Author Archives: tperson

Ben Fry, “On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces”

Looking at information displayed in the digitized version of Charles Darwin’s  “On Origin of Species” I felt that Ben Fry  was in some way critiquing the evolution of the presentation of written text.  I felt a lot like  the character of Neo in the Matix, when in the film he looks at the code and is told that there is meaning embedded in the streaming numbers  and patterns on the screen.

No matter how many times I looked at the project, it was difficult for me to really accept it as a readable text. I realized that in order for me to truly accept it, I would have to create for myself a paradigm shift about reading. Digitizing texts opens a whole new world of presentation. There are an infinite amount of ways that people can think of to interact with on line text and we  are probably just touching the surface.

I paused the running text, then sped it up and slowed it down, stopping it to see what information was at hand. I felt that trying to read it in any linear fashion made no sense, and I tried to give myself over to the randomness of stopping in different places to take in the information. My provocations are around the uses of this type of archiving.

  1. Who is a project like this for?
  2. What are its uses?
  3. Will it fundamentally change how the average person looks for or reads information?
  4. Is this a format that lends itself to literature or just scientific text, and is that the point? ( The fact that the subject is scientific, does that make it more accessible to experimentation.

Who will Own Our Information Now? Freedman and Hypertext

I never thought much about the transference of data from codex to the internet before now.  I guess I just thought that someone decided to put it there and wham, anyone with a computer would have access to it. The digitalization of books call into question quite a few issues that are on second glance much more critical than books over digital database.

Who decided what texts are important enough to be digitized is the first issue at hand. There are untold millions of books by millions of authors but the importance given to specific books makes them as important as they are. Digitizing books is another layer of preserving the canon that exists to raise some texts up while devaluing others.

Who owns the texts that are being digitized and is the access to them equal? I mentioned earlier that anyone that has access to a computer would have access to these texts, but the digital divide is still real, so those without computers and/or internet access will certainly have difficulty accessing digitized text. Freedman himself asks – in Latin no less, who it is that polices the databases?

As teachers increasingly look to the internet for ready made curriculum and on line access to text analysis,we are left to wonder whether the author’s original intent will be obscured, if if fact we ever knew it. Or, how much of the hypertext that is attached to digitized text is telling teacher how and what to think about a certain text?

Lastly, in an age when more education programs teacher teacher to follow curriculum as opposed to teaching them to create curriculum, where is the place for deep analysis and original thought regarding archived text?

I think that digitizing text is not so much a bad thing, but being wary of the questions that the process summons is imperative.

Provocations: 1)How can we as consumers of this medium have a voice in the process?

2) Each iteration of data has been it its way laden with issues, Have we learned for the issues of the past with regards to managing and sharing information/texts? (Think the printing press and forward)



Still Dewy After All These Years; Experience and Education

I have not known any scholar for whom the reading of Dewey is an easy undertaking. I am no exception yet, I am always compelled to analyze and discuss his work because as an educational theorist, his work continues to be prescient and pivotal to the American educational system, as it currently exists. As difficult as it is to analyze Dewey, I will try to distill him into a few concrete points.

Dewey’s theories are formed in the nexus of the ending of industrialism. He comes of age at the start of the progressive era where new ideas about society, work and citizenship. Everything about America was changing at this time of societal expansion and it all filtered into our education system. John Dewey was one of the most major contributors to our changing educational system.

In the essay Experience and Education, Dewey discussed the inherent tension of creating and managing systems on a macro level and showed us that education sits as squarely within that tension as any other system. Dewey illustrated the divide that existed and still exists between theory and practice as well as the need to dispense with the “isms” that create a bifurcated view of education.

Dewey pointed to the issues surrounding the practice of traditional education as stagnation and looking backward towards already constructed knowledge. Such teaching pre-supposes the teacher as the sole power in a classroom, and puts forth curriculum that can be uncreative, disconnected from the youth and devoid of real world application. According to Dewey “Teachers are the agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated and rules of conduct are enforced.”(p5) It is in this way, that teachers become transmitters of culture but also keepers of the status quo for both good and ill.

Conversely, progressive education presents its own problems in form, function and organization as well as the locus of authority and control. Dewey posed the question of whether when external authority is rejected whether “it does not follow that all authority should be rejected, but rather that there is need to search for a more effective source of authority.” (7) Dewey also discussed the “inchoate” nature of curriculum that is driven by amorphous ideas which in modern times continues to be an issue for progressive constructivist educators. Ultimately he points to the tendency for both sides to drown in dogma, rendering both sides as ineffective and lobbies for a more integrative approach to teaching and learning.

Gert Biesta in his book The Beautiful Risk of Education (2013), Biesta continues Dewey’s discussion. Feeling still the need to challenge the schisms of traditional VS. progressive theories of education, as well as the ill informed division of theory from practice. As a former classroom teacher and currently as a professor in teacher education programs it is interesting to note that the conversation hasn’t changed that much. My hope is that that tension that Dewey discussed will continue to keep us moving forward and looking at what works. Showing us that there is little benefit from being dichotomous.

My provocations:

  • How can we move forward from the current dichotomy of theories about education into a more integrative model.
  • What is the implication for teacher education programs in a time where curriculum is bought and sold, often with little input from the teachers who will use it.
  • Dewey is often misquoted or understood in very segmented ways. How can we as educators get a greater understanding of his theories as practice in modern times?
  • Can the cyclical discussion of traditional VS progressive education be solved, and is it beneficial to the field of education that it is not?