Impromptu Seminar Follow-up Follow-up
First of all, let me say that I read Anthony as referring to multiple Brians in the title of his last post–and all the cognitive dissonance that that entails.
That said, I will now report on the recent findings of a sub-group of edlabbers. And I must quickly concede that my understanding of the discussion that ensued in the Lab from 5-7PM tonight will be Brian-centric. Hui Soo, Lin, Maureen, Gary, Anthony, and myself talked at length and I cannot pretend to remember the lines of thought in detail, and am resigned to fumble about for some slight grasp of what it all means. I eagerly welcome revisions, comments, outright disagreements, and nonchalant complements in response to this effort…
Finding 1: Edlab has a vision of the future of education that encompasses all formal educational environs, from childhood to life-long learning opportunities. (This has not often been stated so clearly.) There may be a path that begins here at Teachers College, but this should only guide our work so far as it helps us form strong connections to the world of educational institutions.
Finding 2: Brian Carolan provided us with a strong knowledge base on which to ground a discussion about the utility of statistical modeling for edlab projects. There is some disagreement on this matter, with a few of us including myself proposing to tread lightly in these quantitative waters, and with Gary reminding us of the value of concrete representations of such things as “resource flows.â€? He is the pavement-pounder, after all. My reservation, however, about which it was reported that I have adopted the Michael Rennick View (MRV), was that a forward-looking organization cannot be adequately guided by research alone, or even largely by the application of results to matters-at-hand (and this cannot be understated to qualify as the MRV). Some intellectual bravado is warranted. On this point, there was some agreement, with one camp promoting the idea that scientistic (sic) models still can and should be used to our advantage as embedded “feedbackâ€? mechanisms in products. This was an interesting idea.
Finding 3: Thus, there was put forward the notion that such elegantly-wrought (if reductivist) methods for analyzing data sets are more interesting when immediate applications were set aside and theoretical questions are taken up. This led to a long lament about the current state of academia: why must academic work be so driven by the desire to affect change of the real world? The group diverged here. There seem to exist two broad, conflicted sentiments: 1) Academic work should be driven by this desire which is based in compassion. Or 2), Academic work should myopically consist in ever-deeper considerations about the inner workings of reality–the purpose of which may remain quite unclear. (This view is what I take to be referenced by Anthony's post.) After consideration of this would-be choice for a short while, the discussion switched into “ideationâ€? mode, and...
Finding 4: No one knows the answer. But there was a proposal put forward as the edlab agenda: Switch Gears. Switch into fast gear. And do this by publishing less and producing more. Do this by embedding self-publishing mechanisms into products. In other words, stop giving teachers advice and start giving them tools. Let them decide what tools work best, and then publish their findings under the edlab banner. This was an interesting (if worrisome) approach. It actually sounds a lot like the history of education without all the intellectual pretensions. The thought goes that if we simply accept the needy, application-driven beast (that academia has become) for what it is, then we can better allocate our resources (i.e., my a** on the beach this weekend–considering weighty philosophical propositions–but I digress...).
Finding 5: It's getting late. Sometimes you just have to trail off without reaching any grand conclusions. Epiphanies are had; epiphanies are forgotten.
The group also discussed my dissertation at length, for which I am grateful. I will now turn my attention to those matters, so perhaps others will chime in with further thoughts about today's events.