Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Educational complex

I listened with interest to Amy Collier's keynote entitled "Not-yet-ness" at Digital Pedagogy Lab's Cairo event.


I am not yet sure that I have really understood "Not-yet-ness" as a concept.

I am not sure that "not-yet-ness" is meant to be understood...

That may be problematic and/or profound.

I suppose the key takeaway from the talk was "love".

"Love" like "education", like "learning" is complex.

I nodded my head as Amy talked of the importance of being critical about a growing focus on "learning" as distinct from "education" and nodded again as she noted the parallel growth of "innovative" and "disruptive" edtech.

Indeed, when "learning" is associated with "content", it may be packaged transactionally and sold.

When "love" is associated with "sex", it may be packaged transactionally and sold.

Finding "love" is packaged transactionally and sold.

Trust may be measured with stars, followers, peer review et al, packaged transactionally and sold.

Amy is concerned at the commodification, the "measurability" of "education".

Such a commodification reduces living breathing people to binary - hard data on a balance sheet.

I share her concerns.

Where I had difficulties was when she telescoped ideas about "learning", "education", "complexity" "measurability".

"Education is messy" she said.


Are we talking about "education" within a class, a school?

Are we talking about "education" the concept as viewed from many different and diverging perspectives?

Are we talking about "education"  or "society"?

Are we really talking about "learning"?

It appeared the she was attempting to compare a past where "education" was complex with a simplifed present where we have "learnification" of "education" which reduces everything to outcomes which can be clicked.

I made a  few graphic notes as I listened to the keynote...

I honestly don't think that "education" can be considered as other than complex.

I do think that some "learning" can be seen at times as simple.

I read the relatively simple instructions and put together  a complicated IKEA piece of furniture.

The problem, it appears to me comes from the complexity of the term "learning".

A quick look at "education" in Victorian Britain reveals many of the same conflicting interests in the "educational complex".

We have Thomas Arnold at Rugby, fearful of the savage boy (blame Eve for the fall of Eden), longing to see the eclosion of the Christian Gentleman (him)

"What we must look for here is, first, religious and moral principles; secondly, gentlemanly conduct; thirdly, intellectual ability."
Thomas Arnold (1795 - 1842)

"Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun . . ."
Thomas Arnold (1795 - 1842)

Such an "education" concerns complex moral values.

We have "Ragged Schools" a means of "saving" kids from poverty (as far away from a 'Public School' as could be imagined).

We have a vast selection of "educational establishments" painted by Charles Dickens.

We have knowledge reduced to chunks...

Headstone "had acquired mechanically a great store of teacher's knowledge," to the point where his mental "wholesale warehouse" was "always ready to meet the demands of retail dealers" 


We have social reformers...concerned at the ravages of capitalism.

"I have visited sweatshops, factories and crowded slums. If I could not see it, I could smell it. The foundation of society is laid upon a basis of...individualism, conquest and exploitation...A social order such as this, built upon such wrong and basic principles, is bound to retard the development of all. The output of a cotton mill or a coal mine is considered of greater importance than the production of healthy, happy-hearted and free human beings. We, the people, are not free. Our democracy is but a name." Helen Keller.

We can see the same battles for the soul of "education" as today.

I come back to love.

I do agree that love must be the basis by which we build any sustainable community.

I will need to elaborate on what I mean by "love".

For the moment, I think that you can identify "love" in the talks of Gardner Campbell of which the one below is an example where he asks "What is an education for?"

"Wisdom as a learning outcome."


I thought about "love" and "not-yet-ness". 

There is this idea of always striving, never arriving, of being authentic in our relations with the other...in this our lives.

I could find noone better than Nina Simone to illustrate that.


  1. Lots to reflect on in this article. I identify with the actor in Blade Runner, "all these moments will be lost in time". All that I've learned over past 40 years will be lost unless I can find ways to pass it on to others. My blogs, concept maps and posts on different web sites will remain in place far longer than web sites that I pay subscriptions for. However, unless future generations, like the speaker in this TED talk, make an effort to point to what I've written, few will know it exists.

    Among the goals of learning, I'd add habits of "perseverance, grit, stick-to-it-ness" so that if we fail to find wisdom at one place, we have the motivation to look for it in another.

    Thanks for stimulating my thinking on a day when terrorist have numbed my mind to future possibilities.

  2. Thank you Daniel for taking the time to share your learning here. I think your ideas and work are already germimating actions here in France. I have no fear for the perennity of this work. We may not live to see what we would like - no matter - love is infectious.