Friday, June 20, 2008

does web2.0 deliver sustained conceptual discourse?

Mark Nichols:
I think too often we as edubloggers either encourage or else are encouraged to think in terms of revolution, to overthrow the shackles of "hierarchy, control and centralisation" so as to achieve a community-based series of self-expression and negotiation of truth. However I see substantial evidence (in some ‘e’ critics such as Bauerlein and Jeanneney, but especially in the broader educational works of Mezirow, Gardner, Ramsden, Biggs, Brunner, Palmer, Tubbs, Brighouse, Dewey) that the latter will not necessarily lead to better or sufficiently comprehensive educational outcomes to develop conceptual reasoning.

Citing Freire and Illich are not useful counters to this position unless a coherent argument can be made about how formal education seeks to subjugate students in ways that exploit them. Freire in particular is concerned with issues of social justice; where is this absent in our incumbent schooling system? Is it really correct to suggest that formal education is based on the banking concept? Take another look. Illich, another oft-cited critic, sought to reduce the culture of compulsion in formal education so that its value would be better appreciated....

Knowledge ‘distributed across a network’ is great if you’re looking for answers, but it seems less useful if you’re trying to establish the skills necessary to reflect on them, express yourself logically through the preparation of a complex argument, engage in sustained debate, or explore the tension of ideas. The network simply cannot sustain conceptual discourse. The latter is too complex, abstract and fraught with the potential for miscommunication and imbalanced representation. Radical ideas are too easily dismissed, and their owners too easily ignored.
- Solid Thinking
- also read the substantive comments by George Siemens at Mark's blog
I've updated some references in an old blog, our intelligence, based on some recommended reading by Mark.

In thinking about my own failure to participate fully in this discussion compared with Mark who actually reads Dewey, Freire, Illich and more and wants to patiently debate, I came across this extract from Papert's The Children's Machine (Ch.1: Yearners and Schoolers):
Educational innovators even in the very recent past were in a situation analogous to Leonardo's (referring to Leonardo's aeroplane). They could and did formulate bold perspectives: for example, John Dewey's idea that children would learn better if learning were truly a part of living experience; or Freire's idea that they would learn better if they were truly in charge of their own learning processes; or Jean Piaget's idea that intelligence emerges from an evolutionary process in which many factors must have time to find their equilibrium; or Lev Vygotsky's idea that conversation plays a crucial role in learning. Such ideas have always appealed to Yearners; they resonate with a respectful attitude toward children and a democratic social philosophy

Sadly, in practice they just wouldn't fly. When educators tried to craft an actual school based on these general principles, it was as if Leonardo had tried to make an aeroplane out of oak and power it with a mule." (pp. 15-16)
My frustration with a lot of this discussion stems from my belief that most of it has been better said before. I don't want to participate in discussion where edu-bloggers lament their failing ability to do deep reading due to their excessive participation in the blogosphere (see Nicholas Carr article: Is Google Making Us Stupid?)

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