[xmca] Whose Meaning Really Flows from the keyboard of a Computer?

From: bb (xmca-whoever@comcast.net)
Date: Mon Oct 30 2006 - 19:43:20 PST

It's quite amazing how a couple of things have come together tonight. Jay's skepticism of learner-centeredness, of its meaning, resonates with what Valsiner had to say about abstractive generalization and contextual specification. That is to say, and mixing in Hallidays notions, I don't think many of us actually spend much time with those time-place-artifact concentrations that are considered by practitioners to be learner-centered. Our discourse on this channel is at a highly theoretical level, and the registers operating here just don't activate the same meanings as they do for a teacher communicating to peers about her elementary classroom. "Learner-centered" escapes many of us, because we just cannot get get to those meaning potentials in which the term takes on some specificity. Here's an attempt at bridging this gap, at remediating our own meaning deficit. It's as easy to scan and ocr as it is to copy nowadays, so I've included below an excerpt from a book by
 a firs
t grade teacher, writing to peers and maybe from this we can make better share what learning-centered means to those who are involved in constituting its activity.

The book is by Carol Avery and is called
…And with a Light Touch
Learning about Reading, Writing, and Teaching with First Graders

My preparations for school have certainly changed. I want the classroom to be warm and inviting when the children arrive that first day, but not overwhelming. I've discarded the visual bombardment of laminated colors and shapes, posters, cute quotes, and over sized characters that once filled the walls. Except for the strip above the chalkboard where I tack the children's names, the bulletin boards are empty- In a few weeks these bulletin boards will display pictures of authors, children's art work, a mural painted by some of the group in response to Charlotte's Web, a collection of litter from our ecology study, and charts recording the children's ideas on urban and rural communities. Although these bulletin boards may not look as polished as those I spent hours Grafting, they mean more to all of us. The first year I decided not to decorate the room for the opening of school, I admit I was nervous! Like a child asking permission, I sought out the principal to discuss my deci
He had no problem; the anxiety was mine.

I moved from interior decorator to professional decision maker and now prepare for the opening of school by anticipating what the children and I need for smooth operation of our classroom. Before school begins, I do what is essential to focus on the children during those first critical days, leaving as many tasks as possible for us to do together. Everything that goes in this classroom must contribute to our purposes: learning and literacy development in a supportive community.

What brought about this change for me? I came to realize that all the careful preparations of the physical environment do not necessarily create a classroom structure that responds to children's natural learning processes. Coming to understand the meaning of structure was a key issue in my professional growth. This changed me as a teacher, changed everything I did in preparation for school, and changed my teaching in the classroom. Donald Graves has often spoken about a classroom structure that is predictable (Graves 1983). Sometimes I hear teachers interpret predictability and structure to mean adhering to a tight and carefully orchestrated schedule and set of procedures. Traditionally, we in education have perceived a structured classroom to be one where the teacher is visibly in control, talking to children who sit quietly, listening and following the teacher's dictates. But Graves speaks of an invisible structure rather than this visible one. The invisible structure lies
 in the
 flexible operation of the classroom, worked out with the students and in which everyone has an investment. The predictability inherent in such an environment enables children to learn how to make responsible decisions and to engage in purposeful learning.

This change in the concept of structure has often led to misconceptions. Learner-centered classrooms have sometimes been perceived as having a "lack of structure." On the contrary, these are highly structured classrooms where children take responsibility for their work, their behavior, and their learning. They know the parameters, understand what is expected, and operate accordingly. They also know how to make appropriate decisions without relying on the teacher for their every move. This environment has high standards and high expectations for children's learning and their behavior—and the children know it!

Sorry for breaking style and writing a serious post. Some topics just seem to have this effect.

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