Director's Digressions

Sheryl Burgstahler
Picture of DO-IT Scholars working on an Internet project.
DO-IT Scholars Anna and Lloyd work on an Internet project.

As the holidays approach, I have noticed a glut of ads touting the joys of one type of computer over another or the delights of this software over the competitor's version. All of this emphasizes that technology is an important part of American culture.

This technology invasion is most evident when we look at how kids are learning. San Jose Mercury News columnist Joanne Jacobs writes, "Teachers won't be information-givers. Databases do it better. Instead, they'll help learners navigate oceans of data and search for pearls. This is known as going from the 'sage on the stage to the guide on the side.'" Professors and graduate students at the DO-IT Summer Program seemed to make the transition easily as they guided the talented group of high school DO-IT Scholars.

These kids proved that they were on the cutting edge of technology use. Not only did they use adaptive hardware and software to compensate for disabilities, but they made use of the Internet to tailor their own learning experiences. Students learn at their own pace and discover that a computer is not only patient, but able to jump to new subjects quite easily. Many applications also provide immediate feedback helping the student find and correct errors as they are made.

DO-IT Scholars participate in a weekly discussion group via the Internet and one team set up and monitors a bulletin board. Electronic-mail has proved to be one of the most useful tools in our computerized toolbox. Staff and students ask questions, forward interesting news tidbits, answer questions, set up tours, conduct interviews and just keep in touch by tapping messages on assorted keyboards.

Nadira, one of the DO-IT Scholars, managed to keep in touch with the DO-IT gang during her stay at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in September. Dan Comden, our adaptive technology consultant, worked with mentor and CHMC staffer Michael Herbert to set Nadira up with a portable system, modem and phone line so she could continue communicating with her DO-IT friends. Having the system helped her fill the hours during a difficult time.