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[Xmca-l] Re: book of possible interest



Huw:

Is learning material? In what sense? At what point?

I guess I think of it this way. All phenomena in the universe are physical,
but only in the final analysis. When my father (who is a retired but
unrepentant solar physicist) studies these phenomena he uses various units
of analysis (my father likes to think big, so his usual unit of analysis is
a solar emission many times larger than the earth, but sometimes, depending
on the problem, he will condescend to think about smaller particles like
atomic nuclei). Some of these physical phenomena, when they cool down a
little, are chemical as well, and because these phenomena are chemical as
well as physical, the unit of analysis that is proper to them is the
molecule and its motions, and not simply the particle (Dad doesn't care
about these phenomena; he likes his physics hot).

Some of these chemical phenomena are biological as well, and here once
again the unit of analysis has to change (e.g. to the cell) in order to
take into account the new properties which come into being at this scale.
Some biological phenomena are cultural-historical in turn, and here too we
must change the unit of analysis in order not to lose essential information
that is created with higher levels of organization and complexity.Of
course, these cultural historical phenomena are all reducible to biological
phenomena, and therefore reducible to chemical and physical phenomena, but
only in the final analysis. Hey, in the final analysis, as Carolyn Porco
says, we all get reduced to physical phenomena when the sun explodes and
blows the particles that were once our bodies out into space, to enjoy
eternal life...but only as physical phenomena.

In the meantime, if we want to understand cultural-historical phenomena as
such, we have to confront their higher levels of organization and
complexity.The cultural historical phenomena that I am most interested in
turn out to have another subset of phenomena which Halliday calls
semiotic--that is, they are sociologically cultural-historical phenomena
that stand, even if only for a fleeting instant,
for psychologically cultural-historical phenomena. These phenomena are
material too (that is, they are biological, chemical, and even
physical), for the way things stand for other things is ultimately
reducible to a thing: words are, in the final analysis, "made of living
breath", as Shakespeare says, or "layers of moving air" if you prefer
Engels.

But only in the final analysis. In the interim, too much information is
lost when we reduce these semiotic phenomena to physical, material,
things (for example, when my students try to model learner comprehension
problems as pure phonetic discrimination without taking into account the
layer of wording or meaning). So it's almost always more useful for me to
think of learning phenomena as NOT reducible to the physical, at least not
in their unit of analysis. Actually, it seems to me that the
general "cultural-historical" level of analysis is if anything a step
closer to biology or chemistry or physics than the subset of cultural
historical phenomena that I mean when I refer to learning, because to me
learning is microgenetic, that is, POTENTIALLY ontogenetic, which is in
turn POTENTIALLY sociogenetic, which (to me) is the general level of
analysis we mean when we talk about cultural historical phenomena. So the
real answer to Mike's colorful complaint about handles is not "Community of
Learners" but actually "physico-chemico-bio-socio-semiotic learning
activities".

Time for that quantum physical cup of coffee you were talking about....

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


On 10 July 2014 08:53, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:

> David,
>
> Just to be clear, the error I was referring to was the attribution of a
> theory (as an adjective) to the material thing (learning).  It would be
> like saying, I am going to make a Newtonian cup of coffee in the morning
> and a quantum mechanical cup of coffee in the afternoon.
>
> I suppose colourful language serves the purpose of deliberate vagueness.
> It's hard to be trendy and have a precise point.
>
> I fear we are soon approaching the "teach yourself activity theory for
> dummies" book someday soon.  From my understanding, the theory itself
> repudiates such a thing -- one cannot spoon feed theory -- but I don't
> think that will stop folk trying.
>
> I see no problem (or contradiction) in top down approaches.  Solving a
> problem in general is a powerful approach to many problems.  For many
> problems the concrete details are amenable to design and configuration, one
> can often choose tools to suit the proposed solution rather than
> vice-versa.   But from an educational perspective, I see no alternative
> than starting with the individual, ofcourse one can have general strategies
> in doing so -- waiting to be asked before giving an explanation etc.
>
> Nice chatting.
>
> Best,
> Huw
>
> On 9 July 2014 22:46, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Huw:
> >
> > Helen has written a remarkable, important book. I gather it's part of her
> > Ph.D. thesis, but it doesn't really read like a Ph.D. thesis. It reads
> like
> > a teacher-trainer (or "professional development consultant", or whatever
> we
> > are supposed to call them) with a problem who eventually, with a little
> > help from the classics of cultural historical psychology and a lot of
> help
> > from a co-teacher (who has a somewhat bookish, inert but nevertheless
> > respectful and open acquaintance with those classics) achieves a very
> open
> > but nevertheless very workable solution.
> >
> > So the bit I quoted represents the problem, or rather, two problems. On
> the
> > one hand, Helen is trying to do something new: she wants to bring new
> CHAT
> > concepts to bear on extant classroom activities and modify them in ways
> > that she is confident will work. On the other, Helen is working with some
> > pretty experienced (and even somewhat brutalized) teachers: they have
> seen
> > "Professional Development" fads come and go, collected their free lunches
> > and go on doing things the old way.
> >
> > Helen achieves her solution from the bottom up. Eventually, she does
> find a
> > teacher who can teacher her a lot and who, even though Helen herself
> > is uniquely gifted, with not only the theoretical background we all
> share,
> > but also considerable first hand experience as a teacher and a parent,
> can
> > nevertheless be taught in turn. But as you can see from the extract,
> she's
> > extremely open, even to savage, unfair, and somewhat obtuse criticisms.
> > Mike's critique of "cultural historical" is not that it is an
> > epistemological error or a typological one, or that it puts the product
> > "culture" before the process "history". It's not even that it suggests
> that
> > on the odd day Piagetian activities might be taking place, which, by the
> > way, is probably true, since these teachers were mostly trained during
> the
> > "reign" of Piaget in the sixties and seventies.
> >
> > No, Mike's complaint is really, if you will pardon the expression, a wank
> > of a complaint. He is just complaining that the name is uncool; it
> doesn't
> > sound like the popular teachers would like it; the name won't go with an
> > embossed moose like "Abercrombie and Fitch" or "community of
> > learners" does. I think we have to accept that responsive, sensitive
> > teachers inevitably end up internalizing some of the worst aspects of
> > adolescent thinking, and this is an example. I might even say it's a
> > bullshit complaint. It's crap, etc. (But this is one of those
> > language situations where redundancy does not suggest development.)
> >
> > I guess if I encountered a bullshit complaint like that I would complain
> a
> > little about "community of learners". I think that "community of
> > learners" is essentially a way of saying "socio-psychological": it's
> > relevant to everyday teaching, but it doesn't tell us much about how the
> > "socio" got there, whereas "cultural-historical" does. I might even ask
> if
> > Mike is going to try to teach physics, chemistry, biology, or history to
> > kids without some way of saying "physico-chemical" or
> "chemico-biological",
> > or "biologico-social". If not, then I don't see anything wrong with
> > teaching language, including the language of teaching, as something
> > "socio-semiotic" or "historico-cultural". But then, I never was one of
> the
> > cool kids.
> >
> > My problem is this. I too would like to write a book now. I have two in
> > mind, and they are both practical books about teacher training,
> > similar in their targets to Helen's book, which is why I am studying it
> > carefully. But I find that the books that I have in mind are really
> "about
> > something" in a way that Helen's book is not. I don't mean that Helen's
> > book has no object of study: like the title says, the object of study is
> > teacher development. What I mean is that the teaching has no clear object
> > of teaching: it's not specifically about teaching math or literacy or
> > anything else but about teaching in general. The books I have in mind are
> > really about teaching literacy (I think I want to try to teach WRITING
> > before READING) and teaching science (I think I want to try a "hands off"
> > approach that emphasizes word meanings instead of laboratory
> experiments).
> > And I am finding that I when I do this the result is not at all the kind
> of
> > "bottom up" thing that Helen does; it's very top down.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> >
> >
> > On 9 July 2014 07:33, Huw Lloyd <huw.softdesigns@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > Colourful.  The complaint seems perfectly valid though:  a typological
> > and
> > > epistemological error all in one conflated term.  It suggests that on
> the
> > > odd hours of the day there are Piagetian activities taking place.  Was
> > this
> > > part of the point of the chapter?
> > >
> > > Best,
> > > Huw
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > On 8 July 2014 21:40, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> > >
> > > > I'm actually in the middle of Chapter Three right now. What I can
> tell
> > > you
> > > > is that Helen's first two chapters are a kind of "Who's Who" at xmca,
> > > with
> > > > Helen reading the great classics (in the wrong order) and talking to
> > > Andy,
> > > > Greg, and others on this list. But beyond the litte shout-outs to
> xmca,
> > > in
> > > > Chapter Three, you find interesting problems like this. Helen is
> > setting
> > > up
> > > > a "Professional Learning ZPD". This an acronymy within an acronym (an
> > > > "acro-acronym-nym", like the group I used to belong to in New York
> and
> > > > Paris, called "ACT-UP"), and in general Helen seems to have some
> > trouble
> > > > with names. On pp. 58-59, she writes.
> > > >
> > > > "In PLZ 4 I wrote the title 'Features of cultural Historical Learning
> > > > Activities' across a piece of butcher's paper and asked the grou to
> > > > brainstorm features of activities that would be consistent with
> > cultural
> > > > historical theory. After a few suggestions, Mike suddenly interrupted
> > > with:
> > > > MIKE: Can I ask, Helen, why such a wank of a name?
> > > > HELEN: Cultural-historical?
> > > > MIKE: Yeah, what a bullshit name.
> > > > DEB: What should it be Mike?
> > > > MIKE: What does it mean to anyone? Is that relevant to anyone that
> > > > name? Cultural-historical learning. What does that mean?
> > > > HELEN: Well....
> > > > MIKE: It's crap.
> > > > HELEN: Well, I don't think that you, that's the name of teh theoyr,
> > > > Cultural historical theory, but I think in terms of schools using teh
> > > > theory they talk about Communities of Learners.
> > > > MIKE: Yeah, but why don't they call it that?
> > > > HELEN: OK, so (I start crossing out "cultural historical" and
> changing
> > it
> > > > to "Communities of Learners")
> > > > MIKE: That name is like calliing the ultra net site for teachers
> > 'design
> > > > space'. It has no relevance to the name whatsoever, and to use
> > > it--features
> > > > of cultural historical learning--sounds like a load of crap. It
> > > > doesn't have any relevance ot what it means. If you said to me
> cultural
> > > > historical learning, I go ....
> > > > BETH: I actually thought it meant talking about he past (general
> > > > agreement).
> > > > MIKE: That's what it implies, the past and how you used to teach.
> > > > HELEN: I suppose I'm just trying to familiarize you with the term
> > > (general
> > > > agreement)
> > > > MIKE: If you call it community of learners then it's something that's
> > > > relevant."
> > > >
> > > > Helen then makes the (cultural-historical) point that words have a
> > > history,
> > > > but they are not necessarily YOUR history--for Helen, "cultural
> > > historical"
> > > > calls up a whole series of quite precise concepts, while "Community
> of
> > > > Learners" is kind of vague and undefined. But for the teachers (who
> > are,
> > > I
> > > > must say, not exactly reticent about sharing, and do not limit
> > themselves
> > > > to sharing their expertise) what you get is old times.
> > > >
> > > > It's funny that they ignore the word culture. I always thought that
> > > > "cultural historical" is a little bit of the cart before the
> horse....
> > > >
> > > > David Kellogg
> > > > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > On 8 July 2014 21:40, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
> > > >
> > > > > The Practice of Teachers' Professional Development
> > > > >
> > > > > A Cultural-Historical Approach
> > > > >
> > > > > Helen Grimmett (Monash University, Australia)
> > > > >
> > > > > This book uses Vygotsky's cultural-historical theory to provide a
> > > unique
> > > > > theorisation of teachers' professional development as a practice. A
> > > > > practice can be described as the socially structured actions set up
> > to
> > > > > produce a product or service aimed at meeting a collective human
> > need.
> > > In
> > > > > this case, collaborative, interventionist work with teachers in ...
> > > Click
> > > > > here for a free preview and full description<
> > > > >
> > > >
> > >
> >
> http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001ZduyW2xyB1USw9R1YjQno7GI-mDLfJ6m-729UFbNgCKe6Z_p9GP7xjN9IHr0mfZ1yni-XmxHyPfAaNcVjlENvx4l8ySiyRYKHRvvg2E6WbMlf3hNShpk2qTuRRu0ZenYc1mrXxe68_BX4FXljTnHjOx91vJalGeivvaQfmQF57rpGgcDrJe9bprlVyXQwjSo0U6yk-QJ1S5miZfuS7ohswmNs3UZWGMucMgWJyU6E_J3d8QHyWjpGuBM8i2twLXGBPHkZb6hFN4pF6PT3r3M7HYvwFdzAzSfRvpCd90DvQMVDuqkf5VY3ccoD6FppEGF&c=0Y23gLfSZ1jN_yGPyItMZic7SWiIoOcRfcrQWB0JYs9lkVW149lxUQ==&ch=ioZBoxRIwDxdvg-uu6NEwI-E45lgW01U_INO86ZNyJpwbp9zcKnCIA==
> > > > > >.
> > > > >
> > > > >
> > > >
> > >
> >
>