Monday, September 14, 2009

some stuff I like

Lest I open myself up to accusations of being that kind of graduate student (or, for that matter, this kind of graduate student), I want to point out that I don't hate everything, despite evidence to the contrary. Below, in no particular order, is a list of five awesome things that I've encountered so far as a graduate student at Indiana University.

1. The opening page of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America. Open up to the preface of this excellent new text by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, and you read this epigram:

I have not even intended to judge whether this social revolution, which I believe to be irresistible, is advantageous of disastrous for mankind. I have acknowledged that this revolution is already accomplished or about to be so and I have chosen among those people who have experienced its effects the one in which its development has been the most comprehensive and peaceful, in order that I may make out clearly its natural consequences and the means of turning it to men's advantage. I confess that in America I have seen more than America itself; I have looked there for an image of the essence of democracy, its limitations, its personality, its prejudices its passions; my wish has been to know it if only to realize at least what we have to fear or hope from it. (de Tocqueville, pp. 23-24)

The alignment with de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of democracy in early America, is significant. The drive of the Collins & Halverson text, as with many new texts focusing on the social revolution, is to identify and describe, without making a judgment of value gained or lost, a fundamental shift in the large-scale and day-to-day operations of a culture. The authors hope to observe and describe, not to judge, and if Collins and Halverson tend at times to follow de Tocqueville's lead in revealing their underlying attitudes toward this revolution (about which more later), the effort to approach the ongoing cultural shift toward participatory practices and cultures is valuable and necessary.

2. Early September in south central Indiana. Here in Bloomington, it's been 72 degrees and sunny for about a million days in a row, and at night the church clock's quarter-hour chimes slide through my open window. If I could only get my neighbors to close up their beer-pong table on Saturday nights, I'd be able to listen to the chimes and the crickets all weekend long.

3. Seymour Papert. I liked him already for explaining back in 1984 that he believed the computer would blow up the school, but now I'm grooving on him for his foundational work on constructionism. In attempting to define this movement, he explains the challenges of describing someyhing that is based on the premise of learning-through-making:
[I]t would be particularly oxymoronic to convey the idea of constructionism through a definition since, after all, constructionism boils down to demanding that everything be understood by being constructed. The joke is relevant to the problem, for the more we share the less improbable it is that our self-constructed constructions should converge. And I have learned to take as a sign of relevantly common intellectual culture and preferences the penchant for playing with self-referentially recursive situations: the snake eating its tail, the man hoisting himself by his own bootstraps, and the liar contradicting himself by saying he's a liar. Experience shows that people who relate to that kind of thing often play in similar ways. And in some domains those who play alike think alike. Those who like to play with images of structures emerging from their own chaos, lifting themselves by their own bootstraps, are very likely predisposed to constructionism.

Because the work of educational research is often grim, sometimes excruciatingly so, Papert's sense of play and delight in his work is not only refreshing but very deeply necessary.

4. Week 7 of Kylie Peppler's class, Learning in New Media.
The readings for that week look like this:

Literacies as Multiple and Situated

Scribner, S., & Cole, M. (1981/1988). Unpackaging Literacy. In E.R. Kingten, B. Kroll, and M. Rose (Eds.) Perspectives on literacy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Press, 57-70.
Scribner, S. (1984). Literacy in Three Metaphors. American Journal of Education 93, 6-21.

The New Literacy Studies
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2003). New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning. Berkshire, England: Open University Press, 3-49.
The New London Group (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1).

Multimodal Literacy
Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. New York: Routledge, 35-60.

For me, one of the most fantastic features of graduate school has been its promise to help me situate the various, undisciplined readings I've gathered up into respective schools of thought: to sort my knowledge, fill in the blanks, and build a backbone into my education.

5. The yellowjacket nest just outside my bedroom window. jk jk jk I actually hate the yellowjacket nest just outside my bedroom window. If they don't cut it out, I'm going to smack those yellowjackets down on my blog and with this can of Raid I have sitting right here.

1 comment:

Charlene said...

If you want to try and tackle the yellowjackets together, let me know =) I have a ladder, some beer, and a few garbage bags.


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