Sunday, 22 May 2011

Blog Thing 13: Wrap-up.

Blog Thing 13

About the Things:

  1. Which Things, or kinds of Thing, or just ideas, did you find most useful, or thought-provoking? Why those ones in particular? CAMTOOLS (if that counts as a "thing") is first on my list; Open-Syllabus comes in second...with no third.  In general, I appreciate anything that helps make courses of learning more transparent than they would otherwise be, without turning them into digital labyrinths or webs.  Simplicity (not narrow-mindedness or complexity in superficiality) is the KEY.  The problem with most "things" is excessive complexity betraying programmers' attempt to format courses of learning in vitro, as if what educators and students needed (today as ever) were pre-formatted "yellow brick roads".  CAMTOOLS (and to some extent OPEN-SYLLABUS) might come in handy (assuming most colleagues were to make use of them) by way of facilitating cross-course fertilizing.  When it comes to student usage, I remain weary, not wishing to promote the bad habit of viewing courses of learning as merchandise.
  2. Which didn't you find useful (at all)? CLOUDWORKS (too many irrelevant links and mostly self-serving, including advertisement sold as "educational"); VIEWPOINTS (too dispersive/complex: too much "stuffing" and too many options: becomes self-serving).  Are there any Things or ideas you think you will use in future? CAMTOOLS and possibly OPEN-SYLLABUS.
  3. Were any useful enough that they'd be worth mentioning to other colleagues, or promoting or offering more widely in the University? I wouldn't invest much beyond CamTools, and cannot see why this particular application could not serve as host for extensions (if need be), instead of having to set up parallel applications (if only linked to CamTools).  Otherwise, I should stress one more time that what would be helpful is a platform facilitating exchange (especially relative to bibliographies) between educators, and possibly for students to consult.  Beyond this, I fear to find only (or for the most part) open-doors for the further bureaucratization of education.  Ouch!
  4. About the programme:
  5. Looking back over the programme, what were the good bits about it for you? Ideas, tools, dialogue, reflection, something else?  Conversing with other  Secondarily, gaining a glimpse of the inner dynamics of academic bureaucracy.
  6. What could have made it better? The programme was well organized.  The problem was the quality of the material we set out to "test-drive" (esp. in relation to its purported utility).
  7. What do you think of the idea of an informal forum or network, for Cambridge staff interested in teaching and learning ideas? Is there a need? Would it interest you? I suspect most educators would not be interested, unless they were thoroughly convinced that they would benefit from it.  If the forum were dedicated to exploring new "tools" abstracted from a shared understanding of ENDS, then my answer tends to  Genuinely useful tools are a function of dialogue; not the other way around.  We're dealing with rather tough problems, but I remain unapologetic about this: t'was not I who opened up the can of worms.   
  8. If 13 Things were to continue, in some form, what should that form be?  Something recognized (officially) by departments and their respective chairs/heads.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Liberal Education: What Counts.

Goodness, Virtue, Truth, Philosophy, Justice, Courage, Moderation, Prudence, Poetry, Art, Beauty, Providence, Reflection, Reason, Imagination, Form, Idea, World, Universe, Nation, City, Politics, Education, Nobility, Will, Magnanimity, Common-Good, God, Man, Intellect, Mind, Virtue, Philosophy, Reflection, Criticism, Criticism, Reason, Education, Virtue, Virtue, Truth, Truth, Justice, Education, Ethics, Ethics, Cosmos, Reason, Common-Good, Virtue, Education, Virtue, Education, Justice, Virtue, Ethics, Moderation, Moderation, Conatus, Virtue, Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue, Philosophy, Philosophy, Ethics, Honesty, Nobility, Virtue, Truth, Truth, Education, Self-Knowledge, Self-Knowledge, Self-Knowledge, Nature, Truth, Common-Good, Common-Good, God, God, God, Religion, Ethics, Religion, Ethics, Religion, God, Man, Human-Dignity, Human-Dignity, God, Virtue, Education, Virtue, Conatus, Education, Art, Moderation, Moderation, Human-Dignity, Philosophy, Philosophy, Reason, Reason, Nobility, Magnanimity, Justice, Justice, Philosophy.


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Blog 12

Blog Thing 12
  1. (1Q) Did you find the session design process in LDSE intuitive? How? If
    not, please comment of how it fails to support how you do things usually.
    (1R) The process is straight-forward, but quickly I gained the sense that
    the platform is far *too* supportive. A bit of support is one thing;
    programmatic digitalizing of a course of learning is another. The former
    can be of direct service to the learning environment (classroom); the
    latter is likely to be only of use to extra-learning-environment
    bureaucrats and institutions.
    (2Q) What pedagogic insights did you gain into the session you described in
    the exercise? How could these help you design or deliver it differently?
    (2R) One thing the platform may help with is laying out facets of
    educators' concern when planning out an academic course of studies. But
    much of the jiggling involved in the LDSE program strikes me as expendable;
    a bit as relying on a very sophisticated computer to perform calculations
    such as 5+5. The charting out of proportions in aspects of courses of
    learning reminds me of "cost-effectiveness" charts in extra-academic
    (3Q) What problems do you have with LDSE as you have seen it?
    (3R) It is far too restraining for the educator and potentially
    counter-productive (distracting from the true aims of education) for a
    student who were to rely upon it. I am aware of the technical "efficiency"
    of the program (of how "high" the formatting/grid is placed above the
    particular changing/malleable needs of real learning environments); but I
    am also aware of the fact that technical efficiency ought not to trap our
    judgment in a web of sticky pre-formatted expectations--no matter how
    "high" ( above us these are capable of hiding.
    Essentially what LDSE appears to be aiming at is the gradual replacement of
    the educator's discerning virtue with "the machine."
    (4Q) What do you like about it?
    (4R) The platform "unpacks" many facets of institutional expectations.
    (5Q) Would you be interested in seeing the finished software?
    (5R) No.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Post 11: Fair enough.

Blog Thing 11
  1. What do you think of ideas behind the Open Syllabus tool? Closing an eye on the danger of the tool's being used to further the bureaucratization of academic learning environments, "Open Syllabus" appears to have the potential for facilitating the work of academic educators and students alike.What was you impression?  Reasonably simple to use (not too time consuming); probably deserves being on CamTools.
  2. In what ways do you see this being useful as a course organiser?  By way of facilitating the formating of syllabi, avoiding avoidable ambiguities.  But I am still doubtful of appeals to "systematizing" and even "setting clear expectations." Clarity, which is not a virtue in itself, can be blinding--especially when given all at once at the beginning of a journey.Would you consider using it if it were available? Yes.
  3. Using OpenSyllabus, did you find it illuminating or frustrating? Slightly handy (wouldn't go as far as saying "illuminating").
    Are there any ways you would change it to better reflect what you want to do (e.g. wording/headings...)?
  4. How is your syllabus currently been set up? Is it online? Does it link to downloadable links or is it just a flat list? How do you compare OpenSyllabus with those? I have always/only prepared "flat list" syllabi, keeping them as plain as possible.  Using Open Syllabus I would aim at similar results, with the addition of introducing links to downloadable resources.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Blog 10: Humpty Dumpty in the Vortex

Blog Thing 10
  1. What do you think of the ideas behind Viewpoint cards? "Brainstorming" works only on the assumption that thought is naturally (originally) incarcerated in the "subjective" viewpoint (brain, pineal gland, etc.) whence it must be salvaged into an arena of collaboration (peace-making, historical dialectic, etc.).  But must we not understand the assumption in question as needy of being transplanted from the prison of psychic abstractions into the agora of disputation? Were this the case, then it may turn out that thought is not at all originally tied to any "subjective viewpoint" after all!  But then "brainstorming" may not be an appropriate strategy for enlightenment.  And if not, then the "viewpoint" card may have to be withdrawn from the deck.
    What was your impression (of the idea as well as the online version)? Simple-minded (based on video presentation, since when I tried to access Viewpoints, the system did not seem to accept my own, not allowing me to advance beyond the "Create a New Arrangement" window.) and unrealistic (most things in life and academic courses alike don't fit pre-established grids).  I would find it more attractive to explore *old* approaches to course outlining.  
  2. In what way do you see this being useful to you as a course organiser? Would you consider using it (either the cards or the online version) when you would (re)design a course? No.  Thought is not born piecemeal or pre-packaged.  I see no reason why it should end up that way, either.
  3. Using the online Viewpoints cards, did you find it illuminating or frustrating? Not illuminating.
    Are there any ways you would change it to better reflect what you want to do (e.g. wording, whole idea or concepts that don't work for you)? I would leave "instructions" to a bare minimum--e.g. a set of loose/indicative suggestions for educators, who, supposedly, are capable of dialoguing without relying upon an alien supporting net.  There probably ought to be guidelines, but these ought to be set by a government accountable to reason, and not by bureaucrats hiding behind the persona of reason.
  4. What tools do you currently use when (re)designing a course? How do you compare Viewpoints with those you're already using?  None, currently, but I am considering CamTools as a near-future option.  As tempting as Viewpoints does appear, I would prefer to think out course objectives off any handy grid.  The time for desirable cribs has passed, for me.  Were any to be ever imposed, I would bow to it as I must.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Blog 9: The beast can be tamed

Blog Thing 9
  1. What do you think of the ideas behind CamTools (Sakai)? What "ideas" hide "behind" the tool?  I suppose the same objectives underpinning other similar tools: technological integration of communities of learning.  Regardless of this objective, however, the tool could in principle be adopted beneficially for sharing academic resources (including audio) in the context of an academic course or a dialogue among scholars.
    What was your impression? If you already used CamTools before, did it change your opinion? Had barely linked to it in the past in order to download a conference document.  I now see the potential for adopting the platform for a course--esp. to share files (both texts and audio) with students, and possibly come colleague.  I am still weary of adopting software as a means for students to dialogue.  Let them dialogue face to face (no "facebook"), or write directly to the educator without (or with minimum) "peer pressure".
  2. In what ways do you see this being useful to you as a course organiser? (i.e specifically about the ability of letting you pull together and use various curriculum design tools?) Were I to have access to the profiles of various courses via CamTools, I might find handy suggestions therein when preparing my own course.  Otherwise, the platform would be helpful in sharing course material with students, and to receive feedback on it.
  3. What would you like to see from CamTools? "Like to see" of what I do not?  A straightforward means to link to educators across the UK or even abroad via a  "research subject" search.  Thus, e.g., in case I were seeking a scholar who has been working and/or teaching in the area of Ancient Ethics, perhaps (one day) CamTools could prove instrumental to my acquiring relevant data (including inter alia, previous course outlines to refer to in editing my own).
  4. What do you think of the possibility of having a specific CamTools site where lecturers and course organisers could share curriculum design outcomes, preparations and ideas? (e.g. a specific CamTools site that would allow you to do that?) I would be mostly interested in shared course resources (texts, images, recordings) helping me (and other educators) see what some colleagues find most relevant to specific areas of discussion/investigation.  The software might also prove handy in sharing course resources.   I wonder, however, to what extent students' direct exposure to an indefinite variety of sources could prove distracting, not to speak of the bad habit of rejecting *concentric* speech (revolving around central/cardinal problems) as an evil, in favor of unbound diversity or dispersion of interests (or dissolution of focus) ad infinitum.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Blog 8:

Mind-mapping = digitalizing of thought = reduction of thought to a schemata, a mechanism that wants to replace a *natural hierarchy of ends* with an artificial hierarchy based on the supposed natural absence of order (via the old strategy of "divide et impera").

Mind-mapping presents itself as a strategy to free us from mental confusion, under the assumption that the confusion does not presuppose a prior, underlying order.  If it did, then it would behoove us to clarify the surface of our confused thoughts by way of discovering a *natural end* in the light of which all certain ideas (or, formulas of words) are ordered.

Now, contemporary mind-maps are a faint (and distorted) echo of an ancient kind of map, aka The Tree of Knowledge (an example from Porphyry is pasted above).  In the early-modern age we have the first popularized attempt to replace the ancient and medieval Tree of Knowledge with a "secular" tree understood as universal "system of human cognition," such as the 1751 one by D'Alembert pasted below.

      Today's "tree" is heir to early-modern schemes, although the former abandons the rigidly formulaic character of the latter, exploding it into a network of connections that wants to overtly include existence/life itself--a "web" in which we may transfer our very memory.  The contemporary system does not want to be something merely applied onto our lives from above; it wants to be one with our lives; it wants to come to life; it wants to be our lives.  Its early-modern counterpart wants the same thing, but it wants it covertly (cf. Shelley's Frankenstein).

I used two different web browsers to register onto the Compendium LD site, but in both cases the system did not allow me to sign up.  The following warning shows up on the screen:
Please type in the two words as they appear in the box below. Alternatively, please listen to the audio clip and type in the words that you hear (please enter a space between each word).
However no "two words" appear; nor am I given any audio option.

Blog Thing 8
  1. What do you think of the ideas behind Compendium LD? What was your impression?  Something I had been anticipating: course-outlines reduced to computer software flow-charts.  My earlier thoughts on "trojan horses" apply.  My impression is that the charts are programmed for children with severe learning disabilities.
  2. In what way do you see this being useful to you as a course organiser? If I were teaching children with severe learning disabilities (LAS, autism, etc.) it might come in handy.  Probably, many technology/computer students will find themselves at home with the charts.
  3. Filling out one of your own Compendium LD course visualisations, did you find it illuminating or frustrating? Are there any ways you would change it to better reflect what you do? Frustrating to the extent that the type of courses I would ever teach are aimed at helping students escape the confines of flow-charts, questioning the belief that thought is a labyrinth.  I would change the charts by replacing them altogether with something that does not feed students a "visualization" of the course, but that encourages (poetically) students to think own way to the course objective.  The learning designs on "CompendiumLD" are plainly unpoetic.
  4. How do you compare it with other visualisation tools for curriculum design (e.g. compared to others introduced in this programme such as Course Map, Phoebe ... or others that you already use yourself)? Phoebe came across as more "humane."