Updated: 7/7/06; 4:13:18 PM.
Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog
News, clips, comments on knowledge, knowledge-making, education, weblogging, philosophy, systems and ecology.

 Friday, December 27, 2002

In an earlier statement I wrote that an often unforseen aspect of learning is that

- - - you cant experience what appears to be the same situation in the same way after your expectation-action relationship has changed. (Whether your change took place next at a particular rock on a familiar creek or in your assigned chair at the kitchen table. It may look the same in a digital picture [of the scene], but in terms of your worldview it's different.).

The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus is often quoted (Plato's Cratylus, via Ayer's Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations) as saying,

It is not possible to step into the same river twice.

If we take the river to be an existential 'situation', in Dewey's sense, we can guess that Heraclitus and he would both agree that the river/situation is no longer the same [to the person who has previously stepped in it -- and now remembers the 'stepping into river' experience]. What may not be so obvious is that only that which is directly involved in a learning 'situation' will be seen in this way. How I get across and what I take with me affect the quality and substance of my "stepping into" memory.

The two learning situations below represent two distinct crossings:

Situation one:

Student comes into class, picks up workbook, reads assignment on board ("do activities on pp 77-83"). She does them and after a subsequent exercise tests out of the unit on "writing a job application letter". If she thinks about it, our example student may agree that she knows how ['cause I passed the test'] to write a job application letter.

Situation two:

Student comes into classroom, writes brief focusing statement about what she wants to be able to do [get a part-time job] and takes her statement to her weekly conference with the teacher. In that conference the two work through the 'why's', 'hows' and 'consequences' of part-time work and come up with a plan [which includes, amongst a large number of other activities, doing the same workbook pages as in the example above] for her securing a job that will (a)get her some money, (b)not interfere with school or home and (c)will help her explore career possibilities. She follows the plan and via her struggles eventually gets the job.

Both involve the student's acquisition of a set of "writing job application" skills which would allow her to apply for a job. Otherwise there are many differences between the two "situations".

The issue I want to focus upon is 'intention'. In the second case an objective bit of learning is folded into a much larger "situation" in which "who I am", "what I want" , "what I'm capable of", "what I intend" are intertwined. Success at learning in the second situation has vast, 'empowering' consequences which can never be undone. Those consequences are almost absolutely absent in the first learning situation.

Metaphorically speaking:

Contrast 1:

Situation 1: the simple, reflexive crossing of a small, unnamed seasonal creek,

Situation 2: an involved and somewhat periolus passage-making across the Volga river.

Contrast 2:

Situation 1: student's 'backpack' is full of a jumble of items[capabilities] to which we have now randomly inserted 'writing job application letters'.

Situation 2: student's backback has gone from jumble to more organized whole within which an easily found and purpose-coded piece is 'writing job application letters'.

The ramifications are deep and many.

Outcome question 1: How does the teacher view herself afterher student crosses the Volga ?

Outcome question 2: How does the student view herself after that same crossing.

Outcome question 3: How does each view the other as the other shore is reached?

And, to now involve klogging, what implications follow if, in Situation 2, the student's

brief focusing statement about what she wants to be able to do

involves her use of her own klog?

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website.

Subscribe to "Connectivity: Spike Hall's RU Weblog" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


December 2002
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        
Nov   Jan


Spike Hall is an Emeritus Professor of Education and Special Education at Drake University. He teaches most of his classes online. He writes in Des Moines, Iowa.


Article Feeds from Guest Blogger(s):

My BlogLinker Connections:/
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.