Monday, January 27, 2020

my decade

I went through my blog posts from 2010-now to clarify my own path. As usual I have jumped around, leading multiple lives, burning bridges and ending up in no man’s land. Nevertheless, it makes sense to me.

I began the decade continuing with some serious study of political economy, mainly but not only Marx. I feel satisfaction that I finally gained some understanding of Capital and value theory. Why did I stop this, given that the economic crisis certainly hasn’t gone away? Part of the reason was that I couldn’t find reliable comrades to team up with. Another reason was that I found it really hard to get a strong grasp of the subject. But, in thinking about it more, in the end it felt like armchair research. I couldn’t see an endpoint that would be socially useful. I wouldn’t be able to prove anything beyond the now fairly obvious fact that capitalism is an unstable system. I’m an activist as well as a theoretician. Would I return to this topic? Perhaps. I would like to understand authors like Picketty (Capital in the 21st C) and Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 years)

I began the decade as a huge fan of Noel Pearson. Because of him I became involved in indigenous education and decided to give Direct Instruction (Zig Engelman version) a go. In my interpretation of Noel’s educational vision I could play a positive role. I completed an observation visit to Djarragun College (a Pearson school), near Cairns, in April 2012 and was impressed. Later, I went there to work, 2016-17. The school was a fascinating place but in 2017 the leadership turned bad. I learnt a lot about Noel and now think he is a poor leader. I learnt that someone might be a great speaker and writer but still a poor leader. Nevertheless, because I was teaching aboriginal kids from all over the Cape and Torres Strait Islanders too, I ended up with an experiential understanding of the difficulties and joys of teaching those kids.

Assessing the significance of indigenous culture has been a tortuous path for me. Initially, due to Noel’s influence (DI) and Alan Kay’s influence (the non universals) I was one eyed about the virtues of modernity. However, this began to change due to both my reading and exposure to culturally informed ways of teaching maths. Through the conferences run by Chris Matthews (ATSIMA 2016 and 2018) I discovered YuMi Deadly Maths and authors such as Martin Nakata ( Disciplining the Savages, Savaging the Disciplines). This was a slow burn, starting in 2016, but looking back now I can see it transformed me from a determined supporter of DI into something very different. I still see a place for DI, the Rhonda Farkota version, but it is not central to my way forward anymore. I’m no longer a vanilla modernist but have transformed into a mongrel modernist.

Throughout the decade I have attempted to understand the true nature of science. Following Pickering I now see science as a complex performance in which there is a dance of agencies between humans and machines as nature offers resistance to our attempts to understand it. Representation and abstraction may be useful at times but they are not real. The path to truth is in the world, lived practice, the full, messy, sensual social human drama of activity.

I still believe there is no single unified learning theory and good teachers have to walk the walk along several approaches: behaviourist, cognitivist, constructionist, enactivist, phenomenology.

In the past couple of years I’ve resumed study of the potential of computers in education. In particular the three game changers of computer coding, physical computing and maker spaces. I’d like to make a contribution by taking these devices to Disadvantaged students, particularly the indigenous.

Late in the decade I’ve discovered the work of Ron Eglash and co which can be called ethnocomputing or Culturally Situated Design Tools. I think I can apply this to Australian indigenous conditions and make a positive contribution in this regard. I’ve developed an exemplar to illustrate this approach, called Dotted Circles, which integrates computer coding, maths and the Papunya Tula art form.

Life after Noel (2018)
Alan Kay Universals / Non Universals (2008)
Martin Nakata: Disciplining the Savages ...
Rhonda Farkota
The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science (1995) by Andrew Pickering (download the book)
the 3 game changers, Invent to Learn
Ron Eglash CSDT site and articles

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