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Encyclopedia Proposed Index, by Bill Ellis, Aug 23, 2004






Nance Confer / 9-14-04 / Responding to Christine

Christine --

I think we have two things going on here.

One is the level of vehemence with which some of us agree with the statements you quote from the White Paper and elsewhere along these lines --

<<< . . .the White Paper affirms that "Authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic schools prepare future citizens for an authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic society. A life-long learning system based in family, community, society and nature could be the foundation for new democracies of freedom, equity and justice," and that "moving toward self-learning and abandonment of traditional public schooling" is the approach endorsed for accomplishing that. http://www.creatinglearningcommunities.org/resources/lifelonglearning.htm>>>;

Some of us, imo, think this shift from institutional/traditional public schooling is closer at hand than others -- or want it to be so. I think we can all agree movement in that direction is a good thing. But I am among those who are less condemnatory of all public schooling. If I see movement in the right direction, allowing for more individualization in learning, for instance, I am for that as opposed to against it because it is taking place in a ps. Others feel more strongly negative, of course, about anything remotely related to ps.

Not to suggest that one view along this sprectrum is right or wrong but that may be what you are picking up on -- different levels of outrage or commitment to immediate radical change.

Now, about the "learning" versus "teaching" idea. IMO, each of the modalities we have so far COULD incorporate a spectrum of teaching and learning possibilities. Some are more flexible than others, of course.

Here's something that I saw yesterday about charter schools, for instance:

<<6) Quote of the Week. "First, charters are not in themselves a reform strategy; they are a blank slate. They are simply an opportunity to try something new, and they run the gamut from alternative schools for inner-city dropouts and incarcerated teens to International Baccalaureate academies in posh suburbs. A welter of studies has laid claims to both the superiority of charters and their inferiority, but we don't learn much from that. To discuss their effectiveness as a group means about as much as trying to evaluate whether restaurants, as a group, are good. Some are wonderful, some dreadful, some have shut down and some probably ought to." -- Jonathan Schorr, author and high school program director for the KIPP Foundation. (September 11 Washington Post)

See http://www.eiaonline.com for more.>>

Keeping your concerns in mind, do I think "charter schools" should be included in our project? Yes. But it has been decided that public school programs will not be included. OK. But the charter schools that, in some way, serve hsers -- they are to be included -- whether or not the student retains his legal status as a hser. (See the NCSW list for a nifty spreadsheet approach we are attempting to look at different types of programs in this and related categories with respect to threats to hsing freedoms.)

So, within that "charter hsing" category -- there will be different approaches. Just as there are among all hsers. Not everyone -- or even most people -- who homeschools is an unschooler, or even close.

But this entire ball of wax -- charterhsing to boxed curriculum hsing to radical unschooling -- all of it, imo, is "alternative" to straight ps. And that's the bottom line for me. Everything this side of straight ps is eligible to be included in the modalities.

And -- very importantly -- within each choice, there can be a spectrum of teaching versus learning, individualization versus standardization, etc.

I don't think we disagree that this is true. I just think it is a given and still does not rule out any modality.

Maybe it is a given that needs to be explicitly explained in the Introduction part of this project though.

I hope this is clear -- this is my first day with air conditioning again and all brain cells may not be firing yet! :)


Christine Weiss / 09-06-04 / Responding to Bill Ellis

BE (posted 09-05-04 to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CCL-LLCs/): There seems to be some confusion as to what <Learning Communities> is all about and what LAN is doing on <CCL-LLCs>. In my view the mission of <LC> as stated in the mission statement is to help create Learning Communities. We have narrowly defined this mission and participated in many relevant tasks. In the White Paper, that <LC> approved by consensus, we recognized that "learning communities" is only one of many optional learn modes. We have not agreed to promote any other leaning modality, but we have agreed that there are many of them.

CW: Okay, so maybe this is my confusion... It seems to me that you're saying that we (Creating Learning Communities and/or LAN) don't "endorse" any particular mode, we just don't "promote" modes that we agree (by consensus) are ineffective....???

And I'll say that, if this is what you're saying, it's a real stretch for me to wrap my consciousness around this standard, because I just don't see it as intellectually (or spiritually) possible to "not" (at some level) endorse the things one is promoting... even when one is promoting those things by "not promoting" certain others, still "endorsement" (of the preferred thing) is implicit to the act because, fundamentally, "The mind cannot hold two conflicting thoughts and remain sane."

BE: On <CCL-LLCs> LAN has taken on the task of producing, nor promoting, an encyclopedia of ALL learning modalities. We have not, too my knowledge, agreed that they are all equal.

CW: Okay, the word "nor" in the above sentence confuses me, however I agree that my understanding is that "On <CCL-LLCs> LAN has taken on the task of producing... an encyclopedia of ALL learning modalities." And in this regard, I have suggested that in context of organizing and identifying "topics" which will be indexed in the encyclopedia (a comprehensive list of which is KEY to building some type of user-friendly "search" technology into the envisioned "online environment" and MUST be somewhat finalized before this work can begin), we might want to clearly define the distinction between a "learning modality" and a "teaching modality."

BE: We have not, too my knowledge, agreed that they (various modalities) are all equal. We may disagree with many (or) with some. e.g. I think most of us see public schooling as needing to be terminated. Some of us think Charter schools are not the way to go. Some of us argue that anyone who accepts any tax supported program are not "homeschooling." We don't all agree that collaborative learning is a superior way to learn.

CW: Yes, I agree with this. And still it seems to me that each of these topics you've referenced -- public schooling, Charter schools, homeschooling, etc. -- is a "teaching" modality. I also agree that each different learner learns in a unique way, and that thus certain "teaching modalities" may be more or less conducive to enabling the individual learner's capacity to learn.

Yet still, I know that it has been conclusively (scientifically) proven that teaching does not constitute learning... at least not when "learning" is no longer identified with recitation by rote. And I believe that no matter our personal proclivities for or against any form of "teaching modality" that we (Creating Learning Communities and/or LAN) are already in agreement about there being a clear distinction between teaching and learning... However, as this conversation unfolds, it seems to me that I may have inaccurately presumed this about our collective point of view.

BE: But, I believe we all agree that: 1) ALL learning modalities should be understood and compared, and 2) everyone should have the freedom to choose whatever mode of learning they wish.

CW: Yes, I emphatically agree with this and add to it that ALL teaching modalities should be equally understood, compared, and readily accessible to those parents/teachers/students/children who wish to learn about learning.

Happy Lagor Day!!!


Christine Weiss / 09-04-04 / Responding to Nance Confer

First please let me reiterate that these comments must not be construed as any form of objection to what is currently in play. The content and organization of this outline is fine with me, and still I sometimes feel I would be remiss in my committment to the development of the project if I failed to openly share thoughts about (what I see as) relavent things as they come up.

With that in mind, in response to your curiosity about what I was "suggesting the LAN endorses," what I was asserting -- though perhaps not clearly (or presumptiously?) -- was that I believe we (aka: LAN) are already on record with endorsing certain things, such as articulated in Bill's recent post to the Learning Communities list:

"In their most formative years young people are locked away from family, community and nature in groups of 20 or more. Their mindsets are shaped by the necessities of school. Schools are inherently authoritarian, hierarchal, and undemocratic. If they tried to be anything else they would be pure chaos with no student able to learn and no teacher able to teach."

Though perhaps I am wrong about this. That is, perhaps I have misunderstood that those of us who are collaborating in the development of this project are of like mind about this. Yet still, the White Paper affirms that "Authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic schools prepare future citizens for an authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic society. A life-long learning system based in family, community, society and nature could be the foundation for new democracies of freedom, equity and justice," and that "moving toward self-learning and abandonment of traditional public schooling" is the approach endorsed for accomplishing that. http://www.creatinglearningcommunities.org/resources/lifelonglearning.htm

Thus maybe I need to be edified on where LAN ideology diverges from this (at least to me) foresworn standard?

Anyway, about my take on learning styles, some very interesting comments were made (today) about this on the Learning Communities list in refernce to the STANFORD UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING which proposed four learning models:

And identified the sub-sets of each of these modalities as:

Of course these ideas were, it seemed to me, organized around a superimposed authority structure and still, as mentioned in my Aug. 23 comments (below) are to me more descriptions of "teaching" (not "learning") modalities.

And just to be clear, I do not see "teaching modalities" as "outside the scope" of the encyclopedia. However I do think it would be good to clearly articulate the distinction between "teaching" and "learning" as I believe that (non-judgmentally) clarifying such distinctions is a lot of what any encyclopedia is (or should be) about.

And again, I must affirm that these comments are only that. Not recommendations or proposals, but simply perspectives for consideration. So, has this been responsive to your questions, Nance...?



Nance Confer / 8-26-04 / Responding to Christine Weiss

With regard to the comments below and the longer email on the CCL list.

I'm not sure what it is that you are suggesting the LAN endorses. Different learning styles? Do we need some sort of category above that allows for a discussion of different learning styles?

And couldn't these ways of learning be found in a number of "modalities?" Say a homeschooler who offers one child clay while the other wants to read a book -- and they are both learning about planets. But the homeschooling parent responds to the individual child's style, no matter what "modality" she is employing (unschooling to full curric, say, all could be employed with a great deal of flexibility to meet the needs of individual children).

And about your email on the list -- again I am not sure what it is you are suggesting. You seem to be arguing that any "teaching" method is outside the scope of this encyclopedia; that any "modality" that is not learner-led and controlled is not what you are envisioning for this encyclopedia of "alternatives."

If so, I disagree -- I would say there are many ways to learn and provide learning opportunities, that are alternatives to institutional schooling; some are closer to unschooling than others; some are not close at all; all are alternatives -- but I may have misunderstood. Or perhaps the LAN Editorial Board has limited the focus of this encyclopedia to a more unschooling approach.


Comments by Christine Weiss, Aug. 23, 2004:

Suggested "learning modalities" for integration with topical encyclopedia index:

In context of this, each learner has a personally unique "modus operandi" which makes it easier for some learners to grasp information more readily through application (tactile modality) while others get a better handle on things by seeing something done (visual modality) or by hearing someone methodically explain a step-by-step process (audio modality), or by reading/studying words and diagrams such as found in books (intellectual modality).

Yet one thing is (I believe proven conclusively) true for all learners... that learners learn what they live. That true learning goes on all the time -- with or without "overt" teacher/mentor/parent "intervention." And that, in fact, the ways and means adopted by the teacher/mentor/parent in the interest of stimulating "learning" are the "core curriculm" that is consistently being taught via "immersion" -- which is yet another "learning modality" and one I believe LAN wholeheartely endorses and supports.

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