Showing posts from July, 2014

I will get to the point in ... three... two... one...

Get a group of academics together to plan a course and odds are they will quickly begin to argue the question of which books, experts or ideas ought to be taught.  You almost never hear them ask, "Um, how much time do we have?"

Yet more and more I find myself convinced that time is the essential variable in education.  The course design question isn't what needs to be taught but what can be taught in the amount of time we're given.  And by teach I mean leading the students through a series of experiences that create a changed way of thinking about a subject, the world or even themselves.  After all, cognitive scientists have long known that mental models change slowly.

Nevertheless, time continues to be meted out in the standard 16 or eight-week units at most colleges and universities. Daytime classes at my institution, for example, come in two varieties: three-days a week for 50 minutes, or twice a week for 80 minutes. Whatever a course has to accomplish must be i…

Our little systems have their day

My wife has been taking a MOOC on poetry  (that would be a massive open-enrolled on-line course).  The lectures are first rate and she has spent some time posting her own efforts and responding to the efforts of other enrollees.  Occasionally we will fall into a conversation about literature or poetic styles.  

So it was the other day that I found myself briefly discussing the concept of an "objective correlative,"  T. S. Eliot's notion that one must submerge strong feeling in art in "a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events" that evoke those feelings implicitly rather than explicitly.  

In other words, don't write about the fact that your father, with whom you had many issues, died two weeks ago.  Instead write about going out to mow the lawn at his now empty house and being unable to start his crummy, garage sale-bought mower.   Write about the smell of a flooded engine, the broken choke, your own cursing.  

Don't mention watching his vital signs…