“Nobody likes a smart educationist.”

Chapter II. The Medium is the Message, Of Course

Ha! Gotcha! I bet you thought I wouldn’t write again for months and months! Back today though to continue my walk-through Postman & Weingartner’s book.

In this brief chapter the authors describe circumstances we create in classrooms – and by intentional design – that are really fail to support learner’s in a most important endeavor. That is, we fail to help students learn how to learn. School design is based upon compliance and control – students are expected to comply with controls imposed by the environment. This control trickles down to everything including attitudes and perceptions as we pay homage to king content. It is what we cover. As the authors say, “…’real’ courses are the content courses, …” This centrality of content keeps us from recognizing that ways of knowing within a given discipline are at least as important as “content” of the discipline.

So, how about a few choice quotes. Following are a few striking ones:

In order to understand what kinds of behaviors classrooms promote, one must become accustomed to observing what, in fact, students actually do in them…Well, mostly, they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly, they are required to remember…They are rarely encouraged to ask substantive questions, although they are permitted to ask about administrative and technical detail.”

Oh boy. As I read this I recalled (painfully) my earliest days in classrooms where i admonished my students that my notes over-ruled the text, that my answers were the right answers. I was striving to emulate more experienced colleagues who were considered seasoned educators. I taught as they taught (or told me I should). Being tough and unwavering was a badge of honor. And never, ever, ever were we to admit we might be wrong.

So, asking questions is important, eh? I’ve been thinking as I read this about my current “population” of students/learners – and that is my faculty colleagues. I wonder about our ways of approaching things we offer them. I wonder about how well we are supporting their inquiry – into their methods and practices of their own teaching craft. I wonder if we imply that our way (infused with digital tools) is the right best way.

I’ll end this one with a last quote from this chapter:

The most important intellectual ability man has yet developed – the art and science of asking questions – is not taught in school.

They talk a good bit in this chapter about the learning environment we design. I’m thinking about our efforts here to redesign the physical learning space – and how in spite of our best efforts – some of the response to those new designs continues to be constrained by contents of the room. We have some work to do.


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