I am very, very behind in my blogging. Hopefully, Iâ€™ll get caught up over the next few weeks. I havenâ€™t been able to reflect yet on last weekâ€™s Faculty Academy. Iâ€™m too afraid Iâ€™ll forget something if I do it right now. I need a few days off, and then Iâ€™ll start.
For now, I want to blog about the incredible ronco discussion I was party to yesterday over at DTLT. I think Iâ€™ve mentioned before that presentations tend to stimulate my mind towards thinking that isnâ€™t exactly in line with what the presenter is doing. In other words, while the presenter is talking about X, my mind starts thinking about Y which probably has some subconscious connection to X in my head, though I may or may not be aware of what it is. To understand complex things, I tend to reduce them down to simple pieces that make sense to me, though admittedly some people call me reductionist. So if you participated in the ronco discussion and don’t see the relation with what I’m talking about here, the problem is me not you.
This is a long preamble to justify what I began thinking about as soon as I left the meeting yesterday. The question that confronted me is hard to articulate. It was richer than either (1) Is education about content versus skills? Or (2), Is it about process versus product? The question also has to do with the difference between education and the artifacts of education.
Education involves confronting a student with a stimulus of some sort. The stimulus could be a written text, a lecture, a class discussion, a piece of art, a video or audio recording, or something else. Consider a lecture. Is the education the lecture content or what a student makes of it? What does a student make of it? He listens (to greater or lesser extent). He takes notes, perhaps. Is that it? Shouldnâ€™t he reflect subsequently about what it means?
When I was an undergraduate, I found that my raw class notes didnâ€™t make too much sense, so I tended to go back and process themâ€”rewrite them, and sometimes review appropriate parts of the text to create a revised set of notes that did make sense. No doubt I lost some of the content, thru the process of revision/reduction. (No doubt I also missed some of what the lecturer presented.)
Wouldnâ€™t it be interesting/useful if students could pool their class notes prior to processing/revising them? Perhaps that way, less of the lecture content would be lost since for every point that I missed or misinterpreted there’s a chance some classmate would get it. Iâ€™m not arguing here that the bright kid would get more of the lecture and the dumb kid less, so the dumb kid could benefit from the bright kid’s work. Rather, following the Wisdom of Crowds argument, I think itâ€™s likely that different students would â€œgetâ€ different pieces best. That’s certainly what I learned with my groupware experiments during the 1990s, and more recently with blogs and wikis. Pooling the raw notes would enable the group to get more of the meaning. Could this be a successor to the bigwiki experiment of last semester? I have an inkling of an idea. Students would have to revise their notes, and hopefully learn from each other. Now if I can just figure out how to create the right incentive structure for students to participate, and if I can choose the right course. …