Seeking collaborators for online teaching delivery development

Steven L. Robinson (
Mon, 12 Jun 1995 11:11:44 -0500

To All Concerned,

I am on the faculty in the College of Education at the University of Minnesota
in Minneapolis. I received your message to BRETT C HARVEY via the St. Paul
Schools listserv/CU-SEEME List Serv. I work with St. Paul a good deal as a

I was intrigued by your note and wanted to respond with an alternate solution
not on your list. What triggered my response was your "problem":

>Think about it. A teacher needs to be heard and seen, *and* to see and
>hear, *all* the students in his/her class.

For several years now I have explored a system called "Discourse". This is a
specialized network designed to address your problem statement as it applies to
everyday classrooms. The system provides every student with a small laptop
computer. These are cabled to a teacher's computer. Software enables the
teacher to see everything students type, character by character. Students names
are listed in a column down the right side of the teacher's monitor. The
teacher poses a question (verbally, on paper, on the student's laptop or on a
class video monitor) which may even require an open ended response. Students
type the answer on their terminals (they can currently type up to 320
characters), the responses show up as they are typed, by the students' names.
The answers can be scored by the teacher, displayed on the classroom video
monitor, stored to disk, printed, etc. The teacher can prepare lessons to
create tests and worksheets. The students can work independently in multiple
groups, or with the teacher in one group.

The important idea of this system is that, as you put it, "all" the students
answer under the teacher's direct and constant scrutiny. Any subject can be
taught, it's a communication system, not instructional software.

At the UofM we have applied this system to distance instruction. A colleague
of mine had to teach a class in Rochester, MN, about 120 miles from here. We
set up a Discourse system in Rochester in an ITV lab (it had video and audio).
We then set up another computer terminal in an ITV lab here on campus. Via
modem over a direct phone line we used Norton's PCAnywhere to connect to and
control the Discourse computer down there. The result was the professor on
campus could see and hear the students in Rochester via the ITV hookup and he
could require them all to answer questions on the Discourse system which he
could then view up here. He could even display individual answers back to them.
It was an impressive instructional environment.

Thought you would be interested. If you want to know more, drop me a line.


Steven L. Robinson (612) 626-7822
University of Minnesota 626-9627 fax
258 Burton Hall
178 Pillsbury Drive S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455