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Vol 9, No. 3 (Spring 1992)

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Reach Out and Compute Someone

David O. Arnold


Reach Out and Compute Someone

Introduction by Eleanor Johnson, Symposium Coordinator and CALICO Journal Assistant Editor:

In keeping with our theme for this year's CALICO Symposium, "OUTREACH," we reached both beyond our organization and beyond our discipline for our keynote speaker.

Dr. David Arnold combines expertise in both sociology and computers. Although his degrees, from the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, and UC Berkeley are all in sociology, his involvement with computers goes back 30 years. His seven books include the best-selling Getting Started With PCs and Compatibles, and the recently published textbook, Computers and Society: Impact!*

David's 100-plus articles have appeared in journals ranging from The American Sociologist to The Journal of the American Medical Association, and in magazines ranging from PC World to Flying.

David Arnold is Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, where he has served as Coordinator of Computer Assisted Instruction, member of the Educational Technology Committee, and Chair of the Sociology Department. He is also a former flight instructor and professional pilot, and holds a valid Airline Transport Pilot's license.

David is also co-owner, with his wife, Gail Rutman, of Arnold/Rutman Associates, a speaking, writing, and consulting firm. Gail, whom you'll be meeting in a moment, has a degree in Spanish from UC Berkeley, and is a professional writer and a CPA.

Speaking on the very appropriate topic "Reach Out and Compute Someone" please join me in welcoming Dr. David Arnold.


[As Dr. Arnold walked onto the stage, Gail Rutman stood up from her seat in the audience and beat out a traditional rhythm on an African talking drum. Taking a matching drum from behind the lectern, Dr. Arnold replied. They then exchanged two more short sets of rhythms.]

We said we're going to the marketplace to buy some corn, [as Dr. Arnold paused, Ms. Rutman repeated one of the drum rhythms,] some bananas, [another rhythm,] and most importantly, [a third rhythm,] a roll of fax paper.

This [holding up the drum] is information technology. Talking drums like these have been used in West Africa for the past thousand years. What you heard was translations of actual talking rhythms. The rhythms bouncing off these drums allow people to do things they could never do before. They could reach out over distances greater than shouting range. Eventually they extended their outreach even further, by means of drum relay stations. Although the form of information technology has changed over the years, its importance has not.

July 2,1937. A small twin-engine plane is searching for Howland Island, a half-mile wide speck of land in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. At 7:42 a.m. the pilot keys her microphone: "Amelia Earhart calling Howland Island, we must be on you, but we cannot see you, cannot hear you, gas is running low."

Amelia Earhart was dependent upon information technology, the electronic communication and navigation equipment in her plane, to locate Howland. By 8:45 she was frantically searching for the island. "We are on position 157-337, we are running north and south." Then... silence. Amelia Earhart never found Howland Island.

Now whether you are reaching out with an airplane, to distant lands, or with language, to distant people, information technology is critical. This year's conference, as you just heard, is about "outreach." What is outreach? I looked up the word in my handy-dandy Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition-copyright 1988, for the scholars among you-and found something that surprised me.

First, there were the definitions I expected: "to reach out farther than, exceed, surpass; to reach out, extend." In other words, each of you individually can engage in outreach - to bring more people into the realm of what you're doing. There is also another definition, an adjective with a little star next to it, meaning it's an Americanism: "designating or of any program designed to extend services to those not usually accommodated by an organization."


That sounds like what CALICO is doing, like what this conference is all about. But why is outreach important? Why can't you just go back to your campuses, go into your language labs, or sit down at your computer at home, and play with this stuff? Why not just go see your students, and then forget it. Why outreach?

There are two sets of reasons. First, external. The world is changing. Political changes, economic changes, and wrapped up with these, technological changes. And as the stone walls and iron curtains between countries disappear, your specialty—language skills—become more important than ever. Unfortunately, the world doesn't know that. Last year, Frank Borchardt, as he mentioned, gave the banquet address, I was not in Atlanta, but I read it in the CALICO Journal—and something he said struck me. He said "The people in this room, of course, know that language learning is far from lowly. But that opinion is not always shared by the rest of society." Unfortunately, that is still true. Business Week, in the current issue, March 2, 1992, reports the results of a survey of 148 middle managers. They asked "How essential are foreign language skills to your career?" Only 6.5% said "a must." Almost 17% not only said "it is not important now," but also "it won't be in the future." Japan sends a thousand salespeople in the United States, all of whom speak perfect English, and we respond by sending a hundred salespeople to Japan, all of whom also speak perfect English. The old line that someone who speaks three languages is called trilingual, someone who speaks two languages is called bilingual, someone who speaks one language is called an American—I'm not sure that's funny anymore. We really have to get over our monolingual myopia. And actually there are some signs that this is happening.

In the same survey, they asked "what factor is most important in becoming a good global manager?" 45.2% responded "understanding a foreign culture." Of course most of those people think that means reading a State Department briefing, but as they go out more they are going to see the need. The same issue of Business Week had a full page ad for a language learning program, for Japanese, with audio tapes, video tapes, books, and so on. And corporations are realizing the importance of language, and the importance of technology for extending language skills. This afternoon Chris Ensign is going to be here from AT&T in Monterey, talking about the AT&T Language Line, which is a system that combines low-tech-translators with skills in one hundred and forty languages—and the high-tech AT&T network—to allow people to have on-line translation as they call people. Who are their customers? He told me that while there are some government agencies and some big corporations, there are also a tremendous number of small businesses using it. These are people who, a couple of years ago, when they dealt with clients and vendors, were dealing with people in their own city, in their own state, or certainly within the United States. And now all of these small companies are going global. They need what you have to offer. So, the world is changing externally.


The other reason outreach is important is internal. Within the United States, within our classrooms, we're getting an incredible increase in diversity. We talk a lot about cultural diversity, we mean racial, we mean ethnic, and there is a tremendous amount of that, but there is some other diversity, too. We are getting an age spread that we never had before. We have students who are 17 in the same classroom with students who are 70. Re-entry students. They have different learning styles, they have different values. Even if they know American culture, they may not know academic culture, or know it in a different way. We are getting economic diversity. Students who in the past never went to college, are now in our classrooms, and a lot of them are not sure why they are there. They don't know how to approach it. I don't know about you, but I've got a bunch of students this semester who are in my class not only because they simply needed a class at ten o'clock on Tuesday and Thursday, but it had to be near parking lot C. We've got to reach out to those people.

Reaching out is difficult, because they resist. Marshall McLuhan said that we look at the present through a rear view mirror. Things change, and we try to be the same. Why? Because change is uncomfortable. Let me ask you to try something. Would you all just clasp you hands, interlace your fingers, and let your thumbs fall one over the other. Now look down and see whether your left thumb or your right thumb is on top. How many of you had your left thumb on top? How many the right thumb? You notice that's just about half-and-half. That's the way it usually works out. There's no advantage—sorry about that—that's the bad news; the good news is that the way you do it isn't worse, and it doesn't correlate with anything I know of: male or female, right-handed or left-handed, speaking and teaching Spanish or speaking and teaching German. But now try something else. Put your hands together again, but the other way. If your left thumb was on top, put your right thumb on top, with all your fingers corresponding. How does that feel?

[From the audience:] "Wrong." "Weird."

Wrong. Weird. And the next time you go to put your hands together, unless you have a good reason for it, like someone is up here lambasting you, you're going to do it the same way you've always done. However, I guarantee you, if you practice, I don't know why you'd want to do this, but, if you practice doing it the other way, half-a-dozen times a day for the next two weeks, at the end of that time the new way will feel comfortable. So if you're going to bring people into something new you're going to have to make it comfortable for them, you're going to have to work with them. Outreach is not passive, it's not just being available. It's reaching out, its getting visibility, it's letting them know what you are doing, and working with them. Because the people in this room, not just CALICO members, but the CALICO members that have taken the time,


the trouble, and the expense to come to Monterey, took the effort to be here, you are the leading edge. You combine expertise in the traditional reach-out took, language, with expertise in the new reach-out, technology.

Now who do you reach out to? You should all have a handout, and I have some groups listed, and I would like to talk about those and suggest how to reach out to them.

The first is K through 12 teachers. These people are critical, because they're preparing the students who are going to come to you later. It's no longer automatic, as when you and I went to school and you had to take languages. Now many of them don't. If it's more exciting for them, they will. If they get involved in it in grades K through 12, they are more likely to stay with it. If the teachers are more effective, it's going to work better.

CALICO is reaching out to them by having K through 12 teachers here tomorrow, at CALICO'92 0utreach. But in addition to that, when you go back, you can reach out to them. Let me point something out: your program does not say Outreach February 27,28,29,'92, it says CALICO'92 Outreach. You're here for three days, that's less than one percent of what's left in the year. You've got another three hundred plus days left. Frank didn't tell you this, but when you sent in your application you were committing to a year of outreach. Now what are you going to do?

One thing you can do is put on a language learning fair, a computer fair. It's very simple, very effective. Get hold of the language lab for a Saturday morning, or a computer lab, and set it up with hardware, with software, with demos, and bring the K through 12 teachers in. You don't have things? No problem. It turns out that the manufacturers will be delighted, in many cases, to lend you software, to give you software, to provide demo disks, to provide literature that you can give to these people, in some cases to actually send somebody out to do a demonstration. But even what you've got, I'm sure, is adequate, even if it's not state-of-the-art.

One of your members, Nina Garrett, had an interesting article in the Modern Language Journal last spring, "Technology in the Service of Language: Learning Trends and Issues." I understand that she's here and will be giving a presentation, I think later today, and she said, and I'll paraphrase part of it, "technology that can be taken for granted today is already light-years ahead of what the profession can use effectively in the classroom." If all you do is show these K through 12 people pie in the sky, they're going to be looking up there, and when they see the real world they're going to fall on their faces. The stuff that to you was last year's, is still going to excite them. Remember


when you were using an XT, or a Mac 512, or remember the first CAI software you saw on an Apple 11? It was exciting and it was effective. Some of those people aren't even working at that level yet; you can show them that, too.

Publicize it: put out a flyer, send it out to them, phone them, send it to their principals, contact the local newspapers, your campus paper. You want a multiplier effect out of this. You're reaching out to them, but you're also reaching out to others. Send the announcement to your colleagues, certainly to your department chair, to the administration; let them know what's going on—that you're doing things, making the school more visible, making the program visible. And then find out who is at your fair, get their names and follow up, and perhaps mentor them as the year goes on, those who show particular interest.

The next group is college faculty, and by this I mean both colleagues in your own language departments, and throughout the rest of the campus. Within your departments they know the importance of language, but they may not know the importance of technology. In fact they are probably a little suspicious, and when they see you in the hall and it's "gee, are you still playing with computers?" You have to show them what you are doing. You also want to let the rest of the campus know, because these are people who sit on the boards, who determine retention, tenure and promotion. These are people who sit on committees that determine budgets. These are people who advise students as to what classes to take. These are people who make comments in their classrooms that influence the students.

How to do it? One easy way is simply guest lectures. Call anyone on campus who has a class that may be related either to language or to technology, and either way, when you go in, bring both of those areas in. Sociology, anthropology, geology, computer science, a whole long list, art history—where perhaps the same techniques are applicable—and offer to give a guest lecture. Perhaps if they have to miss a class, if they're going to a conference, for instance, tell them you can fill in for them, although ideally you don't want to do that, you want to be there when they're there, because the purpose of this is not just reaching the students, you're reaching out to them.

The third set of colleagues, although some may think it strange to consider these people colleagues, are the administration. But they're important. How many of you are getting all the support, all the funding you want? How many of you have requested something in the last year, some equipment, some software, that has been turned down? What excuse did they give? Why did they say they couldn't fund it?


[From the audience:] "Other priorities.”

You're a step ahead of me. I was expecting you to say 'no money," and I was going to reply "nonsense." It's not that they don't have money, though they sometimes say no money, it's priorities. The number one item on their list gets funded; the number two item gets funded; the number fourteen item doesn't. What you need to do is raise yourself up in their eyes from fourteen to one or two. How do you do this? Well, one technique I used when I was our campus' Coordinator of Computer Assisted Instruction, was to put on a series of brown bag lunches. This was about seven years ago, in 1985, and people weren't using computers much. Some of these lunches were about CAI. I had some other people come, in on one case to demonstrate laser disks. I gave demonstrations of some software. I even had one session that was not about CAI at all: it was about how to use spreadsheets for grading, a word processor to create better syllabi and automate repetitive things, and so forth, just to get them sucked in, to show them that there was value in this stuff for them. I sent out invitations not only to every faculty member on campus, but, most of all, to the administration. And also to the staff. Because the people who really control the show, not the department chairs—particularly when it comes to outreach—department chairs only talk to each other across tables, its the secretaries who talk to everyone, who have the connections, who spread the word. I invited the staff, made sure they knew about this. Again the multiplier effect. The idea is to make what you are doing visible, show them how it effects them, their students. Show them what you are doing is valuable.

Reach out to colleagues. Reach out to students. I don't need to tell you why this is important, but how do you do it? One way is a department newsletter. We put one out in our department. We tell what the alumni have been doing, what our new courses are, what the faculty members are doing. Put one out that has some of that, some that is non-technology, and a lot that's technology-specific. As you go around the various programs and various demonstrations during the next three days, take notes as though you were a reporter, and become one. Write reviews. It doesn't have to be equipment you're going to be using; simply letting them know "hey, here's the exciting stuff happening in computer assisted language learning and instruction," and write up articles for the students. Tell them what happens in the courses. Talk to students who have been in your courses and have had some benefit from them. Have anecdotes about how languages help. Give it out to your majors, they'll also leave it around where the roommates see it; give it out to your non-majors; put it out where other students can get it. And again, the multiplier effect. We send ours to every administrator on campus, to every department chair, and the result has been phenomenal. We see people in the halls and they say "My God, this is impressive, we didn't know you people were doing that; gee, you finally got it together." We didn't finally get it together, we always had it


together, we just hadn't engaged in outreach, we hadn't let them know. Also send it out to those K through 12 teachers and K through 12 administrators. Send it out to colleagues on other campuses. We sent it to the junior college in the area that feeds us a lot of our students.

Then, reach out to business. Now that may be anathema in academia, but, face it, that's where the money is. American business certainly has come to realize that education is important, they are beginning to see that language education is important. IBM, Apple, Commodore, a number of other companies, they've been contributing money and equipment. Sony, I gather, does a lot of the printing for CALICO. You may not be able to hit up those companies, but how about the little ones, in your town? That newsletter, instead of making it inexpensive, why don't you make it free? Go around and talk to some of the quick print places, and see if one of them will do the printing in exchange for mentioning them on the back. Or ask someone to provide some equipment.

Another related technique is to reach out to service clubs, I don't care how small your town is, it has a Lions, it has a Kiwanis, it has a Rotary, it may have several of them, and a large part of what those groups of business people do is raise money, from themselves and from outside, to give to good causes, and one of the good causes they are interested in, is education. For example, a little north of where I am, in the town of Windsor, California, the Windsor Rotary Club sponsors a day of balloon rides which brings in a large amount of money, all of which goes directly to special programs in the Windsor public school system. You can hit these groups up for things, they like a special thing that they can see, a device. Guess what? You're in an ideal position to help them out.

And finally, reach out to the computer industry. Beta testing. How many of you in the room have been beta testers? Good, quite a few. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, every program is first tested in-house, alpha testing and then they send it out to people like the users they are going to have, but perhaps with more expertise, to be able to comment, more experience, to beta test it. To give feedback.

What do you get for this? One, you get the program; when the final version is released you get it free. Number two, you get the program sooner, so you are able to plan on it, perhaps, for next semester, be able to start using it ahead of time. Number three, you develop more expertise by working with it on this level. Number four, again the multiplier effect, you want to let people know, because this is evidence that you are nationally renowned experts on this equipment, on this kind of software, on these kinds of educational techniques. Put it in your vita, let people know about it, let those committees that pass on retention, tenure, and promotion, know that you are doing this.


Get the payoff. So that while all of these techniques, each one, is aimed at a particular audience of outreach, but they're really aimed—kind of a hidden agenda—at all of the audiences who affect the success of computer-assisted language learning and instruction, and at your own success.

Exactly 40 years after Amelia Earhart was lost, several hundred miles south of Howland Island, another twin engine plane was in trouble. At the time I was on sabbatical, and I had found an interesting vantage point for studying Polynesian culture: I landed a job for the year as a captain for South Pacific Island Airways. That morning I had left Apia, in Western Samoa, with a full load of passengers, bound for Pago Pago in American Samoa.

As we made our way through the clouds we were pelted unmercifully by the tropical rain. The turbulence was so bad the autopilot couldn't handle it, so I was flying the plane manually.

Keeping my eyes fixed on the instruments, I reached for the microphone: "Pago Approach, South Pacific 111 is three-zero miles north, level six thousand."

"Roger 111. Be advised Pago Pago is reporting heavy rain all quadrants, winds gusting to forty knots, visibility below landing minimums. What are your intentions?"

At that moment I really didn't have any. In fact, I kind of wished I was back in the classroom. I told the controller I'd enter a holding pattern and wait for the weather to improve. But it didn't improve. Fuel was getting low. I would just have to give it a try.

"Pago Approach, South Pacific 11 1 is initiating ILS approach, runway zero-five."

"Roger 111. We'll turn the runway lights up to max intensity. And 111-good luck."

According to the regulations in force at that time, I could go down 200 feet above the ground solely on instruments, but if I didn't see the runway-or at least the runway lights-by that point I was required to execute a missed approach and resume holding. Fighting the controls with my left hand and jockeying the throttles with my right, I started down. A thousand feet. Eight hundred. Six. Four hundred feet. Two hundred feet, and still nothing. I didn't have enough fuel for another attempt; minimums or no minimums, this would have to be it. A hundred and fifty feet; a hundred; eighty. Suddenly the windshield began to glow from the approach lights. I had just enough time to chop the power, ease back on the wheel, and we were on the runway.


Now, why did I make it, while Amelia Earhart didn't? It's not because I'm a better pilot, I'm not. The difference was information technology. I knew my precise position at every moment. I may not have wanted to be there, but I knew where there was. Similarly, as we all navigate the turbulent '90s, the changes taking place, information technology can make the difference in your success. So I wish you a terrific three days here in Monterey, and when you get back to your home campus, reach out and compute someone.

[At this point Dr. Arnold and Ms. Rutman engaged in another brief exchange of drum rhythms.]

Which means "Farewell."


David O. Arnold

Arnold/Rutman Associates

P.O. Box 900

Cotati, CA 94931-0900

*On April 21, 1992, Computers and Society: Impact! by Dr. Arnold was named "Best Nonfiction Computer Book" at the Seventh Annual Computer Press Awards in New York. The award, sponsored by the Computer Press Association and Citizen America Corporation, honors outstanding work by print and broadcast journalists, authors and publishers who excel in communicating the complexities of the computer and electronics industry to their audiences.