Fools march in (a #twistedpair post)

For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

Roobarb_smilesWe all know them, don’t we? Those enthusiastic colleagues who launch into everything they do with fervent enthusiasm without a thought for the consequences. Remember Roobarb? Voiced wonderfully by Richard Briers, the green dog approached misadventure with boundless enthusiasm as Custard the pink cat watched cynically.

It’s easy to be a Custard in HE, especially as we get older. “Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt” we sigh as we hear of the latest bit of shiny, shiny technology which we are told will revolutionise education. “Fools rush in” we say, wagging our finger and advising caution. But, though fools might rush in where angels fear to tread, angels must remember to evaluate possibilities and step purposefully forward later.

So how do we train our inner Roobarb? How do we curb our inner Custard? How do we strike a balance between reckless abandon and curmudgeonly complacency? Or maybe that’s just me 😉

This post was inspired by Steve Wheeler’s new challenge

Image from Wikipedia

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24 Responses to Fools march in (a #twistedpair post)

  1. fmindlin says:

    Very early in my edtech career, I developed a simple rule of thumb to tell whether a particular bit of technology was worth investigating: Ask the question, “Who’s telling the computer what to do?” If the computer is telling the student, that’s disempowering and generally a waste of time, unless there’s a student who needs some rote drill to get a crucial set of facts memorized (seldom a real need, but I’ll concede that it can occasionally be useful).

    If the student is in control and enabled to understand what they’re doing with the computer and why, and has the power to change things around and tinker with the back-end, then that has the potential to be a good application of technology, and the ease and clarity of the student’s control powers set the evaluation criteria.

    I don’t have to do that kind of evaluation much anymore, since what I really want to focus on is empowering kids to do real stuff in the real world with their two hands, like string games or actual creation of tools and devices…

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      That rules out most of the stuff like the LMS then 😉

      • fmindlin says:

        Well, sort of…
        Bear in mind that my focus is on K-6 elementary school kids in the USA, and you are dealing with University students in Europe, I believe. Once out of 6th grade or so, students do develop real needs to pursue data sets of varying depth and complexity on specialized topics, where LMS systems can provide just that rote drill I made the exception for, and sometimes provide even smarter drills with intelligent back engines about which I do not insist that students know how to hack–but I do think the whole show should be open to them to investigate if they choose, not locked up by a corporation.

        Really I’m saying I want students to be able to focus on creating their own understanding based on personalized pathways of learning they’re discovering, not following a dictated script or curriculum.

        • NomadWarMachine says:

          I think the stuff you are doing with string games is exciting. Also absolutely agree with students being able to take charge of their own understanding – rhizomatically, as it were.

    • tellio says:

      I guess it all depends on how you define a real thing. Is a heart valve design on AutoCad real? Does it become real when you print it out with a 3-d printer? Or is it only real when you surgically implant it? The Stoics believed that only those things that we have control over are real. The Solipsists believed that when we close our eyes reality winks out. Reality…what a concept? As a concept, an idea, is it real? You have led us into dreadful waters, Fred and Sarah, and there be jargons here like crazy. Thanks. ;( 😉

      • NomadWarMachine says:

        I am not sure what is real, but I think that virtual things are real 🙂

        • scottx5 says:

          The mention of a heart valve brought back the experience of having my first artificial heart valve break loose sending me to the hospital where my record says I died a number of times. Since it’s difficult to separate memory from dreaming from the unwinding of my mind at “the end” I can’t say for sure that reality shut down. But it apparently came back after I emerged from the coma and surgery. I did spend a week in an in-between place as the actual world came back into my mind replacing the approximation of consciousness my brain needed to be back in the world.
          The world apparently got along just fine without my watching it.

          • NomadWarMachine says:

            I read an amazing piece recently about somebody with a tumour and no memory. When the tumour was removed all his memories were there. Brains are odd things.

          • scottx5 says:

            The heart apparently functions as part of the system supporting consciousness. In the ward there was guy who’d had a heart transplant and said he felt really disorientated getting to function in the world again.

            I agree with you that virtual relationships are as real as reality. It’s all out there chugging along and we learn to connect and function by collecting and processing input. Theories of the world ceasing to exist if we die are just junk.

  2. scottx5 says:

    It’s easy to get discouraged but I will say getting fired for questioning authority is probably the less optimal of many ways to improve your outlook. Not giving a shit “works” but is hard to sustain. Besides, it’s sooo over done it feels like a form of capitulation. I found in the trades the sight of their own blood was immediately instructive to your average apprentice though kind of sad if it kept happening.

    My latest tactic is to be helpful. It makes me feel good and induces a nervous attentiveness that can be quite productive. One thing I liked when assigned to entering test banks into courses into the LMS was to add short comments onto the answers on multi choice exams. “You’d probably think this is right?” tricked the students into creative doubting, removed “trick” questions and was easily removed before the fools who ran the certifications board did their review.

    The whole purpose of education is to do things differently and spread chaos where ever one goes. Yes? Jump in where you want.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      Well, that should be the purpose of education. Of course the neo-liberals in charge think it is all about teaching us to conform.

      • scottx5 says:

        Wonder why there’s such an urge to control others? Has anyone written about it? There must be a clue in the convergence of modern management theory, psychology and the invention of parking meters? Off to research this.

        • charlenedoland57 says:

          The urge to control others seems innate in human nature. After all, what is at the center of all wars? Control – control of resources, control of religion, control of ideology, etc. Good luck finding the fix!

          • NomadWarMachine says:

            And power, of course. There is stuff written about that.

          • scottx5 says:

            Hi Charlene, there’s something more about control than resources or reproductive advantage (which is the usual fall-back explanation that I’m not sure isn’t an artifact of male centred projections). We raised our daughters to accept zero orders from anyone and it has turned on us and they are fairly bursting with advice and unreasonable commands. I has to go deeper than cause and effect?

          • charlenedoland57 says:

            Scott, from a psychology perspective, I think (and research bears this out) that people who are control freaks are typically insecure. They try and control the world around them to mask how small they themselves feel. As a parent, I think we often try to control our children (what a laugh!) because we are afraid of what other people might think of our parenting skills. That is not to say we shouldn’t teach (model to) our children respecting others, taking ownership of their own behavior, etc. But my perspective is the more we try to control them, the more rebellion we will see out of them as they get older.

  3. dogtrax says:

    I never heard of that show …. (Am I living under a rock?)
    I like the “twisted pairings” that Steve suggests, though …

    Abbott and Hutch
    Bono and Gaga
    Harry and Annabeth


    • NomadWarMachine says:

      Roobarb probably didn’t make it over the water then. Shame. My mind is buzzing with possible parings now. Great challenge by Steve.

  4. scottx5 says:

    The Protestant work ethic and the housewife who is filmed in a Mini-Van commercial driving alone and too fast away from the previous toilet bowl cleaner advertisement. Keith somehow gets credit for this one.

  5. charlenedoland57 says:

    I am also unfamiliar with Roobarb. Thanks for expanding my cultural awareness! As for #twistedpairs, wondering what to pair with Downton Abbey…


  6. Pingback: What Dewey and Yoda reveal about learning – a #twisted pair challenge | Five Flames 4 Learning

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