Friday, October 24, 2008

Ulysses Alfred Lord Tennyson

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Adult Higher Education Conference 2008 Mobile, AL

As usual, another wonderful Alliance conference, this year's held on lovely Mobile Bay in Alabama. Elliott Lauderdale has done a great job organizing the conference well supported by the University of South Alabama. AHEA is by far my favorite conference--always warm and even intimate, fabulous conversations about learning and especially adult learning styles.

This year Alan Mandell, Xenia Coulter and myself facilitated a preconference workshop devoted to the question about the future of "progressive" pedagogy in the digital age. The group of interested and interesting educators that met together numbered about 20 or so, grappling with the question of whether John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky's ideas could be successfully brought forward into the digital learning future. People wondered if Dewey's remarkable insights into learning, themselves arising out of a revolution in thinking (what Morton White aptly called "the revolt against formalism" ) at the turn of the last century (circa 1890s-1930s) could remain cogent and vital in this new age of standardization of syllabi, platform creep i.e. Learning Management Systems, and (too often) objectivist assessment criteria. The impetus for the workshop grew out of a book with the same themes being edited at this moment by Carla Payne longtime Alliance member and retired member of the Vermont College and Union Institute faculty.

Despite the enormous lip service paid to "student-centered" learning, the folks at our workshop raised questions about the real role of "constructivist learning" in the traditional classroom setting where one still sees all too much "straight" lecturing and little meaningful discussion or involvement by students in their own learning. Of greater anxiety to all, was the growing power of "platforms" (LMS) to dictate through their architecture the manner and flow of the learning process. For some persons, concern was also raised regarding the genuine viability of the LMS or even the asynchronous discussion board to create the passion and deep learning sometimes achieved (at its best) by face-to-face discussion. As we argued and debated, pondered these weighty questions it seemed useful to me that perhaps we could use this blog with comments to see how we might use one of the instruments of the digital learning future to deepen and extend our workshop (and conference) conversation and dialogue. So, I invite all the participants of the AHEA Mobile 2008 conference to add your thoughts and ideas to this blog; we'll see about linking this digital and f2f discussion to the AHEA website as well.