Just to follow on this post somewhat . . .
I was twiddling with Tinderbox in the office yesterday, beginning some notes on medieval literature, when Carolyn arrived and she asked a series of questions about the tool. This took us into some play with prototypes and adornments as a means of organizing materials.
Of course, when write ups come on educational tools, such as in the two posts below, the talk often attracts around web logs, wikis, social/collaboration tools, and courseware. I think Carolyn liked where the work went with the note tool as software for students to use in the classroom and afterwards as a means of study.
My students don’t think about this, but I monitor how they work and manage things. This past week many have lost out because they forgot, lost, or misplaced their evaluation sheets. I hand the sheets out and the students return the sheets with their papers so that I don’t have to print or otherwise produce more copies. If they don’t turn the sheet in, I wait for them to produce the sheet and then I evaluate. The point is, my students, or most of them, not all, are horrible organizers of their own learning narrative. IThis is a neglected aspect of Secondary schooling. don’t know what they do with all the things they take from the classroom, how they manipulate their materials, save to their harddrives, or tab their progress through reading and notes. They lose syllabi, ask for page numbers (really!), forget definitions, disremember dates, and neglect the relations between material and reality. They need, in three words, awareness of organization. Tools like Backpack are made for organizing, but my students typically don’t know about them and don’t think enough about digital tools for this self-service. The ability to search for an object is hard to do with a notebook, but if done well, and with some forethought, it can be an interesting journey. But self-evaluation with the use of tools is a key idea in learning (a quiz is just such a tool). Learning anything. “Where are the directions?”
Courseware can be used for ordering, but students must take the time to figure them out. (Here’s a note: we don’t really need courses to teach students how to use RSS. We need courses that teach people how to teach themselves and look for the potentiality of woodblock.) Library databases also offer means of keeping track of required items and services, such as topic/subject alerts, and even the browsers on their computers can serve track-keeping of the self in an instructional or life context. But this calls for an awareness and inquisitiveness on the part of the student into “how” and “why.”
Carolyn and I ran into a wall when we got to the adornment part of Tinderbox. I’ve subsequently figured the idea out and it is sort of neat. For British Literature, our oddly named course sequence for the learning of “English” Literature, I want to organize my thinking about the ideas I work with and the readings we cover in the course, creating associations, and keeping track of examples, because I feel that more is there to be had for myself. One of the ideas is Leadership, another Fealty, still another Christianity and Languages. Ideas is the adornment at the moment, although but could be abstracted even further, which may come soon enough. At the moment, the adornment Ideas, currently in color gray, is the region where notes on Leadership and Fealty are “stuck.” I’ve created containers for Beowulf and Marie at the moment and will be racking my own reading through Lanval and Beowulf, linking off to ideas and other text snippets as they come to me or are found.
It seems to me that students could also do this, working with their laptops, if they have them, in class and then reorganizing as they evaluate what they learn on their own time, (on laptops or desktops), generating their own systems of classification and application.
Why does Beowulf sail to the aide of his kinsmen? When a student thinks they’ve figured this out, in addition to wondering at the significance, any number of tools can be used to help develop the analysis and make it relevant to the relationship between Lear and Cordelia. The relationship can be a link away or somewhere buried in that notebook in the trunk of the car.
I’m tired of the “we can sell a lot of shit to Colleges and Universities because they really don’t know any better” attitude. Tinderbox sold itself.