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February 23, 1998

New CD-Rom provides strategies for teaching in diverse classrooms

Roland Tharp and Trish Stoddart (center) have spearheaded the creation of a CD-Rom textbook for teachers in training. Scott Robinson (far left) and Roy Zemlicka produced the CD-Rom, Teaching Alive! Stephanie Dalton (not pictured) wrote the text and helped launch the project.

By Francine Tyler

Preparing to teach an undergraduate education course several years ago, UCSC professor Roland Tharp was approached by a student who had watched him make repeated trips into the classroom with boxes full of videotapes.

"There's a better way," Tharp recalls the student, Roy Zemlicka, as saying. Zemlicka's solution: create a course textbook on CD-Rom, incorporating video clips, course information, and background papers into one small package.

"We always see CDs for kids and never for teachers," said Zemlicka recently. "Why should only kids get to use that technology?"

Tharp, director of the Center for Research on Education, Diversity, and Excellence (CREDE) at UCSC, saw promise in Zemlicka's idea. Stephanie Dalton, then an associate researcher with CREDE, was enthusiastic about the new medium, and thought it particularly well suited to the work she and Tharp had done on effective teaching. They teamed up with associate professor Trish Stoddart, director of the California Consortium for Teacher Development, to create a CD-Rom textbook for teaching teachers-to-be.

Teaching Alive!, the product of that collaboration, will be ready for distribution to prospective teachers and other purchasers starting in March.

The CD-Rom presents five principles that, based on Tharp's research, are the most effective strategies for teaching ethnically diverse groups of students in grades K-8:

In addition to providing information on each principle, Teaching Alive! supplies six to eight video examples showing how the principles work in the classroom. Also included are research papers and other texts.

"Teaching Alive! does something that had not been possible before--it allows students to immediately connect text to visual examples of complex events," said Tharp. "Students can get theoretical information, listen to the researchers' evidence, and simultaneously see examples of how it works."

In an example from one of the CD-Rom's film clips, a group of kindergarten students guide their teacher as she makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The exercise, which helps students develop language skills, cooperation, and negotiation, is an example of what Tharp and Stoddart call a "joint productive activity"--a lesson in which a teacher works alongside his or her students and talks with them about what they are doing.

"The CD-Rom brings good examples of new forms of teaching to everyone," said Tharp. "The picture really is worth a thousand words, especially with complex issues like teaching and learning."

The CD-Rom format helps make the theory behind good teaching more accessible, said Stoddart. "Typically, education research is published in academic journals and is not easily accessible to teachers, students, or parents," said Stoddart. "What this does is makes the research accessible, and shows what the theories look like in practice."

UC Santa Cruz started using Teaching Alive! as a textbook in a graduate-level education course this quarter. Assistant professor Peggy Estrada, who taught the class last year using a regular textbook, said she "would have loved" having the CD-Rom textbook.

"It was always very challenging to find models for the theory being taught," said Estrada. "The students literally had no personal experience of it and no experience in their teaching placements for how it worked. They would say 'I've never seen a classroom that looks like that.'"

Students, Tharp said, no longer claim they haven't seen the theories in action. "There's an amazing difference," he said.

Starting next month, Teaching Alive! will be distributed by the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., and by the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, located at the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The CD-Rom will sell for $39 to bookstores and students and for $49 to other individuals and institutions. It is available now in Macintosh format; a Windows '95 version is expected to be ready in May.

A number of UCSC people played a role in creating Teaching Alive! Zemlicka, now a postgraduate researcher with CREDE, produced the CD-Rom. Scott Robinson, also a postgraduate researcher, is the associate producer. Dalton, now with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement in Washington, D.C., wrote the text, and numerous undergraduates lent their skills. Tharp and Stoddart are listed as executive producers.

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