Thinking digitally

Thoughts on reading about technology and scholarship

Category: Future of Education Mook

Future of Education Week 2 opening and concluding reflection

What is intelligence? it is the ability to successfully navigate within the world in which you find yourself. It develops out of a particular cultural environment and does not necessarily translate across cultures. I think that there must also be something biological — a sort of use it or lose it aspect. That the brain grows and develops and changes, and if it is neglected it becomes less agile and even dormant. I experience my brain as a physical feeling–sometimes it is muddled, sometimes all the pieces are moving around and getting into order and the thoughts come clearly–and the whole body responds positively. Other times, the pieces are spinning in chaotic paths, not connecting–and the body is exhausted. Intelligence is being able to understand and to accomplish what you want to accomplish, whether that is reading and writing, cooking, experimenting, gardening, farming, building, navigating.

I do consider myself to be intelligent–not always smart. I’ve been told that I was intelligent since I can remember. I am intelligent when it comes to reading and writing — both skills I continue to develop. I was first a “colorer” and then I learned to read and that was what I always wanted to do most with my time. Writing was harder and I continue to work at it and learn from having others edit my writing and from doing and reading and reading and doing. I am better at expressing myself in writing than I am at expressing my ideas through speaking. I do not know science and find it hard to listen to people as they talk about scientific theories or practices. If the language is literary I can make sense of it, if it is technical–not so well. Business speak disturbs me and my brain shuts down–it is words swirling around in a big database of text.

If I want to do something and I have the energy and drive I can figure it out. I’m a musician so my brain does get exercised in a lot of different ways. I like working with foreign languages. I am interested in all kinds of things which is good for being a librarian faced with working in many areas, not as great for being a specialist. So, am I really intelligent? I’m not really sure. I work hard and often lack discipline. Maybe intelligence is a practice more than an inherent state of being.

The discussion on ability in the video interviews suggests that intelligence may be a practice. We can learn, but we have to be in the practice of learning. When I am meeting with students about research, I try to encourage them to think of it as a skill that one develops. At first it is time consuming and painstaking. Although it continues to take time and persistence, the process becomes second nature–like riding a bicycle. We aren’t born with the skills to thoroughly investigate a question or to critically evaluate the material that we must absorb on our way through that investigation, but it can become a process that we are good at and enjoy and desire to be involved in. Learning can be like climbing a mountain–it can bring us great satisfaction. If we’re lucky what we learn, we can pass on to others, and perhaps nudge the course of human history (thinking more locally than epochly) in better direction.


Future of Education Week 1 final reflection

Although I am skeptical about the generalized use of MOOCs as a substitute for in person learning, I have listened in on several that I feel fortunate to have connected with (and of course a couple, one in particular with a similar title to this one, that I was extremely disappointed in). Having spent a little time with the “Understanding Research Methods” mooc from the University of London, I was optimistic about what this MOOC would offer. And, this morning, while making scones, I listened to the first two weeks of videos. I am not disappointed. I love the thoughtful and intelligent interviews–no jokes, no funny hats, no condescension, but a genuine opportunity to hear scholars who care about their topics being asked serious questions and answering them in a clear and understandable way. I am hearing people talk about the educational process in a way that shows that 1) they care about the topic and 2) care about communicating their ideas.

I mentioned in the first post that I often have one chance in a class room–I found myself listening to the lectures and thinking about how I could better present the next few class sessions I am giving in the upcoming week. How can I teach by asking questions rather than spouting the information–something I always  try to do (ask questions)–but in thinking about the process with these lectures I came up with a slightly new idea. I also found the lecture on ability so important! I live in Philadelphia, a city of gross disparities in economic, social, and educational opportunities. Everyone who can goes to a private school. The public schools are all but bankrupt, teachers and other professionals and aids have been laid off, turn over is rampant. There are teachers and community members who care deeply about make the situation better for all children in the city. Still, the opportunities are few and the chances of being left behind or further deprived are high. I find that their are many, probably privileged, students who make their way into the local ivy league institution–even they have difficulty listening and absorbing small pieces of information — how much worse for students without many of the advantages these university attending students have had? I don’t have the answers of course, and I don’t know how a theory of “expert learning” translates into change the possibilities for those who haven’t had the chance to connect with possibilities, but maybe some ideas will arise.

Too much rambling–but I do feel that whether I manage all the reading or continue with the reflections (I hope I do because writing is a way that I learn and consolidate and make concrete my thoughts) I will gain something from these thoughtful presentations.

Future of Education Blog-Reflection Week 1

As a librarian who works with students on a more or less anonymous basis–one stop classroom appearances, chat reference–they see my name I don’t necessarily see theirs–, one time appointments, emails (names no faces)–I am always thinking about how to better connect and how to share information in a way that is engaging and that stays between the ears, rather than the old in one ear out the other. My first very exciting learning moment was my first year of college. We read a book by a couple of Americans who, as I remember (distant past now) were caught in the re-education process in Maoist China. We read the book and the authors came to a special session of our class. I remember being wildly exhilarated because I had had the opportunity to ask all the questions I wanted–questions that built on the information I was acquiring through my own previous questions and the questions of others. We were a small group, the authors were completely open and I was gaining understanding. I remember going right back to my dorm room and writing to one of my high school teachers about the experience. Poor learning experiences are unfortunately all too frequent. The Webinar a number one culprit. I seem to always be optimistic–signing up once again for a promising sounding hour. There are so many things we need to keep up with as librarians, sadly, many of the webinars are little more than infommercials–too specific, with too little broader application; they are “power points” that I could have saved precious time by reading myself rather than listening to someone read it; they are “bandwagonish”: providing too little food for thought and too much of what has been gleaned already from superficial investigation.

In addition, I’d like to comment on the lecture. A good lecture is a wonderful experience just as a well led discussion is completely exhilarating. There are just too many lectures where the speaker’s head is in his or her notes, too little vocal inflection, perhaps too late in the afternoon, and it becomes very hard too follow. But the lecture is not an inherent evil. A good lecturer leaves you wiser than you were before, ready to find out more, and grateful for the experience.