Monday, October 12, 2009

Thinking, creating, and invention?

Imagine teaching and learning as an environment or a place with rooms to play, and in this place picture the focal point being thinking, creating, and invention? Could we then think of technology as being the medium for this work?

Marshal McLuhan (1967) alerted my generation of a shift of philosophy four decades ago. “The environment as a processor of information is propaganda. Propaganda ends where dialogue begins. You must talk to the media, not the programmer” (p.142). What I gather from this wisdom is that if I want to understand what is happening in education with regard to technology I must dialogue with teachers not the system they work in.

Perhaps why we struggle with this philosophy might be because our culture and school system as deep roots the industrial model and the philosophy of technology as an instrument. With it’s focus on data driven productivity, accountability and efficiency. In this place, teachers have had little choice then to break knowledge into packages; teaching then became the supplying of this information while learning in turn became the mastering of this information. In this place, there was a need to standardize in order to measure how effective teachers were being. This sort of system appeared to be functioning when we thought of information as being in short supply. However, in today’s information rich world this is less than effective. So how do we achieve this shift of philosophy?
The first step in any solution is coming to an understanding of the place the problem lives. I wish to arrive at an understanding dialogically by engaging together with teachers as a means of thinking and reflecting on the daily complexities in the classroom and experiences in the contexts of a shared social and moral traditions. I wish to have my dialogue with teachers in a deliberate and democratic manner. In this case, I wish to put my own understanding at risk and to leave myself open to possibilities.
Jourard (1978) as a voice from the past cautions, “The crisis of our time is not shortage of food, space, and energy; it is the failure of dialogue”. This makes me think not much has really changed. He describes education as a dialogue. “It is an invitation for someone, living or dead, to engage in a process which enlarges one’s perspective”. He says it implies a capacity to imagine, or "tune in to the reality of what is being said, the phenomenological reality of the speaker’s world”. Dialogue calls us to listen and to speak a truth in response. He says this sharing is not the imposing of ones own ideas on to another as I have often seen done in many situations where teachers have been asked to infuse technology in their practice. Further, he reminds us that in education everything depends upon the educators’ beliefs about who their pupils are and who they can become. Can we not also think of teachers as learners themselves? How often do we ask who do teachers believe themselves to be? (p.47). These words inspire me. In his words, “education is concerned with discovering and calling forth those human potentialities deemed valuable for life” (p. 48). “To really listen, we need to still the chronic noise of our mind, which always labels and categorizes what the world is and what we are” (p. 50). While my research will not just be about listening to teacher’s it will be a requirement of it. He reminds us that reading is also a listening as well as a looking, tasting, feeling, and smelling. All of this is just part of hearing what the world of teaching is and what it is like.

Jourard, S. M. (1978). Education as dialogue. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18(1), 47.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. (1967). The medium is the massage. New York: Bantam Books.

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