Online Pedagogy: Personal philosophy — Bob

Often times we are significantly formed by negative role models — positively.   I mean, that we define ourselves positively in opposition to bad, weak or shabby experiences.   For me K-12 was a shabby, at best, series of experiences.   Fortunately, college and then graduate school were valuable and positive experiences — that I attended was a stroke of luck as I had written the whole of formal education off.   However, in being self-reflective of that disparity my early thinking about a philosophy of pedagogy was susceptible to radical theorists.   So for example:

  • Dennison, G. (1999). The Lives of Children:   The Story of the First Street School: Heinemann.
  • Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (2nd ed.): Vintage.
  • Illich, I. (2000). Deschooling Society: Marion Boyars Publisher.

The physical site of schooling and the unnecessary connection between teaching and learning, or more explicitly the priority of teaching the  sub-texts, order and discipline, over content and learner, are at the heart of these critiques.   Moreover, in my early phase of theorizing about schooling, teaching and learning these were liberatory insights.   I needed to swing to the extreme as a process of healing to correct  my feelings of shabbiness.   However, one cannot long operate at extremes.   Gradually, additional thinkers softened and complicated these notions:

  • Bateson, G. (1972b). Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine Books.
  • Schumacher, J. A. (1989). Human Posture: The Nature of Inquiry. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Wigginton, E. (1985). Sometimes a Shining Moment: The Foxfire Experience. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday.

All of these thinkers explore ways to be radical, thoughtful, and engaged in auditing their organization, even as they practiced their professions within that organization.   Through these and my own positive experience in higher education, I could imagine myself a teacher in this venue.   I even started a PhD program, ill-timed and so unfinished, I had to make my peace with earning a living to contribute to my family.   This, although at the time like a door closing, was actually another fortuitous turn in my professional life.   I started taking business and IT classes — a seeming radical turn from the libertarian, and philosophical leanings.   Yet, in truth, communication and leadership were the skills and interests that developed in this turn — very practical applications of the theories leading up to this moment.   In the latter part of those courses, I took some online classes and found a learning environment with which I resonated.   The, architecture of the classroom was ruptured (no sitting in ranks and rows) and the tyranny of the clock, gone (I could spend hours on interesting material and minutes on uninteresting).   Self-motivated learners were rewarded (or conversely the unmotivated weeded themselves out).   Pace was personally dictated (faster, and more being my preferred approach).   Interaction with other learners was by choice (at least far more than in the classroom).   Professors who realized that they were not in control and so instead became facilitators and coaches supporting my learning.   The timing is fortuitous for me as I see one more re-invention of my professional self, one more push before retirement.   Tied to that is my laser like desire to return to Alaska, my time as an undergraduate in Sitka — well like a salmon returning to the river of origin — it has always been my horizon.

Online Pedagogy is a new enough set of concepts, to me, that I do not yet have a defined set of categories.   Therefore, my vague set of categories:   I am fascinated by learning communities, by augmented reality, and gaming (both a model for inquiry, and fun thing to do).   In the specific context of Alaska, I see online learning as having a very important role in cultural preservation and transmission for Alaska Natives — it is a way to cross generations and locations.   I am interested in alternative forms of certification, the high school diploma, the BA, MA, instead of standing on their own are part of a wider set of credentials informed in part by real life (parenting should damn well count for some credentialing).   Another fascination aspect of online instruction is the creation of teams to do the work that used to be done by the “sage on the stage.’

Learning Communities:

I find the example of these provided by the surfer’s learning community described in earlier post to be deeply satisfying.  I love it because it reminds me of the Temporary Autonomous Zones    celebrated by Hakim Bey in the mid-80’s.  A relapse to my anarchist roots, timely as we have just survived an episode of higher educations self- reflexive bitterness.  For years I have subscribed to the mission of higher education only to be burned by the privilege of the tenured.  And here we get to the heart of why I love the story about surfers’ learning communities in YouTube, along with a host of other specialized skills, none of the cost (financial and spiritual) and all of the benefits and we do it ourselves.  I no longer buy, under questioned, the value of tenure track academics.

The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a martial art, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “nomadic war machine” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. It’s a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori–the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization.

I love that our text for the course is so completely focused on learners and learning outcomes.  It is not about being in need of teaching rather we share the need for learning and only rarely is teaching the way to fill that need.  Indeed let me appropriate Bey’s musing:

The {learning}  is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it’s only data in the Web. The {learning} must be capable of defense; but both the “strike” and the “defense” should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is “invisibility,” a martial art, and “invulnerability”–an “occult” art within the martial arts. The “{learning}” conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future–Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. {Learning} is  a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori–the realization that {learning}  begins with a simple act of realization.

It is important to remember that Bey was writing this at the dawn of the internet.  Yet he saw the parallels between pirate communities in the Caribbean and life online.  Certainly the internet feels a lot more like the Las Vegas strip these days, but, one can still find biker bars, so to speak, and wilderness.

Gamification:  serious play, flight and surgical simulations

I wrote a masters thesis once upon a time and there I celebrated the seriousness of play.  I urged the point that we are playing for our very lives.  Since it is unpublished you will have to believe me and accordingly  I will not bother to quote myself.  I have time and again raised the matter of skills along with knowledge and motivation.  Some of these simulations are an amazing opportunity to create skills without the price tag of real failure.  Flight simulations, combat simulations, are examples from the military and the airlines.  But, we hear as well about surgeons in a distant city using 3D printers to create an image of a damaged organ from which they create a strategy for surgery.  We raise eyebrows as our children spend hours perfecting fingering combinations on a game controller — but it is no stretch of imagination to see delicate tasks virtually and robotically augmented and controlled through… game controllers since they are familiar.

But this is only a part of what I mean.  I do not want to forget the giggle and rapture of discovery, of halting success.  Jumping rope, skipping stones, sandlot baseball, singing, and sometimes just messing around — how do we remember that and capture it and inject it into our classroom?  Part of it is certainly starting with the learner as sacred and central, but, that is not all of it…. Fun, discovery, invention, improvisation are fundamentally human just as learning is fundamentally human.  How can I in my role of “teacher” remember myself as having fun too, as learner too?  Is there a way to drag the state mandated learning outcomes into the rough and tumble of life — to make them authentic again, so that learners see themselves in them?

Resisting Cultural Extinction:  Cultural Preservation and Transmission through online learning

There is an irony (perhaps ironies) in making the connection between cultural preservation and online learning.  Life on the internet is virtual and representative of altogether different activities in the flesh and blood world.  Native cultures are very aware of starvation yet many of us online merely have to brush the Cheeto crumbs from our neck beards.  A picture is worth many words (some adult language, long and graphic illustration of processing food):

https://youtu.be/pGkwgikdmEo?list=UUQPFRwdzI1Z6iYMLuCKPL5A

I love the Cree family processing Goose, the radio playing oldies in the background, I love the busting of chops as his Mom corrects his sloppy job (notice in the comments folks telling him to listen to his Mother) so many cultural values reinforced, even if unintentionally and by non-natives .  I love that the conversation switches between Cree and English.  I learned (but not practiced), from this how to pluck and bone a goose (though I have processed chickens, ducks and turkeys, never geese) and I was fascinated to watch the transition of cultural knowledge across generation — and so much laughter.  The next step might be to make a VR where I practice what I have learned.  And we see video conversations frequently on YouTube and native communities (though perhaps not constrained by ethnicity).  Indeed:

So between these two videos I have points of comparison between hunting and gathering practices and across cultures.  So in the classroom we can explore this theoretically through concepts of anthropology or history.  We can explore it as practical activity and process our own food.  We can share it with elders and create conversations.   I also see getting people to play with their food as a subversive activity in this age of mass produced and processed food.  For me  this at the heart of what I am relevating in this post  — this is Online Pedagogy.  To whit our jobs are more and more to help learners refine their art and inspire them to lifelong learning.

9 thoughts on “Online Pedagogy: Personal philosophy — Bob

  1. lsowa

    Bob, I enjoyed reading your post. Your writing is vivid and thought-provoking. I particularly like your challenge:

    How can I in my role of “teacher” remember myself as having fun too, as learner too? Is there a way to drag the state mandated learning outcomes into the rough and tumble of life – to make them authentic again, so that learners see themselves in them?

    I hope you make it back to Sitka sometime soon.

    Lori

    Reply
  2. Bob Post author

    Lori,

    Thank you for your generous reading. Sitka, Haines, Kodiak, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and even other places are open in my mind. My wife would prefer the coastal communities and so accordingly would I, but, I also make the argument “any port in a storm” at least as we transition back. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts too, look for comments in the next couple of days.

    Reply
  3. Owen

    Bob,

    Thanks for sharing – and you brought in Hakim Bey, whom I wasn’t familiar with but am enjoying reading.

    I like your inclusion of the two videos as well – how your philosophy is informed by questions and challenges, and media and spaces between.

    On gaming: I’m also a fan. Gaming is really, I think, just an element of how we naturally learn. Not specifically about games or mechanics but about the suspension of disbelief that we can be amazing. We play games because there isn’t enough chance and risk and failure and triumph in our ordinary lives. There aren’t enough moments of achievement even if objectively trivial. It’s like fishing or hunting for mushrooms (or hunting in general) – moments of tiny failures and triumphs that we’re innately attuned to enjoy and we continually refine (learn) to adjust in the future.

    I enjoyed reading your post. At best, I hope “to refine their art and inspire [others] to lifelong learning’. Well said.

    Reply
  4. Bob Post author

    Owen,

    Thank you for your supportive feedback.

    If, I could sell you on reading “Human Posture” over Bey I would try. I return to Bey’s insights into the pirate communities as taz occasionally, Schumacher’s book means more to me and I wish his wisdom were more broadly recognized. One of the reviews for his book, said: “I found it fascinating to read and it is quite beautifully written. But I must caution against taking its extreme originality lightly.” — Stephen David Ross.

    Gaming… I almost do not want to analyze this, I don’t want to spoil it by over-thinking, sully it with scholarship, as it were. And yet I cannot prevent my curiosity.

    Reply
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