Purdue software makes Internet more teacher-friendly
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A new educational software program developed at Purdue University
is making it easier than ever for teachers to put the power of the Internet to work
in their classrooms.
Test Pilot is a new application that allows teachers to design surveys, tests and
tutorials that students can take on any computer that is connected to the Internet.
"It really opens up the use of computers for instruction," says Test Pilot author
Malcolm Duncan, the associate director of Purdue's BioMedia Center of Instructional
Computing. "The program not only generates the test or tutorial, it also grades it
so students can get immediate feedback as to how they did. And Test Pilot's combination of
simplicity and affordability make it unique among the educational software currently
On-line instruction is not new, but the teachers using it have had to be able to create
a Web page and then write a program to handle the data, or pay an experienced webmaster
to do it for them. Test Pilot Test runs on both Macintosh and PC systems and may require a webmaster for a one-time installation on a school's Web server, but after
that even the most computer-phobic teacher can begin creating tests.
"Once the data base portion of the program is installed, instructors use simple pull-down
menus and forms to write questions and set the format," Duncan explains. "The software
also allows for the import of graphics and video and audio snippets, so it can be used for virtually any discipline or subject."
Duncan says the most common use so far is for the creation of tutorials, which give
teachers a way to track how well students are grasping material before actually testing
them on it. And because the tutorial is on the Web, students can take it from their
homes, or a library -- virtually anyplace that has a computer with Internet access.
More than 350 universities and companies from all over the world were involved in
the testing of the software, and now there is a growing demand from corporations
interested in using it for industrial, managerial and clerical training. Duncan says
the program also could be used for polling over the Internet.
Test Pilot costs $120 for educational institutions and $495 for businesses. Some Web
servers may require a server extension to run the program, which costs an additional
$50 or $195, depending on the type of customer. A demonstration of the software can
be found at https://biomedia.bio.purdue.edu/TestPilot/ .
CONTACT: Duncan, (765) 494-6610; e-mail, email@example.com; Web, https://biomedia.bio.purdue.edu/
Literacy requires phonics and whole language,
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The warring factions in the phonics vs. whole-language debate
need to stop arguing and work together, says the dean of Purdue University's School
"The debate is unproductive not only because it deals with two different parts of
literacy, but also because research supports the conclusion that children learn literacy
best when taught by both methods," explains Marilyn Haring, who is also a professor
of counseling and development. "Why do so many noneducators and a few educators want
to return to teaching phonics as a panacea for teaching literacy when we know a combination
of both produces the best results?"
Discussions on the merits of the two teaching methods are resurfacing around the country
as school systems analyze the results of standardized tests for reading and comprehension.
The traditional theory of teaching literacy, which became institutionalized with the
start of mass schooling in the 19th century, contends that students learn to read
by first making sense of the smallest components of language. Phonics teaches children
to recognize letters and then sound them out in combinations that eventually form words.
Vocabulary is tightly controlled, and instruction includes skills exercises with
emphasis on correct answers.
The whole-language philosophy of teaching literacy stresses that children should use
language in ways that are applicable to their own lives and cultures. Students are
encouraged to decode words in context, and the answer is not as important as the
Haring says the two skills complement each other and children need both types of instruction.
"Literacy is a complex skill that takes much practice for any learner to master,"
Haring says. "Each student's difficulty in learning to read and write demands a skilled
teacher who can analyze the problem and provide a range of instruction, not just
phonics and not just whole language."
Haring says a balanced approach to literacy instruction should include: (a) organized,
explicit skills instruction, such as phonics and spelling; (b) a strong literature,
language and comprehension program; and (c) an effective early intervention program
providing individual tutoring such as Reading Recovery. Purdue serves as the state
headquarters for that program, which pairs specially trained teachers with at-risk
first-graders for daily tutoring sessions.
"At a research university such as Purdue, we take pride in the fact that our teacher
preparation is grounded in research, and that research tells us that a balanced approach
is effective," Haring says.
She points to a program now being implemented in the San Francisco area as a good
example of a shift to the "balanced" approach. Five county offices of education,
35 school districts, and six colleges/universities have formed a consortium to improve
literacy teaching skills for K-12 teachers. The project is called Preservice Reading Education
Partnership, and Haring says it could provide a model for other communities to follow.
"Teacher preparation programs need to give teacher education candidates a full background
-- phonics and whole language -- in order for those candidates to be able to help each
student read and write and communicate effectively," Haring says.
"Literacy is THE most important skill we teach, and it should be taught early and
well. It is the key to every student's future success in school. To help our children
achieve the proficiency they need, it is our responsibility to use any proven method
available to us."
CONTACT: Haring, (765) 494-2336; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue to field only student team
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A student organization at Purdue University is headed to the
Air Race Classic for the fifth year in a row as the only all-student collegiate entry.
in national air race
Women in Aviation is an international organization with 3,000 members that helps students
make a connection between the university, business and the community. The 35 students
in the Purdue chapter send a team to compete in the annual Air Race Classic to gain experience in cross-country flying. The group also prepares members for the job
force, sets up community events and travels to trade conferences.
The annual Air Race Classic is a summer cross-country race for female pilots. The
three-day event takes teams of two across mountains and plains to test their skill
at piloting. During the course of the race, the teams will travel more than 2,384
This year's race will start June 23 in Santa Fe, N.M., and end June 26 in Batavia,
Ohio, with stops for refueling in Midland, Texas, Woodward, Okla., Ogallala, Neb.,
St. Joseph, Mo., Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Rome, Ga.
Two years ago, a Purdue team became the first collegiate team to win the race. For
all four years that Purdue teams have participated, they have been the only all-student
This year, the pilot for Purdue will be Amanda Zerr, a senior majoring in aviation
technology from Defiance, Mo.
"There is a responsibility involved with being the pilot for this race," she said.
"Besides flying, we have to be concerned with the weather and plane safety. I think
this year we will do well. We have been training religiously and have made a lot
Along with the experience gained, there is also some danger involved. "It can be dangerous
if they run into bad weather," said Mary Ann Eiff, assistant professor of aviation
technology and faculty adviser to Purdue's chapter of Women in Aviation. "They will also have to fly through mountainous regions, and there can be wind problems associated
with this type of geologic feature. This gives them a chance to learn how to fly
in these areas, and it helps them gain confidence. With the level of training these
pilots receive, they should be able to handle anything nature throws at them."
Originally called the "Powder Puff Derby," the contest dates back 79 years. Amelia
Earhart competed in it, as did many women who were WASPs in World War II.
Teams fly only during daylight hours and good weather. They race against a "handicap"
assigned to their plane based on its maximum cruising speed. The goal is to be faster
than the handicap, and the winner is the team that beats its handicap by the largest margin.
Raegan Frazier, co-pilot and a sophomore majoring in aviation technology from Cape Cod, Mass.
, said she is excited about the race. "We are really nervous because we are a young
team. Most of the pilots are much older and have had long careers in commercial aviation.
To compete against older and more-experienced teams is a real challenge," she said. "What we lack in experience, we make up for with enthusiasm and training."
CONTACTS: Eiff, (765) 494-9627; home (765) 449-9804; e-mail, email@example.com;
Frazier, (765) 495-1853; Zerr, (765) 495-1263
Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Program author Malcolm Duncan demonstrates Test Pilot on the computers in Purdue's
BioMedia Center for Instructional Computing. The software allows teachers to design
tests and tutorials that students can take on any computer that is connected to the
Internet. (Purdue News Service photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID:
To the Purdue News and Photos Page