Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Capabilities in education III

In open-source environments in education, people would like to think they have increased the freedoms of end-users (students and teachers). But once again, under institutional arrangements, freedoms are not ever-free. There are constraints. Some are more noticeable than others. Yet, capabilities with learning technology are more open in their sources and their applications than they were in the past, and they look like they will continue (albeit slowly) to open up more.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Capabilities in education II

People at universities who directly manage learning - teachers, support staff, learning technologists, librarians, etc. - appear to be of the opinion that ideally, institutional arrangements should restrict learning as little as possible.

But there is only so much time in one day, only so much money to go around one university, and only so much one person can think about in terms of how their job relates to their ideals.

So, considering the scarcity of resources, institutions cannot help but restrict learning. At least, this is true for resources directly handled by those who manage learning.

When, then, can be said about resources that are seemingly and willingly abundant, uncontrollable and left up to the learner to handle? Such as those that live in open-source environments?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How do post offices work?

Contemporary e-mail systems - and many other systems that piggyback off them - were originally designed to model postal mail. There may be cool lessons to learn, therefore, from observing how post offices function.

Side note: Patrick Clifton - or Postman Pat - always had his cat, Jess, with him. While Jess could never speak to Postman Pat in his human language, Postman Pat could understand Jess' motions and reactions. This helped them work as a team; more importantly, a team that Postman Pat's customers/clients would probably not understand. If e-mail service providers play the part of Postman Pat today, who plays the part of Jess?

Thanks Brink of Bedlam for the nostalgic image!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Capabilities in education I

With the help of their five senses, humans appear capable to learn indefinately. However, under institutional arrangements, some of these capabilities are - by definition of the institution - restricted. What kinds of new institutional arrangements can support rather than restrict learning capabilities?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Understanding the accusation "You're crazy!"

The accusation "You're crazy!" could mean at least two different things.

It could mean "You're crazy!" in the sense that what you are saying or doing is impossible. It is impossible because it is at odds with the laws of nature.

Or, it could mean "You're crazy!" in the sense that what you are saying or doing is not something conceivable. It is not conceivable because it does not readily appear to fit in the state of affairs around you.

In the first case, well, you're probably crazy. In the second case, you aren't crazy, but you need to try and express  yourself a bit more, and where this proves impossible, you need to try and do and see for yourself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curiosity on Mars

Here is an epic panoramic view of Mars, with love from Curiosity.

Thanks Engadget!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gmail HTML view

If you're like me and appreciate minimalist HTML-only views on slow connections, you might have struggled to view your Gmail this way (ie: clicking relentlessly on the bottom-right link after logging in). To my relief, I just found that if you use this link after you've signed in, it should point right to the HTML template.

No more frantic double, triple, seemingly-infinite clicking. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Desires vs. Actions

In different areas of work - whether they be private or public - we tend to chase measurements of demand. That is, what do people want?

But we are growing increasingly aware that peoples' actions do not always reflect their ideal desires (thanks UK and Nudge). In light of this awareness, it appears that the question we should be asking is, rather than what do people want, what do people do? 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lamenting with Ludwig

Metaphysical subjects cannot be clearly discussed through words, regardless of language (Thanks, LW). They might be able to be felt - in some way or the other - through other forms of expression (sight, sound, touch, etc.) but even through these other forms, the subject is obscure, vague, not exact and interpretable in different ways.

Does this mean we should shy away from expressing our metaphysical beliefs through our actions in life?

And when instinct speaks loud from within, is this even an option?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


What influences our preferences? Sure, there are prevailing conditions that influence our economic interests (thanks, BK). But what about preferences of luxury goods, such as extra food, extra clothing, music, visual art, conversation, etc?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cold woodwinds

"Saxoman". Taken in Central Park, NYC. Circa March 2007.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Religious education and the knowledge society

Three years ago in London, I met Adil Mamodaly, who happened to be living in the room next door to me at our student residence near Kings Cross. At the time, Adil was pursuing a double Masters program (in Muslim Civilizations and Education respectively), jointly run by the Institute of Education and the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Though we no longer live in the same city and can no longer enjoy a game of Monopoly together as easily, I am lucky to still be in touch with Adil. He is now working as a teacher and scholar with the Ismaili community in Canada and recently published a paper titled Rethinking the role of religious education in a knowledge society: A Shia Ismaili Muslim perspective.

Yesterday I caught up with Adil over e-mail and asked him five questions on the paper. He was kind enough to respond. Here is what he said:

1. This knowledge society; does it just have to do with the physical production of knowledge or are there intangible aspects to it? 
Knowledge societies do not just have to do with the physical production of knowledge but they also ought to consider how to use that knowledge towards the greater good of its society, and from a global standpoint, the entirety of the human race. 
2. Compared to teachers from Dar al Hikma, why do you think we've arrived to a state in the world where we specialize in particular subjects, rather than having broad "encyclopaedic" knowledge? 
I think it has to do with how knowledge itself has been understood in certain parts of the world. What has happened is that societies whose sole focus was to achieve greater economic gain saw knowledge not as a whole but in parts and therefore many fields of knowledge became specialized. Focusing in one subject area would make you an expert in your field but what we are seeing now is a knowledge gap where various fields of study have become overly specialized and are therefore alienated from each other. This again begs the question, what is our purpose behind the pursuit of knowledge? and to what end? 
3. Secular and Religious Education; need they be separate? Why so? 
Some would argue yes, presumably as an extension to the belief in the separation between Church and State. Though this is not the case all around the world, some societies do not see them as binaries, politically or educationally speaking. In terms of Education I would recommend that they be taught in harmony with each other because religions have existed throughout our history and in many facets of human life. Omitting this convergence in the education system suggests to our younger generations that we can pick and choose what we (in the present) want to say about the world which I believe distorts a real and meaningful understanding of our world to our students. If we distort history then students will have difficulty in understanding how the world has come to be the way it is. Dichotomizing secular and religious education within our learning system inadvertently says to the student that these two do not belong together nor have they ever belonged together, of which the opposite is true.

 This is but one argument in a very large discussion but I would be remiss if I did not say that we should evaluate how religious education is taught amidst the influences of secularism, both from a curricular and pedagogical standpoint. What we, as educators, should be asking is: "how can I teach and inspire my students to live their lives by contributing to the betterment of society through ethical principles and actions while pursuing economic betterment?" 
4. You mention Paolo Freire while discussing cosmopolitanism (p. 10). Is a transformation in the way young people are educated needed? If so, what would this transformation look like, and how would it help? 
I think I addressed some of this in the previous question but what I will say is that in addition to changes in how we educate young people we should seek to achieve a transformation within the student. In other words, developing their potential to contribute to the world in which we live in meaningful ways and with greater purpose is what Freire reflects upon. In connection with cosmopolitanism, diversity of peoples in our countries, cities and neighborhoods is a well known fact but how we develop individuals that will see this diversity as a strength and build upon it is of primary concern to educators as it ensures the safety and interactive growth of our species. 
5. If you had the chance to be heard by all the teachers in the world, what would you say? 
In addition to the question I posed in question 3, I would ask "how are you creating a space wherein students can look at the world through multiple lenses be it philosophical, scientific, religious, artistic or otherwise? And, how do you ensure that these multiple ways of understanding become a source of strength in your classroom rather than a burden?" 
Adil can be emailed at adil(dot)mamodaly(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks chief!