Teaching technology in a no-tech classroom

Ian Hamilton reports about Karen Lichty’s class in Journey School,  Aliso Viejo.

“The school was founded by a group of parents in 2000 and is based on the Waldorf approach to education, which means it is focused on hands-on physical activity and art-based projects. There are 13 teachers at Journey, and students move up through the grades together, where possible, while computers and technology are avoided in place of a variety of activities including gardening, knitting, building, music, painting, storytelling, performing and, as with Lichty’s son, projects like dissecting a computer to learn how they work.”

They encourage the students to learn about digital technologies and the impacts on their lives such as cyber bullying, information and research literacy but do not actually use them during this period.

In full

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Nobler than the Noble Profession

Angelo G Garcia reports from the Philippines and profiles Edgar Madlaing work as a teacher, encouraging students with voluntary activities too

He says the most challenging aspect of this profession is seeing former students who used to fail change their lives for the better.

I realize I can’t do everything for them. As their teacher, I get frustrated when I know I did my best and gave most of my time to the job. My take home pay cannot even take me home. Most teachers here in the Philippines can relate to this predicament,” he laments.

For Madlaing, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is the successes of his students, knowing well that he was somehow part of that success.

“It’s a great feeling to know that behind these stories of success, is a story that Iam part of. Many former students of mine who have become successful in their careers come back to say ‘thank you’. For example, former CAT Officers of who entered the PNPA(Philippine National Police Academy) and PMA are now successful officers. They claim that their dream to become ‘an officer and a gentleman’ started when we first met during their CAT days,” Madlaing shares.

In full

Why music education is changing

David Reed looks a the current changes across music education and contends that it is not the internet or other technologies which are causing the change but instead the needs and desires of the students. From musician as multiple personality performer to musician as a person

Musicians play for others. A musician’s purpose is to delight audiences and impress other musicians. His success can be measured by the number of gigs he gets, the salary he earns and also the respect and fame he enjoys among other musicians. And every one of these attitudes is so thoroughly ingrained in our culture that we continue to teach music this way today even though it no longer makes any sense whatsoever.

In full

If You’re Human, You’re a Slow Learner #change11

By Andrew Neuendorf

Sometimes the Web can make a beautiful, serendipitous nexus. Whilst pursuing two seemingly separate lines of thought in two seemingly separate universes (integral philosophy on Beams and Struts and education theory on the Change MOOC) I discovered a connection that makes me a little less schizophrenic and a little more dialectic.

Here’s my little self-absorbed tale of discovery: Jeremy Johnson commented on my Beams and Struts article (“The Singularity is Near-Sighted”) and recommended William Irwin Thompson’s wonderfully-titled  “The Borg or Borges?” Here Thompson revisits one of his key concepts from Coming Into Being, that consciousness is a delay-space where different inputs from the senses are cross-referenced and their interactions stabilized, giving rise to a unique emergent self-awareness. Time is sort of slowed-down so that some of its components can get to know each other, exchange echoes, and establish a perspective.

In other words, human consciousness is the result of slowing down.

As Thompson so eloquently puts it:

Fast is fine for the programmed crystalline world of no surprises and no discoveries, but slow is better for the creative world of erotic and intellectual play.

This fits nicely with Clark Quinn’s Week 13 presentation on Slow Learning. Quinn writes in his opening blog post:

Really, I’m looking to start matching our technology more closely to our brains. Taking a page from the slow movement (e.g. slow X, where X = food, sex, travel, …), I’m talking about slow learning, where we start distributing our learning in ways that match the ways in which our brains work: meaningfulness, activation and reactivation, not separate but wrapped around our lives, etc.

Slow is the way to go. We’ve gotten so used to outsourcing our cognition to machines, to opening multiple tabs, and craving faster connection speeds that we’ve overlooked the exquisite work of evolution. Some see the brain as a vehicle for rapid computation. Perhaps that steam pouring out of our ears isn’t mere by-product. Maybe we’ll slow down and see it’s really the driving spirit, and we’ve been blowing it off and letting it dissipate as waste. Not the ghost in the machine, but the ghostly machine.

Forget machine. Forget ghost. We could call it, to paraphrase Yeats, a sustained glimpse out of Spiritus Mundi. Or it could simply be the dance of complexity teaching its steps to the dancer, inviting improvisation for the first time.

Thompson says it best, in conjunction with John Keats:

The field of consciousness has more to do with slowness and a higher dimensionality, even beyond the three of the physical volume of the brain, in which hyperspheres— or some other higher dimensional topology — involve simultaneity in a neuronal synchrony — in a pattern. A mind, in the opening words of Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, is a ‘still unravished bride of quietness’, a ‘foster-child of silence and slow time’.

And now for the ironic part: I have made this connection between the cultural historian and mystically-mind Thompson and learning technology strategist Clark Quinn because of the internet, because I was taking on more than one field of study at once, and because of Twitter, blogs, and .pdf files.

In other words, I’m writing about slowing down because I’ve been living fast.

If there is a lesson here, it’s that we need a new term and a new understanding for how a person can live and think and create in relation to technology without having to adopt one of the two polarities of Luddite or Techie. If you’ve read my Beams and Struts article you know I’m skeptical of The Singularity. Still, our lives are interconnected with technology, and likely made better because of it. It’s a matter of how one stands in relation to technology. Is it a tool, or are you?

The writings of both Thompson and Quinn suggest giving precedence (and prescience) to human consciousness over its hyper technological extensions.

Elevator Groupthink: A Psychology Experiment in Conformity, 1962

by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

What vintage Candid Camera can teach us about the cultural role of the global Occupy movement.

The psychology of conformity is something we’ve previously explored, but its study dates back to the 1950s, when Gestalt scholar and social psychology pioneer Solomon Asch, known today as the Asch conformity experiments. Among them is this famous elevator experiment, originally conducted as a part of a 1962 Candid Camera episode titled “Face the Rear.”

But, while amusing in its tragicomic divulgence of our capacity for groupthink, this experiment tells only half the story of Asch’s work. As James Surowiecki reminds us in the excellent The Wisdom of Crowds, Asch went on to reveal something equally important — that while people slip into conformity with striking ease, it also doesn’t take much to get them to snap out of it. Asch demonstrated this in a series of experiments, planting a confederate to defy the crowd by engaging in the sensible, rather than nonsensical, behavior. That, it turned out, was just enough. Having just one peer contravene the group made subjects eager to express their true thoughts. Surowiecki concludes:

Ultimately, diversity contributes not just by adding different perspectives to the group but also by making it easier for individuals to say what they really think. […] Independence of opinion is both a crucial ingredient in collectively wise decisions and one of the hardest things to keep intact. Because diversity helps preserve that independence, it’s hard to have a collectively wise group without it.”

Perhaps the role of the global Occupy movement and other expressions of contemporary civic activism is that of a cultural confederate, spurring others — citizens, politicians, CEOs — to face the front of the elevator at last.