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Archived Rants 1
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Archived Rants 1

Functional Literacy → Functional Anything –– 2009 September 27

In the Community Empowerment methodology, there is a large module about Functional Literacy. In the tradition of "Deschooling Society," it suggests to avoid pre packaged curricula, and make the content of the teaching something practical and useful, and those differ from community to community. It goes further to also recommend that the method of teaching and learning also be unorthodox, and custom designed for the varying needs and interests of each community.

◊ If there is more interest in the content and method by the teacher than by the learners, then something is unbalanced.
◊ Although it suggests to the participants that they design each course themselves, it gives a few examples to illustrate. In a fishing community, for example, where the learners are illiterate adults, the classroom becomes a planning meeting room, and the learners choose fish and their various prices as the content, and choose to go on a field trip to look at fish being bought and sold. They decided that they would make signs to post in public, although they had considered making a pamphlet with the prices. After the field trip, they returned and made the posters, learning words for fish and their varieties, and learned numbers as they applied to fish prices, almost as a secondary result. They did not learn an alphabet, or grammar rules, or lists of useless vocabulary. ("useless" in the sense that they would not be functional for them in their community).
◊ This approach is tested and vetted. The challenge is, in the context of developing free and open educational resources, can it apply to topics other than literacy? If so, how would we go about this? What topics are better than others?
◊ What constitutes practical and interesting topics may be surprising to some educational specialists. Shakespeare, for example, is often seen as highly impractical, except for teaching the finer characteristics of the English language. When I taught in rural Ghana, 1965-7, the staff and students put on a Shakespeare play every year. It included a narrator who translated the material into the local vernacular. The series was very popular, and the auditorium was filled over capacity by peasant farmers each year. If nothing more, this should serve to illustrate that we should be open and tolerant to many different unorthodox and unexpected approaches.
◊ The lesson we should be learning here is that we must be strong and resist formula planning of classes, and often stop and put the objectives and purpose at arms length from us and ask if there is another way, or ways, to plan content and means of educating. Although mistakes will be made, this approach leads to the best quality of education, what we need to develop as part of the OER (Open Educational Resources). --Phil Bartle 18:09, 27 September 2009 (UTC)
See and collaborate with the WikiEd Open Educational Resource Functional Literacy

earlier rants:

Alms, Altruism and Ability –– 2009 September 3

In the Community Empowerment methodology, there is an apparent paradox in that we argue against alms and other forms of charity which weaken the recipient community or organism. In contrast, when we identify the sixteen elements of strength of an organization or community, altruism is at the top of the list (alphabetically).

◊ The major element in the difference is whether the organism is giving or receiving the charity. Giving is not only easier than receiving; it makes you stronger.
◊ For over half a century, bilateral (government to government) aid to Africa was based on charity and the result has been increased poverty, more dependency, a climb in corruption, and a decline in good governance. When you give alms to a beggar, you train her or him to be a beggar. In community work, in contrast, when you encourage a community to find its own resources, to plan its own future, and to act, then it becomes stronger and more self reliant.
◊ How does this relate to open and free education? Or is it more than one way? Some people might argue that if you provide people with free education (like those teachers who have had people sitting in the back of the class with their arms folded, their feet up and daddy is paying the bill to babysit them until they know what they want in life), that if you give them free education they will think it is worth every penny they spent on it. In my varied teaching career, I have taught students in a penientiary and I have had students at different levels in Africa and it was so noticable that those students demonstrated more respect, and they did so much better in their studies.
◊ We aim to provide educational resources for every level from K to PhD, vocational, professional and academic. Does this mean we are providing charity and weakening or that we are making opportunities and assisting in providing strength? Does OER contribute to strength or weakness?
◊ The answer to this dilemma comes from our animal characteristics, that our offspring are born or hatched weak and helpless. They need nurturing and the opportunity to play so as to learn how to survive and thrive. It also looks like that it applies at all ages, not only the young. In a complex social system as we have in human society, education is an important element of that play. When we play and learn, we become stronger. If society as a whole takes on the responsibility to provide the environment and necessary utensils for that play, then we become stronger. OER takes the provision of educational resources out of the hands of profit oriented organizations, and makes it available to all of us. We all get stronger.--Phil Bartle 16:20, 3 September 2009 (UTC)
See and collaborate with the WikiEd open educational resource The sixteen elements of strength

earlier rants:

Agricultural Revolution, Culture and Open Education –– 2009 August 28

Without doubt, the most profound event in the history and development of human beings was and is the Agricultural Revolution. Without it we were gatherers and hunters living in small bands. With it we developed complex social organization, cities, states, industry, the Internet, increasingly faster production of new inventions and technology, and the creation of complex ideas and perspectives.

◊ If we look at the classical Greek teachers, we see a frequent reference to education as cultivation (eg Epicurus) using an agricultural metaphor to describe and analyse learning and teaching.
◊ We usually see the process of education as one of transferring ideas, knowledge, skills and wisdom. Here let us also use an alternative approach which sees education as caring and cultivating. This approach tends to emphasize moral development (although not exclusively) and the idea that our minds are like gardens or farms. We grow and develop organically, and what is needed is the nutrients, sun and water, not a forceful moldling of our ways of thinking.
◊ If agriculture has had such a revolutionary effect on human society, think what education, as a form of cultivation, is doing to humanity.
◊ If we see our developing of open and free educational resources, not only for the transfer of knowledge, but also for the care and cultivation of the learners, then we will be contributing to a new and incredibly valuable body of knowledge and understanding in this world. Some anthropologists have argued that it was not so much the domestication of plants and animals which transformed us, but our domestication of ourselves. The cultivation of ourselves, as learners, knowing that teaching and learning is best if a two way process, will take us, as they say in Star Trek, where no one has gone before.
◊ I see education as a gardening process, and the development of free and open education as a revolutionary process that will have as important an effect on humanity as the agricultural revolution. The force is not only with us; we are The Force. : --Phil Bartle 12:29, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

See and collaborate with the WikiEd open educational resource, Culture Change

earlier rants:

Epistemology –– 2009 August 20

It might be time to add a few questions about epistemology (how we know) to our discussions on WikiEducator. Lots of good debate on "How do we learn?" and its converse (but not its mirror image), "How do we teach?" Now we should ask, "How do we know?" If we learn something, how do we know if and when we know? If we teach something, how do we know if and when the taught know?

◊ In classical Epistemology we have only four ways of knowing: (1) Observing (sensing, empiricism), (2) Logic (calculating, reason), (3) Belief (faith, worldview), and (4) Authority (Mommy said so). While we educators pay much lip service to our students discovering for themselves (by logic or observation), we rely considerably instead on Authority (because we, or the text book, said so).
◊ There are issues, problems and criticism for each of the four ways. Observation: we have no way of being certain that what you sense is what I sense, even if we give it the same name, and no objects, including observers, can occupy the same space at the same time, so everyone has a unique observational experience. Reason: There is nothing intrinsic about two when we see two apples; the "twoness" is in our minds. Belief: If you do not believe in dwarves, that makes you a dwarf atheist. Authority: proselytisers for a particular belief cite some Authority, usually a book, omitting to mention that all books are written by human beings.
◊ Now how does all this relate to open and free educational resources, which is what we are all about? Is learning different for the four ways? Should our teaching be different? I once taught at a seminary and noticed then that the teachers of religion ("our kind" of course) did not like to take a critical and epistemological look at beliefs, like the creed, or that God exists, because Authority and belief have neither logic nor witness to back them up. No wonder they talked about sheep as a role model.
◊ We often forget that there is no finite amount of right knowledge, and what we know as a society constantly changes. There is no right answer. Administrators in schools and colleges, however, ask us for a course outline that portrays a finite quantity of information as the curriculum. There is no curriculum!
◊ What is the lesson to be learned here? The solution? We should always promote unorthodox methods of learning and teaching on WikiEducator and in the classroom. Those lacking courage and creativity will revert to the orthodox. Not all new methods will work, but a key feature of WikiEducator is collaboration. We can help each other in developing new methods. Let us keep on so long as we are having fun. --Phil Bartle 07:32, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Education and Empowerment –– 2009 July 21

An important element of the reasoning behind community empowerment is that charity weakens. If we do everything for a poor community, then it does not get stronger. It becomes dependent upon our charity. This is not universal. There are times and places where charity is necessary and does not weaken. During a disaster, emergency response requires charity to ensure the people can survive (but it must end when it should). If a person becomes blind, it would be charity to read to that person, and that does not make the person more dependent. Most of the Aid to Africa, especially bilateral (government to government), in contrast, is based on charity, and it encourages corruption, inefficiency, and it releases more resources for war and oppression.

◊ When we support open and free education, are we contributing to charity which weakens? We should think about this, because WikiEd and similar endeavors now comprise a major thrust in providing education which is free. I do not think so. There is charity and there is charity. The young of animals need nurturing until they become adults, and the higher up the phylum, the more complex they are, the more nurturing they need. Humans now need education to survive (and to reproduce physically and culturally). Education has been available to the privileged of the world, and it has not weakened them, to the best of my knowledge. If we nurture the young and vulnerable, allow them to play and grow strong and skilled, then they will develop the strength they need to carry on to reproduce.
◊ The OER (Open Educational Resources) that are made available freely on sites like WikiEducator, provide the tools to allow the young to play and get skilled, no matter in what part of the world they originate and, most importantly, in spite of the historical disadvantages they might have had. --Phil Bartle 03:25, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Teachers and Taught –– 2009 July 6

Thinking about the discussion on WikiEd about education best being a two way process between teachers and taught, I am reminded of one of the pillars of community empowerment, which is an emphasis on participatory methods. Participation in teaching and training is one way, and perhaps there are others, to help blur the line between teachers and taught, which is good, and to encourage the process as two way.

◊ One hindrance may be class discipline. Some teachers have an excessive need for complete class control, although it is doubtful that discipline is so important for good teaching and learning. When a teacher spends too much time and effort on class discipline, little is left over for creative and effective education.
◊ An important feature is an emphasis on doing. Many educators on WikiEd see doing as a more effective method for teaching (and for retention of the material) than listening or watching. It is certainly promoted on Community Empowerment. The element of "doing" can be included in several ways, simulation games, field exercises with direct or indirect supervision, practice teaching in the class by students, and others. In the functional literacy module, it is recommended that the whole classroom structure be abandoned, and that students come to the room as if it were a planning session and plan methods, eg. field trips, to collect material for the content of the literacy course, then come back to that room to jointly create and develop signs or pamphlets using the words that were observed as important during the field trips. Examples could be fish prices in fishing communities, agricultural advice in farming communities.
◊ When adults are the students, respect for them is very important, and this is a way to show respect, for their input is not merely a made up exercise, but contributes to the course content, and produces a useful product in the end. With some imagination and creativity, we can expand the principles into a whole range of topics to be taught and learned. --Phil Bartle 23:39, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Thoughts from Al: If it is not a business it probably should not be run like one –– 2009 June 13

Bravo, Phil. Here in the U.S. too many of our schools are run like a business. Unfortunately, that business is a factory, and it's product is preparing people for jobs in manufacturing. This made sense in the 1950s (maybe) but is poor preparation for the current times. This model has managed to take essential, rich and fascinating subjects like history, science, math, language (and most others) and make them BORING, obtuse, meaningless, and wholly disconnected from life as the students know it. It caters best to the elite, whose parents can supplement it, and whose school districts have the money and the foresight to raise the additional funds needed to offset the penurious and misdirected funds from the state. Higher Ed, for those who can afford it and can get in, seems to focus on preparing people for careers in Higher Ed--careers most college students don't necessarily want and likely won't get. --alboss 15:31, 13 June 2009 (UTC

Are We Making Educational Institutions Obsolete? –– 2009 June 25

A few pundits are saying that this decade is the era of the demise of commercial newspapers — the era of the citizen journalists. What about education?

◊ With the rise of Web 2.0 technology, blogs, social networks (eg Facebook), Twitter and alternate ways to use the Internet for non professionals to get heard, people are not buying newspapers as much as before. Advertisers, who fund newspapers far more than readers, are not seeing the circulation needed to warrant advertising, needed to keep newspapers afloat. (Such an irony, that a necessary element of democracy, an informed public, has been dependent upon the corporations). Newspapers and radios, in spite of token interaction such as letters to the editor and phone in shows where the hosts hold kill buttons, are designed with the idea of communication being one way, from the producer to the consumer, and were very slow to respond to reader or listener contributions, if at all.
◊ Now along come the educational Wikis, eg Wikipedia, WikiEducator, and the like, where their overt objective is to bring educational resources to anyone who wants them, free and open. This does not make education obsolete, but gives it a new incarnation, and may put a strain on the resources of traditional educational institutions. There is a big difference between the process of education and educational institutions. As the first is expanding into new dimensions, the second finds it must change or face the same end as the dodo bird. In the early stages of the industrial revolution, mass production required that one size fits all. Henry Ford said he would make cars any colour the buyers wanted, so long as they wanted black. Overworked teachers have to design their classes to fit the needs of middle and average students, leaving both the brightest and most needful with less that what they could be provided.
◊ Just as manufacturers are using new technology, computer enhanced, to produce a variety of products in response to consumer varieties, so the WikiEd technology opens new doors to providing a variety of educational services that can respond more quickly to user desires and needs.
◊ I cannot see, for the present, a computer being able to provide the rich and important environment like a live teacher in a live classroom (sometimes even too lively Smiley.png ). But what WikiEducator and Wikipedia can do is make information and teaching resources available to those live teachers, whether they live in a poor community in a poor country, or the opposite.
◊ Education is not becoming obsolete; it is being reborn.--Phil Bartle 01:05, 25 June 2009 (UTC) ("Born Again" WikiEd)

earlier rants:

We Have to Become More Cautious About the Word "Businesslike" –– 2009 June 13

There are some organizations that simply should not be run like businesses. These include governments, religious organizations, families and, what is pertinent here, educational organizations.

◊ Without thinking much about it, in everyday life, we assume that being "businesslike" is the same as being prudent in spending, efficient in the allocation of resources, and accurate in our accounting. We should. But the term has further implications that we need to examine carefully. A limited liability company is a legal person, and psychologists have depicted that person as a psychotic beast. That is because the law supports the goal that a corporation has only one ethic, to make a profit. It has no social obligation.
◊ Educational institutions are being increasingly told to be "self supporting," and depending less on public funds. This is resulting in the commodification of education. Certificates and degrees are becoming sold. Standards drop. The growth of the intellectual property values, albeit important, is only one element of this process, which can only have disastrous results. An important counteraction to this is the growing movement of shared and open copyright.--Phil Bartle 05:54, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Copyright Unfairness –– 2009 June 10

Back in the late sixties, early seventies, as a recently returned overseas volunteer, I linked up with a group of returned volunteers. Some of us called us radical, and I suppose we were unorthodox at least. We wanted to raise awareness that aid was ineffective, that honest trade relations were needed, and that the world could be improved.

◊ At that time, University of California, Berkeley, Political Science Club, created a simulation game, effective for about thirty persons, called Starpower. It was good for illustrating inequality such as Apartheid, global inequality, or social class. We went around to schools and churches and ran the game with what we thought was great effect. It came to us as a cyclostyled single sheet of instructions, and we made our own tokens and ID tags. It belonged to the public domain.
◊ A few years ago, as I was developing the Community Empowerment site, I added a description of Starpower to the Inequality section. I found out that the game had been copyrighted by a commercial corporation, So I wrote to them saying I had the description and was getting it translated into various languages. It might raise their profile. I got a nasty letter from their lawyer telling me to stop writing about it, They owned the copyright, and did not want us writing about it. I was shocked. Being the defiant rebel that I am, I decided to write a sociological academic analysis, but made sure it included sufficient description of the details of the game that anybody could make their own tokens and coupons and run the game for free. That would save them over two hundred dollars of the purchase price. The whole incident left a sour taste in my mouth, and is a big factor in my now being an advocate of the cc by sa approach. --Phil Bartle 15:31, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Pirate Party

Happy to hear that Sweden elected one seat for the Pirate Party to the European Parliament this weekend. The Pirate Party is opposed to the current spread of copyright, especially for non commercial ideas (Culture and Knowledge). --Phil Bartle 14:10, 8 June 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Copyright and Patent

As Educational Institutions are Becoming More and More Like Corporations, thus less and less like educational institutions, as education becomes commodified, there is a growing confusion between the concepts of copyright and patent. Somehow the institutions want to keep copyright over new ideas created by their educators, like a corporation, in order to make a profit from them. So called "intellectual property." But there is no profit, only an ideological mind set. The CC by SA concept of the wikis, is a healthy counterbalance to that. Let ideas be free and open.--Phil Bartle 22:29, 6 June 2009 (UTC)


  • ► Date: Wed, Jun 3 2009 2:11 am, From: Peter When I first came across Phil s' work I couldn't help but have a big smile on my face. I like his tag line of "No rest for the WikiEd". I know of a saying "No rest for the wicked." I wonder how these two relate ;) As I further explored Phil's work I was encouraged by his works in making WikiEducator available in four languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese & French). He may not be doing the translation himself, yet he is making things happen. Also, take a look around all of Phil s' profile sub-pages so much great work in bring references and resources together. It is with great pleasure to award Phil Bartle the June 2009 featured user page. Congratulations, Phil.
  • ► Date: Wed, Jun 3 2009 4:52 am. From: Phil Bartle Well it is certainly humbling to be named June's UPE. Thanks, Guys. The "No Rest for The WikiEd" came from something Nellie and Patricia were saying during an on line aural discussion, We are now so many around the world that somewhere some of us are awake. The real quote is from the Jewish - Christian bible, "No rest for the wicked," and if you want the citation, look at my user page in edit mode. I am not trying to compete for things, I am retired and enjoying the marvelous way to spend the time. I am having fun with WikiEd, and it is not just a honeymoon. Then again there is something delightfully and innocently subversive about what we are doing, destroying the intellectual property approach of the corporations as applied to educational material, so maybe we are "wicked." Phil Bartle 12:29, 4 June 2009 (UTC)


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