Tuesday, November 18, 2008

CCK08: Click (finally), as it all makes sense

The clicking sound you hear is the CCK08 material aligning with some work I'm involved in at Berklee, where we're developing a new course for first semester students.  I've been working on versions of this course for 5 years now, from various approaches; now as part of a broad curriculum review and revision, it is moving along.  

As I was cutting and pasting a lovely quotation about how a First Semester Seminar could be taught from an older concept document into a shiny new course proposal (see below), I realized many of the ideas and themes overlapped with our CCK08 conversation, especially echoing the discussions about teaching we had in the past couple of weeks in Elluminate with Howard Rheingold and others.  It has to do with separating out the functions of the teacher as content expert on the one hand and facilitator on the other, so that process, thinking, and learning become central, not content delivery.

This is how Jerry Slezak, who blogs about his experiences teaching a Freshman Seminar at the University of Mary Washington, sees the unique purpose and method of FYE seminars:

Teaching a seminar-style course to first year students, where the emphasis in the course is on inquiry, rather than presentation or even exploration of a settled body of knowledge is quite different from either an upper-level seminar or a traditionally introductory course which enrolls first year students. The fundamental purpose of the FSEMs [freshman seminars] is not to teach content, but rather to introduce students to the life of the mind. At one level this has developed as an emphasis on teaching skills, but what we’re really [trying] to  articulate is something more holistic, not skills per se, but rather a model of the process of intellectual inquiry, the art or culture of the intellectual life.
Jerry Slezak, http://jerryslezak.net/pedablogy/?p=442

For our students, our approach to the “life of the mind” must include creativity and the development of the individual voice. 

I guess the insight I have to add after my "click" moment is that the technology is secondary, not primary.  In the very beginning of CCK08, the sheer volume of people arguing over the definition of connectivism in a flurry of posts and blogs was overwhelming, and it was hard to hear past it.  The technology can help make connections, or it can distract and divide us.   How we use it is what matters, and I'm glad I stuck with it until the din died down enough to really hear the ideas.  

When Howard Rheingold talked about having his social media students watch a video of him commenting/lecturing on Goffman instead of delivering that to them in class, that was really interesting.  In class, he is the facilitator, inviting them (actually, it seems, requiring them) to take on the responsibility to teaching the course.   I get a lot of resistance when I talk about making video resources like Howard is using, but I think there is a lot of value in separating the expert and facilitator functions of the teacher.  I think he is also using his video commentary as a reading, or a reading supplement, but that is a different topic (shift from text to video).  

All of this makes me realize that if we replace course content with the technological tools, we haven't gained enough, and it is an easy temptation to do that with all these fun, new toys. More importantly, we have to make sure our students know that we are not doing that.  I'm sure that Steven and George never intended for the technology to overtake the ideas, but it is how it felt to me for a while at the beginning.  Unless the learning and thinking, the life of the mind and the processes of creation, remain at the center and everything else we do is in its service, then its all a bunch of noise.  Click click. 


Anonymous said...


Thank you for posting this. I am fascinated by how we induct people at a time of transition in their lives. I think inducting new students is a wonderful moment to share the excitement of learning.

Your post is a great invitation to focus on learning. I think Howard is an excellent example of how a teacher can amplify excitement and engagement. I see video as a great opportunity for feedforward as well as feedback.

I am looking forward to reading how your work unfolds and develops. I hope you enjoy the ongoing click moments.


dj said...

i'm having a meta-meta- moment here, because as someone trained in sociolinguistics, i of course think of goffman in terms of participant frameworks and footing. and of course, splitting the facilitator function from the lecturer function in teaching is just the sort of amplification versus attenuation of participant roles that becomes possible with new media (think of the way that writing did the same). so the technique might be on to something important about remediation and footing generally

donna said...