Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy


In this issue: Beyond the Schoolhouse: New Visions of Learning

High Tech Space in the Harold Washington Public Library Photo by Digital Youth Network

In a high-tech space in the Harold Washington Public Library, a student from Digital Youth Network records music for a digital work he's creating. Nichole Pinkard (PhD98) founded the groundbreaking program to teach Chicago students important digital literacy skills with the latest technology. Artists work with students to create movies, video games, music and stories that reflect their experiences.

Penelope Peterson

Dear Friends,

Over the past 10 years that I have written this message, I have sometimes wondered if anyone reads it. Needless to say, you overwhelmed me with the number of responses to my message in last fall's issue of Inquiry in which I described my near-death experience. Thanks so much to all of you who took the time to write and share your own experiences with me! I was truly touched.

While I don't have any adventures as exciting to relate to you this time, I will tell you about a personal experience that occurred when our older son, Andrew, was four years old and our younger son, Josh, was two. At that time, my husband and I were approached by the editors of a new magazine called Family Computing and asked if they could do the lead article on our sons. We agreed, and they did the article, which was entitled "Preschool Computing: What's Too Young?" The purpose of the article was to inquire into the question of how old a child should be to begin working on a computer. At that time, in 1983, Andrew had been pecking away for two years on an Apple IIe computer, which he started using when he was 18 months old. Andrew's favorite computer program was a game called Teddy Bear A, B, C in which Andrew would randomly hit a key on the computer and up would pop the letter with a picture of a word beginning with that letter, and a song would play related to the word. Years later Andrew went on to complete a bachelor's degree in mathematical and computational sciences at Stanford University and pursue a career in technology and computing. Josh went on to graduate from Northwestern and do technology support for electronic discovery at one of the largest law firms in Manhattan.

Andrew and Josh with Apple II E

Nowadays such visions of preschool learning at home are more commonplace, and kids may be on their parents' iPhones before they can talk. However, the question arises: Are the kids really learning?

In this issue of Inquiry, we explore some new visions of learning, including using new technologies. In the lead article, we investigate whether and how children are learning from television, phones and even video games. Sometimes such "play" is actually serious business, as we learn in this article and the one that follows. Finally, we conclude by looking at how we might actually design new environments for learning using digital media. While these new learning technologies allow children and youth to explore the virtual world, providing learning tools for the actual world is also important, as Sally Bindley (BS92) demonstrates in her work with the homeless. Finally, senior Claire Olszewski shows us how new visions for learning require us to extend our perspectives beyond the classroom walls, across the globe and into the future.

Sincerely yours,

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean