Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 22, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
Thundoy, Juno 22, 1972 THE LETHBRIOGE HERALD 5 Wynne Plumptre Scarborough's noble TV experiment Wynne Plumpfro has lecn principal of Scarborough Col- lege, University of Toronto, for the past seven years. In this a b b r e v 1 a t e d article, taken from Ihe University of Toronto Graduate, lie assess- es John A. Lee's book Tesl Pattern. TN Ihe brilliant and some- times blinding light of hindsight It would seem to be clear that the decision to try to make Scarborough into a "TV College" was a mistake; the experiment (if it can be EO called) would seem to have been launched in an unfor- tunate way, in an unfortunate place, and at an unfortunate time. It is one of the many merits of Professor Jolui Lee's hun- dred-page appraisal, felicitous- ly entitled Test Pattern, that he does not depend entirely on hindsight for illumination. We are lucky to have this so- ciologist's pe net vat ing, judi- cious and readable account of what has become a highly con- Iroversial issue, not merely in Scarborough College passions burned with a pure white heal, but across Canada and indeed in many far-off places where the issues sur- rounding the educational use of television continue to de- bated. As for myself, if I may introduce a personal note, I he- came principal of the college soon after all the initial deci- sions had been made but while they were being put into effect under the infectious initiative of Dr. W. E. Beckel, dean of the college. Later I was able, I hope, to help resolve some of the difficulties that emerged, but for the first few years I was a fascinated observer. Scarborough was launched as a "TV College" with all the flags flying. "A satellite built for TV" it was labelled by Time magazine (January 13, which published its account in its international edition with two full pages of pictures in glorious color. Despite the temper of the times, the decision to Invest a million and a quarter dollars In Scarborough's television equip- ment would not, could not, have been taken without a spe- cial conjunction of influences and personalities. There were, In fact, four. One was William Davis, then minister of educa- tion, who (and I say it lo his credit) has a strong belief in innovation and experimentation in education. A second was Carleton Williams, now pres- ident of Western, who at that time had been appointed by lha University of Toronto as a vice- president lo take charge of the iaunciiijig of two new satellite campuses and who, as director of extension, was both knowl- edgeable and adept in the field of TV. The third was William E. Beckel, the imaginative and dynamic dean of the college who, as a very popular lec- turer in zoology, had expe- rienced the success that could attend televised teaching in his particular field. And, fourth, there was Harry K. Davis, a highly innovative electronic en- gineer who was brought in !o take charge first of television installation and then of televi- sion operation. These were the four ac- celerators. And there were no brakes, partly because the On- tario Government was deeply committed to providing addi- tional undergraduate "places" without delay, and partly be- cause, with a direct line estab- lished to the minister, the nor- mal checks and balances of the University of Toronto (which is not noted for inde- cent haste) were lacking. Finally, one should perhaps add with Professor Lee, "the fascination with sheer electron- ic gadgetry endemic to our so- ciety Is evident in the descrip- tions of the new college by its early planners." The TV college was to be ex- cellent whether judged on tha basis of its education or its economy. "At the level the college would be saving the dif- ference between the required for 'live' teaching and for instructional televi- sion in large classes, that is, about million a year. Along with Ibis economic advantage, students would get lectures from the 'best' professors, sem- inars of fifteen instead of fifty students and twenty-man labs instead of hundred-man labs. Professors would work no harder, could be ill without stu- dents missing classes, or could take sabbatical leave during one of the replay years without (he difficulty of finding a tem- porary replacement." So certain was the project of success that it could scarcely Ije considered experimen- tal. Funds could be invested confidently; continuing apprai- sal would not be required. No sooner was the new en- terprise launched than it ran lalo rough weatiier. In part, the slorms were unpredictable but in part, as Professor Lee ar- gues cogently, they might have been forecast. Three very important factors altered in ways that could scarcely have been foreseen. First, the college did not grow PS fast as anticipated and thus the very large television instal- lation stubbornly remained a heavy overhead cost and not an economy of large-scale op- erations. Second, the "New Pro- gram" of the faculty of arts and science largely did away with structured courses and large captive audiences. And third, the educational complacency of the 1950s suddenly gave place to the educational ferment of the 1060s; the first outbreak on the Berkley campus took place while the Scarborough TV cen- tre was being constructed; and the whole thrust of the new educational objectives and de- sires ran contrary to the con- cept of mechanized, standard- ized instruction. Against the background of these develop- ments the Scarborough project turned out to be untimely, and for this one can scarcely blame its sponsors. Student comments varied widely and, as Professor Lee remarked, the project was cer- tainly not the disaster that it has been labelled in some news paper comment. Insofar as the students saw advantages in the system, however, these were not the advantages to which the sponsors of the sys- tem had drawn attention. Stu- dents usually liked TV when it varied the monotony or enrich- ed the content of a live lec- ture course and not when it re- placed such a c o u r s e. "After staring at the TV screen for half an hour your eyes get tired, you lose interest, and you stop taking notes." Or again "TV needs commercials." And "You can't stop the prof." And so forth, In general, and looking back, I feel surprised, and grateful that, in the activist environ- ment of the time, Scarborough students accepted so much TV so passively. The faculty reaction, how- ever, was by no means pas- sive. There were 1C professors, II in the science division, who used videotaped Instruction to replace live lectures ami iab- oralory demonstrations. Profes- sor Lee conducted detailed dis- cussions wilh fourteen of these "television teachers." Here are some of his observations and conclusions. Eight of the 14, when ap- pointed, held no strong views about television; two were un- aware of its existence in the college, However, half of them entered into the program with some enthusiasm despite (he fact that none of them be- lieved it would bring him any academic credit. Indeed, in the early days of the college, ap- pointments and promotions at Scarborough lay almost entire- ly in the hands of the chair- man of the university depart- ments concerned, where the criteria of academic excellence were far removed from prowess in television teaching at a satellite campus. Never- theless some felt that their efforts were appreciated at least in the college. Others deeply resented having been manoeuvered into a situation where they had no choice but to teach by television. Generally speaking, the 14 found television a formalizing and restricting influence. Stu- dents would laugh at mistakes and mannerisms of Ihe profes- sor rather than at his jokes. Only one recognized that tele- vision was essentially visual and, in preparing liis material, tried to work "backwards" from what should be seen to what should be said. Most traumatic was tile ab- sence of ability to respond to student feed-back whether at the time (to retrace ground when students looked puzzled or asked questions) or in the next 1 e c t u r e or in the next year's series of lectures. Tele- vision classes were filled inlo the normal 50-minute slots in the time-table despite the fact that, being more carefully pre- pared, they were much more closely packed. Melchers has an for beauty and a reputation for quality Melchers Melchers Quebec After viewing a few of the tapes they had made, six of the 14 never the re- mainder even in privalc. Four never attended any class where students were viewing their tapes. Only three viewed all their lopes along with their classes. And the University of Toronto convention of allowing each professor territorial integ- rity in his own classroom, to the exclusion of all uninvited visitors whether faculty col- leagues or administrators, was strictly observed. Only five of the 14 appeared in their classes at regular inter- vals and arranged for sub- stitue authority in their ab- sence. Restlessness on the part of some students tended to in- terfere wilh the attempts of others to concentrate. There was, however, a safety valve in that Ihe most restless: often ceased to attend. The greatest heat was gen- erated by friction between a number of the television teach- ers and the substantial techni- cal staff required to operate the very extensive and expen- sive equipment which had been installed. The professors re- sented efforts of the staff in- tended to make them into pro- ficient TV performers. Techni- cal problems, such as the dif- ficulty and expense of introduc- ing alterations into a TV tape, were seldom appreciated. Re- sentment mounted. When Dean Beckel left in May 19G8, and was not replaced for six months, the resentment boiled over. The quiet voices of those television teachers wb? had found the medium on the whole satisfactory were lost In the outcry of the critics. Many other members of the faculty, not directly involved, were in- flamed by the belief that academic rights nnd academic freedoms were threatened by television. It became a primary task for Dean Colman, who rejoined the college in November 1968, to initiate basic adjustments and, fortunately, he has had the capacity and the temperament required. To begin with, any attempt to force or cajole faculty into us- ing TV was abandoned. Some TV lectures, and many labora- tory demonstrations in which the visual'capacities of televi- sion can be used to excellent effect, were continued. (It may be significant that zoology, which was Dr. Beckel's dis- cipline, has always lent itself to TV But, against the background of the new pro- gram of nrls and science with its choices and of captive audiences, routine use of TV teaching was clearly on the way down if not on (he way out. There was a new surge of in- terest in TV as a supplement to, rather than as a replace- m e n t for, the ordinary "live" lecture. Unfortunately this add- ed to costs rather than reduc- ing them. The college could no longer afford to spend a quar- ter of a million dollars a year on its television operation over and above the salaries of the professors involved. A sharp and painful reduction of tech- nical staff became necessary. Nevertheless, in an effort to keep the operation afloat, some funds were found to be used as "seed money" in order lo in- terest other parts of the uni- versity in the possibilities of television. And the Scarborough studies began to be used by tha Province for their new educa- tional television programs. Even on this basis the finan- cial and administrative burden remained heavier than the col- lege alone could have support- ed. Fortunately, a presidential advisory committee of which I became a member recom- mended the consolidation of all the television facilities of the university under the auspices of what became the Instruc- tional Media Centre. In due course Ihe centre look over the management of the Scarbor- ough television operation along with others in the university, making all of the facilities available to any university user who could and would af- ford them. The use by the pro- vincial authorities of the very large Scarborough facilities ex- panded greatly and, at least for a time, it looked as if the prob- lem presented by those facili- ties was solved at least un- til it became necessary to con- vert them to color. U n fortunately, this situation only lasted for a year. Use by the province, which had he- come the main support of tha Scarborough operation, had jo be cut drastically. Early in 1972 the media centre an- nounced that they would un- able to continue to operate tha whole of the Scarborough fa- cility. As this is written the plan is to abandon the largest (commercial-sized) studio lo ether uses, to release still more of the technical staff, and to re- place much of the large, obsolescent equipment with more modern, more flexible and less expensive equipment. Jfi LFJ The iiou-painter I-'rascr Hndgsun begin with I want to make sure you know 1 never liked painting, I mean painting of any kind you could pos- sibly think of. A lot of people like to dab about wilh different color combinations on cupboards, kilcliens, and backyard fences, and even some on canvas painting people and scenery. The arty type of painting never entered my mind, all my school teachers agreed I had no talent, and I shied clear of all the other kinds as much as pos- sible. But everybody gets caught in a paint- ing trap of some kind at some time or other, and alter the first couple of exper- iences I usually managed to sec the bait and go the other way, I didn't know anything about how paint was made, how to mix it properly, whether to use boiled oil or turpentine for Ihinning, or where to use flat or high gloss type, and why. As far as I knew or cared all paint was flat, how could a thin layer be any other way? I liked to sec things nicely painted with pleasing colors, but I left it strictly to someone else to do the job, and leave me completely out of any kind of paint decorating. Now I'm sure you get the message! I didn't like paint or painting. It doesn't matter how much you may dis- like a job, though, once in a wliile you get talked into trying it just once more. Tho few times I fell for a paint job, I always swore never again. One contract I took on a long time ago still sticks in my memory as if it just happened last week. It was in the early "hard-lime" thirties, and we lived in a small Saskatchewan town whero I worked lor the local farm machine deal- er. Our young son was just a few months old, and my wife bought liim a nice second- hand buggy. It was an ornate wicker-work affair, wilh a tip-down hood, Mdden diaper- trap under the mattress, big wooden wheels and springs including two-wheel brakes. I did pretty well tacking down the loose curtains, and helped some in sewing soms torn spots, but then even I could see it needed painting. This scared me right away, but I thought my wife might take on that little job. She didn't however because she figured it could be done much better with the spray-gun at the shop where I I had to agree because of the un- even construction, the spray-gun would blow the paint in much better and do a nicer job. She even had a half-pint of light yellow paint already bought, so I loaded the buggy in the back of the company Model-A service truck and drove it to tha shop. It was a quiet Sunday morning, and I thought I could get this messy job off my hands fairly easily with nobody around. 1 sand-papered a few peeled spots on liie wooden wheels and inside the bottom, and adjusted the brake pedal a bit, then started the air compressor and got out the paint gun. My wife had already stirred Uie can to a smooth creamy liquid, so I poured it into the gun and was all ready to go. Things went along so '.veil I could hardly believa it was me doing the job. I finished tho wheels and part without too many runs and drips on the floor and myself, and was thinking I'd be done soon without a mishap, wiien I realized 1 was going lo run out of paint before I finished. The store was closed and I knew the own- er was away, so I started looking around through some partly used cans left over from painting machinery. The only thing I could find near my color, was a half a quart can of car paint. That would be just fine, I'd mix in what I had left and then go over Hie whole carriage again. I emp- tied it into the gun and began stirring, but something was wrong, it didn't mix very well. It sort of curdled like sour milk, and the more I whipped it around wiUi the iron stirring stick I was using, the tliicker ami messier it got. I poured it into a sealer on the bench so I could look at it teller, and as I got a little put-off over tha way ttu'ngs were going in reverse, T started in stirring again rather hard and fast. Then all at once the iron rod'poked tlia bottom out of the jar, and the curdled lumpy yellow paint ran all over my nice new bcncli and tools. That wasn't haft of it, there were cracks between the boards and the stuff ran tlirough into a drawer full of small parts and hard-to-find screws and bolts. 1 grabbed a paint brush and pushed as much as I could back into the can, andl onto the floor and my tools, and got mad- der by the second. Instead of quitting right then, and waiting till next day for more paint, I took the brush and dabbed away trying to finish the job. What a mess, and now I was mad, at me, the paint, and everything at hand! And then tha boss walked in, saying he wanted the truck for something, and laughed himself silly over the mess I was in. I wiped everything up as best I could, and wondered what in the world to do about the buggy. Finally I decided to take it home just as it was, and let my wife worry about it. But that wasn't so simple, I had no truck now, and I wasn't fussy about fit the neighbours seeing ma wheel a baby carriage along the street, especially such a horrible mess. But at last I did it any- way, it was only two blocks. Most of lha way there was no sidewalk, and the wind was whipping dust around, so by the timo I got home at almost a fast trot, that thing was a dirty sigh to behold. I didn't say a word, and my wife didn't either. She knew the expected had happen- ed, but she didn't know what and never asked till next day. She sanded it all over1 during the next week, and the boss painted it for her. I noticed him break out in a wida grin wiule he was doing it, but he didn't say anything. It blew over at last, but I think that was as close as my wife and I ever came to having words in aE the 43 years of our married life. And I never dicj Jeam anything about painting. On the use of words Theodore Bernstein JtfOW or soon. Time was when presently meant at the present time or cow. But, according to the Oxford English English Dic- tionary, that meaning became obsolete in literary English in the 17th century. The meaning from then on was Boon, shortly. In the last decade or so, however, there has been a reversion to the obsolete mean- ing, fostered chiefly by those people who seem to think that the longer word is moro impressive lhan Ihe shorter one. When they could easily say now they prefer to say presently. The result has been that present- ly has become a blurred word. If the re- ceptionist says, "The doctor is ready to see you who kaows whether she means "Come on in" or "It will be only another hour or How much better it would be if the word could be restricted to a single meaning, preferably the one that has predominated for the last few centur- ies. How much better it would be to avoid any possibility of ambiguity. Why not say now or immediately if that's what you mean and reserve presently for the of a short time or before long or soon? Word oddities. Maybe there are so many beards around because men have discovered the origin of tha word razor and are ter- rified by the implement. The word derived from the Old French verb rase, which meant watch it, now scratch, slit, slash, scrape. (Based on that same verb is the present-day word raze, meaning to level to the ground, erase, efface.) Maybe- a beard isn't such a bad idea afler all. Parenthetical mailer. A common error in writing involved failure lo recognize a parenthetical phrase in the middle of a sentence. Example: "In the upcoming sum- mer period, the commission said that thera would be a power reserve of only 4.3 per cent in the state." As it reads, it looks as if the commission said it in the summer period. The phrase the commission said should have commas fore and aft, tho tnat should be dropped and the would should bs changed to will. As it stands, the sentence is about as far off base as would be one that read, "In 1620, President Nixon said that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth." In 1620 Mr. Nixon wasn't even saying, "Mom- my." Word oddities. A few begin with ped-; for instance, there are pedagogue and pedantic and pedal and pedestrian. Thomas C. Perna of Drexel Hill, Pa., notes that sometimes the ped- seems lo refer to foot and sometimes to boy and he war.ls to know what the connection is. There is none; the words derive from two different roots. The word pedagogue derives from the Greek pais (child) combined with agein (to a pedagogue is one who leads children, a teacher. Pedantic and pediatri- cian have the same childish basis. Pedal, on the other foot, derives from the Lalin pedis (foot) and so do pedestrian and pcrt- cslal. The word peddler has nothing to do with cither of the foregoing categories. It seems to come from a v.-ord meaning bas- ket. A nerldlcr is ako a hawker, which was originally a peddler of hawks. It's getting to sound pedanlic, isn't it? Jaundiced view By Dong Walker I7LSPETH has lived with a skinflint so long that she thinks all men take the) same approach to goods, namely, that they should last forever. At The Herald's steak fry recently we were seated opposite George and Sharon Goldie. Sharon went off to get something} from the food table and left her purse on the table where it was obstructing George's view. When George tried to hoist it o-jt of the way he noticed that the strap was begin- ning to show signs of wear. "It shouldn't be doing he said, "it's practically new." said Elspeth sourly, "new about ten years ago probably."