Research on the educational facets of television has been marred by a number of blunders that stand in danger of being repeated in the new wave of educational research on computers. Despite the clear differences in purpose and scope between television and computers, some useful lessons can be drawn from earlier assumptions about learning from television. In this paper, it is argued that “computer researchers” should do the following: (a) avoid asking whether computers teach better than some putatively comparable medium; (b) utilize holistic as well as standard experimental research paradigms, particularly during the early phases of research; (c) realize that learners bring many assumptions, proclivities, and active learning strategies to any encounter with a new medium or technology; and (d) expect a range of usages and experiences and a variety of outcomes from any encounter between an individual and a computer. It is particularly important to carry out background research during the period before computers became completely pervasive in the educational environment.
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The writing of this paper was supported by a grant from the John and Mary Markle Foundation.
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