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Finding your tribe

One of the most enjoyable and inspiring books I have read this year has been Sir Ken Robinson's "Out of our Minds"  and my ref...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Presenting Mahara.

Wordle: e-portfolio
Preparing my presentation on our use of Mahara for Wednesday's LLAS conference at Coventry University Language Centre. The biggest challenge of this pilot project this year has been arriving at shared understanding of the purpose of an e-portfolio, particularly for staff. Perhaps just a reflection of the newness of the concepts involved. The biggest joy has been sitting down with students as they wonder why we are asking them to go through this process and seeing how they really get it. Mahara has been generally well received by students once they know it is their tool, they can create their own web pages and all their content is, by default, visible only to them. They have created some brilliant pages, all the while spending time refelcting on their learning. I hope they are brave enough to be honest about their formal learning and experiences so that we can learn from them. What a great learning opportunity for their teachers.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Learning in lines

I was once accused, by someone who didn't really know me at all, of being afraid of complexity. The memory of this accusation still makes me wince :( It is true that I like the messages I deliver in teaching to be clear and relevant, unmuddied by the detail until it becomes necessary and relevant, but I love complexity, it is the very stuff of being human.

Lanier (You are not a gadget) warns of the de-humanising of human interaction when mediated by technology, and I feel he makes some very well observed points informed by many years as a tech insider. Learning games created in digital language have to enforce choices made of 0 or 1, to interact with them you have to "play the game". However, fortunately as humans we can overcome that limitation. There are many attempts, too often succesful, to reduce learning to a series of steps out of a desire to create a teaching model that it is believed can be duplicated and distributed. Usually these are driven by the desire to reduce cost and (if I am to give in to a cynical element of my personality) to decrease the importance of the relationships needed for great learning experiences. Reducing learning and teaching to numbers, rankings and other pernicious, mechanistic devices for measurement does not enhance or in any way contribute to raising the quality of learning, only creating false judgements that miss the most important personal interactions that underlie transformative learning. The effects of such numerical judgements can be devastating for the self esteem and therefore learning potential of those who are subject to them, be they teachers or students. They encapsulate a learning theory that is linear,  x + y =z, read this + do as I say = you will get a good grade. I agree completely with Steve Wheeler's distrust of the reductionist faux theories that often dominate training and education as described here: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/convenient-untruth.html

Human beings are complex largely social animals, we love to observe and experiment, find the boundaries, push beyond them, fall over and learn. When, as a parent, did you say to your child "oh no, I can't read you the story you gave me, not until you have read the other 5 that come before it on our reading list?" I doubt it happened - indeed I really hope it didn't! Why would you wish to put humans into boxes, categorised and limited by your false expectations? We do not learn in lines, we learn organically sending out rhizomes to those around us, seeking truths and life enhancing insights, finding ways of healing our pains in the world around us. This complex relationship between sensory input and our world is too complex for us to unpick, much less chart or define. As a teacher we are privileged to sometimes be around when magic happens as a result or not of our best hunch, and we witness individual learning, let us not fool ourselves into thinking we are responsible. Without engaging with and accepting the complexity of education, we have no right to call ourselves educators, we are simply reductionist bean counters. (Image from http://bbpress.matbury.com/2012/02/week-2-no-child-left-behind-act/)