Tuesday, October 4th, 2005 (cut off great server crash ’06)
I had a great (short) chat [â€¦]
Tuesday, October 4th, 2005 (cut off great server crash ’06)
Itâ€™s the Sunday night of a long week and I have the vague, confused and grimy feeling of someone who just lost a fight with an old, dirty fog machine. Thereâ€™s a level of confusion that comes on me at this time of night that is so strangely blended with moments of clarity that, unless Iâ€™m very busy, I tend to avoid it. But I want to try to take the post from yesterday and bring it into a more practical context, and also another shot at describing the feedbookâ€¦ so here goes.Language-games are one of the central concepts that Iâ€™m going to babble about, so, having just copped out and used wikipedia for my last post, maybe Iâ€™ll address them a little more here. Language is alive. A word, out of context, has little meaning. -monkey- This is a word that iâ€™ve used as a nickname for a friend of mine, itâ€™s an animal, it can be an insult an endearment or, i would bet somewhere in the world, a foul tasting and instantly inebrating drink. A quick translation of a word from one culture to another will give even clearer examples. They mean something when they are part of a text-event. When language is used in a text event, Wittgenstein referred to them as being subject to various rules including grammatical rules but more importantly for this conversation also including societal rules. These rules can be seen as applying to a game stipulated by the circumstances of the text-event. You have entered into a language-game. You can â€˜winâ€™ the language game by successfully following all the rules and coming to any number of successful outcomes. You â€˜loseâ€™ a language game by not following the rules.
Anyway, to return to fog. That vague feeling of confusion and desire for low level avoidance is same feeling that comes over me when i feel like I donâ€™t understand what is going on. Lets use a live example. As I made up the word last week, and since this may be the only website that ever uses it for the purpose that I had in mind when I first wrote it, let me use it to give you a feeling of what I mean.
I really like feedbooks. They are just whatâ€™s needed for education. (obviously not an introduction thatâ€™s going to make you feel comfortable, unless your the sort that has either the patience, or the personality, to enjoy/endure the speech of the prophet)
A feedbook is a collection of RSS feeds amassed in an OPML. (This is a little clearer, it defines the feedbook, and, given definitions for the other terms, would define to us what the word means. It tells us very little about the â€˜text-eventâ€™â€¦ what would it mean to use the word.)
A feedbook is a collection of RSS feeds amassed in an OPML and used as the central (or peripheral) learning â€˜textâ€™ for a class. (We now have a context, in a classroom and a comparison to a physical textbook with which to make sense of some of the meaning of the word. Some people could begin to imagine how they could use the word, and understand it when it was used by others.)
A feedbook is a collection of blogs and podcasts that each student would have delivered to them like a personalized newspaper. (This example offers a little more context, a more experiential example of the kinds of things you could do with a feedbook. Itâ€™s a newspaper. We read daily stories and talk about them. This is different from talking about a â€˜textbookâ€™, which is static and passive in the event that takes place in the classroom)
The question is, when explaining something to people who arenâ€™t already invested, how do we explain something so that they feel that they will have a fair chance of â€˜winnningâ€™ the language-game if they were to start it.
Fear is a funny word to start with here, I suppose, it can be taken in so many ways, goes all the way from â€œiâ€™m being hunted by a tiger in a doghouseâ€ to â€œI just blew through that stopsign, I hope no one saw meâ€. For the purposes of this conversation weâ€™re talking more about the latter. The kind of fear and avoidance that makes people ignore the phone bill on the desk – trepidation – or makes students look sideways at an exam score, like only taking a peek will somehow make the inevitable D+ feel better.
On the other side of that fear/hope continuum from our bill avoider is that small chance that there was a special at 1-900-basket-weavers the day he called them for advice and forgot his phone off the hook as he attended to the apple sauce that had oddly caught fire on his stove. The hope that the bill just might not burst into flames as soon as he opens it. The the letter will fail to meet his expectation.
Odd metaphors aside, this is the reaction that I see when people approach something new. Fear. Trepidation. Excitement. Hope. (thereâ€™s apathy too, but weâ€™ll leave that aside for now) Whatâ€™s the difference? Of the many possible answers to this question, the one that interests me the most is about text events. By text event I mean a word, an action, a picture, a sign of any kind that is used, refered to or otherwise occurs. My interest is not in terms of definitions, but in terms of USAGE. The text language-game. Not â€˜what does the word or action mean?â€™ but â€˜what does it mean to use the word or action?â€™ What is the correct thing to do in response to that word or action? When we see a stop signâ€¦ we stop. When a person points a gun at us and says â€œhands up!â€ we donâ€™t turn our palms upwards, we raise our hands over our heads. We know how to play those games. Here is an example of how not understanding the â€˜gameâ€™ can lead to discomfort, fear of failure, or exclusion from a group.
A simple example – podcast. If Iâ€™m talking to a co-worker and I say,
â€œIâ€™ve got to do my podcast this weekendâ€.
What has happened? Iâ€™ve described an event. Iâ€™ve also annouced something that I expect the listener to be interested in (potentially). Whatâ€™s the correct response to this statement? How do I play the game? I may know the definition of the word â€˜podcastâ€™, but I donâ€™t know what Iâ€m supposed to do with the information. Is â€˜wow, thatâ€™s greatâ€™ a good reponse? How about â€œyou want some help?â€? What about â€œoh, where are you doing that?â€ These are all, more or less decent responses. A little odd, but ok.
But what about â€œwhen is your podcast?â€ or â€œwhy are you doing that?â€ These responses arenâ€™t so good, they illustrate a misunderstanding of what a podcast is.
Good answers like â€œwhatâ€™s it about?â€ and â€œwhere do you publish it?â€ are successes in the language game.
I can imagine many situations where my lack of specific knowledge about a topic has led to a failure in the specific language game dictated by the text-event. These failures, the losses, lead to slight feelings of alienation and resistance. They can lead to a potential withdrawal from a group. The laughter these â€˜faux pasâ€™ these missteps can often lead to can result in inclusion or exclusion, just like the failure itself can lead to both. All depending on the way that it happens. This is an idea Iâ€m going to have to talk out at length, comments are most welcome. If youâ€™ve made it this far into the conversationâ€¦ penguins are people too!
The feedbook is an idea Iâ€™ve been talking about and working through with many people over the last six months or so. The idea (not a very complex one I admit) came to me in conversation with Tim and Rob (more on these guys later) in our early planning stages for a new media program for UPEI. It is a flexible idea that can encompass many possibilities. For its first introduction Iâ€™ll restrict myself as much as possible to the ideal version of the feedbook as its been worked out between Jeff Lebow and I during our edtechtalk broadcast in September.
The feedbook is a collection of feeds (including podcast, blogs and someday soon hopefully vlogs) contained in an open ended opml first seeded by a course instructor and added to (or pared down) according to student needs. Imagine five instructors all teaching a an education course on using new media in the classroom. In their opml they might include:
This would make up the main â€˜textbookâ€™ for the course. The students would not be getting a textbook positioned from a single instructor from last year or even a couple of years ago, but a collection of essays written right now about changes that affect the current issues in education. The instrutors can add their own flavour to the course in their own blogs as well as modeling blogging as good educational practice.
A feedbook is a living text. Students are getting material that is new. The material may surprise the instructor, but it gives them things to discuss, a real platform upon which to have a natural discussion rather than one forced by a lesson plan made weeks, months or even years earlier. As a final advantage, when the students leave the course, their feedbook goes with them, not a textbook slowly fading into kindling for your fireplace, but one that will stay currentâ€¦
The four step plan is something that weâ€™re planning on trying out in various ways all this fall. Itâ€™s an introduction to the web, in a way, an attempt at encouraging some good habits, a transitional step between the luddite and the blogger. In broad strokes the plan is simpleâ€¦ Get several people together and have them text message on a topic for a while. The goals for that chat are to choose a topic for everyone to work on, to choose roles for each member and to set a timeline for accomplishment of that goal. The next step is to move to the BB and start posting back and forth developing those ideas, accumulating media, doing research. The finished bits of research should eventually migrate their way into a wiki, the project organization center. Here things are refined until each member is ready for them to be published. They are then blogged out in the world somewhere.
This is the part of the process that has come up against the most criticism. Jeff thinks, and he may be right, that this step could be ommitted as it creates too many complications. What platform do you use? It has several advantages. With a site like tapped in, you can get records of your chat emailed to you(Drupal, for instance, also does this). It is a good way to make sure that contribution is evenly spread across the group, and also a way to get a better window on the entire process, from start to finish.
The bulletin board is where the process starts to come together. Students are encouraged to put their ideas out in whatever way they come in. Interesting photos, bits of audio, video or text found and thrown into the pile. From this research, and the peer-editing that goes with it, a project starts to develop.
In the wiki, the finished bits of the project start to collect. There are a bunch of different ways that this could come about, whether the students end up working on parts of the same project, or different interrelated projects, but a quick link setup in the wiki would accomodate any needs.
This is the key part of the whole process. Giving the students a goal to reach for, and somewhere to put the work they are working on. There are several options for this, many schools now have their own blogging system, there is a cool project going on at dekita.org where your students can post their own stuff alongside work from people around the worldâ€¦ and then connect with other students, starting a dialogue.
An after thought – Last night on the edtech brainstorm Todd Vanek was talking about eportfolios (another form of publication) being controlled by the students. Controlled in terms of access, giving them the option of what they wish to share and when. I think itâ€™s a solid idea. Thatâ€™s what i like about this educational process, itâ€™s a constant struggle to open my mind a little further everytime i come across someone with a good idea. And that seems to be all the time these days.
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