Philosophy reading group

Here are the readings for our philosophy reading group this year (2009-2010). There’s a general emphasis on practice-based theories:

Other possibilities:

Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Subjectivism
Michel de Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life
Joe Dunne, Back to the Rough Ground
Bent Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter
Ian Hacking, The Social Construction of What?
Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social (or one of his others)
Jonathan Lear, Therapeutic Action
Alasdair MacIntyre, Dependent Rational Animals
Theodore Schatski, Social Practices
Richard Sennett, The Craftsman
Charles Taylor, Modern Social Imaginaries
Leslie Paul Thiele, The Heart of Judgment
Stephen Turner, The Social Theory of Practices
Victor Turner, The Ritual Process (or From Ritual to Theater)
and/or modern classics such as Arendt, Collingwood, Gadamer, Goodman, Oakeshott, Wittgenstein.

Community Inquiry Labs

Inquiry cycle

Inquiry cycle

Community Inquiry Labs (aka CIL’s or CILabs) is rising again!

What is CILabs?

Drawing from the work of John Dewey and others, showing that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, CILabs promotes an iterative process of inquiry: asking questions, investigating solutions, creating new knowledge, discussing experiences, and reflecting on new-found knowledge, in a way that leads to new questions.

In addition to the standard features found on group support sites, such as Ning, Google, Yahoo, and Moodle, CILabs offers a means for building Inquiry Units based on the Inquiry Cycle. Also, unlike most university-supported software there is a secure means for users without university netid’s to participate. This is crucial for university-community collaborations.

CILabs (aka iLabs) are being used currently in courses such as Will Patterson’s Hip Hop as Community Informatics and Martin Wolske’s Intro to Network Systems. Projects such as Youth Community Informatics use it as do a variety of  other projects and organizations.

The redesign

Despite filling a need for many individuals and groups since 2003, use of CILabs fell off after a security hole was discovered in CILabs 3. That led to a temporary shutdown and a major redesign on the Drupal platform.

Thanks to the support of Robert Baird at CITES EdTech, a project to rebuild CILabs was led by Alan Bilansky with Julieanne Chapman as lead programmer. Claudia Serbanuta represented GSLIS and the CILabs user base. The new CILabs is now hosted by the University of Illinois College of Education, thanks to Ryan Thomas and John Barclay. This represents an unusual and successful collaboration across two colleges and CITES, with support from the Center for Global Studies, Community Informatics Initiative and the Illinois Informatics Institute.

I encourage you to give it a try now, and to let us know how to improve

Visualize your inquiry unit

radar_plotThe Youth Community Informatics project now offers a free tool to create a radar plot for visualizing the strengths of an inquiry unit. The basic version is built on the Inquiry Cycle.

There are a variety of possible uses:

  • to show how different inquiry units emphasize different aspects of the Cycle. For example, an otherwise good unit might offer little in the way of Discuss (or collaboration). That might be fine if other units do emphasize collaboration, or it might indicate that some modification is needed to include that.
  • to compare across sites or projects.
  • to portray the development of a single site over time.
  • to support development of inquiry units.

The scoring of units could be done by researchers, teachers or youth leaders, community leaders, or community members.

None of these uses are a substitute for detailed analysis, but they can help start an investigation of the units.

The basic version of the tool, shown here, simply provides a single radar plot, with a logarithmic scale of arbitrary magnitude. Other versions might support overlays, color-coding, additional axes, or other features.

Mapping cemeteries

Several of our Youth Community Informatics sites are mapping cemeteries. What sounds like small project, or even a gloomy one, soon opens up into far-reaching explorations of history, geography, health, families, technology, mathematics, literacy, and more.

At Iroquois West Middle School, youth started with a story about a primary school’s project to study cemeteries: Learning from graveyards. The “Map Masters” soon expanded this by incorporating technologies of GPS and GIS into their mapping project of the Onarga Cemetery. They have already made many discoveries and are continuing to do more. They’ll also connect with cemetery mapping projects in Cass County and East St. Louis.

One interesting tombstone that we found at the Onarga Cemetery was in the shape of a tree trunk. The name of the person buried there was Emory Gish. According to our reseach on symbolism the tree trunk showed a life cut short. The number of broken branches might symbolize the number of deceased family members buried nearby.

Visual literacy in the information age

ching-chiu1Ching-Chiu Lin is a founding member of the Youth Community Informatics project. Her work with Timnah, Lisa, and Karen at the Urbana Middle School integrated art, music, story-telling, cultural heritage, and multimedia in an after-school program. That’s one of the models for our current work.

michoacanChing-Chiu’s dissertation, A qualitative study of three secondary art teachers’ conceptualizations of visual literacy as manifested through their teaching with electronic technologies, analyzed similar arts and new media projects in three schools. I’ve learned a little while ago that it was awarded second place for the 2008 Eisner Doctoral Research award. This was officially announced at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) convention in Minneapolis this month.

Congratulations, Ching-Chiu!

Creating opportunity through new media

clay_animationOne of the most impressive set of projects I saw while in Dublin, Ireland last year was the Community Links Programme out of Dublin Institute of Technology. It was established in 1996 by DIT lecturer Dr. Tommy Cooke to help individuals and communities reach their full educational potential. Programs include psychotherapy, music, and courses for mature students.

One important component is the DISC Programme, which operates in 38 inner-city disadvantaged primary and secondary schools. DISC installs computer resources in schools and community centers, and trains teachers to integrate the use of computers into the teaching/learning process in all curricular areas. Projects include the use of comic creation, clay animation, video production, class blogs, podcasting, video game making, 3d design, and robotic Lego.

Staff such as
Ian Roller and Riona Fitzgerald bring knowledge of pedagogy together with skills in video and computers to help teachers and youth leaders do amazing projects. More importantly, they do it in a way that empowers teachers as creative agents in the education process.

You can see DISC publications, including their very useful monthly newsletter online. Here’s the April edition.

Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)

accueil_biblio1 I was very fortunate to hear Elizabeth Pierre-Louis speak yesterday.

Elizabeth was on campus to accept the 2008 Young Humanitarian Award. As Director of the Library Program at Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète (FOKAL) in Haiti, she helped to set up 45 community libraries across the country. She coordinates the training and management of these libraries, which are improving the quality of live for the people there. Elizabeth described a wide variety of programs of FOKAL, including projects on supplying running water, developing basic literacy, supporting the visual arts, dance and music, debate, and economic education.

Throughout these many programs, there is an emphasis on participatory democracy, including organization and responsibility of citizens, leadership, financial and technical management, resolving conflicts, and collective decision making. Elizabeth’s work is just part of an amazing organization helping people work together toward common purposes.

The photo, of the Monique Calixte Library in FOKAL’s Cultural Center, and this text below are from the FOKAL site.

The Fondation Connaissance et Liberté / Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète (FOKAL) Cultural Center, built in 2003 in the center of Port-au-Prince thanks to funding from the Open Society Institute (OSI) and support from George Soros, is designed for meetings, training, reading, debates, recreation and discovery.

The center is comprised of a public library, with a membership of over 5,000 where children and youths from the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince have access to reading materials in optimal conditions, a small auditorium, a café-terrasse and a cybercafé. The UNESCO auditorium is a hall designed for conferences, debates, meetings, audio-visual presentations, films, concerts and theatre. The center also includes a large atrium where one can discover the works of both Haitian and foreign painters, writers, and sculptors; and a sound and video production studio, a training hall and gardens…

FOKAL’s cultural center offers a place, eminently rare in Haiti, where peasants, women, children and youths from poor neighborhoods have a chance to interact with each other and with representatives of all sectors of society on subjects which concern education, the environment, culture, and democracy…

RiseOut: “Defining Our Own Education”

I’ve been reading the articles on RiseOut, an online “news center focused on deschooling, youth activism, and other related issues concerning the rights of youth in the U.S.” There are entries on deschooling; unschooling; youth media; racism; the Highlander Folk School in New Market, Tennessee; Dr. “Patch” Adams; a review of the book, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, How to quit school and get a real life and education (by Grace Llewellyn); critiques of school segregation (and recent Supreme Court decisions that support it), credentialism, and military conscription.

Most of the articles on RiseOut are well-researched, thoughtful, and provocative. They remind me of the wonderful book, Letter to a teacher by the schoolboys of Barbiana, in which youth in Italy present a searing critique of their education and the unjust society it supports.

Both the Barbiana book and RiseOut address the question that Earl Kelley asks: What is real in education?. Kelley answers that the bedrock reality is the the actual life of youth.

The Obama administration’s proposed “Cradle to Career” education plan, has many good components, but education reform will never accomplish much if schooling continues to be separated from actual life and fails to come to terms with the issues raised in RiseOut.

From the RiseOut site:

We provide a diversity of alternatives to education that are self-directed and decentralized from standardized schooling. We support a young person’s choice in dropping out of school, free of social stereotypes and biases. We aim to provide a plethora of alternatives from a 12-year prison like sentence of state schooling, while staying vigilant of abuses against young people through diagnosing, segregation, ageism, adultism, sexism, and other assholisms.

A message to those who have decided to quit school:

Instead of dropping out, we applaud you for your courage to “riseout” from a nightmarish disposition of compulsory schooling. We hope RiseOut can be a resource for sharing your stories and providing choices towards regaining control over your own education.

Exploration kits

Martin Wolske has written, in Technology is NOT the focus:

we need to be developing community technology centers (CTC) differently. Right now, they are developed with the idea that people are coming to the CTC for the technology. As such, traditional desktop or tower cases and larger LCD monitors dominate. Maybe the CTC of the future instead needs to be a place with lots of tables and chairs that can easily be rearranged, and laptops for checkout.

One step in that direction is to think of a CTC as a community media lab (CML). The focus then is on the community and communication, not technology. A CML is an excellent way to promote and learn about digital media use. It also provides a venue for people from a variety of organizations and with diverse technological interests to work together.

logitech-backpackHow about complementing the CML with exploration kits? These would be available to individual youth, or to organizations such as community centers, after-school programs, boys and girls clubs, 4-H, and so on. They would allow youth to take tools into many different settings, thus promoting ubiquitous learning.

Lisa Bouillion-Diaz from Extension has suggested that the kit might take the form of a backpack, which could be easily transported. It might contain things such as:

  • GPS receiver
  • camera
  • video camera
  • audio recording equipment if higher quality is needed than on the cameras
  • physical maps, images, texts, …
  • activity guides to support community mapping, journalism, history, …
  • hands-on STEM learning objects, such as magnifying glass, weights, compass, magnets, …
  • possible: distant measuring tool (electronic or mechanical), temperature probes, motion sensor

All of this would be linked with a website, showing how to make your own kit or to modify the standard one(s) for specific purposes or groups. What else might go into such a kit?

I see kits as intermediate between the indigenous media experiences youth have through mobile phones, Facebook, video games, etc. and the formal learning that occurs (or not) in classrooms. We’re working on them for the Youth Community Informatics project, but their scope could be expanded to include learners of all ages.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs, CEO of both Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, delivered the Stanford Commencement address on the theme of “You’ve got to find what you love.” You can see both the text and the video of the address below. It’s an excellent talk in its own right, but I thought it gave a good account of inquiry-based learning as well.

In the first part of his address, Jobs talks about dropping out of college, then taking a class in calligraphy, not because it was required, but simply because it was “beautiful, historical, artistically subtle.” He didn’t envision it as preparation for the future, but as something that had deep meaning in the present. Later, his study of calligraphy bore fruit in the design of the first Macintosh computer. As Jobs says, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” This is closely akin to a key element of inquiry-based learning, captured in Dewey’s famous statement that “only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future.” Continue reading