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Education Policy Fellowship Program

Nurture, Peer Pressure & Networking

March 29, 1999
2:00 pm-7:00 pm
Kellogg Ctr., MSU

Judith Rich Harris' book The Nurture Assumption has sparked a lively debate among experts in child development on the role which parents and peers play in socializing childern. In addition to discussing this revolutionary book, part of the presentation will examine how public discourse is accelerated and possibly enhanced by technology, for which the Nurture Assumption debate is but one example. The Fellows will also explore their own peer networks and assess their potential.


Session A: The Nurture Assumption
Resource Person: Dr. Patrick Dickson
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Patrick Dickson is a Professor of Educational Psychology in the College of Education at Michigan State University and Director of the Technology Exploration Center. He combines interests in human development, multimedia learning environments, and cross-cultural research. His teaching and research activities focus on applying lifespan developmental perspectives to the design of new learning environments. Through his work on technology advisory committees at the university, state and public school levels, he is engaged in the challenge of integrating rapidly evolving new technologies into schools, universities, and teacher education. He earned his Ph.D., at Stanford University.

He has taught in the MSU Graduate Studies in Education Overseas summer programs in Bangkok and Valbonne. He has also taught short courses on portfolios and assessment or technology at many international schools throughout Asia.

He is the Director of the Michigan State University Technology Exploration Center which opened in January 1995. This innovative center embodies key design principles aimed at providing a socially inviting and intellectually stimulating environment for learning about technology in education.

During the past year he has been the director of the LETSNet Project, funded by a $500,000 grant from Ameritech, to create resources on the World Wide Web to support teachers learning to use the Web in K-12 education.

As a part of another research team with Carrie Heeter and David Stewart he has helped develop an award-winning CD-ROM Personal Communicator with American Sign Language in QuickTime on a PowerBook.

He is also a participant in an NSF grant to the Center for Microbial Ecology aimed at developing educational resources on the World Wide Web and CD-ROM to make work of the Center accessible to K-12, higher education and the public. This work can be seen at:

He has three children, ages 13, 18, and 20. He has observed his own children's uses of the computer and other technology since his first child began playing with his Apple II computer when he was only 3 years old. (Andrew began study at Stanford University this fall in computer science.) His children and technology have become better, faster and more powerful with each passing year. He, unfortunately, seems to have remained about the same.

Additional Resources:
This review of the Nurture Assumption by Judith Harris on the New York Times website, includes a link to the entire first chapter of the book.
The August 17, 1998, issue of The New Yorker profiled the Nurture Assumption and the author. The Electronic Newsstand website includes this link.

And, go to, type in Nurture Assumption, read the reviews, the customer comments, and the "books other people who bought this book also liked" sections.

Also, go to, and search on "Nurture Assumption" which appears under "Online NewsHour: Nature vs. Nurture-- October 20, 1998", includes a RealAudio interview, plus transcript, with author, etc.

Session B: Six Degrees of Networking: Assessing Your Networking Potential

Resource People: Fellows and Coordinators

Additional Resources:


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