Digital dumpster Diving


I am out of character today, extolling the strategy of investigation that Martin Weller proposes in his chapter “A Pedagogy of Abundance.” I’ll probably read the whole book. Having been rather beastly to other authors so far in our readings, perhaps this oozing, gushing, eruption of positivism stems from the manner of presentation (the medium is the message, right!) one of dispassionate comparison without leveraging longevity into “ergo I must be right.” If Domain of One’s Own has taught me anything (and I’m learning heaps) it is that longevity in experience does not equal expertise or ownership. The abundance-scarcity model has broad explanatory power both in understanding pedagogy and predicting marketplace movement. Another benefit of his appraisal of various methodologies of engagement is that the conclusions are not hierarchical but reflect different matrix of decision-making for the people who will do the work. Content is truly abundant. I found the Digital Audio Guide-Resources and pursued the Free Musical Archive, mashed genres and I was hooked, finding a much loved source “Mac” contributing material from his radio program “Antique Music Hour”. Now I’m wondering what about the vernacular music preceding the virtual music age–say 1900. How could I bring the processes of printed notation into the discussion. It’s back to ABC notation. But wait, maybe someone would like to suggest a better way.

mound_city with eddie lang

Are values appropriate objectives for public education

Leslie Madsen-Brooks’ “Make Students Curators” is a striking example of high level preaching to people who must engage in low level tasks. As teachers, she submits, our focus should be teaching learners a long list of mental practices, which she summarizes as creation, contextualization, argument, and engagement. I could not agree with her goals more.  Yet the austensible reason for standards are to support a hierarchical evaluation of thought, or value structure of learning and information processing. As I read the article, “Make Students Curators,” the value structure of Ms. Madsen-Brooks became more clear. Her intention was not to replace determining value with another performance standard, but to replace what she sees as bad values with what she expresses as “good” values. It doesn’t matter that I might agree or disagree with her values, but that the writing does not acknowledge that valuation is a problematic core limiting the expansion of the platform of understanding in a post-modern, highly fragmented society. The Bloom model she embraces is a quintessentially mechanistic, modernistic model (as distinct from post-modern) created by scholars who sought to provide complex, but essentially mechanistic models of human actions and interaction.  By attempting to divest research of its knowledge components to rapidly arrive at the analysis and synthetic levels of cognition, the control of learning is priviliging the statistical mean over the outliers–it assumes e pluribus unum; we’ll vote and having voted agree, and agreeing by vote will make it so. Yet, alternatives exist, and can be just as suited to digital facilitation. We could model contested conditions. A digital facilitation could model phenomenological conditions, much like weather, or re-cursive models to show the ways that synthesis changes knowledge and that analysis at times must be weighed against the facts and revised context, or suffer the unintended consequences of focus. Indeed she approaches one of the more vexing questions of humanistic discourse. In our highly monetized educational system will digital equipment receive higher priority than teachers, or come to replace teachers in virtual learning environments, a condition she prefers to call “deprofessionalize” teachers? In this regard,  the flow of events may have already tipped to a climate of academic discourse where a new model of educational practice is emerging that is distributed, virtual, and digital. If this is true, the trajectory of change in working conditions, expectations, and depression of compensation for teaching professionals (as opposed to administrators) will only accelerate as institutions move towards on-line classes and a general re-definition of what constitutes learning and the value of the domains of learning. This second stage monetizing of public policy began prior to the mid 1990s when the on-line capacity of computing was widespread and stems from the shifting assessment from output to outcomes in the measurement of agency performance, often ironically called “value-added.”  Ironic because the assessment standards are created by one community and imposed on another community. Madsen-Brooks’ bolded sub-heading “We must proceed thoughtfully toward digital curation” (italics in the original) mistakenly suggests that teachers are in control. While in the near future and individual classroom this may be true, administrators at the institutional, state and national level prioritize funding and are stimulating mixed motives of certification and retention while distributing funding to STEM disciplines, suggesting that the topography of the learning agenda is shifting in ways that classroom teachers may not be able to resist. There may no longer be a shared model of learning between the majority of teachers and the majority of administrators. This is confusing because the administrators now at retirement ages were largely drawn from the pool of classroom teachers. However, their on-job experience has trained administrators to be more engaged to cues from their supervisors–boards of state commissions, local boards of education, professional administration organizations and legislatures than the teachers in the classroom. Historically schools have evolved from private institutions by and for the wealthy, to necessary public institutions, to public institutions run on models of business. Digital learning has become a contested field for educational institutions. For teachers on-line resources provide enhancements for in-class learning environments. For administrators, on-line learning may substitute for in-class, faculty-led experiences.

The trouble with being Earnest is the evil thereof

Week Two and still looking for the answers to life’s mysteries
Well, I went to Google and found that for a lurker not a seeker of the limelight, I’m well-covered by a couple dozen other people named Gary Stanton who are out there busting their chops to be credited for what they’ve been and done. has me covered with citations of ten dead guys in the nominal cohort. U-Tube has both pirated (fair use) and volunteered efforts by men and boys named like me, scratching for fame, busking for fortune. Made the sex offender list in Au Claire, another place I can cross off my bucket list. I’m pretty happy with all the pictures except the one Joe Baker took for the U with the view of me. There’s not one Gary Stanton, there are dozens, and in the composite image I’m young, I’ve got hair, I’ve got a nice guitar, I’ve got a real badge (Gary Stanton is a sherrif out there, corraling crooks), I’m fit, and I’ve got a whole alphabet of academic titles after my name. Now, of course, I only went twenty pages back in the Google digest and there were hundreds more, but I’m well-satisfied that anyone looking for me would have lots to chose from.

I remember Gardner’s step away from all night reading of Dante’s Inferno while a faculty member at Mary Washington College, to concentrate on proselytizing computer literacy. He has ridden the leading waves of culture well and he has every reason to champion the World Wide Web as the “big thing”. But having lived with “The Medium is the Massage” and other works of H. Marshall McLuhan, before there was the World Wide Web, I would opine that the man was bright and vigorous, but more an artist playing the media than answering life’s questions. Which brings me to Gardner’s central suggestion and perhaps the central metaphor of “A domain of One’s Own,” that we should be spending time teaching students how to market themselves. Isn’t that what pedagogy is all about? If the medium is the message, then the University is a finishing school for wealth acquisition, and should in these monetized times not waste the increments of the time-money continuum with fundamentals of core skills and competencies. Stick to the importance of style, novelty, and above all publicity. Preach that an ounce of appearance is worth a pound of performance. The effect of digital identity is that it overlays all the other necessary and avocational activities creating a life where there is no downtime, no weekends, no vacations, only time on task and time on the World Wide Web. Adults in their youth of course see this differently, for many being on-line is the constant and being on-task is the variable.

If Gardner is telling us what our priorities as teachers should be, Tim Chambers has mounted his digital soap box to save our choices from the anti-christ of Google and other computer companies. These evil doers are gathering vast quantities of information about our personal habits. I’ve reduced (but not eliminated) my exposure to the possibility of malicious use by not participating in the LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and most other forms of social media. But as much as I marvel at his wonderful literacy, clear rhetoric, and connectedness to this digital reporting sector, I can suggest several other ways to reduce personal exposure. First, pay cash. I wish I could follow this consistently, but seriously without credit (for which we pay whether we use it or not) what would they do, send me to Vietnam? Second, focus on the idea (or the product) not on the by-line. As to my dobbelganger “living” long after me, well maybe I could join the grateful dead, but I’m not trying to sell anything alive, so I doubt anyone will monetize my death. Perhaps Tim is imaging the residuals of life absorbed by greedy corporations. Two thoughts about that, first, ripping off the powerless–it’s called journalism or photography. Second, from the land of the dead came the laff track for movies and television programs extending the memorality of audiences of the Honeymooners and Jack Benny. Where would we be without the sampled sounds inserted to tell us when to laugh and the music bed to tell us when to cry?

The b readings (B&b & b) come closest to providing web mediated content. Although b feels it necessary to create credibility by telling a story on herself, who knows if it is true (it has the sound of truth). Her recommendations are extrapable to every thing in life, whether floating messages across or talking to the policeman just outside your car, put mind in gear before putting mouth in motion. But in academics everyone has the challenging task of writing an introduction for a disparate collection of journal articles–the scholarly equivalent of herding chickens from a horse. But it was thought provoking to ponder on the categories of public and audience. I believe these distinctions only have salience in political social discourse. A blog on builder’s guides published in America in the 18th and 19th centuries may have audience members unknown to the author, but their comments will either be appreciative, informative, or ignorable. There isn’t much debate about the subject, and although death occurs, the deceased rarely has access to digital communications.

So then there’s the moral and it comes out at the end. My goals in blogging and indeed in making digital collections of materials that exist in singular or few hard copy are foremost to make them available free and useable. My persona is hardly at issue. Like b above I cringe when I find errors that I could have corrected. I don’t tell truths, because in my opinion they don’t exist. I try to keep my posts simple with a dash of paradox.

Affect and Effect

I am still trying to digest the stage fright of old wine in new bottles. I may have this wrong, but I recall that when html 2.0 was released I anxious bought the book Ernie Ackermann wrote explaining how we could make pages and distribute stuff to people we didn’t know. The commando-like energy that knowing these little codes all done up in an ASCII, then ANSI, then (I forget). And earlier I set on the edge of my seat as a computer guy at Indiana University explained COBOL language and writing elegant code, cause if you don’t have much memory you wrote little routines. So why isn’t this like playing guitar, or riding a bicycle, or memorizing the firing order of a V-8 engine? I don’t have the answer, but I’ve got an idea! And it’s more than just “You’ve got to suffer if you want to sing the blues!”

Affect and effect. One of my biggest hurdles to joining the always-on social community is that I have an antipathy to the components. The words, the actions, the products of action are at some level distasteful, I don’t like them. In my life (so far) there have been many activities that I did not like as they began and still demand that I must put energy into the process so that I can begin to meet my obligations. I don’t love the language of social messaging. What other kind of messaging is there? Anti-social messaging is not the dialectic, but lies lurking in the character of the medium. Social messaging in an introspection that is intensively part of the person who does tweets, or twits, or connects to tell others what affect they are experiencing at the moment. It is a current means of passing the time, that is certainly no less satisfying than “shooting the shit” “running one’s mouth” or “wasting time” was in a time that will die with some crusty old farts who revel in misplaced memories, questionable nostalgia, deranged opinions, and music nobody else cares about. What it lacks is an effect and when I am not marveling that people do it so well, I wonder what they could be accomplishing if they were reading rather than texting. These thoughts I bare to you are, I believe, based on how I was taught to live, to think, or to work. As John Poole wrote in 1862, “In our grandfather’s days men were judged by their merit and those who were sound got their measure of praise.” The reciprocity of teachers and scholars was that each had a task, both tasks were external to themselves, and both were judged by their merit, as a teacher or as a learner. There were no “gold stars” for participation. Even the “good conduct” badge in the Army was awarded as an effect of “not screwing up.” Words like blog, or tweet, or other terms of the software of social media are ugly to my ear or eye, because I don’t yet understand the effect that they can produce. I expose myself to ridicule to display the distance I must come, or the effort that must be expended for me to know and use these forms, in part because I don’t yet recognize the salubrious advantages to the medium. Having already lived and learned to explore several technological revolutions, before and after the digital age (No, I’m not old enough to have known the baby Jesus, but I recall as a youth reading his obituary) my recognition of diversity persuades me there is no firm intellectual rock to which I can cling. Because I don’t enjoy blog, doesn’t make blog protocols wrong or bad, but unknown to me. Time to learn and then discern.

Post pastiche

Too Late to Turn Back Now

Things didn’t go as planned in this first week of a Domain of My Own. (This may be my equivalent to “Well, it was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon,”) The liberation of my inner self began as a crushing defeat of my cognitive powers, entangled within an endless web of repetitious dystopia that only the aphorism attributed to Einstein echoed in my mind. “Insanity is constantly doing the same routine and expecting different results.” Locked within a destructive spiral of self-loathing I remembered the immortal words of Vice-President Agnew when he is said to have forcefully proclaimed, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going (he resigned his office the next day). My path was clear, I would explain my ineptitude to our facilitator and then walkaway. Time, the finite dimension, making many other calls upon my waking moments beckoned me as death calls us all not to success, but to solid, sustained mediocrity. But by a twist of the truism, “somebody loses, somebody wins,” the reply to my message of disillusionment was returned from our mentor, that the furies had intervened, her trip to the South had been cancelled by winter’s tale, and she was in the DuPont office, and if I cared to work through my dense psychic confusion, she could help. So, it was that an hour later we watched that monitor screen larger than my waist line while with lightning fingers and faster analysis she digested, dissected, and disposed of the unconventional, inappropriate, and unnecessary detritus of my fumbling. As every good physician does, she assured me that my problem was unique and squared me away to come and play another day. I have no idea what she did, but I nodded knowingly (it would have been ungrateful to be dense and uncomprehending). And as a Baby Boomer, I’ve come to realize that nothing that happens to me, or by me is unique. It will appear in Time Magazine next week and millions of others will be similarly cursed, blessed, or bewildered.

Old and Gray and only Plug-n-Play

Hello world!

Hot dog!

Once I aspired to control my reputation and the image I projected. Once I was young and I’d have joined this intrepid team of learners by putting forth the elegance of Shelley in “Ozymandias.” But now I seek refuge in low forms of verbal art and leave those I meet (for I cannot tweet) to wonder whether I’m a fool, foolish, or flawed by the poverty of my public education. This altitude (with a wave to Mrs Malaprop) is metaphorically connected to our readings and discussions. But as Alice finds through the looking glass, the characters she meets provide the answers and she must guess the riddles. So, no Shelley bring I to this round of wit, but recitation from a Gentleman’s  Magazine, first making the rounds of the United States in the period of World War I, an event that destroyed the very concept of the gentleman.

Old Scout

Sometimes old pal in the morning, when the dawn is cold and grey,
I lie on the perfumed feathers, thinking thoughts I dare not say.
Then I think of the stunts of the night before and I smiles a feeble smile,
And I says to myself, “old-timer, was it really worth the while.”

But then I pick up the morning paper and read where some saintly man,
Who’s never been soused in his whole life or thrown in a smelly can.
Who’s never stayed out till the break of day, or jollied a gay sobriquet,
But he’s preached against the evils of drinking, cards, and the vile cigarette.

Lost in the midst of a useful life, the headlines glibly say,
He’s been snatched by the grim grey reaper, he has crossed the broad highway.
They buried him deep while a few friends weep, and the world goes on with a sigh,
That saintly man is forgotten soon, even as you and I.

Then I rise and attach an ice-ban to the brow of my battered hat,
And I saunters forth for a cold gin fizz, it’s a good old world at that.
Then I go on my way rejoicing, what’s the use to complain and sigh,
Go the route, old scout and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.

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