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Pathways-ED: Well… on the other hand!


We love them, those binary sets of words that trip off the tongue – bacon and eggs, night and day, love and marriage, and so on. In education we also love them and discourse has long been trotting out pairings such as theory / content, academic / vocational, practitioners / no-practitioners, policy / practice, and so on.

Well there are some new ones emerging.

On-line / face-to-face

Often this is presented as a choice between two quire dissimilar delivery methods but experience is showing that they might not be all that different, especially where the technologies of on-line delivery are used simply to replicate the approaches of face-to-face. A recent development that challenges face-to-face is the rapid development of MOOCs – Mass Open On-line Courses – from such prestigious institutions as Stanford and Harvard and MIT (the one in the US!). They are recently talking about how these might be credentialed – that could open a challenge or two.

The truth is in the middle – face-to-face and on-line are not polar opposites at all – and where they are blended they can be powerful.

Digital Natives / Digital Migrants

Again often used by those whose reading about IT and its impact on education was premised on a hope that it would help explain why there sensed to be a different between the typically older group of teachers and the typically younger group of students when it came to engagement with the new technologies and their uses. But a key difference that is emerging is that the first of these groups – teachers – want be seem willing to embrace the technologies favoured by the young while the second of these two groups – students – is ambivalent about the attempts of the oldies to colonise their i-Spaces – Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Just watch the techniques used to take electronic photos. While we oldies are holding the camera at a height that and in a way that you would with any old SLR , squinting to look at the screen through the right part of the progressives the young ones are firing off photos and videos with a nonchalance and ease shooting material with the ease of someone with a water pistol.

A recent OECD Report suggests that students are far less enthusiastic about teachers abnd education embracing “their technology” than we might have thought.

Learning / Teaching

Possible the silliest binary distinction of the lot. The Maori knew this in their use of the word ako. I was once admonished for saying “teaching and learning” when I should have said “learning and teaching” – that did it for me.

A simple question: If no learning has occurred can teaching be said to have happened? There is only learning.

Individual / Group

 Difficult discussion take place about group activity and assessment, the role of the individual in the group , where the boundaries are, what should be done about those who do not contribute. It is not an issue really, a group is only a collection of individuals, the best groups are those where individuals are aligned, share purpose and value both their own roles and the roles of others. Members of a group in an education setting are not partners for life, joined at the hip, consigned to a life of togetherness. They are simply working in a different way.

Policy and Practice

 Policy without practice is simply a page or two of hot air. Practices that are uniformed by policy are simply scattered shot that stands a chance of hitting the target at least a little bit.

Reading and Writing

 The word “literacy” has done us no good and served little purpose other than to obscure the fact that reading and writing are the core skills of a literate person. Reading can be taught by reading and writing can be taught by writing. The seeming decline in writing as an activity that brings pleasure is a reflection of the decline in reading for pleasure. Being unable to read and write is a precarious spot to be in – go check the gaols if you seek confirmation of this.

Academic / Vocational

How we love to class some educational activity as academic and other educational activity as vocational. Why not clean work education and dirty work education? Or sitting-down work education and standing-up work education. Or white-collar……wait a minute this is getting out of have and none of it is true.

All education is both academic and vocational. The universities are the most vocation institutions of the lot – degrees are re-tailored to attract those who aspire to certain jobs, market-brags are made about “our” graduates and their levels of employment and money (especially money), and overall the focus is markedly vocational. Meanwhile technical education is increasingly “academic” and in many respects always has been, especially in institutional settings. We need to agree that all institutional learning is both academic and vocational.

If we don’t we continue to promote that most insidious of binary distinctions – employed or unemployed!


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