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Re: [xmca] Direct Instruction: observations at Djarragun college, Cape York, Australia

hi Helen,

Very strong quote from Vygotsky! Sadly I'm not well read in Vygotsky. I
know others here are so I'd be interested in whether he qualifies such
thoughts in his writings.

I have said the theory is important and I'm not really happy with
Engelmann's presentation of the theory. But if you look at this 1966 video
on his site (maths lesson) you will see enthusiastic kids running out to
the board and snatching the chalk off him to write answers, they seem fully
engaged and learning to me.

The most interesting author on theorising behaviourism for me is Daniel
Dennett. I summarised a section of his "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" a while
back and have since read "Kinds of Minds" which focuses more on just that
issue. This is the sort of theorising that might be of interest here so
I'll cut and post part of my earlier summary of it here:

Daniel Dennett claims that generate and test is the only non question
begging way to explain learning.

Learning can be viewed as self design. There doesn't appear to be a more
powerful way to think about design than thinking of it as an evolution
wrought by generate and test!

He elaborates further on this idea in Ch 13 Losing Our Minds to Darwin, in
his book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea
One theme is that it is language that helps make us intelligent, that
distinguishes us from other species.

Dennett presents us with five hypothetical creatures arising from Darwin's
evolutionary process. Each of them uses generate and test but the process
becomes more sophisticated with evolution.

Darwinian creatures are created by random mutation and selected by the
external environment. The best designs survive and reproduce.

Skinnerian creatures can learn by testing actions (responses) in the
external environment. Favourably actions are reinforced and then tend to be
repeated. Pigeons can be trained to press a bar to receive food.

Skinnerian creatures ask themselves, "What do I do next?"

Popperian creatures can preselect from possible behaviours / actions
weeding out the truly stupid options before risking them in the harsh
world. Dennett calls them Popperian because Popper said this design
enhancement "permits our hypotheses to die in our stead". This is Dennett's
enhancement of behaviourism. Popperian creatures have an inner environment
that can preview and select amongst possible actions. For this to work the
inner environment must contain lots of information about the outer
environment and its regularities. Not only humans can do this. Mammals,
birds, reptiles and fish can all presort behavioural options before acting.

Popperian creatures ask themselves, "What do I think about next?"

Gregorian creatures are named after Richard
an information theorist. Gregorian creatures import mind-tools (words) from
the outer cultural environment to create an inner environment which improve
both the generators and testers.

Gregorian creatures ask themselves, "How can I learn to think better about
what to think about next?"

Words / language are necessary to sustain long predictive chains of
thought, eg. to sustain a chain or combination of pattern recognition.

With respect to tools. Tools may have come before language. The evolution
of the hand with an opposable thumb is an early "inbuilt" tool, in
combination with erect posture. It has been shown that those things
happened before the increase in brain size. See Engels, Gould. This
observation, however, does not refute Dennett's proposition of the primacy
of language in contributing to intelligence. Tools can be a fundamental
building block and language still primary.

Learning from mistakes is an important and hard to learn part of this
process. To learn from mistakes one has to be able to contemplate them and
language / communication assists that process. For example, by being told
by someone else you have made a mistake.

Finally, we have Scientific creatures which is an organised process of
making and learning from mistakes in public, of getting others to assist in
the recognition and correction of mistakes.

The value of Dennett's account is:

   - he traces a very plausible evolutionary sequence for the development
      of the mind
      - he extends the core correct concept of behaviourism (generate and
      test) into the inner environment
      - he has a thought out opinion about the importance of language in
      human intelligence and its relation to tool use and tool
creation (the bits
      about pattern recognition have been added in by me)


On Fri, May 11, 2012 at 9:34 AM, Helen Grimmett

> Hi all,
> I was reading over one of my draft thesis chapters yesterday and the
> following quote from Thinking and Speech suddenly took on new relevance
> when I thought about it in relation to this thread. Although Vygotsky's
> 'direct instruction' is obviously not talking about the DI program, the
> sentiment still applies:
> … [D]irect instruction in concepts is impossible. It is pedagogically
> fruitless. The teacher who attempts to use this approach achieves nothing
> but a mindless learning of words, an empty verbalism that simulates or
> imitates the presence of concepts in the child. Under these conditions, the
> child learns not the concept but the word, and this word is taken over by
> the child through memory rather than thought. Such knowledge turns out to
> be inadequate in any meaningful application. This mode of instruction is
> the basic defect of the purely scholastic verbal modes of teaching which
> have been universally condemned. It substitutes the learning of dead and
> empty verbal schemes for the mastery of living knowledge.  (Vygotsky, 1987,
> p. 170)
> By the way Bill, is this one of the Indigenous Literacy programs that has
> just had its funding cut in this week's Federal Budget? What happens now?
> If there's no longer funding for teaching 'dead and empty verbal schemes',
> what will be required to provide the type of education that aims for
> 'mastery of living knowledge'?
> Cheers,
> Helen
> On 10 May 2012 19:02, Bill Kerr <billkerr@gmail.com> wrote:
> > On Thu, May 10, 2012 at 8:26 AM, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com
> > >wrote:
> >
> > > As I understand it view points research (Papert, Kay and others) are or
> > > were involved in ways to scale teaching approaches (presumably
> > > constructionist teaching approaches).
> > >
> > > Yes and that has continued with the one laptop per child project (OLPC)
> > as
> > well. But Alan Kay has pointed out
> > (a) most teachers don't understand the ideas behind logo (or etoys)
> deeply
> > enough
> >
> > *Q: What have you found to be the greatest obstacle in your work?*
> > A: I think the most difficult part is helping the helpers. Logo was a
> great
> > idea and it failed. It didn't fail because computers couldn't do Logo,
> and
> > it didn't fail because Logo software was bad. It failed because the
> second
> > and third waves of teachers were not interested in it as a new thing, and
> > virtually none of them understood anything about mathematics or science.
> > It's very hard to teach Logo well if you don't know math. ...
> > http://www.squeakland.org/resources/articles/article.jsp?id=1004
> >
> >
> > (b)  no one has yet developed a computer user interface that  could teach
> > children to read in their native language
> >
> > BUT, when Nicholas (Negroponte) started up the OLPC project my heart
> sank,
> > even as I supported it ... because if it's tough to get good mentors in
> the
> > USA then it's really tough out in the Third World ... no user interace
> > today can find out who its user is, what its user knows, what it can do
> ...
> > it can't find out what level of reading the user can do and help find out
> > the next level of reading
> >
> > There is common sense in the world concept ... so we make a world
> populated
> > with objects ... but they didn't interfere with the user strongly
> >
> > That isn't enough ... pure discovery learning took us 100,000 years to
> get
> > to science ... so you need learning that is facilitated ... and if you
> > can't make thousands of good teachers in a year then you have to have an
> > interactive user interface to save yourself
> >
> > This dream of having a UI to facilitate is as old as AI ... it is AI ...
> if
> > we had this we could make up for no teachers and bad teachers (but we
> still
> > need good teachers) ... so when the OLPC project started I thought OMG,
> we
> > are lacking the one piece of the technology ... if we could just ship
> that
> > machine with a program that could teach children to read in their native
> > language ... that would be the killer app and we wouldn't have to worry
> > about anything else for a number of years ... but that technology doesn't
> > exist ... it is that gap which has to be bridged in order to fulfil the
> > educational goals that the dynabook has ... you have to have a way to get
> > around the adults in the system that make educational reform difficult
> >
> >
> http://billkerr2.blogspot.com.au/2008/12/alan-kay-after-40-years-dynabook-is-not.html
> >
> >
> > It is considerations such as these that has caused me to look beyond the
> > OLPC to a method that would work with the most disadvantaged group in
> > Australia.
> > __________________________________________
> > _____
> > xmca mailing list
> > xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > http://dss.ucsd.edu/mailman/listinfo/xmca
> >
> --
> Helen Grimmett
> PhD Student, Teaching Associate
> Faculty of Education
> Monash University, Peninsula Campus
> __________________________________________
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