Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recitation research in the Virtual Age

I described in a previous post (Blogging the Wheel) how vast searching (the pedabyte era) could reveal those writings or the connection of writings to the authors who may first have penned them. This might greatly improve the quality of discourse or stimulate discourse. The value of knowing as opposed to un-knowing is to clarify the values of tradition from the folklorist’s inability to find the composer of the form.  But upon considering the subject further, I’m reasonably certain that making the writings of the past, and perhaps the music of the past available without specific goals (as the pedabyte era implies) could also improve and correct our understanding by demonstrating the wider scope of artful endeavors more broadly than previously considered.

I am specifically considering the world of cowboy poetry and the not uncommon statement that cowboys were different, unique amongst working people, for their composing and reciting of metrical verse. “Cowboy Exceptionalism” we could describe this attitude. However as many reciters and creators of cowboy poetry as well as commentators have noted is that often recitations at gatherings are not always about working cattle, but embody values shared by buckaroos and their audiences. Brian Morris’ untitled poem described in the previous post is such a poem. The value of such a description in the present is up to the audience and the person who writes, reads, or recites from memory the verses. Unlike some folklorists, my experience with reading and talking with rural people who grew up in the past is that recitation and versifying were social skills that knew no geographic boundaries and no economic barriers to participation.

What I have been most interested in recovering is the recitation tradition, having just missed the real searing effects of that form of learning. In grade school we had to memorize the “Declaration of Independence,” the “Preamble to the Constitution,” and the “Gettysburg Address.” Older people whom I have visited with told of learning long poems and speeches for school closings and other public events. Somehow with the Sputnik launch and the move to make us all scientists, the memorization of long poems was abandoned.

My mother would occasionally recite short poems that she had learned when growing up in Santa Ana and Huntington Beach, California, where she took elocution classes. Later I found small slips of paper about her recitals. Another clipping she saved was from The Journal of International Electrical Workers and Operators, [Vol 36:3 (March 1838) 168.] describes a recitation on the floor of the House of Representatives. My father would occasionally recite poetry as well. One piece I found in his papers after his death was from World War II and his service on the USS Saratoga (CV3) titled “The Finger is Upon Us.”

The Pedabyte era brings to us the possibility of researching and rediscovering the breadth and depth of metrical verse in social discourse of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Just as no newspaper resisted the temptation to include rhymed couplets of wit or wisdom, virtually no American Federation of Labor affiliated trade journal, or college yearbook was deficient in a share of metrical compositions. The fluidity of these forms suggests not plagiarism, but rather the priority given to the context of publication, not to the source of the creation but the goal of recitation, not reading.  It seems apparent that research into both the volume, topics, and literary dialects of the material would make our histories of life and times of the past more nuanced and complex.

For example, consider a poem in the prior blog named for ease of writing “Was it really worth the while?” (This is not Joaquin Miller’s poem “Is It Worth While?) This poem was published in newspapers across the country (The Pensacola Journal, Ironwood (MN) Times, Tulsa Daily World, Clark Country Review) and had considerable interest for the trades at the end of the first decade of the 20th century. It also found favor with men’s colleges of the time. Between 1909 and 1918 the poem was variously published in The Plumbers’ Trade Journal, The Hardwood Record, Phi Beta Pi Quarterly (Chicago Dental College), The Bridgeman’s Magazine, The Iowa Unionist, The Clay Worker, The Longhorn (Texas A&M), The Hardware Reporter, The Cadet (VMI), The American Flint Glass Workers, The Bomb (VMI), Paper-Makers Journal, The Earth Mover, Steam, Shovel, and Dredge, and Columbia Daily Spectator (as a parody). In 1918 the poem reaches another audience, the men’s club and dinner circuit, published by John McClure, a poet and columnist in New Orleans, in the Stag’s Hornbook, for A. A. Knopf. The poem still has legs and like many other poems is “collected” by Michael Cassius Dean, and published in “Flying cloud, and one hundred and fifty other old time songs and ballads of outdoor men, sailors, lumber jacks, soldiers, men of the Great Lakes, railroadmen, miners, etc.” [Virginia, Minn., The Quickprint, 1922.] A couple of these institutions published the poem twice, such as when the Chicago School of Dentistry became part of Loyola University, the new year book Dentos published the poem in 1927. By the 1930s the poem has become the stuff of “older times”. However, Northwestern University still published this poem as “What’s the Use?” as an “exchange” with another institution. The glow of remembrance brought the poem to the “Notes and Queries” section of the New York Times, where Helen Fellman (the editor) selected it for the immensely successful collection, The Best Loved Poems of the American People, [Doubleday, 1936. Pp. 621].

The name attached to the poem changes often, though there does not appear to be a clear succession to these titles. It is printed as “Is It Worth While?” “In the Cold, Gray Dawn” “The Morning After” “The Modern Vampire” “Tomorrow You May Die” “Bill’s Silioquy the Morning After” “Old Pal” “Remorse” “The Best and the Worst” “Three Sheets In the Wind” “For the Benefit of the Night Hawks”

“The State Goes Dry” (a parody on prohibition), “Be Merry Today, For Tomorrow You May Die” “What’s the Use?” and “Is It Really Worth the While?”  What’s more although many newspapers or publications list the author as “anonymous” “correspondent,” or “exchange,”  there still a number of other people claiming or attributing authorship: Sam Davis, Frank F Fish, Ned D Lewis MD,  F. L. Scharfle, C.U.B., L. K. M. ’15 [L. K. Moore], E. J. M., C W Aplin (parody), Edgar Allen Pell (parody). No named attribution has ever been found twice. This willingness to connect attribution is more in keeping with the formula of ear-playing fiddler’s who attribute the tune to the person whom they learned it from, “Quince Dillion’s High D”, for example.

What do you make of this overblown blog on carpe diem, Gaudeamus igitur, or ubi sunt? The Ballad Index by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle cite the Dean collection (1922) and Steve Roud classifies this as Roud #9588. The problems of classification make every attempt for textual analysis quixotic because of the multiple intentions of writers and reciters. The poem is simultaneously pensive and joyful. One great service of this “pedabyte era” to folklore then will be to bring greater inter-textuality to the sub-literary forms of verbal arts. This formlessness of the domain of possibility is (I believe) a truer stance to the multiplicity of performers and potential audiences, giving greater light to the granularity of the text as it is made serviceable to the particular audience each iteration serves.

Right Church, Wrong Pew

We’re into the homestretch of this Domain of one’s own class. There have been enlightening and bewildering moments and as Yogi would say “It ain’t over ’till its over.” But after reading the material for our last meeting I can’t connect the dots of using social media to facilitate learning for our students and polish our professional appearance available to like-minded participants.

I view myself as one of the “little” people, the users of internet. I work for a living, try to be nice (or at least polite) to the people I meet. I have very limited degrees of freedom, but when I do have choice I try to be considerate and anticipate how my actions will affect others. I am not a saint, nor am I an app builder (in either the hardware or software use of the term).

The readings this week seemed to be informing me about conditions beyond my control and probably beyond the control of any students I might teach. This is not to say that the issues presented in these readings aren’t interesting, alarming, and feed my sense of dread about the future. They play into my negative stereotypes of power and money, that these are corrupting forces. There are no longer heroes, except of the moment, and everyone who wins a moment of fame for an act or an idea is suspect for their monetary motives or their subsequent efforts to leverage money, control and power from the limelight.  People who work for a living have our own vices, our own reputations to polish, and our own self-delusions. But as the Golden Rule says, “The person with the gold makes the rules.”

Because I lack access, through my inability to interface with venture capitalists, and I lack scale because I’m trying to reach perhaps one hundred and fifty people, not billions, I won’t even try to explain what these readings provide me in my uncertain quest to provide a learning environment for my students. I’m anxious to read and hear where others saw revelation and empowerment.


Blogging the Wheel

Having been such a negative ion initially in the discussion of the digital scholar, I need to qualify and perhaps positively restate some of what I previously posted. Digital scholarship creates two (among other) roles that both honorable. One is the migration of information from hard copy or microfilmed copies to a digital format that can be shared broadly by internet services. These resources can be then indexed and made searchable. If this is a paradigm shift then there will be new understandings and a general re-definition as a result of this activity.

In my field, folklore, there is clearly an advantage to having as many comparable instances of an aesthetic production as possible. Both the dynamic and conservative character of the lifestyles, the use of language, material culture, narrative and problem solving all are informed by having available many variants both spatially and temporally.

One theoretical assumption in Folklore is that products of culture will display variation between communities, but will have greater similarities within a particular community. When the scholar lacks a clear provenance and chain-of-learning for the cultural products she is studying, these “artifacts” are said to be “Traditional”. There are many ways that a scholar can employ tradition to define the purposes of research and to explain the purposes of research. One unhappy use of this naming is when individual(s) who first synthesized the form is not known. Few contemporary folklorists would seriously suggest that communities create materials in tradition. The song, the story, the saying, or the chair, sled, or fiddle tune are the product of an act of creation at a particular time and place by individuals who are known within the community. The agency of individuals to create and others to modify is well-accepted within host communities and among scholars, but the act of creation is also distinct from the monetized work of writers and composers in written traditions governed by laws of copyright and conventions where the multiple components of ownership. When a cultural product lacks clear attribution and the formula of performance is shared within a community scholars will often describe the condition of unknown as “traditional”.

Now comes the “pedabyte age” and the rapid transfer from analog to digital products of multiple media and with the potential to search vast compilations of materials for character strings (I don’t know of sonic search devices). The most persistent problem is cluster analysis and character recognition.  Recognition of hand written sources of the past makes translation of historical texts at best difficult but often nearly impossible.  Google’s “good enough” approach may be a business model, but it isn’t satisfactory as a scholarly model.

The advances in access to the works of the past, when done commercially is principally to translate first the analog copies of printed works, or (less frequently) to directly digitize the published text. Individuals may digitize and transcript the text more completely, but the results still have scribal or recognition errors. Recently the use of crowd-sourcing, in which large numbers of researchers agree to participate in a transcription project for documents felt to have remarkable cultural significance.

Google’s well-known exploration of massive digitizing of published works, both books and newspapers shows the dangers of leaving the heritage protection to a commercial enterprise. Having created a vast (but hardly complete) newspaper collection within the United States, Google’s financial officers found that they could not create a revenue stream from offering the service and the expansion and functionality of the service was stopped.  Other for-profit enterprises offer digital searches to major newspapers or particular time periods. The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress had a similar, if more limited digital goal in their program “Chronicling Historic America.” Through grants they have encouraged not-for-profit organizations to digitize important newspaper holdings, which is then shared with the Library of Congress and potentially used at the state level.

I use this resource frequently and recommend it to students, with the caveat that the search is machine made and cannot be assumed to be completely accurate either in the hits it finds, or that it has found all occurrences of a character string. I’m excited by the possibility and the realization that digitally recognized occurrences of cultural products of unknown authorship can be identified and potentially connect the known to the unknown, making the traditional attributable.

An example, in my recent experience, involves metrical verse of the western United States. The background is this: Having some time ago (1984) worked with the Folk Arts Coordinators in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming seeking men and women who wrote and recited poetry of the West, in preparation for the First Cowboy Poetry Gathering, I have an enduring interest in who, why and what the sources of material were. Brian Morris’ recitation of an unnamed poem that I have called “Tomorrow you may die” was not specifically Buckaroo related, neither was the awesome act of memory of Chuck Dougal of Jordan Valley, Oregon reciting “The Cremation of Sam McGee” written by Robert Service.  While Brian’s source is not known, the verses are traceable in the United States to a World War I era (1918) book The Stag’s hornbook, with the title “Was it Really Worth the While?” John McClure is the editor of the book but like thousands of other compilations, the attribution of this poem is Anonymous. But with the poem’s wordiness and clever (if low art) images it is certainly from the mind of a single person, but the chain is broken and we don’t know who.

A tale of unknowing of Cowboy Poetry returned to haunt me recently when a chain of telling led from the Old-Time Herald, a magazine devoted to southern music and many other things to the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center blog about categories of music use and American culture. The blog spoke of the context for Senator Gore Sr.’s recording of Soldier’s Joy in 1938, and gave a link to that recording from their collection. But it also linked to a recording of “The Darned Old Wheel” as recorded in the Arvin California Farm Security Administration Camp in August 1941 by Lum Wilson “Bill” Jackson. The American Folk Song Archive of the Library of Congress actually has a number of recordings of songs and recitations of this piece, The Massey Family The Westerners (Massey Family) “Gol-Darn Wheel” ARC 6-01-54(C 843-1) Chicago, IL, Wednesday 14, 1934 (Curt Massey f, Larry Wellington, ac, Allen Massey v/g, Milt Mabie, sb. Tony Russell, p. 610.)
recorded it in 1934 as did Johnny Horton a decade later—but its always “Anonymous.”

If you’ve been dying of wonder where the Pedabyte enters the story this is the place. Using the “Chronicling Historic America” site, searching thousands of newspapers across the United States, looking for hits on “Cowboy” and “Wheel” brought up the front page of the St. Johns’ Herald 14 March 1896, printing the stanzas to “The Cowboy and the Wheel.” But the tag line was “Gol Darned Wheel.” Just below the title was a bracketed source “[Recreation]” but no author. Well, Recreation, was the name of a sporting magazine published by G. O. Shields, as the publication of the American Canoist’s Association in 1896, in the February 1896 issue he published, “The Cowboy and the Wheel,” by James B Adams.  James B. Adams, better known as a poet and “paragrapher” for the Denver Post under his full name, James Barton Adams, is one of the well-known scribbler’s of Cowboy poetry and contributed a number of evergreens, particularly the “High-Toned Dance.” In 1899 he compiled a number of his poems into a book, Breezy Western Verse, printed by the Denver Post. But he didn’t include “The Cowboy and the Wheel” in that publication, and canoists and cowboys don’t party too often together. So a professional rhymer of the range was the source of this amusing bust-up that has been a valued part of our un-knowing for more than a century.

But by recognizing and attributing the author unveils and allows to shine more brightly the other facets of traditional that were and are always more important. Tradition proclaims the value and the respect with which performers have treated this metrical verse, molding its text, patching the forgotten phrases, singing it or saying it the piece has endured to become the fabric not only the fashion of cowboy poetry. The “pedabyte age” doesn’t destroy culture it frees it to connect with the roots while celebrating the enduring value of personal performance.

Some notes:
Jack Thorpe. Songs of the Cowboys. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company (The Riverside Press, Cambridge), 1921. Pp. 71. “Mailed me by a friend from Marfa, Texas, who heard it sung by a cow-puncher named Hudspeth.” See the first edition, 1908.
Finger, Charles. Sailor Shanties and Cowboy Songs. Girard, Kansas: E. Haldeman-Julius, 1923.
Lee, Jack H., Cowboy Songs (Butte, Montana: McKee Printing Co, 1934) p. 40.
The Westerners (Massey Family) “Gol-Darn Wheel” ARC 6-01-54(C 843-1) Chicago, IL, Wednesday 14, 1934 (Curt Massey f, Larry Wellington, ac, Allen Massey v/g, Milt Mabie, sb. Tony Russell, p. 610.
Lomax, John A and Alan Lomax. Cowboy Songs and other Frontier Ballads (Revised and enlarged edition. NYC: MacMillan, 1938. p. 269. In some case the earlier edition (NYC: Sturgis & Walton, 1910) is cited. “W. Bogel, a student at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, first sang this song to me in 1908.”
American Folklife Center. “Gol Darn Wheel” Recited by John A Lomax 5644B-1 LWO-3493 R29- A side broken) 1941 Falfurrias, Texas: “The gol darn wheel” Sung by Sterling Reason. October 1935. Fort Spunky, Texas LWO 4844, R47, side A.
Mailed me by a friend from Marfa, Texas, who heard it sung by a cow-puncher named Hudspeth.
Buck Lee. “The Gol Darned Wheel.” 11 July 1946, Clearview, Utah. Recorded by Austin and Alta Fife.
Johnny Horton 1956-1960 – Vol 3 #28 – The Gosh-Darn Wheel (CS 9940)LP 1970
Glenn Orhlin. “The Gol-Darn Wheel.” Mountain View, Arkansas on May 29, 1969. Missouri State University. Cat. #0732 (MFH #232)
G. Malcolm Laws, Native American Balladry. Appendix II “Native Ballads of doubtful currency in Tradition” page 260. cites, Lomax, “Cowboy Songs” 269, 26d couplets.
Hal Cannon, ed. Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering. Salt Lake City: Gibb Smith, 1985. Pp. 10.
Meade, Gus; Spottswood, Richard; Meade, Douglas. Country Music Sources. page 27 #26 “Gol Darn Wheel”. Two citations; 1 recording

No theoretical choice will end theoretical choices.

I am amused and interested in the propositions of Chris Anderson more for his certainty and for his audacity.  His article can be classified in the category of tea leaf analysis because it ignores the past and answers questions of today, without identifying what the questions will be for the future. I would suggest Peter Galison’s Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics as exploring the role and realm of models at the beginning of the digital age, having relevance to the current hubris involving massive data analysis.

Perhaps one should distinguish between those who inform and those who create new paradigms of perception, model, and significance. Mr. Anderson has no dog in the race. He is free to write and opine that data collection on formerly unimaginable scales makes history bunk.  Seers and journalists exist in a world of possibility. Yesterday is past, tomorrow never comes, and we live in today. Oddly, a seer is praised today and not scorned, or discredited, but ignored tomorrow. It is certainly exciting for some to imagine that life’s mysteries will soon be solved, and that no intermediate steps of refinement will be necessary.  Audacious and eye-catching, but revelatory—probably not.

Octopus or butterfly?

In anxious anticipation of our meeting today, I wanted to lay out a distinction that I make in conversations with students about scholars and scholarship and to relate it to our discussion about social media. I suggest to students that their future professional career has already started and that they should not abandon any purposeful intellectual property they produce. In my field this could be collecting information about a building or block of Fredericksburg in an assignment I make. Intellectual property is something to share. I regularly suggest that students can profit from sharing, just as social networks provide. Collected observations, analysis, and the supporting documentation are the first steps in research. It isn’t professional research unless we package and disseminate to others for their consideration, review, and appraisal. The knowledge and information we receive as scholars can be honorably shared provided we provide attribution–cite the source. But while I suggest that students provide their opinions, I also insist that they have an honorable reputation and that is something they should guard zealously.

In our review of research methods and the writings of others then I ask them to read the works of scholars who spend a professional lifetime in a single topic or theoretical perspective. I use the metaphor of the octopus because this creature builds a home and embellishes it over a lifetime. My students and I also read the works of scholars who are constantly in search of the next new intellectual metaphor to explore. These scholars borrow from other disciplines and then look for novelty and fit within our disciplines. These are the butterflies of scholastic life constantly moving from one intellectual flower to another.

Both of these approaches have value and neither (to my mind) makes a superior contribution to scholarship. However, the octopus by focusing often might find value not in the widest exploration of possible collaborators, but on cultivating that cohort of individuals whose research interests most closely align with theirs. The Blog and Listserv appear more useful to these individuals because it is the quality of the interaction, not the quantity that make the posts, or notes most valuable. Conversely, the scholar who would be a butterfly is constantly seeking the flower or source that the scholar has not yet found. It is the finding and the more limited engagement that fills the need of this approach to professional activity. Social media and especially hash tags would appear to best serve the goals of this style of scholarship.

This metaphorical distinction is of course too coarse (in several ways). I do not intend to suggest that long term research is ugly or misshapen in the vision of the octopus. Nor do I mean to imply that every flower has equal engagement. Most important to my post, I would suggest that all scholars are both octopus and butterfly–synchronously or asynchronously. We draw boundaries of our research interests, or professional intentions, and our contacts using a variety of goals and objectives–hopefully always honorable.

But a scholar need not believe themselves less effective because they choose to employ one metaphor or the other at that moment.



Personally learning network

Déjà vu all over again”

I find that everything said about Personal Learning Networks [PLN] of Personal Learning Environments [PLE] is a fair summary of staying abreast of facilitated communication. But nothing about the communication is new, only the containers. The writers for this week’s readings are preachers, some more strident than others. But communication was the reason behind the internet with sharing and communicating. Listserv threads are still around. They have been used to connect people of similar interests since before there was a WWW. Just as the current crop of new programs Listserv was free until a product emerged to allow users to know nothing of the mechanism of unix while participating in threads of discussion on the topics of their choice. Even the legendary mistakes of facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the inadvertent posting of information of a private nature existed in advance of these new forms.

But beyond the fashionable consumption of new ways of doing things–that’s what makes jobs and keeps people busy day and night–several of these articles are right to stress the needs of a digitally networked discussion, much as we would the face-to-face encounters, if they occur. Rheingold especially is laying out pattern of engagement, emphasizing participatory actions. I’m particularly pleased to see serendipity touted. This has liberal arts written all over it. It’s not about finding the real name of Tiroler Ganger Die Gludstinder whose recording of Allweil Luftig was first played by Mac on the Antique Music Program, and then that program uploaded to the Free Music Archive where Martin Auer, notes the title should read Allweil lustig (“Always Merry”) and the band name is probably Tiroler Sänger (“Tyrolean Singers”), The Glückskinder (“Lucky Fellows”) or in English order The Lucky Fellow Tyrolean Singers. [] But its about the sharing. There are people to follow, and Mac is one of them. One never knows where recordings of Swiss yodeling of the early 20th century may appear.

It was never kind, but “lurking” as a pattern of passive participation, may no longer be tolerated. Similarly due to the rise in gratuitous irrelevant commentary, many places now require log-in and password. This is a pain if only because one must then manage the passwords. But it does cause one to hone the list of sites. As an “old school” surfer (in several respects) I tend to also review the links. Often some are familiar others are broken, but again serendipity abounds. An individual or site may be gone, but an archived version exists.

There is less virtue in trimming the list than might first appear. I find that moving url to a cache is preferable to discarding the contact. Again, serendipitous opportunity to feed someone else a contact may come from a site one no longer follows.

What I value about Rheingold’s list is that his suggestions include not only the getting of information, but the giving of information and the need for restraint. Without visual clues and long association the surly comment is damaging to the relationship in ways that many don’t imagine. Then too, responding to requests for information is important as well.

I’m still trying to imagine how I’ll use this in a teaching condition. Student projects within the major tend to be brief and intense. Rheingold is perhaps an important reading for instructors of classes, such as FSEM, in which molding habits of social interaction can be beneficial across the entire course of an undergraduate education. Still it’s hard to imagine a first-year student who signs up for an FSEM and then maintains the same interest over the span of her undergraduate experience.




Axiom – A self-evident truth that requires no proof

Home is where you hang your @
The E-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail.
A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.
You can’t teach a new mouse old clicks.
Great groups from little icons grow.
Speak softly and carry a cellular phone.
C:\is the root of all directories.
Don’t put all your hypes in one home page.
Pentium wise; pen and paper foolish.
The modem is the message.
Too many clicks spoil the browse.
The geek shall inherit the earth.
A chat has nine lives.
Don’t byte off more than you can view.
Fax is stranger than fiction.
What boots up must come down.
Windows will never cease.
In Gates we trust.
Virtual reality is its own reward.
Modulation in all things.
A user and his leisure time are soon parted.
There’s no place like
Know what to expect before you connect.
Oh, what a tangled website we weave when first we practice.
Speed thrills.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to use the Net and he won’t bother you for weeks.

Seven Incredibly Important revelations. . .

. . .to successfully resolving the dilemma of Education.

I’m all atwitter with the new group of readings for week four of a domain of one’s own. Here in Martha’s band we’re finding our digital community. Since to be anything in digitaland we first need to create a name. This is exactly like old-time musicians who wish to move beyond busking at Farmer’s Markets. The first (and some would say most important) decision is to name the band. It’s easier for musicians because they use words–while we only have letters. So if we were going to be a new wave, groove, string band we could be the Knott Family–we are a not family. But I suggest we could be MOP or Martha’s Occasional Participants. MOP members might occasionally post, tweet, or retweet. In this Domain of One’s Own we can create a masque to disquise our community from the animals we go home to at night.
For today I’ll be Not MOP. Not (even) Occasionally Trustworthy.
In digesting the Personal Learning Environments (PLE), whose agenda and success narrative are indeed incredibly parallel to DOOP project, but slightly British (in a nice way) or Canadian, I can now unveil to you the unintended consequence of constantly tinkering with titles, terms, and metaphors while agreeing on the goals of teaching and learning. For connectivity I call it:
Seven Incredibly Important revelations to successfully resolving the dilemma of Education
1. Keep your abbreviation short, nobody wants to commit to a concept with the longevity of Junebug in July. Chuck the scrabble tiles out on the table and then choose three that you like now–you can change the font latter.
2. Check out what other organization has the same handle. You wouldn’t want to have the same acronym as a Conservative Washington Think (oxymoron) Tank.
3. If possible, find someone (long dead and unknown) who can quote as a progenitor. Cartoon characters aren’t good because all the cartoons are still available. French Philosophers, Hungarian Linguists, Russian Structuralists, or Thomas Dewey (as a last resort) no one knows what these folks were talking about anyway.
4. Hyperboly is the best policy. Remember evolution is dead, only revolution will do. Without excess how will breathless tweeters know you are serious.
5. Schedule your convention in Las Vegas. Start at the tenth annual.
6. Refer to products whose handles (acronyms) are only slightly less recent than your great idea. One goal is to write complete sentences without using any words. As the Cheap Suit Serenaders sang “Tell a fine artiste something he don’t know and he’ll be the chump that floats you the dough.”
7. Explain seven ways that DEF is better than ABC.

Witlessly I have begun the week, but posted. (I thought Branded, but that was Steve McQueen and he’s dead). Of course twenty years ago we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash, and Bob Hope. Now we’ve got no jobs, no cash, and no hope.

Look forward to your thoughtful posts with recipes for success in our digital community. Light on the garlic. I’m looking for someone else to swing into action so I won’t be MOP’s poster boy.

The Connected Teacher: Same goal, different words

Having listened to Professor Alec Couros discuss “The Connected Teacher” in the posted skype message assigned for this week, I admit I understood his enthusiasm, but I didn’t understand what he wished me to know sufficiently to reproduce the good effects he achieves in his classes. He discussed three elements:
Network for learning
The learning via the internet connection
The Summary of what was learned

To be fair to this project “A Domain of My Own” I am trying to understand how I could use his successes at my level of understanding, given my poor command of the language and literature (both singly composed (asynchronous) and threaded discussions of networked activity. It would appear to me that I might find a cognate process whose results of personal learning might be similar but whose language and perhaps path would be different (if indeed it would be different at all).

My first task to students might be:
1. Solve a problem that builds (goal that is not an end in itself-solitaire is not a goal). What do I mean? I’m trying to imagine structured learning where the results of one achievement provide the materials (intellectual, processual, or physical) to articulate another problem whose solution is predicated upon previous learning, but produces a different result.

I can imagine a student responding, without dissembling asking, “What is a problem?”
To this I might take the standard narrative approach–a problem is something that the protagonist lacks. Often in stories a protagonist leaves home because she lacks food, safety, or affection. Through travel she encounters other actors with whom she interacts and through these interactions she gains knowledge, or skills (even of communication).  Through the quest or series of interactions she gains experience and this personal quality then yields the solution.

The solution is the “lack liquidated” in the classic hausmärchen after which the resolution then is often marriage.

Another way of seeing this is initial repose-action-repose-resolution.
However one describes the state of resolution, it is condition of greater understanding. In our learning environment this can also lead to a new quest for new skills, or knowledge achievable, in part, because of the previous quest(s).

But beyond the learning necessary to specific solutions, the protagonist, provided she wishes to understand rather than just satisfy the lack, gains an understanding of a matrix of solution (I believe I heard this term from Michael Spencer). This matrix of solution I take to be a generalized, but personal method of problem solving that may be applied to other lacks on different problems with different topography and complexity. As Dr. Couros remarks, it is not the hardware/software. These surely will change over a short amount of time. Rather it is the mechanism of learning, of communicating to others the needs instrumental to resolving the lack.

I don’t pretend to be profound. Any player of a musical instrument must at some level acquire the skills necessary to play in cooperation with others, new tunes, with new pulses, or tempoes. The matrix of solution could be called competency.  No musician stops preparing prior to performance. The motions of tonality, flow, precision, timing and many other elements I wouldn’t understand are reviewed and made ready to solve the performance at hand.

Would this be student-centered learning? I don’t know. Certainly the actors whom the protagonist meet in approaching the solution would not be limited to the instructor. Much would be learned in the interaction with other seekers. Clearly the path would not be predestined. And certainly the outcome is larger that the lack liquidated, because it supposes the continued problem solution toward competency in a subject, which is not a destination but a confident replication of result.

Aarne-Thompson 327


Twitter, what does it all mean?

This week I’ve come to understand that I have not done the homework that I need to be conversant in this course. I assumed incorrectly that words meant what I thought they meant. I’m sure I knew better, but as Bon Stewart would say I resisted. Taking the readings as mirrors or windows that refracted my goals and knowledge was not the means to open the door to a new conception. So I am looking to inform myself about the basis of this platform of computing and the means through which it can be effective to do what the users (not abusers) seek to do. And to do this I need to review and understand the words. A few (but there are many more) that are relevant:
Student-centered learning
Social Constructivist

Turns out, I haven’t been clear about any of these (and many more) terms. The language of discussion became even more importance as the text is boiled down to tweets because nothing can be explained for itself, there is only character set length to refer to another discussant, or statement, or generally understood point. Each term must carry a greater semantic load.

So with Bon Stewart, “Twitter for Teachers: an experiment in openness” the level of ambiguous reference was for me (for reasons above) tantamount to lack of communication, unintelligible, or lack of understanding. I read every word, but like Noam Chomsky’s example (In Syntactic Structures) and “Green Ideas Sleep Furiously” was grammatically correct, but semantically meaningless. Back to the dictionary, back to reading the instructions.  Furthermore I’m wondering if students who may be highly effective users of Twitter, blogging and other forms of social media (As I feel myself to be a competent user of English), might also be unable to become learners in an open forum where the topic is not already an attribute of their experience?

And for me, I find that much of the blogging I’m reading speaks of the benefits and virtues of student-centered learning, but I never read the first post explaining what the words mean.



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