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Then the athlete will not get stronger

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February Rant from Jonny

Brothers and sisters, the handful of rich people at the top only want one thing; everything! The world needs community empowerment more than ever, we need to be strong enough to hold on to and expand/improve our public institutions and our well-being.
I am a part-time cabdriver, and this job plus my love for conversation have alerted me to some amazing people in the cab. I have discussed the 1983 US invasion of Grenada with a Grenadian who survived it, and also with a British government agent who participated.
The cab offers me great opportunity to interact with people in a natural and relaxed way, and learn their stories. What sociologist call "deep qualitative interview" happens quite naturally on a long trip to the airport.
"What an interesting accent" uncovers the national origins, and works much better than "Where are you from." The second question sets off alarms, cuz it can be interpreted as another challenge or attack like the ones from xenophobes, racists and national chauvinists.
Happy February, all.

Jonny Gentille
Board of Directors
Community Empowerment Collective
Jonny Flash Website

March Rant from Jonny

"Fair Game"

My partner Amanda recently attended an Indigenous Forum at the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria. On her way inside, two separate people, both total strangers to Amanda and likely to each other as well, one a young woman in what looked to be her early twenties, the other a forty-something man, showed racial hostility.

With separate actions (one pretended to be about to spit on her, the other made a western movie style "Indian call") these two white people spontaneously and separately transmitted some hate to Amanda, who is visibly and rather unequivocally Native-looking.

Maybe they were drunk and silly, and didn't mean it in a bad way. At 9AM on a weekday, not likely. Although they probably didn't know it, these two were acting out the hatred upon which the governing system of Canada was founded. Transmitted via culture to each new generation, hatred of Native people is still there to find in random places every day.

Amanda's morning reminded her that despite official pretenses at including a few Native Canadians in the Olympics held nearby, despite last year's official apology for endemic residential school atrocities including the widely acknowledged 50% death rate, to be visibly Native in Canada still marks one as "fair game."

Archived Rants 3

Recruit More Retired Members – 2009 December 27

Educators who have retired usually have a large store of experience and training that can be profitably tapped for Open Educational Resources. How can we take advantage of this?

◊ I am surprised that I do not see more refried retired people among the WikiEducation community. WikiEducator is healthy for retired educators and retired educators are healthy for WikiEducator. Studies have shown that when people retire, they live longer and happier if they do not change radically, do not give up most activities or do not allow the decay to set in. It is better if they continue doing more or less the same as before they retired. Contributing to WikiEducator is a way to continue being useful and serves the contributors as well as the educational resources. Let us tap this mutually beneficial resource.
◊ We need to devise ways to recruit more retired people. All members of the WikiEd community have a responsibility to make this happen. All can help. Wherever we work (and play), we know people who have recently retired. We can talk to them. We can talk to those ready to retire in a short while. We do not have to be old to know our senior sisters and brothers.
◊ We need to encourage retirees to get together on WikiEd. They can offer each other mutual support and understanding.
◊ We need to make the technology more friendly to older members. I am happy to see wysiwyg is coming, but not for me; for those who find it difficult to edit the way it is now. Like so many things in life, when we know how to do something, we can easily forget how difficult it is to learn, especially for those who have some years under their belt. Old dogs and new tricks and that sort of thing.
◊ We should call for more substantive content. A large emphasis in our discussions is on the bells and whistles (new information technology). That is fine for the youngsters among us (anyone under the age of 55). If we repeat the call for more substantive content, those who are retired will feel more like they have something to offer (content rather than technology).
We can create a "Retired Contributors" page for older members to share comments and suggestions (and complaints). It is nice to be in the home, but nicer if we have our own bedroom.
◊ We can think up ways for senior citizens to meet each other. For example, we can ask them to add a "Retired" category to their user pages. The "Category" function is a marvelous tool which we hardly use enough. I see far too many pages without any categories at the bottom, when there should be at least half a dozen. A retired person on WikiEd should be able to click on the retired category at the bottom of his or her own page, and go to the page where are listed links to all those pages where retired also appears. [[Category:Retired]]
◊ I would like to hear from you. Do we need retired members? Do we need more retired members? How would we increase them? A Song for Vintage Members. --Phil Bartle 18:39, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

Earlier Rants:

How Much of a Community is the WikiEducator Community? – 2009 December 11

We call ourselves the WikiEducator community. We know that it is not a traditional face to face community, and that we interact on line, but what characterizes a community, and how much does the WikiEd community have those characteristics? Is this an advantage or disadvantage in reaching WikiEducator Goals?

◊ Is calling ourselves a community only a means of giving us an identity and making us feel happy and loyal about being members, or are there genuine elements of being a community?
◊ To get to some answers, we turn to the sociology of communities. Tönnies' pioneered the study with his concept of the difference between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. Strictly translated the German word gemeinschaft means community and gesellschaft means society. But in this context, we can see them more as adjectives than nouns, and the degree of gemeinschaft as the degree of "community-ness" and degree of gesellschaft as degree of "society-ness."
Gemeinschaft is the degree to which a human settlement is informal, face to face, where everybody knows each other, where rules are not fixed or written, where social control depends on informal responses like gossip rather than police and courts of law. The simplest community is a family. Warm and fuzzy.
Gesellschaft is the degree to which rules are formalized, where we interact with strangers and see them in roles rather than as whole persons. Instead of recruitment being one hundred percent through nepotism, it is preferred to be through meritocracy. Cold and hard edged.
Gemeinschaft characteristics are associated with our earliest and rural societies, while gesellschaft is associated with urban and more modern times. Because of the agricultural revolution, social organization became based more on non kinship principles, and larger and denser populations gave rise to increasing interaction with strangers. The inevitable march of the human population is away from gemeinschaft and towards gesellschaft. Colder, more formal, more logical, more rule of law, more complex.
◊ But we are animals that evolved while living in small face to face groups. We have had little biological evolution over the last 50,000 years during the agricultural revolution and its transformational effects on human social organization. We appear to be physiologically, mentally and emotionally designed better for small face to face groups rather than the impersonal anonymity of urban mega cities. To counteract this inevitable shift from simple to complex, rural to urban, we have been inventing substitutes for community that can function in urban social systems.
◊ One of those inventions which goes well back into history and the development of cities, is associations. Perhaps the Masons was, as they claim, derived from masonic unions of the pyramid builders. This may be our first important clue about whether we can call the WikiEd membership a community. Associations are "constructed communities" where membership is not by kinship principles, but by other principles, common interest, common job, common social class, common level of wealth. The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a constructed community, as is the Girl Guides.
◊ Since we feel more comfortable in face to face interaction with people we know, we find an interesting phenomena. People learn and use the names of others in cities that they need to know only as roles, partial persons rather than as whole persons, bus drivers, postal couriers, grocery clerks,
◊ The rise of neo-gemeinschaft. All these inventions, and you can probably identify more, combine to be a force that counteracts the rise of urbanism and cold and formal social interaction. We call that neo-gemeinschaft.
◊ So we are a "community" in the sense of being a constructed community rather than a traditional community. We are not recruited through birth or by kinship. But we have few formal rules of interaction (we have some, such as registration and following the rules of wiki editing). We are informal in our interaction, we do not have a rigid hierarchical or organizational structure (Wayne is more like a guru or older brother than a CEO). We are getting a bit more formal as we organize such things as policy work groups.
◊ Randy talks about "The WE magic." As I see it, the magic is the effort that members put into making and keeping the membership a community.
◊ There is one last characteristic of the WikiEd community which we must mention. We do not meet each other face to face (F2F). Well, only very seldom. What is lost and/or gained by being on line?
◊ By having user pages with our basic personal data and photos, we lower the cold formality of knowing each other only on line. By giving each other support and encouragement in our discussion groups (although disagreements and factions are very much a part of traditional communities) we increase loyalty and a feel good attitude about our membership and each other.
My recommendations: WikiEducator membership is growing rapidly. Inevitably it will have to become more formal in its rules and protocols. The formation of work groups to work out various procedures is a good idea and appropriate now, but we should not be in such a hurry to become more formal than we need to be. That reduces our "community-ness" and therefore a strong element of our membership. --Phil Bartle 00:45, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

See and collaborate with the WikiEducator open educational resource (OER), The Sociology of Communities.

Previous rants:

What About Controversy? – 2009 November 27

While developing open educational resources (OERs), how do we handle topics where there are deep seated differences of opinion?

◊ Some topics can be very controversial. Even if you try to teach both approaches, telling the students they must make up their own minds, strong advocates from one or the other side will object ferociously, saying there is no room for more than one side in this issue. Alternatively, you may feel there is only one correct choice, but strong advocates from the other side will argue that both sides need to be taught (which may give the learners an impression that there is equivalency between the sides even if there is not).
◊ I am sure that you could come up with more examples. Here are a few for illustration: religion (one path versus many paths), individual versus social responsibilities, single sex versus coeducational classrooms, national radio versus corporation controlled radio, incompatible political ideologies, copyright versus creative commons attribution share-alike, PC versus Mac, Tin Tin versus Asterix.
◊ What about the denial of the holocaust, denial of the existence of global warming, or denial of the truth of evolution? The space race is a product of movie special effects? The earth is flat? It is difficult for me to imagine my believing such. Do they deserve a hearing?
◊ An interesting parallel of irreconcilable differences is the conflict in land usage principles between tillers and herders. This difference apparently goes back to the biblical myth of Cain (the vegetarian) and Abel (the beefeater). It is reflected in the conflict during the European opening of North America, between ranchers and farmers.[1] In Rwanda, 1994 saw a bloody conflict between Hutus (tillers) and Tutsis (herders). Herders need open access and free range, while tillers need finite plots that are fenced for protection. They cannot exist as such side by each. Similarly in various parts of Africa, there is a conflict between societies that do not have chiefs or chieftaincy (acephalous) and others who are hierarchical (and are quite willing to provide chiefs for the former). You can not have both; chiefs and no chiefs. Ultimately, if both are to exist in the same area, one or both must be modified, and that usually means no one is one hundred percent happy.
◊ When children are young, and have not heard of each controversy, they are more open to the idea that both sides have their value. As they become socialized and learn and adopt the values of their families and communities, they are more likely to have the kinds of strong opinions expressed there.
◊ We need to recognize the effect and value of ignorance and indifference. "Don't know = don't care" can be unbiased. Colonial officers in the Gold Coast were highly respected by the local leaders because they were more likely to give fair judgements in land disputes and other conflicts. The reason was that every local leader belonged to one or another side in every dispute. Foreigners such as colonial officers could not care less, as they had no vested interests in one or the other side winning.
◊ The degree of conflict is related to the degree to which the individuals are involved in the issue. Children who have never heard of Asterix or Tin Tin could not care less that there is a strong rivalry between their different readerships. It is all the same to them, even though Asterix is far superior <smile>.
◊ So where does that lead us educators?
◊ Maybe in some school systems we can not teach that evolution is scientific while creationism is not (or so called intelligent design, which is a disguise for creationism) if the community feels strongly about it, and has control over the school board and Ministry of Education. How distasteful to teach something in which we do not believe.
◊ For some, it is something that comes with the job. Some people find handling dead cows distasteful. If they work for McDonalds they have to do it, or find a new job.
◊ Fortunately producing OERs does not have the same limitations. There is no school board to appease over controversial topics. On the down side of working with OERs, other people, as well as ourselves, are not restricted in what they can or can not write. Then we are also sure to see some topics presented in ways to which we strongly object. We can practice tolerance, or look for a new vocation. Or, if we find holocaust deniers, global warming deniers, or others advocating completely unacceptable ideas (if we had an objective way to judge), we might instead lobby to have them barred.
◊ We need to decide, as a community, if we should take a laissez faire approach, or develop a policy. Maybe a loose policy framework? Should this be a topic for a policy work group?
◊ The choice is ours. --Phil Bartle 04:19, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

earlier rants:

Alternatives to Orthodox Classroom Methods – 2009 November 13

Should we develop and promote unorthdox methods of learning and teaching among Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

◊ Good teachers use a variety of methods of teaching in the classroom, and set up contexts for a variety of learning modes for their students. That they use them might be an argument against calling them unorthodox, but for this rant, unorthodox means alternatives to the standard pattern: teacher in the front of the class, students sitting in rows facing the teacher, teacher making a verbal presentation of the content, students allowed to ask questions of clarification after the presentation.
◊ Here are a few examples for illustration. The list is in no way comprehensive, but may stimulate you to think up others.
◊ An important learning method alternative, described more elsewhere, is the aural method of learning an oral language. No notes, no text books, no memorizing grammar rules. It works well even for languages that are written.
◊ Many different kinds of role playing can be set up. Perhaps the best is where the students take on specific roles and are asked to invent their own dialogue. This can be used for acting out an historical situation or event, a case study of a topic within one of many classes, a possible future event. A more complex role play to set up, and a bit more restrictive in terms of student creativity, is where the dialogue, or some of it, is prepared by the teacher. Here, though, specific quotations can be used out of an historical text book or a text of case studies. A role play can be any length from a few minutes to longer. Shorter is perhaps best. There should be time for the participants and non participants to comment on and analyze the role play.
Simulation games differ from role play in that the participants are not seen to be acting out parts, but are set tasks and goals, individually and/or in groups, that they attempt to achieve to play the game. One of the most useful simulation game is Starpower, which I used in the late sixties and early seventies to teach about class and caste systems, with a focus on Apartheid. It is described in the inequality section of my sociology modules. When done well a simulation game can instill feelings and perspectives in the participants, often at odds with each other, and the huge energy created requires lots of time and guidance in debriefing afterwards.
Puppets, flannel cloth and magnetic boards. Puppets can be a lot of fun because of their entertainment function. They go way back into history and are used in many societies. It is important however, that the students do not simply watch them passively, as we are wont to do in this television age. Making the puppets, and writing a play for them is far more productive. Here they are similar to role playing noted above. Flannel boards are like puppets but more appropriate when you need less action among the players. They are good for non animate props, and a cardboard "puppet" on a stick can be used over them to add action where needed. Magnetic boards can be played the same way, but usually need commercially manufactured figures, unlike flannel which lends itself better to making the props and characters in class. If you can get some generic fridge magnets, cardboard characters and props can be pasted onto the magnets and you then are less dependent upon commercial ones, and the students can make them.
Song, dance and culture groups. In many communities, or nearby, local amateur performer groups can be found. Sometimes they are part of ethnic group associations. In some places this might be a choir. In others it could be a group that stages plays, music, drumming and singing. Usually a donation is expected so your school might have to budget that. Now, while the entertainment value is great, they can become teachers. Many of them are willing to put on a play or sing a song, then take your students in to their group to get them to put on a simplified version. That is where the learning lies. As for content, they often can be given an assignment to put forth a specific message. If they are given enough time, they will come up with something good. That message can be one related to your curriculum.
Putting on a play, concert or operetta. Many schools put on plays, concerts and operettas, and this is valuable in itself. To make such activities part of the curricula, however, something must be added. The topic of the entertainment should be closely related to the subject of the course. The participants should do something more than memorize lines or stanzas and act or sing them out on a stage. Any play can be edited, and the students can modify it, for example, to use local environment as ambience, and local individuals as characters. Remember that West Side Story is a modern derivative of Shakespeare. A big challenge would be to create a play that illustrates an entry or topic in a course of study.
Videos and films with a twist. All too often videos or films are shown to a class without comment and without time reserved for the class to discuss it. In this age of television, we have increasingly become passive viewers, putting nothing into the presentation of the film. Yet videos and films offer a big potential for participatory methods of learning. The simplest one would be an assignment, perhaps best in small groups of four or five, to write a review of a video, or analyze the various ways which it cross cuts the current topic of a class. In more complex assignments, students would be given editing tools, eg. on computers, to re arrange a video and make a shorter but relevant statement related to the current topic.
Making power point presentations. We usually think of power point presentations (or similar programs) as a good way to present a topic, with illustrations, sound, colour and animation options. Good as they are, the students become a passive audience. What is more effective is to ask the students to prepare a power point presentation. You can even give them some of the pages and illustrations that you once used when you prepared one, but do not give them everything. This works well with small work groups.
Building a model, map or construction. When students build a map or a model, it is not the final product that is so valuable as the doing of it. A model of the Bastille to illustrate the fourteenth of July. A three dimensional map of a district, province or even a small country, laid out on a table, could be a long term project, where mountains are made from paper mache. When students build such a map or model, they identify with it, and it becomes more easy to get them interested in characteristics of it. Important here to not insist on too precise a replica; the building of it is more educational than the final product.
Class or group projects, when done well, are very good learning experiences. When done poorly they can be disasters. In our functional literacy module we describe where the classroom is converted to a board room or planning room, the participants choose and design a project, such as collecting fish prices in a fishing community, go on a field trip to collect the information, then return to make pamphlets and/or signs. The literacy they learn is almost seen as a secondary objective. There is a wide range of group or class projects that can be used in this way. They are most effective when the participants themselves design each project. Many of the activities listed here can be well adapted to doing them in small groups.
Work groups and assignment groups. An easy way to break up the monotony of everyone sitting in rows and listening to the same presentation, is to divide the students into work groups. Mine found it interesting that their first task as a group was to choose an animal as their totem, and that, of course, stimulated discussions of what totems were. While work groups can encourage cooperation and a communal attitude, that is not the most important feature here. A teacher must have a high tolerance for students talking in class, and multiple things happening at the same time. When students have an assignment, they discuss doing it, and that "doing" is a valuable contributor to their learning. One assignment is that they create a multiple choice quiz or exam. Often they do not know what the purpose of tests are, and may suggest questions that are so easy that everyone gets them all right, and I ask, what does that test? Sometimes it is possible, when appropriate, to set up a minor competition between groups; who finishes first, who gets the most or least of something. Play with it.
◊ One of my favorite small group assignments was the mobius strip. I brought the materials – scissors, tape and long strips of newsprint. They were told to tape the strips into a circle, with one flip so the ends met but not with the same sides of the paper touching. Then I asked them to cut the strip in two, right down the middle. As they did it I asked what they expected to get, and most said two circular strips. This was a lesson at the beginning of sociology, where I wanted to demonstrate that common sense does not always prevail. What you see is not what you get. Of course if they did it right they got one larger but thinner strip in a circle.
Students teaching a topic. Most teachers know that when they have to teach a subject, they end up knowing much more about it than they would without having to teach it. Some forget this phenomenon when they look for ways to encourage their students to learn. Do not overlook it. This works if you give a small teaching assignment to a student to prepare overnight or over a weekend, and present it later in class. That preparation creates an investment that the student puts into the assignment. You can also ask a work group to prepare the lesson as a group, then choose one of its members to present it. Do not confuse this with asking a student to get up in front of the class and read a passage out of a text book. That serves little purpose. They must feel responsible for the other students learning what they teach, and the investment they put into preparing it helps that.
◊ Do not make the mistake of thinking that these alternatives are appropriate only for younger students. I have successfully used all of them at undergraduate and post graduate seminar levels.
◊ A good teacher will come up with others, appropriate to the community, to the students, and to the topic. A better teacher will work with the students to come up with even more.
◊ Avoid "busywork." In all of the above, there is a danger of the assignments becoming what we call "busywork." Each assignment must be relative to the curriculum at hand, and not become meaningless drudge work for any student. These are not alternatives to working by the teacher, but in fact take more work.
◊ In all of the above, it is important for the teacher to find ways to maximize student participation in conceptualizing, planning, creating and setting up the alternative methods.
◊ This illustrates a need for a catalogue or WikiEd Page for anybody to contribute examples.
◊ Administrators and some school boards, based on corporate culture as they usually are, like standardization and orthodoxy. Among other reasons, they are easier for producing statistics. The methods listed here are not adapted to producing such statistics; grades. Many educators support the idea of encouraging creative initiatives, but are hindered by the orthodoxy of their administrations.
◊ What is needed is a movement, and a forum for sharing those ideas and building up a force for change. The "They said it could never be done," attitude was prevalent in the segregated areas of the USA at one time, in Apartheid South Africa at one time, in East Germany at one time. Now there is no Apartheid in South Africa, there is no East Germany, and segregation does not have so many local laws supporting it.
◊ "We can do it." It can be done, and that means more than voting for Obama. We need the collective will to make it happen, and WikiEducator is a good platform, among several, from which to urge the change. --Phil Bartle 22:44, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
See and collaborate with the WikiEducator open educational resource, training methods.


  1. The opening of North America was the nineteenth century European settling of North America, west of the original settlements on or near the East coast. The two modes of living were ranching (raising cows) and farming (tilling the land). Of course this happened after the exploration of the West and the activities of the fur traders, but neither of those were of people settling down to live permanently. Although this was not depicted in the Hollywood movies, there was a large conflict between the cattle raisers and the farmers. Again, in contrast to the ambiance depicted by Hollywood, about sixty per cent of the cowboys were of African descent. Farmers thought the cowboys were anarchistic, rebellious. petty criminals. Cowboys thought the farmers were greedy and selfish. Herding cows, especially bringing them to the trains to go to market (eg.: in Chicago) required open land, and farmers put up fences (to protect their crops) which messed up the cowboys and their herds. Sometimes those fences "broke down," and gun fights ensued.

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Feedback2.png Please put your comments in the Discussion page; Click on the discussion tab at the top of this page. --Phil Bartle 21:37, 20 April 2009 (UTC)