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I have a PhD in Computer Science from the U. of Texas at Austin and a BA in Biology from Rice U. I’m currently a Professor Emeritus in Information Science at the U. of Illinois.
My work contributes to a tradition of democratic education. It asks “How can we guide the educational enterprise by an ethical vision, not simply a technocratic one of transmitting isolated facts and skills?”
My early research was on artificial intelligence, especially computer natural language understanding. I later began applying computers in education, for example, Quill, for teaching reading and writing, and helped implement that in village schools in Alaska. My three trips there were very significant for me and led to one of my books.
I began to broaden my work to include literacy, math and science education, and especially to promote democratic, or progressive education. This drew inspiration from the work of progressive educators and philosophers such as John Dewey and Jane Addams, as well as international work not so well known in the US, such as Célestin Freinet in France.
I retired in 2010, but continue to teach, write, and work with community-based projects. My work has led me to collaborate on extended projects in China, Australia, Haiti, Turkey, France, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Finland, Sweden, and many other places.
Much of my work has been in marginalized communities, especially with teenagers. My projects helped them use new digital technologies to address problems they identified in their own communities. One example was in an African American community, where middle-and high school aged youth would create online maps containing oral histories they had done with older community members.
In this effort, I’ve written many books and articles, and created curricula, software, and learning environments in which learners collaborate on both the ends and means of their learning. The research includes the study of technology-enhanced learning, inquiry-based learning, teacher learning, and collaborative community-based projects.
Recently, I helped set up the Progressive Educators Network of Nepal, which brings together teachers, engineers, development workers, and others who see learning as part of full participation in society and the natural world, rather than as individualized learning removed from the daily life. This has been carried out through multi-month trips to Nepal in Fall 2016, Spring 2018, and Winter 2019 (scheduled). In addition to the work, I’ve enjoyed trekking in a fascinating country.
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