Saturday, July 15, 2006

inside / outside

The inside / outside distinction (dialectic) might be a fruitful place to integrate a variety of learning theories and where they stand. What sort of structures exist at the boundaries of inside / outside? Are those structures breaking down the boundaries and transforming the inside / outside relationship?

These are rough incomplete notes, which I'll transfer later and expand to a learning theory wiki.

Inside / outside can be applied to the learner (the boundary is the skin) and it can also be applied to the learning institution (eg. School)

Some boundary structures are sophisticated and enhance productive flow both ways. The internet has this potential when not censored. Other boundary structures are crude and are in place to restrict the flow of information, some of which is seen as risky or harmful. School rules which completely ban the use of mobile phones might fit this category. Some firewalls are necessary, some cause more harm than good.


One significant aspect of a variety of learning theories is the structures they hypothesize as existing at the boundary of inside / outside.

Papert's constructionism as an enhancement of Piaget's constructivism. Piaget's term for children's continual balancing of existing cognitive structures with new experiences is equilibration. Constructionism combines (integrates) building internal mind structures, facilitated by sophisticated external "objects to think with" (logo program, LEGO robotics)

Dennett's enhancement of Skinner's behaviourism, with the idea of a dynamic programmable inner environment.

Siemen's radical idea that in the age of the network learning exists outside of the learner. Your brains literally fall out when the internet is down or your mobile is stolen. Expand later.

Brooks AI revolution about the significance of situatedness and embodiment, on the importance of sensory devices and using the real world as a model. Expand later.


The boundary between inside School / outside School has become an increasingly active and problematic place.

Curriculum documents. These are both plausible and deformed frameworks of control, the way in which the centre controls the workers. cf. Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the critique of centralised, abstract documents attempting to control teachers is similar to Brooks elevating the importance of situatedness and embodiment in AI research. ie. teachers are the embodiment of the Curriculum. A curriculum not developed in close conjunction with teachers is like a Mind without a body.

Kids do not leave their social background at the school gate

Internet is corroding and creating problems the School boundary - an increasing trend with the growth of hundreds of wonderful web applications many of which require Read/Write access to the www.

Google search (active exploratory education) is the opposite of sit and listen (passive transmission)

Censor-ware builds the castle around the School moat. Mobile phone use at recess and lunch tear it down again (not to mention the impossible dream of getting them switched off in class)

It has become harder to police and enforce boundary violations. In the sense of harder to justify clearly as always bad for learning. Many students are outraged by demands that they check in their mp3 players and mobile phones after they have "broken the rules". eg. you can use your mobile as a calculator in maths class.

Computer games are banned in many schools. Yet significant learning theorists such as James Gee are presenting powerful arguments in support using game playing as part of the learning experience.

Open Source software is developed collaboratively on the internet (outside School) and enables the learner to look inside at the code whereas Proprietary software conceals the source code. Open Source acts as both a model for good learning (collaborative, low cost) but Education Departments do deals with MS which extends their monopoly position, setting up a dependency on software in which the user interface is dumbed down.


Digital Rights Management - technology is crippled on the inside, restricted to protect an outdated business model

Net neutrality threatened - the fundamental most wonderful thing about the internet (untrammelled P2P) is now under threat

Copyright Law

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