Bleekness & the braindead test

I took the Bleeker text downstairs with me between my moodle making tasks at work the other day, to read while I ordered a coffee…. I found myself sitting down with it and letting my coffee go cold… damn. I had to reheat it in a microwave when I eventually got back upstairs, and I left it in too long it splattered everywhere, so then I had to clean up the coffee mess…. don’t you just love the way solving simple problems in daily life turns them into bigger ones?

anyway, the point is I was so interested in the Bleeker text I read it straight through and forgot where I was and what I was meant to be doing…. all I do is think about blogjects now.. all day long.. and wishing all these bright young folks had the maturity and humanity to think of intelligent applications that help solve genuine problems….

but anyway, I also really enjoyed the Campbell lecture this past week… something resonated strongly when he was taking the piss out of that kind of ‘grading rubric’ we all know and love so well.. the one that specifies to the nth degree what the student is to do… and then icing on the stodge, orders them to ‘be creative’… yes, that is scary control freakish stuff alright… all of the creative goodness squeezed right out and all the while pretending that this is ‘helping’ students learn….

not what teachers want, yet what we all somehow end up doing a lot of the time… a double bind, Bateson said – two conflicting demands, have to choose but can’t… meeting one, means not meeting the other…. extreme anxiety and contradictory behaviour – in us and our students… golly, suddenly I don’t feel I quite want to be in education!

I found the thought worth throwing around inside my empty head a while though, that double binds are used as a form of “control without coercion”… creating confusion that can’t be resisted, or effectively responded to… I could feel myself totally identifying with the whole argument, so persuasive it was…. I was seeing my whole professional life as one big fat double bind…

things declared to be in the interests of ‘the learner’ being, probably, more in the interests of staff… causing students to feel both  deceived and unable to say so…

visions of ‘good’ learners and teachers playing along with the faux relationship, and silenced forever from actually ever talking about their experience… paranoid… suspicious.. defiant… cynical.. depressed, apathetic… silent.. withdrawn.. mute…. yep, I think anyone with half a still functioning brain knows what that’s like!

How can a teacher tell students stuff and at the same time encourage them not to take what is said as gospel or given? How are we supposed to both tell students what and how to think, and yet at the same time encourage them to think in ways we don’t specify – to think differently, independently, creatively?

I’m taking home some tricks from the design of this mooc, that I think are pulling that one off rather well… (but bearing in mind of course, that its success relies on an enormous degree of pre-existing high level engagement and linguistic creativity potential of the sort of student who willingly writes this kind of reflective blog….)

And thinking about technology, what else changes, when the medium does? Can we continue doing the ‘same’ activities in new media, or do we only pretend to? or are we missing the point, missing the meaning potential of new media as we try to stuff square pegs into round holes? yes I think we can all identify a bit of that going on in our workplaces….

And what do we mean by ‘open’ education, really? When, where and how often do we seriously consider the ‘systems’ we’re in – not as technologies, buildings, administrative processes and faceless executives counting beans, but as linguistic, discursive experiences, shaping how we read and write, or speak and listen?

Campbell considers ‘openness’ not in terms of easy access to ‘free’ information, but in terms of the possibility of shifting meaning and context… he said, the double bind might be a prison, or it might be a way out… depending on how it’s framed… well, that seems quite a pearl! It resonates with the sort of linguistics I knowthat openness is about contextual shifts that enable significant semantic shifts, and deep learning is about desire to make meaning, together…

that love is a philosophy… is simple

and then…. what does that mean for daily teaching practice?

And another little pearl slipped in…. fostering habits that are helpful to learners.. ‘practices laying rails for knowledge to run on’ (thankyou Jeff, for that lovely phrase you quoted there)

now like a mindless sheep following the latest thing I hear, I want to begin every class with Campbell’s mock Apgar test….

Blue or pink baby? Are you alive, can we proceed…. love that!

As I ponder the compatibilities of Bateson and SFL and semiotics, I wonder, do I help my students develop a meta-contextual perspective of sets of choices, where they’re willing to put self at risk and go there, into the questions that ‘blow the mind’? How many of them are, and how often am I, living with a sense of free agency?

I’m just thinking out loud to myself, but it’s bed time now, so I’ll sleep on it…. good night 🙂


9 comments on “Bleekness & the braindead test

  1. What I am now pondering, because it also resonates: “that openness is about contextual shifts that enable significant semantic shifts, and that deep learning is about desire to make meaning, together…”

    • Hi Jeff! welcome to my bloggy thingy – open space for collaborative minding 🙂 I don’t know if you’ve ever forayed or foraged in systemic-functional linguistics, but I see Bateson as a kindred spirit in that space… as the great Halliday once said: “the clause complex and the semantic sequence begin as one”… and his theory of language is all about the mutually constructive relationship between text and context… between the various levels or ‘strata’ on which language simultaneously operates, from lexico-grammar, discourse semantics to socio-cultural contexts (as well as the three dimensions of meaning simultaneously in play – the ideational, interpersonal and textual). It’s the theory that joins the dots, as far as I’m concerned… but that might be meaningless gibberish to anyone still outside that particular discursive formation, so I just mention… as a bit of bait!

      • Am literally listening to Gardner Campbell’s talk as I respond to your comment. Double bait, I guess, huh?

        Yes a bit out of my normal world. Which, of course, makes it most interesting. More over time, I am sure. Thanks…

  2. Emily, I love this blog entry! Cambell’s ideas were the best thing I was exposed to in a long time…and you internalized and explained them so well. I listened to Cambell’s speech a second time; I bookmarked Bateson’s book and plan to read it in the near future. I am also considering to try the Apgar test (I can’t see how I can use it in an online class, but in a face-to-face class I could.) Cambell voiced the problems in the current system and our understanding of the process of learning, but does he have solutions? Does anyone have solutions? I don’t know. I think each of us is and will try and fail many times, but along the way we may find a solution that works for us.

    • Desi hi – wasn’t it an engaging lecture?! I am really beginning to feel like I’m a student again, it’s such fun… and like the leaders of this mooc, what I really liked about Campbell’s talk was how he positioned himself as equally unknowing and engaged in the exploration and questioning… I am finding that kind of ‘openness’ the big take-home message from the course – the ‘solution’ is very much in the asking of intelligent questions and the shared process of wandering the wilderness

  3. Thank you. I found your post very helpful. I was able to follow Campbell through his diagnosis, but completely lost on what he envisions as a possible way to go.

    • o hello person whose name I’m not sure of and can’t seem to trace, welcome to this place! it’s a bit like following Alice down the rabbit hole sometimes in this increasingly complex discursive environment, but I’m very happy if my ramblings out loud help people apart from myself make a bit of sense of it all 🙂 do you have a blog too?

  4. The double bind might be a prison or it might be a way out depends on how it is framed. Yes, a pearl indeed. Reminds me of the answer to an old riddle “you look in the mirror, you see what you “saw”, you “saw” the table in half, two halves make a “hole”, you climb out of the hole and escape.

    Thank you for sharing Emily. Hope you get to have a nice hot cup of coffee the next time you sit down with this weeks readings.

    • o perfect story, I love that Cathleen, thanks! my week 3 visual just ‘condensed’ in my mind, I must get that done today 🙂 … and remember to drink while it’s hot as I read about being post human, or past humanity, or jumping over the mooc or whatever it all means!

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