This should be really obvious, yet there's no small number of people who continbue to pretend it's not true: "We cannot commit ourselves to the ideal of equal access to quality education for a global population of 7.8 billion people and simultaneously remain committed to the ideal of small in-person seminars as the paragon of quality education. The two are simply incompatible." Michael Feldstein also writes, tellingly: " I am suggesting—and I believe Paquette is suggesting—that we take a good hard look at how much our standards may be influenced by hidden assumptions of privilege. Why should a 'quality education' for the 21st-Century masses look identical to the 'quality education' of the 19th-Century elites?" I have often argued that demands for "quality" are simply code for "unequal access". This is a good post by Feldstein where he makes that connection explicitly and demands we make a choice. "If you want to understand what that means, then just turn on the TV news for five minutes."
Martin Weller reports that the Open University's MAODE (masters in open and distance education) has been axed and is currently in ‘teach out’. He explains, "a couple of years ago there was a curriculum review, and criteria were applied to cancel any course that didn’t meet them. The MAODE doesn’t have high student numbers, but it made a profit, but without consultation it was axed." I am left to wonder about the criteria. Does something need to be massive to be worthwhile? One wonders why the Open University would not continue teaching a topic that is literally its own specialization.
Good essay by Alfie Kohn (a writer I always have a lot of time for). He stresses, as I do, individual autonomy and agency. But let's be clear about what that means: "Autonomous people experience their actions as authentic, integrated, willingly enacted. But that doesn’t mean they see themselves as separate from others or in opposition to the larger culture. This critical but often-overlooked distinction helps us to make sense of the finding that a need for autonomy is experienced even by people in collectivist societies." Or, "Freedom is about empowering us, fulfilling our (not just my) need for autonomy."
This paper (14 page PDF) is a meta-study of using game-making to support literacy. The authors find "there is considerable variation in how the literacy learning approach of student game design is currently implemented, with respect to the school learners involved and game-making tools adopted. Despite its diverse nature, the feasibility of literacy learning by game-making is confirmed across the reviewed studies." A total of 30 studies on learning by game-making were sampled, involving 2,366 students. The authors report "learning by making digital games has been shown as a promising approach" and suggest it's because "it is theoretically grounded in constructionist learning, empirically supported by the reviewed studies here, and practically in line with the digitalization of education in contemporary times."
Produced by Chicago Public Schools, this is "a toolkit to help foster productive conversations about race and civil disobedience." As the document says, " If you are planning on talking to your students or children about the recent racial violence or civil disobedience, please first read “Don’t Say Nothing” by Jamilah Pitts. This piece illustrates how vital it is to engage young people in conversations about race and racism, and Ms. Pitts lays out the argument better than we ever could." It goes without saying that this is an excellent example of how online learning can and should be deployed for social good.
In my own thinking critical literacy and critical thinking are two sides of the same concept, but attempting to reconcile these terms as they appear in the wider literature is not so straightforward. This is a pretty good effort (11 page PDF). Critical literacy (on this reading) "raises the issue of the unequal power structures within education" and asserts "texts are biased and informed by the ideological perspective of the producer." Critical thinking (about which there is a lot of debate in the field) is a "generic set of skills and abilities – such as those used in informal logic, traditionally associated with philosophical reasoning." The useful part of this paper is the discussion which concludes, ultimately, "it is only the generic skills involved in critical thinking that allow for any true ‘metacritique’ of all other competing ‘discourses’." Image: tolerance.org, How Culturally Responsive Lessons Teach Critical Thinking.
Schelling's popularity as a philosopher is probably due for a rebound. He is associated with other German idealists such as Hegel and Fichte, but his thinking reflects well on the contemporary world. This article is a revision of one first published in 2001 and reflects some of this new resonance. It highlights three major threads: first, a "view of nature that does not restrict nature’s significance to what can be established about it in scientific terms," second, "how the thinking subject cannot be fully transparent to itself," and third, a "focus on humankind’s relationship to nature." Schelling's is a philosophy that speaks to me: "our self-consciousness is not at all the consciousness of that nature which has passed through everything, it is precisely just our consciousness... what we call the world, which is so completely contingent both as a whole and in its parts, cannot possibly be the impression of something which has arisen by the necessity of reason (…) it contains a preponderant mass of unreason."
At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a decisive new movement in philosophy characterized by Rorty as 'the linguistic turn'. If I had to summarize it in a nutshell, I'd say it was the shift from a search for truth to a search for meaning. I personally think it's time to move beyond this shift, but it is as entrenched in cultural discourse as concepts like value and fairness. It's hard even to find words to express the alternative. Anyhow, all this is to introduce this interesting interview with Tina Kullenberg, who criticizes the 'monologic' approach to education that "seemed to be to draw children up from participatory contextual meaning into more systematic conceptual meaning," arguing instead in favour of a context-based 'dialogic' model where "participation is essential for meaning and the participatory bond between children and their worlds should not be broken." And you can see my own meta-critique in perspective here, where I ask my education should be about 'meaning' at all, instead of (say) experience, growth, or connection.
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