Thursday, October 28, 2010

Replacing the CAGE: Do PLE's help overcome the Hidden Curriculum? #PLENK

Take off on one of my favorite Bruce Cockburn songs, Pacing the Cage. I think the song is pretty personal but I think of people who are confined in other types of cages. Bruce has championed First Nations issues in Canada for many years.

A major construct in critical pedagogy is the hidden curriculum
The idea is that different people experience the same education curriculum differently depending on their race, gender, socioeconomic status, their social strata, their CAGE. (class, age, gender, ethnicity) Julie McMullin (2009) Understanding Social Inequality is a good starting point to understand the situation in Canada although the themes are similar worldwide.

Most people, particularly those from the privileged groups have very little insight into this disparity. Lots of sociology projects seek to deconstruct colonialism and/or study whiteness. Lund and Carr, (2007) have an excellent set of exercises that I have put together for a seminar in Second Life.

The potential exists for web based learning to avoid some of the major abuses resulting from the hidden curriculum. As long as a new inequality isn't based on your access to high speed Internet. This week MTS released a report that it would cost 7 billion to restructure internet access to ensure that all Canadians have equal access. Can you detect the rent-seeking behavior here?
In economics, rent seeking occurs when an individual, organization or firm seeks to earn income by capturing economic rent through manipulation or exploitation of the economic or political environment, rather than by earning profits through economic transactions and the production of added wealth.

Guess who lives in many of the rural and remote communities in Canada, those that have been disadvantaged for ever. If First Nations people are going to prosper in the information age, they need access to the information flow. Make sure that the hidden curriculum doesn't include the unspoke direction to "fire up your high speed internet access" if it isn't universally available.

Lund, D. E., & Carr, P. (2007). The great white North? Exploring whiteness, privilege and identity in education. Sense Publishers.

McMullin, J. (2009). Understanding Social Inequality: Intersections of Class, Age, Gender, Ethnicity, and Race in Canada (p. 408). Oxford University Press, USA.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pedagogy of Propinquity Reprise #PLENK2010

I dug this out of my archives. Sorry about the large font. I use Embed Article which is great but I have to figure out how to adjust.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Putting Salt in the Oats #PLENK2010

I was reading the blog of a friend and fellow #PLENK2010 participant where she was discussing the concept of motivation and cleverly introduced the old wisdom about leading a horse to water.
While it is true that you can't make them drink, a number of old tricks are available to make them thirsty.

I often think about this when planning teaching activities. If you give learners every imaginable resource to make learning happen, they often still will not drink it up. I've even observed at times when teaching, that I get the attention, set the hook, watch people get engaged in the process and then they pull back. It is as if to say " I don't really want to get too enthusiastic about this, school is not cool" One of the strategies I usually try is to lay back and let the learners approach the material in their own ways while providing hints and clues that might whet the appetite.

I worked for a while consulting on a voc/tech project in Romania. The project involved trades apprenticeships and the apprenticeship culture was a bit different from Canada. There was a saying in Romania that you had to steal your job. That is, you could be an apprentice and work on the job but the supervising journeyman would not willingly teach you anything. The journeyman understood that if he taught an apprentice something their relative worth shifted and the boss might make unfavorable choices come layoff time. So they would give the apprentices just enough information so they could do the grunt work and they would actively hide their actions as they performed the more skilled parts of their performance. You never saw a more highly motivated group of apprentices, and their attention to the slightest clues was remarkable.

Maybe our concern with providing the best possible learning conditions is counter-intuitive, just like many other things in human nature. Better to incrementally increase the challenge in learning as game theories propose. Might be a problem for all the people who have been pail fed by the current educaitonal system.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Steam Aged Education #PLENK2010

The #PLENK2010 session today was about learning theories and employed a few allusions to the age of steam power. I like the analogies to the history of technology. Like the examples from the development of the printing press, examples of societal responses to steam technology can be instructive respecting the response to information and communication technology. Many institutional education activities are throwbacks or hold outs from an earlier era. Remnants of the industrial era that preceded this information era. Still people try to squeeze current experiences with learning into an older industrial model.

A while ago I read an article “Is IT Becoming Extinct” by Miguel Guhlin

The topic of In-house IT systems and the development of utility computing has been interesting. I like to chime in from my personal experience and reading of various sources, one being a book by Eric Larsen, in “Devil in the White City”. He describes a time when electrical service was new. There was a big debate about AC or DC electricity.

Many of the institutions in the early days of electricity had their own power generating plants. They employed many people who saw the switch to utility electricity as a great threat and passed around a lot of scare stories about how horrible it was and all the hazards.

Of course, the switch happened and not many institutions employ big groups of technical specialists to generate a private source of electricity. The naysayers lost all credibility and the whole specialization evolved.

Same thing with IT, utility computing is here. In spite of all the horror stories and manipulations of the tech elite, there is less and less reason to have a big group of specialists to operate expensive and clunky private networks.

As a teacher using a computer mediated approach over the last 10 years, I found myself “working around” IT a lot of the time. Many of the tech folks didn’t believe that computers should be used for the purpose of education even though they worked for educational institutions.

Nor did they think that teachers were capable of using technology and they reinforced that opinion by constantly undermining any effort teachers made to develop the necessary skills.

The cultural clashes between corporate IT and administration didn’t help either. Lots of energy was spent on those epic battles and teachers and students were a very minor consideration for all the espoused values of “Students are #1″ in every educational institutions mission and vision statement. The struggle for control and authority have resulted in most of the failures of education related technology innovation.

In-house, corporate IT is like the steam powered DC generating plants of 100 ago. Pretty much done. It is going to take a little while for the change but probably not as long as it took to switch to AC electricity. One of the benefits is that education is being transformed. Technology will accommodate education rather than the other way around.

I know lots of teachers who just gave up on computers and the web and felt that they would never be able to develop the necessary skills. It was just so draining always having to get IT to open a port or set up file system or authorize access to a resource. So they stuck to Outlook, MS Word, Internet Explorer, the “approved tools”.

Happy to say that web based tools and cloud computing has made it incredibly easy for teachers to support learning in the digital era. All the alarmist rhetoric about identity theft, cyber-bullying, online predators etc. is being recognized as the last gasps of a system in transition, a struggle for control and authority.

Lots of the discussion about theories of learning support of the older institutional models and theories or education and they serve to entrench the hegemony of the system. For example the theory of Minimally Invasive Education doesn't get a lot of play in education circles because it disrupts some pretty deeply entrenched notions of the necessity of teachers, curriculum, and education system structure generally.

It is important to be able to sort out the the theories that are truly useful for learning and separate them from the theories that are more useful for supporting the status quo of Steam age Education.