Saturday, April 11, 2015

What a mess?

"L'inconscient est structuré comme un langage

"What a mess!" I have often heard these words addressed towards me... 

They would perhaps be talking about my bedroom, my desk, my filing system.  

Of course, for other people, this apparent disorder would be considered chaos. 

They would be at a loss to find themselves in my 'mess' or should I say my 'order'.  

They would be, however, mistaken to imagine that my learning was messy.

Similarly, some people might find this blog, or my way of posting images on social media or whatever messy.  

They would be, however, mistaken to imagine that my learning was messy.

Others, might find that free association, brain-storming, creativity, abstract or conceptual art meaningless junk, or just a mess.

I would say that we have to learn to live with complexity, with what appears on first sight chaos. 

We are nurtured to gradually deal with a certain amount of liveable uncertainty which is culturally determined.  

In some cultures, and for some individuals, very little uncertainty is acceptable. 

In such cultures, and for some individuals, learning is not at all messy, or uncertain; it is quite the opposite.

When we come across, for the first time,  learning spaces or classrooms which are more freely ordered than traditional classrooms, we might think that they were 'messy.'

I would say that we have to be very careful to not imagine that introducing more 'freely ordered learning spaces' will inevitably result in more learning. It may well produce just the opposite effect.

(I am speaking from experience here.)

If I am writing this now, it is because I have been thinking through what Dave Cormier writes in his 'Practical guide for rhizo 15' where he says:

"I get the feeling that learning is a very messy place, and the story of the rhizome is one that i have found super useful in explaining things I’ve seen happen in learning spaces."

Well, I am not sure that we can say that learning is 'a place' messy or otherwise.

I suppose I might agree that learning can appear a 'messy process'. It certainly is a 'complex process'.

I am not convinced by the idea that learning is 'messy and uncertain.'

I would agree that without language, the world, and our lives, our relationships do indeed appear, are often,  'messy and uncertain' so from that sense what we will learn  may indeed be 'messy and uncertain.'  

However, I think that learning is really about make sense, putting some sort of acceptable (to us) order into our uncertain lives, onto this complex world.

We do this, as far as I understand it, in order to make it liveably legible and more comfortably predictable.

What is 'liveably legible' for me may well be 'unliveable chaos' for you.

So it can be argued that learning, being socially determined, can be seen from above or from outside as 'messy' and 'chaotic'. 

We can also argue, with vehemence, that learning can not ultimately be 'managed' in a classroom.

We can try, as people in some cultures have done, to limit all unauthorised learning by using drastic punishments. 

We can reward people for learning certain things or skills and thereby entice them to follow a certain predetermined pattern.

We can imagine the students are learning something but they may be learning nothing or something entirely different to what we imagine at a particular moment. 

We cannot stop people thinking differently to how we would like them to think. 

Social change, the learning within a society and the effect that it will have on that society is nonlinear, and unpredictable.

The pace and the means by which people will arrive to learn things or skills are varied, and complex. 

I agree that learning is a 'deeply personal, individual process', or rather a 'deeply personal, social process.' 

We wouldn't have survived so well as a species if individuals only learnt what was 'managed' by others. 

No child left behind?

So for me, learning is ultimately about ordering 'mess'.

What we are going to learn as individuals or as a species is certainly uncertain, of that we can be certain. 

Finally, what we perhaps all learn is one thing:  we are together in 'this mess'. 

This is our bed, we had better learn to live with it.

Image of Bed: 'My bed' Tracey Emin.

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