Archive for May, 2008

SOF2008 – Week 1

May 18, 2008

My first question was: Who will this agenda serve? You can see the discussion here. I don’t think the question, the way I asked it, was clear. But it reminded me that I need to create a glossary of my own. There I am attempting to define terms like learning on the spot. The question remains: Who will a Pan-Canadian E-learning research agenda serve? The who should not go unsaid. There is always a who.

Who could the agenda serve? Software vendors? The government? The status quo? Power? People? Look in the Why is e-learning crucial? forum and there are some answers to the question of in whose service this agenda will be dedicated. (Crucial? I’ve written about this before.) One post: "I think we will have to address the fact that education prepares individuals to be productive members of society and as the society changes so MUST education, not only to keep abreast but to be leaders." Another post: "These are all components of a knowledge society, which Canada is and wants to be." In these posts the agenda will serve society and Canada.


May 18, 2008

Tearing down to build up?

Is it really easier to tear down than build up? Isn’t it possible that the frustration edutech advocates are expressing in this conference is an inability to tear down traditional ideas in education? And if talking about what’s going on in this conference without waving pompoms is looked upon unfavourably, there is an outside, but very relevant, example in the science vs. religion debate. While scientists were busy catching atoms, exploring space and working with stem cells, Christians were busy teaching their children about creation.

I am, and have been, proposing strategies for the advocacy of a research agenda. Why advocate for something that isn’t the best it can be? I wrote in the post above that the research agenda should include the need for a strong scientific, philosophical and historical foundation. I gave Stephen Downes as an example of a researcher with this type of foundation. And when I say education researchers lack discipline, I mean that they use terms without being aware of their meaning. Downes has complained of this lack of discipline as well. I pick up the Canadian Education Associations magazine and am frustrated each and every issue by the sloppy use of terms. Writers who’ve clearly never read a single word of Derrida’s throw around “deconstruction” like it can mean whatever they want it to. Educational research needs more discipline, it needs a stronger scientific, philosophical and historical foundation.

Education research needs to be stronger to stand up to the antipathy in the educating workforce. I am a friend of this agenda, and as any reader of Nietzsche can tell you, a good friend is your worst enemy.

The point I am trying to get across is the lack of discipline in education studies. The field of computer assisted distance learning is over 25 years old, yet the general vibe from the discussions here is that it’s a brand new field. Web 2.0 is an essentially meaningless buzzword dreamed up by a sales team, and it’s thrown around like it has weight. Remember Generation X? The marketers went wild with that one too, and then Y and some even went as far as Z. Cell phones in education? That’s a parody writing itself. Web phone 3.0 isn’t a bad research topic in itself, but without a strong scientific/philosophical/historical foundation it amounts to fanboy drivel or marketing spin. You can point to Stephen Downes and say look, ed tech research is rock solid, but for every Stephen Downes, who’s done and continues to do his homework, there are a large number of “researchers” who need to dig a little deeper. The strongest education research would be connected to or at least aware of the relevant work in other disciplines. Elearning needs at the very least a philosophy.
The separation between creating knowledge and reproducing knowledge is not distinct. I’m definitely simplifying. Knowledge reproduction is not necessarily a bad thing or something educators should feel they must move beyond.

When I say critical I mean to take elearning apart and see what it is. Technology is always designed to be used. Research as well is designed to be used. They are also designed to serve interests. I don’t have an answer here. If I did would type it out. A pan-Canadian elearning research agenda needs to be explicit about who it will serve. Is it possible to do research in general? Is it possible to create an agenda open to a variety of interests?


I read elearning as learning with the prefix “e.” Learning I define as the reproduction of knowledge. Learning in this definition takes place in an educational setting. I don’t deny the human potential to create knowledge, but elearning’s potential resides in its use as an effective means of communication between two bodies.

Every teacher knows that if a student didn’t learn it, you didn’t teach it. In an educational setting reproduced knowledge is learned knowledge. Knowledge exists in a body prior to being teachable. When the knowledge comes to exist in a second body it has been reproduced or taught. The example I gave earlier of 8 year-old Canadians who know, at least after school on November 11, that the military secured our rights and freedoms in the wars is reproduced knowledge. It is knowledge communicated from one body to another. These 8 year-olds have this knowledge without any direct experience. This is learned knowledge.

The creation of knowledge is not the same as the reproduction of knowledge. These two meanings in the one term learning will only lead to confusion.

Shaping Our Future – Day 1

May 12, 2008

Here’s the link to Shaping our Future : Toward a pan-Canadian e-learning research agenda. The title is fairly self explanatory. My proposed research might fit under the umbrella a pan-Canadian research agenda, so I joined the conference and have been following the discussion.

I’m making notes right now.

From Terry Anderson’s forum post on what this conference is about: "E-Learning has been recognized by many nations as being critical not only for existing formal education systems, but more importantly for lifelong learning, professional development, re-training of immigrants and creating opportunity for those who are deprived of access to traditional forms of education and learning."

It’s clear from this that this conference is about getting the government to recognize (fund) e-learning as a worthwhile area of research. My question is: Who does will this research agenda serve? 

Terry Anderson (in his own point form) hopes that the conference will help us all to understand:

  • What is a research agenda?
  • Why we need a pan-Canadian e-learning research agenda in this area,
  • what the components of a research agenda are,
  • on the third week we will create that agenda on the SCOPE WIkI
  • and perhaps the collaborative creation and dissemination of this document will be used by researchers, policy makers and teachers to galvanize and inspire all of us to more effectively use e-learning to improve the lives of all of us

Tags:: learning knowledge sof2008

Everybody Knows

May 7, 2008

What happened in the 19th Century? Whatever it was we haven’t yet come to terms with it. Neil Postman wrote Building a Bridge to the Eighteen Century in an attempt to skip those one hundred years completely. What was it that has some of our most critical thinkers blanking out 1801-1900?

Something happened. Was it Darwin’s book? There’s a theory that hasn’t really sunk in after all these years. Or was it more the thought that made Darwin possible?

I’m reading Capital right now to prepare for a class this Fall. I’ve just finished chapter one. The entire chapter can be summed up in five words: Value is a social construct. I could also do it in four words: There is only matter. How about: God is dead.

Values are the product of human brain power. This is Marx and this is Nietzsche and this is happening in the 1800s. This is when man became a physical thing. Marx finds in the misty realm of religion, an analogy to the value of commodities: "There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race."

Horse and Carriage

May 1, 2008

I’ve attended a Philosophers’ Cafe in my neighbourhood a couple times now. The first topic was the compatibility of Human Rights and Capitalism, and the second was Marriage and Morals. I spoke up during the second topic conversation, but I don’t think my remarks were at all coherent or even comprehendible.

I’ve been thinking about "it" and the scare-quoted-it is all I can use to begin this post for much the same reason as another incoherrent attempt. I don’t know what I’m talking about. I say this in the deepest, most profound sense. I literally do not know what i am talking about.

The common sense of that saying would have me talking about something I’m not as familiar with as is another or as I myself think I should be. If I were talking about biology with a biologist a point would be reached where it could be said that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Of course I’m talking about biology, and I know that, just not as well as the judge in this case thinks I should.
When I say I don’t know what I’m talking about in the case of the Philosophers’ Cafe discussion I mean I was groping for a body of knowledge. No one, could have known what I was talking about. If anyone from the Cafe finds this, I apologize and thank you for the opportunity to think out loud. I won’t recount what I said because I can’t remember, but it was in response to a comment about the choice individuals make regarding relationships, and that persons fear of the ensuing chaos if individuals choose to live outside traditional/regulated relationships.

My concern with relationships (marriage) is its connection to social change.

Some points:

  • Relationships are easy. In that what is desired is given. Gender Neutral: What is wanted is perfection. Reciprocal domination. We want to bow before the god who lifts us up.
  • Relationships are impossible. Nothing is perfect. The ideal always exists outside our reality. The ideal is given and unnattainable.
  • Communicating outside the given is difficult/impossible.
  • Original creative attempts fall on no ground.
  • Scene: Guy walks up to a table of women in a bar asks "What are you 4 doing tonight?"
  • Changing the given relationship is analogous to changing the social.
  • Consider the persistence of "soul" in relationships/love/marriage.

I also put a new paper-in-progress online. It deals a little with the ideas of "soul." I am completely open to any comments. The paper really is in-progress. I’ve also got some building and repair projects "in-progress" around the house. About those I’d appreciate you keep your comments to yourself.