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bookmarks for May 28th, 2013 through June 5th, 2013

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Pedagogy The University

learning esperanto – or not

Photo from http://www.istockphoto.com/

One of the arguments for standardizing on a CMS such as D2L for DE teaching is this: “Using the same interface for all courses means the student has to learn the interface only once.”  The argument I always used against the CMS has been, “A good interface will be designed to suit the content and task, and the task of D2L is to manage students, not enable students to read, listen, or produce. Get a blog, or a wiki.”

But here’s a better one, from Stephen Downes, in Emergent Learning: Social Networks and Learning Networks.

I understand why someone would say this: “To increase the sustainability of portal projects there is a need to ‘work towards establishing common frameworks that will enable applications and services, from different sources, to work together.'” After all, it is precisely that failure that accounts for the indifferent success of community portals, the ‘field of dreams’ scenario, where you build it, and they do not come. But such an enterprise is perhaps best compared with constructing an artificial language: sure, it would make communication easier if evereyone used the standard – but who speaks Esperanto? The growth of community – and hence, community frameworks – is much more organic than that, a product of multiple simultaneous negotiations to create a network of compatible systems rather than a centralized planning department to create a structure.

This argument is similar to the critiques of the formulaic 5-Paragraph Theme, taught in too many US high schools and even university courses. The problem with the 5-Paragraph Theme is this: It’s an artificial genre, created for high-school classrooms, which no one reads (teachers don’t read 5-paragraph themes; they grade them); the form and the exercise aren’t designed to communicate anything other than “I did your assignment.” I have never assigned these little monsters, but I have read hundreds of them. Even when the form is not assigned, even when students are warned against using it, Good Students drag it out as a default. One-size-fits-all-rhetorical-situations – except it doesn’t. Students have to unlearn this artificial language before they can make any progress in writing.

But here’s what I find a puzzle: Institutions are using D2L – a paragon of walled garden, ivory tower teaching – to deliver “real world” – that is, situated – education. Courses that are pitched as bridging a (purported) gap between classroom and workplace are placed firmly behind the walls of the garden, using the same accoutrements, practices, and channels: see here, and here.

Seriously? Situated teaching and learning using generic CMS tools? Some of my colleagues teach some of these courses – well-meaning people who would argue that they are giving learners choices, providing opportunities – and I suppose they are, kind of. Learners will have the opportunity to learn Esperanto. Or not learn Esperanto. We can do better than this.

Assignment: Carefully re-read Prof Morgan’s argument above. What is Morgan’s thesis? How does he support it? Why? What kind silly, trivial argument is he passing off as thoughtful consideration? What is he really trying to say? Now, write a 5-Paragraph Theme in which you make clear just how mis-guided Morgan is by considering the benefits of standardized interfaces in education today. Pose. Posture. Beg the Question. 500 words. Typed. Double-Spaced.

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bookmarks for November 3rd, 2010

  • Colleges Transform the Liberal Arts – The Chronicle of Higher Education – Rebrand the lib arts: "Taking a new form and, in some cases, going by a new name, the liberal arts are becoming a very visible force in the curricular lives of students. What's more, the number of students majoring in most humanities fields—disciplines viewed by some as the key to a liberal-arts education—has grown since the late 1980s." – (none)
  • Faculty Views About Online Learning – – via Tech-Rhet. Bar charts. Online is more work for less educational quality, and practiced mainly by the tenure-track faculty. I'm assuming this refers mainly to institutionalized CMS stuff. That's my over-generalization for the day. – (#plenk2010 DE openeducation open_learning CMS ple )
  • Stephen Downes: Deinstitutionalizing Education – Go, Stephen: "While a great deal of virtual ink has been spilled over the need to reform our schools and universities, I think we need to question how we manage education altogether. For it is manifest that the institution, the form in which we have managed education and society in general, has ultimately come to failure." This article is difficult to summarize, but it places institutionalized ed in there with corporate greed, exploitation, outsourcing, and powerlessness. And my university says, "Education is broken because we don't assess." Ed is broken alright, but it's broken like corporations are. – (#plenk2010 assessment openeducation open_learning ple )
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bookmarks for July 13th, 2010 through July 14th, 2010

  • Consumer Report iPhone4 study flawed | Viewpoints by Bob Egan – The iPhone antenna brouhaha is proving to be a good opportunity for teaching a lot about antennas, testing, and scientific methodology. After the battle is over, it will be good to return to the flak to do a rhetorical study. – (iphone teaching scientific_method )
  • Nixty Launches With Ambitions to Build Something Huge in eLearning – Two points here: Nixty social couse management software that leverages profs, and "the fact is that most people who can afford to go to college in the US want the experience of actually going to college. Those of us who would love to go back to college but don’t have the time to take off from careers or raising families, could use Nixty, but the problem is what I call the “Rosetta Stone dilemma.” I love Rosetta Stone’s software, and I think the approach to learning languages works – but the bottom line is there’s no short cut to the hours you need to put in to really learn a language fluently and I just don’t have those hours." – (de cms socialsoftware twwt )