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Current Issue: Volume 31, Issue No.1, Week of September 2, 2007
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The Visual Can Provoke Discourse that Matters

This image, hastily drawn includes a hint of the Egyptian eye, of the Christian fish, (ICHTHUS), and of the random pattern of lightning, all of which represent different visual perspectives of what matters; the thread and word overlay represent our emphsis on creating a visual context which includes all at all skill levels, and establishes a community of learning based on shared and collaborative learning.

The eye sees as many perspectives as the mind can take in.

This image, hastily drawn, includes a hint of the Egyptian eye, of the Christian fish, (ICHTHUS), and of the random wandering of threads, all of which represent different visual perspectives of what matters. The thread and word overlay represent our emphasis on creating a visual context which includes all at all skill levels, and establishes a community of learning based on shared and collaborative learning through projects we can relate to the issues that matter.


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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 5, 2007
Latest Update: September 6, 2007

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Topic of the Week:

Using the Visual
to Embed Learning in the Apperceptive Mass

Hi! I'm jeanne, the tech for our website, Dear Habermas. I'm also an emeritus faculty member at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Susan and I have worked collaboratively for many years to ensure that our students would have a meaningful and lasting educational experience. To that end, we start the semester off with a little essential learning theory: how do we learn? how do we know?

  • Explanation of Herbartian apperceptive mass.

    Herbart was a learning theorist, one whose work I studied in graduate school. His explanation of how our experiences shape us struck me as extraordinarily useful. I'm going to explain it in my own words, so don't hold him responsible for any misconceptions I might have retained over the thirty years since I first studied him.

    What I particularly liked, as I recall it, was his description of what I envisioned as a stew pot, the kind that used to sit on the stove in a "family kitchen" (I never had a family like that, so this was pure fantasy on my part, but it worked for me. jeanne) According to my memory, that stew pot was always on the stove, and into it went everything that was left over from interim meals. That meant its taste was ever changing according to the day's left overs, and according to what had gone into it before. Now strangely enough, if you consult Brenda Mergel's update of learning theory, that's a constructivist image. One that says the context of what has gone before in that kitchen in that family home is reflected in the way that stew tastes. But its taste is also affected by the contents of what is poured in from today's left overs. There is, nor can there be, one pre-ordained taste, or recipe for that matter. That's because each family and each stew pot are so reflective of the uniqueness of that family and its experiences.

    There's one more piece of that image I find impressive enough to pass on. In terms of explaining the mind as that stew pot that gathers and holds in memory all our experiences, however brief, however painful, however out-of-awareness, whatever goes in the pot stays in the pot. Forever. We can't take things back out of our minds. We can't take horrible scenes, like the Holocaust, like Rwanda, like Darfur, back out of our minds. Like Rabelais' frozen words, once there, they are there forever, even though we may not be actively conscious of them and can repress them for long periods of time. This is becoming even more clear as research on older people, suffering from Alzheimer's, is showing that as they lose their short-term memories and go back to earlier long-term memory, they are reliving experiences they went through during their youth. Some Holocaust victims have been found to re-experience the Holocaust. The unbearable fear returns. This complicates caring for these people, as in their fear, they may become panicked, aggressive, hostile. To the extent that they are unable to form current short-term memory, how do we get them to understand that what is frightening them is from long ago, in the past? (Reference New York Times and?or Los Angeles Times reporting in Summer 2007.Medical news.)

    jeanne's stew pot for Herbart's apperceptive mass

    The context and the content are ever changing,
    and so is the interpretation of our world and who we are in it.

    Although we can't remove experience and learning from the stew pot Herbart saw as our mind (my image, not his), we continuously add new experiences and new interpretations of old experiences, based on new knowledge. Still, when we are alone and frightened, old fears, old happenings simply pop up, unexplained, inconsistent with our current identities, our current knowledge, and seem to show as different from who we believe ourselves to be. Frozen words, frozen experiences. Again, this is a constructivist approach to understanding how our mind works. But I suspect that Herbart wouldn't mind my reinterpreting him at all, even though his major work precedes the postmodern constructivism. It's postmodern, for me, because it recognizes that there is no single valid story or narrative that is "true" in every context for every sentient being. Context and content are interdependent with any interpretation, and therefore must be ever changing.

    Rabelais' Frozen Words

    Pantagruel and Panurge in Rabelais' Storm of Frozen Words

    Sticks and stones may break my bones
    But words return to haunt me.

    Rabelais, A Monk, A Doctor, A Satirist in Search of Liberty
    Rabelais' Story of the Frozen Words
    Forgiveness and Frozen Words

    Tomorrow I will try to put up Issue No. 2 for the Week of September 9, 2007. These are some of the concepts we'll deal with, the better to involve our communities in governance discourse on concerns of social and criminal justice we all share for our future:

    • Explanation of Dewey's concept of "learning by doing." Why that means constructive learning theory.

    • Explanation of "embedding learning in our apperceptive mass for future recall, evaluation, and application. Why in depth higher learning can't avoid the schema of our earlier learning.

    • Explanation of "plastic intimacy," "surface learning and banked education," and "creative learning." The dangers of "formulaic" training in place of searching for the many alternative understandings and building new and meaningful alternatives.

    • Explanation of what knitting, crochet, and art have to do with all this. So that's what Dewey meant. Is that why he never did it himself in his teaching of higher learning?

    • Explanation of how constructive learning theory fits with free form, and maybe why it fits with those through whom we seek to build a global and meaningful future.

    love and peace, jeanne


    • Instructional Design & Learning Theory Brenda Mergel, Graduate Student, Educational Communications and Technology, University of Saskatchewan. Backup. Ms. Mergel compares behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism in an easily understandable and coherent way. She has an excellent bibliography that should serve well any of you who would like to explore further. jeanne

      Backup en espanol.

    • Martin Ryder's Instructional Design Models. Will give you the major resources for study in these different approaches to learning. Susan and Jeanne are constructivists. Which might help to explain the way we teach and what we dislike about standardized tests for the upper division education of future professionals.





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