(If you read the post (it’s short so go ahead) you will have a context for some admittedly blue sky thinking I indulge in below.)
I don’t think you can separate tools from thinking. The tool brings the mind’s ‘hand’ into the world. Nor should we separate either of these words from sensing and feeling. I think that the larger goal of teaching is to help learners integrate thought, action, and feeling into a greater unity. I know…that’s a lot abstract nouns, but we do know it when we feel it.
For example, Kevin Hodgson tells the story of how a student created a video game about vegetarianism using the Gamestar platform (https://vialogues.com/vialogues/play/4012). When some members of that gaming community criticized her for using vegetarianism as a game theme, her sixth grade class came to her defense. That is the unity of thought, action, and feeling that I am referring to. I don’t think you can design or manage that kind of complexity. I think you can give students a digital repertoire and then put them into relatively safe places where they can play out their own digital thinking, acting and feeling.
Mostly this is a call to make sure we put sensing/feeling on equal footing with thinking and acting. In a world where cooperation might just trump collaboration and competition, we had better get at the ‘thrust’ engine for will and passion–our own feelings and ways of sensing the world.
You can follow an interesting discussion between Kevin Hodgson and me here at Vialogue.
If you substitute “learning” for “development” , then you have one of the most profound and simple definitions for what it is that teachers must become.
The authors are speaking from an NGO’s stance and a long term one at that. So much failure in ‘developing’ countries has been the result of what has been described as the ‘carpenter’s dilemma’–every problem looks like a nail. And the hammer, while tres handy, cannot cement a foundation or glaze a window.
Kentaro Toyamo, a UC Berkeley ICT development expert, critiques this single minded strategy this way according to the author Tate Watkins,
Anyone imagining that a day or two of hacking will produce solutions to development problems, even in some small part, is either a technologist drunk on her own self-image who believes that she’ll solve a mindboggling social challenge with technology, or a World Bank officer drunk on his own self-image who believes that he’ll solve a mindboggling social challenge by motivating some technologists. In any case, it seems clear they are the kind of folks who don’t learn from history.
Every educator must confront the similarity of the problem in school settings and ask themselves wherever they are, “What am I doing to encourage the gradual growth of an emergent system that permits and promotes problem solving?”
The fact is that most of us are not doing much most of the time, especially edtech pedagogues, to humbly acknowledge its limits. That is called hubris. Hubris brought us the BP Oil Spill, the Iraq War, credit default swaps, and apparently the modern classroom.
Just as there is no app for poverty there can be no app for the learning that needs to emerge wherever it is needed. I am appalled every time I reflect on the grimy wisdom of this video from a 2007 speech by Dr. Richard Elmore that I think supports what Kentaro and Watkins so simply and elegantly assert: it’s the default culture, stupid.
And the failure of the default culture is just as devastating in the first world as it is in the third. And our hubris is to assert that there is an app for the failure of that default culture. Elmore’s solution to this is a leap of faith in the redemptive power of our children and our communities, not small technology wallpaper,
I wonder, finally, what would happen if we simply opened the doors and let the students go; if we let them walk out of the dim light of the overhead projector into the sunlight; if we let them decide how, or whether, to engage this monolith? Would it be so terrible? Could it be worse than what they are currently experiencing? Would adults look at young people differently if they had to confront their children on the street, rather than locking them away in institutions? Would it force us to say more explicitly what a humane and healthy learning environment might look like? Should discussions of the future of school reform be less about the pet ideas of professional reformers and more about what we’re doing to young people in the institution called school?
Reminds me of the Simpson’s episode (s02 e09) where Marge succeeds in banning “Itchy and Scratchy” from television. At the end of the episode all of the children pour into the streets to play to the strains of Beethoven’s “Pastoral”–a goosebump moment of the strangest order. But isn’t that what Elmore is asserting–get out of the kids’ way and be ready to help them when they ask for it, but you better be damned sure to help when they ask you.
When it comes down to it we have made an assumption that is at heart wrong and destructive: students learn only because they are taught. That’s it. That’s where we went off the rails. An assumption like that becomes an institutional imperative over time (perhaps the imperative assumption). After that we paint and wallpaper over the foundational cracks that inevitably form as the ground shifts. Make no mistake. The ground has shifted. We teach in order to bring forth, to educe, from a learner an emergent intelligence that can eventually teach him or herself, can teach others, and can solve his or her own problems. That is an assumption and a vision I can live with for the rest of my life.
If you look around your house you will find ‘closets’ everywhere. I am speaking of both literal and figurative closets, metaphorical and concrete alike. After all a closet is only a collection point, a place of abeyance, a waystation from one state of matter toward another. The previous iteration of this blog used to be just such a place
Or it had become as such. I had it holding Diigo lists, Zotero lists, ipadio podcasts, links, autoblog posts from various places (posterous et al). It was full of widgets. It functioned as a closet. That is why I fried it, beached it, let the scavengers have it. It is dead so let it newly live as something quite different. Its purpose now is as a lighthouse and I am its keeper and I am responsible for its onliest light. In other words if I keep my self to myself and do not say what needs saying, then it will never be said or heard. This is the secret hurdle facing every writer–fear of irrelevance. So everything I contain within this weblog must be a reflection of the idea that I will broadcast my most honest self even when I am unsure what that means.
This is a tight beam to project onto the ocean of the Internet. Perhaps we can move toward it together if you wish or separately (although it is a little crazy that I am both in the ocean and at the lighthouse), but my voice, my most authentic self needs to be here. I think a shuttered version of that was what I had before. Not now. Now is the time for the comic podcast/observation, reactions to interesting stuff, rants about that stuff–the full catastrophe that is the painful uncoiling of the genuine article.
For now let me return to closets and their mostly boring lives. Maybe we should have as a goal in the quiet of winter to unpack one closet in a public way. The video below is one of my closets. It is a closet that I unpack in order to write. Rather it is one that I have used before and am again. Steven Pressfield is my mentor here. In his book The War of Art he describes a ritual involving the invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey. I have added a few other totems to that ritual and my own invocation. In unpacking this closet recently I rediscovered that the talismans still had much power so I will use them to write the public and authentic words that need saying–the poetry, the blogs, the necessities of my writing life. I trust myself that it will be enough.
You can take a look into one of your own closets today or any day. The reflection will add a spring to your step. Maybe you will unburden that space or even re-purpose it. Whatever you decide to do with it, consider it a gift to yourself for being alive.