September 1997



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Why the Information Highway?
Lessons from Open & Distance Learning

Erin M. Keough and Judith M. Roberts
Trifolium Books Inc., Toronto, 1995

Reviewed by Laura Sheehan

What is the information highway? Ask 10 individuals and you’ll get 10 different answers. One thing is certain: distance education will be a major force on the electronic superhighway. On-line courses and alternate delivery are experiencing unprecedented growth across the country.

But as teachers race along the information highway, we need to remember that we still have to use the craft of teaching to effectively predict the most appropriate delivery methods for learners of all ages.

Why The Information Highway? Lessons from Open and Distance Learning examines distance education in the Canadian context. It is a rich resource for teachers looking for a national perspective.

Contributors use both established work and practical experience, supported by research to examine the challenges in both teaching and learning using new technologies. Roberts and Keough divide the book into three areas: emerging issues, case studies and an analysis of emerging policy.

Case studies include:

  • Learners in the Workplace
  • Distance Education and the Transformation of Elementary/Secondary Education
  • Aboriginal Learners, Needs and Practices
  • The Francophones of Canada: A Global network
  • Virtual Realities or Fantasies? Technology and the Future of Distance Education.

Roberts and Keough conclude that major factors contributing to Canadian success in distance education are a highly developed infrastructure, a strong tradition of the pedagogy of distance learning and governments that have been eager to promote and fund distance education development.

Why the Information Highway? Lessons from Open & Distance Learning, provides a rich agenda and a forum for professional dialogue for teachers interested in the emerging field of distance education. This book will appeal to educators and policy experts alike, a great read and comprehensive overview.

Laura Sheehan is a program officer in the Accreditation Unit of the College’s Professional Affairs Department. She recommends two web sites for teachers interested in distance education in Canada: the Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE) at and the NODE (Network for Ontario’s Distance Educators) at


Leadership for the Schoolhouse
How is it different?
Why is it important?

By Thomas J. Sergiovanni
Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco

Reviewed by David McPhail

It has been said, "That the only thing that is constant is ‘change’." To many of us in the educational field this is very frightening, since we tend to fear the unknown and all too often, change represents the unknown.

Probably, this is because many changes we have experienced seem to be without appropriate planning and in a milieu void of philosophy and lacking in well-established and properly-grounded educational research. Thus the change is not good for communities, students, jurisdictions and most of all students in the classrooms.

Thomas J. Sergiovanni in his book, Leadership for the Schoolhouse offers us some hope in the despair of the changing times. He sets forth a blueprint for change that is supported by research and carries a philosophy that is both reasonable and attainable.

Throughout the book he sets forth an abundance of ideas that are valuable for educators to know and possibly follow. With chapter titles like "Doing What is Best for Students", and "The Roots of School Leadership", we are riveted to read on to determine if some of what he writes applies to ourselves.

Sergiovanni cites study after study to support his material. He makes a strong case for smaller schools rather than smaller classes. He establishes an upper limit to school sizes for both elementary and secondary schools and shows how this can be attained even when the overall population of a building is "very large".

He compares education to large businesses – to General Motors or IBM – and clearly points out that schools are not like businesses and the work of the school and results of the schooling process are a long way away from the current and accepted business models.

Throughout all the work, Sergiovanni clearly sets forth two main themes. First he believes that there must be the establishment of a moral tone in the school. This moral belief helps us to think about leadership as "a shared followership." Community members are bonded together to share commitments. These allow for a community to have a set of shared ideas, values and commitments.

Second and equally important is Sergiovanni’s strong support for the "building of community". This community building takes places in the classrooms, throughout the school and into the area served by the school itself. This theory takes us away from empowerment that focuses on rights, discretion and freedom and on more commitments, obligations and duties that people feel toward each other and toward the school.

Thus, people tend to work together as a team and in team-building processes where the members are connected to each other for such moral reasons as mutual obligations, shared traditions and other normative ties so that collegiality comes from within.

The student is always at the forefront of this work and all plans, literature, philosophical references and suggestions for change set the reader in this direction.

This is a book well worth a read – worth a read by anyone who has even the slightest interest in education. As we move toward more changes in the Ontario education scene, all leaders at all levels of education must consider what Thomas Sergiovanni is saying. "Each new generation acquires its moral anchoring in the home, in the family. We must insist once again that bringing children into the world entails a moral responsibility to provide not only the material necessities but also the moral education and character formation."

This book is a change from the ‘individual rights’ theory and moves more towards a balance of individualism and community values. Take time and read Leadership for the Schoolhouse by Thomas J. Sergiovanni. You will be glad you did.

David McPhail is principal of Lansdowne Public School in Sarnia.