## H800: 32 Wk5 Activity 1 Metaphor and Symbols in Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 8 Mar 2011, 20:15

My first take on Saloman (1997) 'Of mind and media', ran to 3,800 words, my second take is still 2,800 ... (See below, it's my previous blog entry).

Now that I've devoured the text I'll consider the questions.

Do you prefer certain forms of representation to a greater extent than others?

1. The only kind of learning that matters is learning that works. This will vary by context, content and desired outcomes. A piece of chalk on a blackboard is learning, as is Avatar. The first might cost $1, the latter$200m.

If so, why do you think that is the case?

2. We cannot always indulge our differences. I dare say the best education might be privileged and historically at home with a governess then a tutor. Personalisation by yourself, aided by parents/siblings peer pressure and your school/institution is what e-learning offers via social networking, forums, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google and all the rest of them.

Does this preference apply to everything you attempt to learn?

3. If I am motivated to do so I will do more than watch the TV programme or catch the radio show ... I will do more than buy the book (or books), I will do a course, join a group, get a qualification. It is progressive, exploratory and stepped; it ends in your head, and may begin on your own but is often best developed with others. Though ask a successful author how they developed their craft skills or how they now work and I doubt they say they do it as a group/collective in a writer's group.

Or does it vary from one type of learning task to another?

4. Whilst certain approaches, if there is a choice, do lend themselves better to certain ways of doing it, any learning is defined by the candidate's motivation to learn and what is available, let alone their individual circumstances. I do think that challenging someone to learn might deliver a better outcome than spoon-feeding or mollycoddling. I learnt to deliver a baby when I had to, I had about five minutes to read a very short chapter on 'home delivery'. I learn to sail when it went wrong and we escaped drowning. I learnt to make training films by making mistakes (and putting them right). I once saw a production of Sleuth that was performed in front of the curtains with none of the pyrotechnics or gadgets ... in this simple form it was more engaging. i.e. I am going back to the story told around a campfire, perhaps with a song. This is how to enjoy Beowulf rather than as a movie.

Does the article make you think differently about what you do?

5. The article irritated me. It is 4, 800 words long. The first half could be removed entirely. Editorially I would have put a line through the waffle and a red line over disagreements. I have a paragraph of what I'd fix that I'll post in my blog. It should have been edited to improve what is poor writing. However, it is this disagreement and the 'mistakes' that have rattled me and so got my attention. How therefore to create a tussle with the text or concepts? They do it at Oxford, it's called a debate.

To what extent do the technologies available limit the learning and teaching possibilities in terms of forms of representation?

6. The technologies are not the limiting factor, they are only possibilities. The limiting factor is the author of the learning - bells and whistles do not improve a lesson if the teacher hasn't a) got an idea b) prepared a 'script' that has some chance of success.

Can you describe any specific examples of how different forms of representation are an important influence on teaching and learning situations with which you are familiar?

7. In H808 we did a group task that had to end with a presentation/representation of some kind. We had powerpoint presentations, and videos but to my surprise as I had doubted it would work one group did a poster that was rich, comprehensive, inventive, memorable and in one shot said it all - indeed with the flows and movement of information about the page I'd even described it as interactive. i.e. Keep It Simple, Student. I've been using a Kindle poolside to show swimmers pages from the 'Swim Drill Book'. It has proved extraordinarily effective.

To what extent do assessment methods constrain or privilege certain forms of representation (for example, how much does a written examination reveal about a learner’s competence in communicating effectively in a second language?).

8. Testing is more vital for the learning process than as a test to achieve a grade, pass or mark. But of course assessment is crucial for the sake of credibility and to have something to open a door to work. A written test tests someone's comprehension of the language and confidence/ability with this language first. Interesting for the last year I've been feeding my learning back to a national sports organisation. I have been fairly critical of a written test for sports coaches as it is at odds with the way they learn and what they do ... it was dropped from the curriculum last week. I had read during H807 or H808 about how the thing to be taught, the approach to teaching it and the way it is assessed should all marry up. i.e. to teach someone to dive Kate are they ever going to have to go near or in water? Of course they are. At what point does their reading or writing skill hinder their ability to qualify? If you want to learn to sail someone had to give you the helm; my father would never do so! I went off and did a course without telling him so that should he fall over board I'd know how to get back to shore. The ultimate tests I have windsurfing and skiing have been where errors would be fatal ... though I'm not suggesting a test should be a life or death matter, though it wouldn't half concentrate your mind.

Finally, I spent this morning with a colleague/friend who did an e-learning diploma with Sussex University.

We shared favourite e-learning websites and the ones we hated the most. I came away rather depressed by the awfulness of many, their formulaic approach and dreadful written and spoken English - there is a lack of craft skills. I think these things have been designed and created with the context in which the learning will take place in mind or the multiple opportunities people can and will find to engage with a task or topic. Personally, I like to hear and see it from several sources, good and bad, then give it a go several times ... and in time form an opinion having done what I'm doing here and did this morning over coffee - batting it about.

We liked Spaced-ed and can see what they are doing with Qstream ... though our own e-learning will naturally engage even more than these!

I came away with key ideas such as: metaphor, variety, mistakes, context, relevance and participation.

REFERENCE

Salomon, G 1997, 'Of mind and media', Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

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## H800: 31 Symbols, Metaphors and TV in learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Nov 2011, 18:08

H800 WK5 Symbolic Forms used in Education

How I assimilate the article’s content is founded on the profound engagement I’ve had with MAODE this last year, but a lifetime of reading and viewing … enhanced by, certainly brought to the surface and even put at my fingertips having kept a diary for 35 years. I can list, within 10/15% all the films I’ve ever seen (because I’ve kept a record). I might even achieve a list of 40% of everything I’ve ever read (though I’ve yet to try to assemble such a thing). I wouldn’t begin to list my television viewing, perhaps because it is at times no more engaging that watching clouds form shapes in the sky. This accumulation of education and entertainment has, theoretically, less impact as I grow older, the symbolic forms of representation having the greatest impact when I knew least as a child. I can recall the first TV programmes I ever watched, can you? But I doubt I can remember much of significance that I’ve seen on TV in 2011.

‘Mans mind’ has been thought of as potter’s wheel, a steam engineer, a switchboard or a film … though not in theatre, the authors forgetting Shakespeare ‘life is but a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more.’… or the idea of the ‘Seven Stages of Man’ with its implicit developmental stages. I find myself disagreeing with the authors often, and collecting evidence for a paragraph regarding editorial matters. However, irritation and mistakes make for a spiky and more engaging learning experience. If you read something and agree and applaud all the way through, how much then sticks?

There will always be independence of human thought and as every generation starts with a blank sheet these multiple human minds will always be distinct. Computers are doing the opposite of what we expected, liberating and expanding minds, rather than reducing them to delivering perfect’ or ‘complete’ knowledge. To think not as others have thought, but to think in an original or creative way. Is this not inevitable if the way children are learning has changed so radically.

If thought of as a negative, metaphors could be seen as the equivalent of the leading question … they presume a way of thinking, a culture, history and belief system – they are intellectual containment … that to ‘think outside the box,’ is to think outside the accepted metaphor. However, given the thoughts on the role of language in learning, I wonder if common metaphors are the equivalent of expressing yourself in English, only to start using phrases from Welsh – i.e. you may lose your audience and the argument, even if you intrigue or engage some. On the other hand, if as they do in Germany you teach Geography in English, this additional challenge would better embedded the lesson. I don’t however envisage kids in England studying DT in German or Home Economics in French; but it’s an idea. ‘Content’, we know is important, though I start to wonder if is the context that is king’ …

Or should I come up with an alternative metaphor in order to avoid setting parameters? Creativity is a consequence of our ability to think in metaphors after all, an actual physiological trait of the brain. (V.J.Ramachandran, 2010).

Thinking in metaphors is an innate human characteristic.

We have always thought in metaphors, it is what defines us as human and what permits innovation, creativity and debate – we visualise concepts in our ‘mind’s eye’ we draw on our own experiences to invent ways of understanding of our own. Everything, we learn through all our senses, however much some of these are denied. Reading Shakespeare in class, taking it turns is different from seeing an RSC performance … and different again every time you see such a performance from a different actor.

We think in metaphors, analogies taught man to think, it is how we assimilate concepts by relating things we don’t understand to things that we do – though we can get our metaphors wrong, they can lead scientists ‘down the garden path.’

‘Attractively presented’ is a matter of debate as is the idea of ‘relative’ passive viewing

TV is ‘sit back;’ and passive and its attractiveness is a matter of opinion, and personal taste. Is David Attenborough age 80, as engaging when he speaks to camera as when he was in his thirties? Are any such ‘walk and talk’ presenter to camera globe-trotting lectures educational or just motivational? From an educational point of view is a bearded senior lecturer in Physics for in open sandals standing at a flipchart for the OU and broadcast in the dead of night any less attractive or effective lesson than Dinosaurs in 3d from the TV company Atlantic productions and shown on Sky HD/3D?

Is not all knowledge but a summation of a collective thought expressed by a person or people?

In relation to visualising nevertheless. Type in ‘nevertheless images’ into a Google search box, clicked on the images search and crashed the browser. On a similar note, I’d like to see ‘because’ can be represented as Ballet movement. The authors lack imagination if they think this can’t be done. And musical notation is a form of drawing.

Breakthroughs come when someone steps off the path, or reroutes from the top.

Multi-various experiences are the key and what is made possible by e-learning, the Internet, multiple digital channels and social networks, these are activities that engage several of the senses, or in the case of being there … all of them, are most effective at leading to a lasting physiological impact on a person’s mind.

In context, exciting to one or some, may be dull to another … and least exciting to someone who may have seen this film several times already. Different fields of reference … i.e. context and the person.

Are we saying that a rich, developed, symbolised and definitive expression of something being experienced by a mind that is equally busy and rich, is less of a learning experience?

That like minds, if they think alike, don’t think at all? That if someone sees the world as a red balloon and you give them a red balloon they gain nothing? Whereas I think any and of these situations will always ‘depend’ on a complexity of factors that are here grossly simplified. Our experience, and learning, is always the product of what we have been exposed to … indeed, this is a the definition of learning, without the stimuli and the physiological consequences on your mind, there is no learning, or experience to recall or to put into or let loose in the maelstrom of your mind.

What intrigues me about learning and perceptions is that much of what we are exposed to has obtuse effects, even bizarre ones

… that a surname cited in a report, if it is your mother’s maiden name, is going to tinge this report, that a phrase used that suddenly reminds you of a dead uncle … or online some novel interactive tool reminds you of an early computer game … or has occurred here, someone I found myself thinking in ‘films I’ve seem,’ which becomes an unstoppable process as a slide, like an avalanche into a memory set based on films, or certain actors, or an era where this actor was performing … electro-chemical activity that I cannot nonchalantly or willingly turn off.

And plainly put, ‘the less knowledge already available to the learner, the more the symbolic forms of representation will make a difference in the meanings the learner arrives at.’

You draw on an eclectic mix of experiences, hopefully – which is why the more a child is exposed to the better, from sport to music, reading and drawing .

How are these sets of mental skills and capacities gained?

From family, from your community and/or from formal education?

Variety is the way to educate a group … even with an individual, their interest and capacity to learn in certain ways will shift.

It says a lot for a film maker o have craft skills.

What I find fascinating about this is the benefit of taking different approaches, that teaching to a classroom assumes a one-size fits all, as does self-directed e-learning if it is largely asynchronous and done in isolation. The only way Web 2.0 learners can get this variety is by creating their own learning content, in which second and third year students may making ‘training videos’ for the first years, the entire exercise, repeated, mixed up and re-cut like an entry in Wikipedia. The difference I would suggest is that a multiplicity of responses is in time offered, for the reasons the author gives here. Think of a word (a noun), now Google with ‘images’ and see what you get. Now imagine this a ‘videos’, better still ‘learning’ and imagine being offered a plethora of learning videos on the subject that interests you, whether is diplomacy in the reign of Henry VIII or how to make a tea-tray.

More subtle differences are easy to achieve.

The same short story presented by very different voices. By very different voices with a different mood. A story illustrated in a multitude of ways, for example, a collection of representations of Alice in Wonderland from Tenniel’s original cartoons via Quentin Blake and many, many others

As I child we have an LP of Alice in Wonderland in which Bruce Forsyth played the Mad Hatter. Imbued with his career in Television I can only ever now envisage the Mad Hatter as a bloviating TG game-show host.

Throwing money at something doesn’t make it better?

There is so much more that comes into play. A good story told around a camp fire can be better that a Hollywood Blockbuster that has cost \$100m. The coming of the rock band ‘uncut’, the likes of the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney playing in the back of a club, is indicative that bells and whistles don’t improve something. My wonder often viewing e-learning that money has not been put into something that counts crucially: the idea … and then the script. Get these right and everything else is just a matter of budget?

I do think TV is too easy

From a learning point of view take notes. Better still, load it into iMovies and cut your own version, change the voice over or add captions. Make something of it. Interact with it. Make an effort.

Learning and memory, the physiological effect on the brain, requires a stimuli and response – the degree/scale and impact of this response is down to many things, association, shock, appropriateness, worth, timeliness, location, urgency and effort.

TV is entertainment and news. It is sit back. It is fall asleep. If there’s engagement these days it is via an Xbox … or with the laptop open.

I disagree that print is ‘generally perceived to be highly demanding’

Unless you are talking about the Yellow Pages compared to Google. Books have their role, they haven’t become redundant technology like the Telex machine.

The producers at Ragdoll productions, the creators of Teletubbies and In the Night Garden would argue the contrary to what the authors are suggesting, that very young children put in a great deal of effort when they view TV. We are less enthralled as we get older. As adults what they recall about children’s TV and you’ll be surprised at the detail of what they can recollect. And TV can validate a book, sending a reader to the TV, or someone who has watched something on TV to the book. The platforms are different and can be made to work for each other.

I hope TV can provoke interest; it can sell products.

It teaches some people, some thing – where to place their hand and therefore their choice when they go to the supermarket. But try and learn something from 45 minutes of TV? Try transcribing the script … this cannot and does not compare to a chapter in a book or a paper. It cannot help to be anything other than light weight. Naturally it must also pander to the visual, and to the event … even to narrative, some ideas clearly being shoehorned into such models.

All you have to do to get someone to sit forward in front of TV is to tell them they are going to be tested on it.

Didn’t Michael Aspel once host a kids’ TV show called ‘Screen Shot’ or some such in which guests were tested on what happened in a scene? Knowledge of a test encourages effort to retain the pertinent facts … even to take notes. I often find myself at workshops and there is only ONE person in a group of 30+ taking notes … me. I wonder how people expect to retain a single of word of what is going on in front of them.

It isn’t whether or not the TV is a serious medium, but the content ditto the stage. The Queen’s Coronation had people gathered around TV sets in 1957.

They do. So what as educators do we do?

A dozen versions to satisfy all the potential audiences?

Or, as an author does, by thinking about ONE READER … so that whoever reads knows the perspective that is being taken?

The answer is DIY TV. It is the way the creation and publishing process has been greatly expanded to allow many, many more people to have a voice, to be seen, to be heard, to direct and produce and publish. What is already achieved as text and words in Wikipedia and video on YouTube, and dialogues and discussion on blogs and in social forums will and is becoming e-learning mass-produced, by the expert and the inexpert. I do wonder if the less expert the response the better, that the foibles of a maverick educator may teach more than something that is highly polished or corporate in nature.

In terms of language I’d go further and say it is not the language per se, but who uses it and how it is spoken and used. We learn to understand, to speak and to read largely from our parents, siblings, grandparents and in due course our peer group and school teachers. In terms of making up words, we are in an age of considerable invention, both to describe concepts and software, but because of the spread of English as the Lingua Franca and each person’s, each culture’s, each country, continent and generation’s different take on it. I turn to Henry Hitchings for a fascinating insight into the English language.

Born and raised with one language I learn French in my late teens by living and working in France. I came to dream in French, to speak it fluently, read it well and write it badly. I felt I was a different person when I spoke French. My father in law, raised in Poland, learning German during the occupation then immigrating to England speaks nine languages. His wife, whose family had escape Mussolini places English as her third language after Italian and French. How is there thinking enriched because of the diversity of languages they have used, have read and thought in?

Of course exposure to anything may impact on its correlation or juxtaposition to something else.

Here we hear about children exposed to TV. I wonder with a mixture of amazement and despair at my son’s activities on an Xbox, how he forms teams with friends and strangers, how they learn from each other and teach each other … how they circumvent the rules at every possible moment, playing outside the fields of the game, finding a way onto set as it were and doing things that may be possible in the game that are in possible in reality. As a younger boy playing Age of Empires he insisted on repeatedly kitting his medieval knights with cars and rampaging across Europe flattening everything  It will be interesting to observe how this plays out in later life.

I take issue with the idea of ‘mindlessness’ in this context, because it is disingenuous to suggest that watching TV, or playing a video games is mindless when it patently is clearly the opposite. Mindlessness might be a state achieved by someone meditating or in a coma, but it is not a state when several of the senses are being engaged.

Of course they do, any and every stimuli on the sense are in some way or over embedded physiologically in the mind.

Stories work. It is all that human kind have had for millennia.

This idea of nodes is being realised through fMRI scans that show what parts of the brain are stimulated when different activities are undertaken or thought about, such as recent studies on the nature of leadership. It is extraordinary how many different parts of the brain get engaged, indeed this is how and why our responses to things and our abilities despite common or fairly common upbringings are so very different.

Schooling hasn’t favoured original thinking, but learning often by rote to pass exams which suits some types, but not others.

REFERENCE

Salomon, G 1997, 'Of mind and media', Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

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