Wednesday, April 15, 2015

No more package tours...

I knew that I was hungry.

It was recognisably a restaurant.

There were tables and chairs on the terrace. It looked picturesque.

I imagined a number of tasty meals that I might like to eat.

When I looked at the menu I suddenly had absolutely no idea what I should choose.

Even my friend's descriptions didn't really help much.

I would have to taste the food for myself.

In the end, I closed my eyes, circled my finger over the menu and chose a dish by random.

When it appeared (see photo above) it resembled nothing that I might have pictured.

I can't remember what it was called.  I would have struggled (understatement) to pronounce its name.

I knew that Poland was to the east.  I had no picture of what the country might look like.

I had no idea of its beauty. I had no idea of the friendliness and openness of the people.

I had no idea of its customs, its costumes, its music, its landscape.

I was heading out into the unknown.

I had never learnt very much about Poland at school. Why should I have done?

There were enormous photos boarding up windows of imposing buildings in some of the streets.

They marked houses where some people had lived before the war.

Walking here, under this sun, feeling this warmth, I imagined those people doing the same.

There were not many people about.

It was extraordinarily peaceful.

We drove out of the town, my Polish friend and I.

We hadn't even left the suburbs of Lublin when suddenly I was confronted by a sight that I had told myself I didn't want to see.

It was standing there, in a convenient location just after a Carrefour hypermarket.

I had never heard of Majdanek.

Dealing with uncertainty...

How does one deal with the unexpected?

If I am writing this now, it is because I am starting Dave Cormier's course 'Rhizomatic learning: A Practical view.'

He starts the course this week with the theme of 'learning subjectives'

"How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? 
How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?"

Package tours...

I think back to my teaching of English to students a few years ago. 

We were using a course book, with clear 'teaching objectives'.  

When I think about this word 'objective' now it makes me laugh.

It was one vision of what might have been 'the objectives', carefully explained in the teacher book.

The procedure was easy to teach. 

The exercises were easy to mark. 
It was easy for students to understand 'course requirements'. (that perhaps was 'the objective.')

What did this really have to do with learning a language?

There were postcard pictures in the course books of red buses,  Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament.

Kids would go to visit monuments on package tours.

What they got to see would of course depend on the number on their bus or the choice of tour guide.

You can imagine them excitedly chattering away in French in Trafalgar Square.

What did they really understand about these monuments?

Why were they looking at these buildings and not doing other things?

Why were they reading those texts and not doing other things?

Who decided that this was educational?

What did this really have to do with learning a language?

I asked myself a few questions...

How could I learn to teach differently if I was not connected differently?

How could you learn a language if you were not connected to people who you might want to communicate with?

I resolved myself to maximise possible connections for myself as a learner.

I resolved myself to maximise possible connections for the students as learners.

A few years later...

I found myself in Poland with my English teacher friend discussing how to connect trainee English teachers with French English learners.

None of that had been planned. It was not in any teacher's book. It grew out of connecting widely.

A group of Polish students came to stay with my students in France.
A group of French students are going to stay with their new friends in Poland.

They chose to do the trip. It wouldn't necessarily benefit everybody.

I don't believe in universal recipes for success.

It is not clear what they will learn.

I am sure that they will learn much more English than the kids on the package tour to London.

I think that is how I see my learning job:

asking critical questions.
enabling diverse activities in diverse spaces
enabling diverse connections in diverse spaces
enabling diverse engagement in diverse spaces
helping out when people are totally lost.

(I might add to this list...)

Back in France...

I am happy going out into the unknown, towards the unknowable again 'with' Dave Cormier.

I do believe that we have to reimagine what education means today in this world which has been technologically connected 'for us'.

Discourses are there to be deconstructed...

I ask myself questions...

Whose objectives do discourses of 'learning subjectives' benefit?

Might we be paralysed or consumed by 'abundance'?

How do we encourage or enable students to thrive in this world of what is termed 'abundance'?

Might informational abundance become educational poverty?

What do we mean by learning?

What do we mean by education?

What do we mean by success?

How can we assess success?

Who should assess success?

What sort of community do we want to live in?

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