes and the course activities

  7. Learn to use new software

  8. Create a digital portfolio of work (via the web) designed to serve as a permanent exhibit of your work and learning in this course

  9. Support the work of classmates and participate in all experiments and learning adventures

  10. Inspire the thinking, learning and doing of their classmates and the professor

Students are expected to check their email and class Google Group every day in order to keep up-to-date with class adventures, discussions and news.

Gary’s Assessment Rubric
Were you able to accomplish more than you thought was possible?

A Few Course Principles..

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

Students should develop the habits of...

...These habits should be apparent in your projects and online communication.

Students Should Demonstrate 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 and discussions!

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


1.We are all WiReD...
We all have an Internet e-mail account and will read our email/Google Groups 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.

They will be posted on an ongoing basis.


Class dates will be more fluid than in other classes, but there will be a reading sequence in the course syllabus. This will NOT be like any other class you have ever had. We will talk a lot, do things and take some risks. This will have an impact on our course sequence and schedule. My job is not to dispense knowledge in predetermined chunks at specified intervals.

The reading of additional articles will be assigned as necessary. Articles without links will be placed in the Google Group.

There will be a new learning adventure every 7-10 days, depending on the needs of the class.

Reading adventures should be read & discussed beginning with the date listed.

September 7-14 - Read and discuss the following ice-breakers in the Google Group forum:

  1. http://www.stager.org/omaet2003/maze.pdf

  2. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.06/wolfram_pr.html

  3. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.03/kingdoms_pr.html

  4. Extreme Ideas by Jonathan Kozol

September 14 - Read chapters 1 - 3 of Experience and Education

September 21 - Finish reading Experience and Education

September 28 - Read entire Cognitive Style of PowerPoint

October 5 - Read Chapters 1-2 of The Children's Machine

Articles: Papert on Piaget, Papert Bio and Images of a Learning Society

October 12 - Read Chapters 3-5 of The Children's Machine

Articles: Computers as Material: Messing about with Time

October 19 - Read Chapters 6-7 of The Children's Machine

Articles: Situating Constructionism, Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking

October October 26 - Complete reading The Children's Machine

Articles: Papert 2004 keynote video, Australian Radio interview

November 2 - Articles: Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete & Why School Reform is Impossible

November 9 - Read first quarter of Book #4 (book of your choice from the list of three)

November 16 - Read second quarter of Book #4

November 23 - Read third quarter of Book #4

November 30 - Complete book #4

Learning adventures, TI schedules and other articles will be specified and scheduled.

MAINTAINING COPIES OF ASSIGNED COURSE WORK FOR PROGRAM EVALUATION:  The Graduate School of Education and Psychology evaluates its programs on an ongoing basis.  The data from such evaluations provide us with information to help improve the quality of the educational experience we provide our students.  In addition, the data are used by our accrediting bodies, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). California Council on Teacher Credentials, and the American Psychological Association (APA), to make decisions as to whether we can maintain our accredited status with these respective associations.  To this end, we may archive copies of the papers, examinations, exercises, etc. that students complete as part of their required course work so that we can track if students appear to be meeting the objectives of the program in which they are enrolled.  Names will be removed from the adventures we opt to archive for evaluation purposes.  If you prefer that your course work not be archived for evaluation purposes, please let me know immediately so that I can make such a notation in the files I keep for each student who enrolls in my courses.

CODE OF CONDUCT:  The Graduate School of Education and Psychology strives to create a learning environment which is respectful of the rights and dignity of all members of our learning community. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a collegial, respectful, and professional manner while participating in all activities associated with this course. Students are expected to exhibit behaviors and attitudes consistent with appropriate ethical-legal standards, and to refrain from any fraudulent, dishonest, or harmful behaviors such as plagiarism, cheating, or harassment, which compromise the integrity of the academic standards of the university and/or impact the safety and security of fellow students, staff, and faculty. Failure to comply with appropriate standards of conduct may result in a grade of “F” in the course and dismissal from the program.

PLAGIARISM:  Plagiarism is commonly understood in the academic community to involve taking the ideas or words of another and passing them off as one’s own.  When paraphrasing or quoting an author directly, one must credit the source appropriately.  Plagiarism is not tolerated at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

DISABILITY STATEMENT:  Any student with a documented disability (physical, learning, or psychological) needing academic accommodations should contact the Disability Services Office (Malibu Campus, Tyler Campus Center 225, 310.506.6500) as early in the semester as possible.  All discussions will remain confidential.  Please visit http://www.pepperdine.edu/disabilityservices/ for additional information.