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The Didactron

The Didactron is an enterprise as well as a physical space. The enterprise produces and makes available educational units via the Internet and engages in innovative education, primarily relating all aspects of the natural- and rural-resource fields. It has centralized opportunities within unique teaching/research spaces called "Didactrons" but has, as well, specialized educational field trips (linking with The Tours) and motivational youth units. It complements Competency, the educational evaluation unit of Rural System working with university or post-graduate students. Many educational units are computer simulations and have elements of game playing. The WKB is a major resource.

Improving writing is part of the Writers' Camps and The Didactron participates as architectural, technological, group and individual needs become clear.

Special graphical aids are available for displaying group and individual increases in performance.

The Didactron addresses for wildland and resource groups (especially) the questions of what knowledge and skills should be developed? when, where, how, by whom, and for whom? The offerings are dynamic as the answers to those questions are perceived. It seeks to concentrate attention on costs per unit of measured change. The Didactron staff gambles that desired change can be made in individuals. It does so as quickly as possible to minimize its costs. It knows that students want to make change as quickly as possible
to minimize their time spent ... direct personal costs (foregone evenings, vacation, family time). The staff see themselves as building an enterprising and skilled labor force that can be counted on now ... and later for the planned changes (although the details are not known). There may be sources of financial support for students. If not, the staff negotiate for payment as a proportion of the salary/wage increase of the studnet for the next two years after the educational experience. Staff of the Didactron work for real, measureable financial gains for students. Success is in the financial gains. The staff and students are united in a mutually beneficial activity, not a contest, not a show, not a competition. Of course there is joy and satisfaction in learning but this is fundamentally a process of consuming education.

The Didactron offers pleasant learning experiences but seeks with students the genuine, lasting joys of increased competence, creativity, and superior job and professional action. It "preserves and enlarges the cultural heritage of the region" but presses to glean the practical meanings of such phrases, converting them into units of knowledge showing how to avoid problems and make gains for individuals, their families, and their employers.

The Didactron's likely successes are in planned units with high content, with memory and study aids, with solid exams, helpful feedback, and badges-of-success only after demonstrated competence (not 80% getting 80% of the correct answers ...which is only about 64% group-competence ...(0.80 x 0.80 = 0.64) ... and too close to failing to make anyone pleased with their likely future being served by such people).

It gains economies from the diverse competent staff of the total Rural System. It intermingles staff education with the education of customers. It utilizes the library and computer strengths of units. It uses the results of proprietary studies conducted within The Didactron space. It is intently concentrating on cost per unit of changed behavior per unit of time. The didactic unit is C/$/T, Change unit per 100 dollars/hour spent teaching. Dollars are to be discounted as in conventional financial analyses.

Staff seek help in designing software to develop an approximation (a "blunt estimate"for expected later payoffs from current investments (the impact of $5000 invested today 5, 10, and 15 years later?) What period will be needed for this year's investment in research to be amortized by its benefits? What are the foregone values and gains if investment is delayed 5, 10, and 15 years?

Staff hold that lack of education is not the reason for most mis-used or abused land. If it were, then the vast sums spent on education by Extension and federal and state agencies over the past century should have "worked". Funds, time, motivation, help, equipment availability are all involved in why land is not well used. Not knowing what to do or not knowing when to say yes to a contractor bent on improving the land is also at fault. The staff is keenly aware of these differences and seeks to teach people the things they need to know, things over which they have control, that may result in improved persoanl budgets over the long run. The operating principle is that such personal improvements will eventually result in improved land conditions, in improved community quality of life, in increased employment, and in an increased taxbase.

In Rural Systems work we have a studied procedure. As in all teaching, it is very personal and affected by the history of both the teacher and learner. The chance for a good "fit " is very low. Nevertheless, teaching does occur. We know ways to teach well. Our special notion is that we have a way of getting better. We start with now widely accepted premises: to learn is to change behavior or to solidify an existing behavior; teachers are not autonomous; teachers must have time for and demonstrate learning themselves; teaching can be simple; the better the teaching, the less will be the differences in test scores for a group; teaching is difficult and creative; teaching is likely to change.

Part of your strategy is to find and use personal financial incentives. These are often related to things with which people work and for which the need for new knowlwnge or behaviors can become evident. In some cases there are rewards for scores obtained. In some cases there are rewards for groups that work together to gain through helping each other, high group scores or abilities.

The staff will consider youth education contractual services, services for SOL gains. A wildland based strategy is being formulated.

Research overhead assists in maintaining the total budget and research projects are designed so that results, otherwise public and rarely used, become used for cost effectiveness units within the enterprise.

After stabilizing the enterprise, pathways will be sought for assisting youth and special groups to help achieve greater equity.

Early on, the diversity of the backgrounds and education of staff of Lasting Forests became evident. There were needs for education in procedural matters, operations, customs and manners, and marketing skills as well as building knowledge of linkages among the enterprise units. The staff worker was expected to see and talk to landowners and other citizens about links and how Lasting Forests might serve them. Continuing education for the entire staff was essential. This included:

The promise (of PPBS as related to a educational system) to provide better information that is better organized for better decision making will not necessarily assure its welcome. It is unfortunately true that improved decision making grounded in a more rational approach to the resource allocation problem will not be universally appraised as desirable progress.

"USGov. Printing Off 1966"

The education and the lesson plans and materials can be designed to be tested and they, themselves, may become products for professional and graduates of other programs.

The Didactron
A Teaching/Learning System


To achieve:

  1. A facility to improve the amount and quality of specified, desired behavioral change per student per unit time per unit cost.
  2. A place to improve the teaching of teachers and leaders.
  3. A demonstration of effectiveness of educational technology toward greater cost-effective adoption.
  4. A testing and study center for educational technology.
  5. An architectural prototype for an educational space.
  6. A place for continuing learning opportunities for adults.
Teachers and students have excuses for not teaching or learning well. This is a special place where a teacher has no environmentally- or spatially-related excuse for not teaching at his or her best.

Ms. Anne Clelland has secured the URL for

Bob Giles has largely "given up" his hope for a Didactron and so he continues to write a novel describing his imagined conditions and events within the Didactron (if ever such a space is created). He now works (2007) to have parts of it included within Rural System.

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Last revision January 17, 2000.