Saturday, January 12, 2008


I'm spending some time this weekend going over my notes from the first class of EDUC890.

We viewed a great photo taken to illustrate the "cutting edge" of new teaching techniques, but which only illustrated the folly of doing what Larry Cuban refers to as "bolt on technology." The student desks, the row on row arrangement, the teacher-driven model all seemed to reinforce the "old" way of doing, not the new. (See a previous post on this.)
(Why is it that so much of what is supposed to be cutting edge ends up being just the “same old - same old”? ...reminds me of the dotcom days when everything was being put on the internet...even toasters!)

I think we may be conditioned as teachers to want to do things in the way we are used to, and access technology in the way we always have. Here's an example: In my school, the library is responsible for storing and distributing AV equipment and materials. Just this week, a teacher sent a Grade 8 student to the library to sign out a digital camera because she wanted to take some pictures of a project the kids were working on. Since our only camera was already "out", I suggested to the student that maybe someone in the class might already have a camera the teacher could use. The student replied "Sure, ...why don't I use my cell phone camera...and then I can just bluetooth the pictures to her!" (It's the whole "Digital Native" thing.)

This reminds me of the situation in my Library Computer Lab. I desperately need new machines because the ones we have now can't run newer browsers. I've been lobbying for more money for this. But it occurred to me recently that I am using "New wine, old skins" thinking. Why do we need a lab at all? Why not just ask the kids to bring in their laptops....

Jodi spoke about kids' innate digital sense, and compared the backpack of yesterday with the backpack of today:....gameboy, DS, cell phone, palm, DVD player, iPod. My daughter is 16 years old, and I can certainly identify with the example Jodi gave. (In fact, I think my daughter has the same purse!)
Jodi went on to define some of the terms we will be using:

Techne, or techné, (literally: craftsmanship) is often translated as craft. It is the rational method involved in producing an object or accomplishing a goal or objective.

The English suffix -ology or -logy derived from the Greek suffix -(-logia), "to speak."

And "Curriculum": definition: course…race course...the track we follow

We then spent some time with the Kieran Egan article: Letting Our Presuppositions Think For Us. Egan maintains that our discussions and disputes about what is the "right" way to teach are tied up inextricably in the presuppositions we make about human nature and the role of education. We spent some time "unpacking" these presuppositions. This made for some very interesting discussion.

Presupposition 1
Good or Bad: What do we believe about human nature in general and children in particular? If children are good (Good= learning, likes to learn. ), then we should have as little structure as possible. But if they are bad (Bad=must be led to learn), then we want as much structure as possible. (I remember hearing an interview with Laurier Lapierre who maintained that children were like flowers that should be simply planted and left to grow naturally, and they would learn what they need to, on their own. Hmmm...)

Presupposition 2
Is Culture – from within / or from without?
Do we believe that students need to be shown cultural artifacts and learn from them? Is there a "canon" of novels, paintings, people and events that everyone should know? Jodi brought up the point that there is a value component to acculturation; it is not value neutral.
I liked Egan's reference to Michael Oakeshott's characterization of education (and by extension, educating about culture) as an "extended conversation" …
(BTW, I found an interesting article that extends this idea. The author, John Bennet states that "To become human, we must claim, appropriate, and then dwell in the rich heritage of our culture and civilization -- a world of meanings, not of things." He goes on to explore the idea of education as conversation. )

Presupposition 3
Consciousness – past/ present/future
Do we teach from the perspective that the past matters and the present is irrelevant? Or that the present is king and the past only has meaning inasmuch as it explains the present?
Jodi asked the question, is it possible to create a curriculum based solely on preparing students for the future? This is tricky to Ken pointed out, our concept of the future is both too limited and too ambitious: our computers are more powerful than Star Trek would have us expect, yet we still don't have warp drive! Where's my jetpack?

Presupposition 4
Do we favour Experience (Body), Logic and Thinking (Mind) or Mystery and Wonder (Soul)
This made me think of the balkanization of the curriculum, especially in high school. We tend to stay within our narrow territories and teach only our specialty. Occasionally schools will attempt to integrate subjects and experiences (Math-Science, or Humanities) but timetable and organizational constraints force us revert to the "tried and true" ways.

Presupposition 5
I want to produce students "just like me." I guess this is what we all want...societies as well as individuals. And this is why we may fight so firmly for our own vision of education to prevail. This led me to take a look at the BC Ministry of Ed website to find the attributes of a BC Graduate. (For the document, go here.)

We also talked about how experience shapes media…and media shapes experience.
(And there is a constant re-imagining of older forms of technology. For example, radio still exists in much the same form as it did years ago, but today we also have satellite radio, as well as website tie-ins, blogs for feedback, and podcasts to timeshift your listening. There's even "internet radio" which technically isn't radio at all!)

At the end of the class, Jodi encouraged us to explore the terms: mediation, hypermediation, and remediation as a way to enter the course content!

No comments: