I have been lost for a while, reading
and re-reading Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto
Lanier’s book explores the unintended
consequences of digital design on human culture, identity and what it is to be
human This is a mind altering book, a provocative and powerful book, a book to interrogate, a book that ought
to be on every teacher’s professional reading list, especially those of us who
pretend to understand and interpret educational technology.
I am not ready to blog about Lanier’s thinking yet but and as a consequence of reading Lanier I am adopting his list of suggestions for what an individual can do.
- Don’t post anonymously unless you really might be in danger
- If you put effort into Wikipedia articles, put even more effort into using your personal voice and expression outside of the wiki to help attract people who don’t yet realise that they are interested in the topics you contributed to.
- Create a website that expresses something about you that expresses something about who you are that won’t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.
- Post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more to create than it takes to view.
- Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out.
- If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would define a machine.
Reading Lanier made me better able to value the thinking in thought piece provided by cj.
Edwards, R. (2009) Translating the Prescribed into the Enacted Curriculum in College and School Educational Philosophy and Theory.
Edwards’ 2009 paper Translating the Prescribed into the Enacted Curriculum in College and School asks me to think about the curriculum in quite different ways. His paper contains two case studies to support his thesis that the prescribed curriculum (“in the form of unit descriptors —texts which inscribe the standards that students are meant to achieve”) - become (in)visible in the translations of the practices of curriculum-making and the people, spaces and artefacts that are translated in the process.
I am exploring a different tack, which assumes that difference and multiplicity is inherent in curriculum-making practices and therefore there is nothing to be explained as such. It is simply the case. This raises questions about the helpfulness of examining curriculum-making drawing upon the typology of the prescribed, described and enacted as it has largely been taken up (Bloomer, 1997). Edwards 2009
Edwards looks at curriculum through ANT
Here order and stability are temporary network effects and not inherent in materials or objects. Unlike most framings therefore, ANT does not privilege human consciousness or intention. Both the animate and inanimate are treated as materially equal. The symmetry between inanimate and animate objects in ANT arises because ‘human powers increasingly derive from the complex interconnections of humans with material objects ... . This means that the human and physical worlds are elaborately intertwined and cannot be analysed separate from each other’ (Urry, 2000, p. 14).
Edwards describes Callon’s classification of the translation process within ANT like interconnections or networks through four moments;
- Problematisation – the inclusions and inclusions allowed in the network
- Interessement – the practices through which barriers are built between network and not network
- Enrolment – the practices of alliance within the network
And uses these to understand the ANT network of a standardised curriculum
Curriculum-making is multiple precisely because the prescribed curriculum mobilises different networks of actors. Thus, as Mulcahy (1999, p. 97) suggests, lecturers and teachers engage in a ‘strategic juggling of representational ambiguity’ among the varied standards inscribed in the prescribed curriculum of unit descriptors and the like. Difference and multiplicity in the curriculum is therefore to be expected and described rather than be identified as problematic and explained (away). This raises important educational questions about the status and equivalence of learning outcomes within a standardised curriculum and the type and amount of work that is necessary to exclude multiplicity in the name of standardisation. Edwards 2009
I am enjoying thinking about curriculum in a non-linear way; identifying how problematisation, interessement, enrolment and mobilisation allow me to understand its complexity in new ways. But I am anxious that I misinterpret ANT and reduce it by my imaginings to yet another theory – all that “is understood as a diverse domain of conceptual and empirical work that explores how the people, objects, practices and ideas come to be organized and ordered in particular ways, while resisting its own authority as yet another reductionist theory” Edwards 2009
Most of all I am excited by the potential of ANT to help better represent e-learning curricula and pedagogy in school and by how arguments Jaron Lanier makes in You are not a Gadget will fit here.
Edwards paper launches with a quote from Latour that I am holding close
To translate is to betray: ambiguity is part of translation. (Latour, 1996, p. 48)
His paper forced me to look carefully at my day job as a curriculum describer and to go back to the beginning to re-examine my assumptions about curriculum. The italicised content that follows comes from Edwards.
He makes me wonder if our struggle with the enaction of curriculum is doomed to be forever Sisyphean because we misunderstand “difference and multiplicity and the continuously generated effect of the webs of relation within which curriculum networks are located and instead search for reasons, problems and explanation. “
I read the paper in the context of the New Zealand Curriculum and as I read it led me to ask the following questions.
Question: Does our New
Zealand curriculum prescription “specify
certain learning outcomes to be achieved at a specified level within a
hierarchical system of assessment”?
Answer: Yes – check out p44 onwards
Question: Does our New Zealand curriculum prescription “also make broad statements about expectations in relation to teaching, learning and assessment practices to achieve those goals, thereby seeming to limit the possibilities for diversity”?
Answer: Yes – p34 to 36 provide examples of this
Question: Do I believe that a “very standardised and rational” curriculum will “in principle enable and support student mobility and the portability of credit within the education system”?
Answer: Yes I don’t think this unreasonable
Question: When it comes to curriculum am I a prescriber, a describer or an enacter?
Answer: I am probably mostly “describer” sometimes “enacter”.
Question: How is what I understand about curriculum as a describer similar to what the prescriber or the enacter understands?
Answer: I keep a focus on describing learning outcomes which is something both prescribers and enacters purport to value.
Question: How is what I understand about curriculum as a describer different from what the prescriber or the enacter understands?
Answer: The understanding of curriculum can stray into blame based interpretations of outcomes based on “who students are” and “what teachers do” – I try to keep my description focused on “what students do”
Question: Do I read blogs and websites devoted to curriculum describers - the “often idealised narratives of practice provided by teachers, lecturers and students”?
Answer: All the time
Question: Do I accept that the following factors influence my attempts and the attempts of others to enact the curriculum?
- contextual e.g. national policy, funding arrangements;
- organisational e.g. nature and size of institution and subject department, styles of management, level and type of resources, locus of decision-making, internal or external assessments;
- curriculum e.g. the ways in which the curriculum is prescribed, nature of the curriculum i.e. academic or vocational;
- micro-political e.g. collegial, hierarchical or individualistic, expectations of students and parents; and
- individual e.g. professional formation and dispositions of lecturers and teachers, student backgrounds and prior experiences
Answer: Yes I think I do
Question: How much time do I spend in professional learning communities talking, thinking, meeting, completing action research, blogging, and tweeting about these factors?
Answer: More than I wish to share here
Question: Is my expectation that this discourse will sort these factors in a way that will improve the enaction of the curriculum?
Answer: As Bauman notes In Does Ethics Have a Chance in a World of Consumers? (Institute for Human Sciences Vienna Lecture) quoting Havel “hope is not prognostication.” It is, alongside corage and will, a mundane, common weapon that is too seldom used.” So yes it is my expectation.
Question: Are my efforts to improve the enacted curriculum in New Zealand based on a belief that learning outcomes are/ should be the same despite different contexts for and means of developing and demonstrating them.
Answer: I guess so
Question: Do I see the curriculum as a “black box” – “as a taken for granted object, bounded by a context which (mis)shapes it in unexpected ways”?
Answer: Given what I have claimed already I must
Question: When we research the unexpected ways in New Zealand - why differences in the enacted curriculum occur – do we assume that explanation will help us learn how to control them.
Question: Is this a warranted assumption?
Answer: Ahhhhh … I don’t know .. I have never really challenged it before
Question: Is enacted curriculum research in New Zealand that is framed on explanation, an unwarranted and ultimately unhelpful simplification of a more complex process?
Question: Is educational research around the enacted curriculum in New Zealand asking the wrong question/s?
Answer: This is a frightening question to contemplate
Instead of looking at the factors that can be positioned to explain differences between the prescribed, described and enacted curriculum to bring about their closer alignment, we need to examine more closely the actors in the multiplicity of curriculum making practices (Fountain, 1999). The emphasis then is on describing closely how things come to be the case without privileging human intention and agency. I am arguing therefore that much of the current shape of debate around these issues is unhelpful, as it suggests a possibility precisely for control and prescription based upon a priori distinctions, which is unavailable due to the heterogeneity and multiplicity of practices.Edwards (2009)
Question: Is implementation of the prescribed curriculum (in its enactments (described and enacted curriculum)) in a linear sense an educational fantasy?
Answer: It is possible
Question: Is what I do in school to help clarify and thus standardise the learning outcomes in the prescribed curriculum (describing the prescribed curriculum so that it may be “better” enacted) no more than fantasy?
Answer: That the expectations in the day job are no more than fantasy – to accept this is to betray my purpose – but I cannot reject it
Question: Is standardisation of curriculum “an (un)stable and precarious achievement”?
Answer: It is disquieting that after reading Edwards this seems increasingly likely