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Convergence Learning & Class Blogs

August 22, 2006

Via Will Richardson – http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/more-henry-jenkins/ – quoting Henry Jenkins

In talking media pedagogies, then, we should no longer imagine this as a process where adults teach and children learn. Rather, we should see it as increasingly a space where children teach one another and where, if they would open their eyes, adults could learn a great deal. (Emphasis mine.)

Weblogg-ed » More Henry Jenkins

I used to have a page tacked to my bulletin board with a quote from Elliot Eisner – from a Google search, this reference – Elliot Eisner (in Saks (Ed.), 1996, p. 412)

“Working at the edge of incompetence takes courage.”

I thought this was true of all teaching, because we never know what our students don’t know, and how they can actually ‘get’ what we want to transmit convey help them learn. I also thought it was true of all teaching because, especially in rhetoric or English lit., my areas, views and rules change.

I also thought it was what made my learning, (and theirs) exciting. When you are at the vygotskian point in your proximal development that you mostly know and can venture into interweaving your own experiences and ideas into what you are getting from the mentor/experts (teachers, books etc.), it is terrifically exciting. Things click, synapses connect, and you are in a wonderful state of flow!

As a teacher, I can sometimes feel the class in this state, and I work to keep that liveliness happening. As a student, I am very good at helping move the class (if the teacher allows it) into a space where this is possible.

Last term I used an Elgg class blog with a 3rd year undergrad course in oral rhetoric, which I’ve blogged about before – here, and here. I’ve had trouble writing up a “final report” on my experience for two reasons.

  1. I had my students use Elgg and I feel (I think the best description is) shy. (Paranoia – “If they look, they will find it, anywhere on the Web, but they know how much I like Elgg, so they’ll know to look there.” Well, yes, but it is only my opinion and they are welcome to differ. I guess this is a trace of the Staff Room effect where you can say what you want, get as extreme as you want because you won’t be overheard. It’s also a bit of a response to the “Rate Your Teacher” effect. Time to get over that.)
  2. The Henry Jenkins quotation at the beginning of this post. I feel some ownership of the class, but they own their success. In their blog posts I could see how they began to expose where they needed help, and I could see some of their classmates helping.

Many of the students in the class began the interactive learning that I believe is the most powerful and natural way of learning. I set up the environment, but they taught one another. Those who were active with helping each other learned the most, and learned a pattern of learning that will benefit them the rest of their lives, I believe.

The best part for me, is how much I learned from watching them teach each other. Teaching and/or learning “at the edge of incompetence” is both exciting and valuable. And, with our rapidly changing and developing communication technologies, a necessity.

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