Long Line: On meaning making

This post is part of a series of posts pulled from a piece of writing I completed in November 2012. For more information on this series, see this post.

Context | Looking Back | Transformation | Looking Back at the Looking Back | Questions | On ethics | Letting Go of Nothing | Taking on Subject and Objects | On meaning making | Why the language of causality trouble me | Conceptual versus Empirical | Futuring | Temporality and Time | Brief Note | Back to Time | What to do with the Past | Some tools to help us be | An example from my past | Avoiding Labels | The educational turn | Being and curriculum | Curriculum of Being | Curriculum Futuring | On dispositions as ways of being | Being and pedagogy | Being and technology | Being and the body | References


Being and pedagogy

Finally, I am able to put down some of my just-bubbling thoughts down into words. My attention for the first few months of 911 was this approach to curriculum via being, but as the weeks progressed I found myself pulled to pedagogy. Knowing what I know now (or think I know) and having read what I have read (and think I have understood), I can see my attraction to pedagogy. Specifically, phenomenological pedagogy, or the more phenomenological approach to/lens of pedagogy. My bubbling thoughts here are the ways that van Manen’s framework of the “tact of teaching” might be a way to get at the “being” of teaching, of education. I had to lay down Max’s books to turn my attention to completing readings for 901/911 but I do want to sketch some of my ideas out here.

“The Meaning of Pedagogical Thoughtfulness.” The subtitle is what drew me to Max’s book. After just now reskimming some of my marked passages in the chapter that he introduces tact within pedagogy fully, I still see a gap between tact and being. One of his subsections he titles “Tact means the practice of being oriented to others,” and even though he is not emphasizing the being as I have been, I do not think it such a far leap to say: “Pedagogical tact is enacted in practice as a way of being oriented to others.” But I am afraid I have made the reductive mistake of trying to have tact be a way of being. I do like Max’s pedagogical tact though, and other than Vandenberg (whose work is almost exactly what I want to pick up on), this tactful teaching work may be the best access to the actual classroom teacher. Could tact be used in this way? Or, could it be said that pedagogical tact is one way of being? As we have discussed before in class, one of my “big questions” for a lifetime of research is the x factor of education. I think pedagogical tact and ways of being offer different routes to this unknown space/place/phenomenon. But this journey is just beginning.

Being and technology

Where my thesis work stopped with assumptions and technology is where the real exciting work begins. Who is being such that technologies are integrated into teaching? How do technologies shift who we are being as teachers via their own embodied being? Are technologies ways of being? As Cathi’s work gestures, there is a corporeal connection to technologies. Feenberg’s four philosophical frames of technology were just a few of many other frames that could be used to “get at” who we are being such that teaching, learning, education is or is not transformed. Instrumentalism, determinism, substantivism, criticalism - all these ‘isms - bound and structure a way of seeing and being with technology. Where I want to go, where I want to take teachers, is a place where there is a smorgasbord of these ways of being. In the selecting of one, we find affordances and drawbacks so we can select another. Or, a better way to begin may be to ask the question: “What is keeping you from doing what you want to do as a teacher with [blank] technology?” Or, “Where in your life are you most frustrated with technology? How does this play out in your classroom?” Or, “When is it not appropriate to use a specific technology in teaching and learning?” Each of these questions, I hope, can help educators speak from, shift to a different way of being-with or being-in-relation-to technology. And in the shifting, in the seeing differently, whole worlds open up and possibilities abound.

Being and the body

This leaves the body. Where is the body in all of this conversation of being? As I was thinking about finishing this piece of writing this morning I was reflecting on how a vast majority of educational technologies want to (or enact) sever users’ heads from their bodies. We are expected to interact corporeally with our hands and eyes. The curve of our fingers as we punch away at little keys, the cupping of the mouse to direct the computer to what we want to. I worked for the distance education office completing literature reviews in my undergrad. They wanted research on whether to have the video of an instructor or just his/her voice while mapped onto a PowerPoint presentation (Note the assumption that it would be a PowerPoint. Surely there are no other ways to teach online!). Do you want to guess what the “research” said? Having an instructor’s face/head visible via video while a student was watching a PowerPoint presentation put too much strain on the students’ cognitive load and therefore only audio of the instructor’s voice should be included. At the time I wrote up the report and sent it off without a second thought. As the body has come back and back again (as it is wont to do) over these past four months I returned to this idea of chopping off instructors’ heads to lighten the cognitive load of students. Funny that this “research finding” would be gawked at were it applied to a face-to-face classroom. Can you imagine? “I am sorry, Dr. X, but you’re going to have to put on this black sack on your head. The students just can’t pay attention to your presentation slides and your face at the same time.” Really?!

This is what concerns me within the context of teaching, technology, and the human being. Is it not funny/sad that we turn to virtual worlds to re-create ourselves in bodily form? Why is it that we constantly turn to our tools and techniques rather than pausing for a moment to consider alternatives? I am not anti-virtual worlds or anti-digital embodiment. I am pro-being, pro-critical, pro-human. Seems funny to say “pro-human” but I think it needs to be framed as such. Sure, there are technologies that create wonderful new possibilities for us. At what cost? Abdicating responsibility to technology(ies) is unacceptable.

A final thought. Water. Vital for human life, completely detrimental to electronic technologies. It always give me pause to think that the all-powerful, all-knowing machine that I am using to compose this writing would be rendered a hunk of useless metal (relatively, of course) in seconds were it to come into contact with the substance that I must have to lead a healthy life.



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