Saturday, June 18, 2005


Re: Paradigms in e-learning

From: "Brad Jensen" <[log in to unmask]>

> From: "Dr. Steve Eskow" <[log in to unmask]>
> The debate here between Stephen Downes and Farhad Saba features two powerful
> minds engaging each other--or perhaps failing to engage each other.
> To add to the transactional distance of the discussion, here
> are a few comments to Dr. Saba.

Oh good, I was hoping more of we of normal intellect would show up.

> The theory and practice of distance education owe much to Dr. Michael Moore,
> and of course it was Moore who introduced these ideas to the field. Here is
> the core of these ideas in
> Moore's own words:
> "The concept of transaction. is derived from Dewey (Dewey and Bentley 1949).
> As explained by Boyd and Apps(1980: 5) it 'connotes the interplay among the
> environment, the individuals and the patterns of behaviors in a situation'.
> The transaction that we call distance education occurs between teachers and
> learners in an environment having the special characteristic of separation of
> teachers from learners. This separation leads to special patterns of learner
> and teacher behaviors. It is the separation of learners and teachers that
> profoundly affects both teaching and learning. With separation there is a
> psychological and communications space to be crossed, a space of potential
> misunderstanding between the inputs of instructor and those of the learner. It
> is this psychological and communications space that is the transactional
> distance.""

I think this is in some cases, absolutely backwards. The social stresses of
the classroom situation, both among student peers and in relation to the
authority figure of the teacher, actually increase the 'transactional
distance' between the student and what really matters - the learning
process. The student is distracted from placing their full attention on the
lesson by the overpowering social needs - culminating in self-image and
social standing - created by classroom interaction.

I would expect that students with say, one year's experience interacting
with asynchronous, non-teacher-mediated lessons would learn factual material
(the only thing that can be accurately and absolutely impartially tested for
comprehension) with greater accuracy, depth, and at

a higher rate than in teacher-led classes.

> What becomes immediately clear is the conflation here of two
> quite different meanings of the term "distance." And this blurring and
> blending of two meanings is a flaw from which the theory cannot escape.

When I first read this some years back, my unlettered reaction was 'what
planet are these guys on.' Not being schooled in education, I don't get
Dewey-eyed about the mystical founders of the paradigm.

> The "distance" in "distance education" and the "distance" in
> "transactional distance" have nothing in common.

They might both impress Jodie Foster.

> The spatiality of one can be measured in meters and miles. There
> is no such space in the concept of "transactional distance": that "distance"
> is poetry, a metaphor, a borrowing meant to suggest that "psychological space"
> and physical space are somehow related.
> They are not.
> Further: that "the separation of learners and teachers. . .profoundly affects
> both teaching and learning" is asserted,
> not demonstrated and supported by the kind of "experimental evidence" that Dr.
> Saba demands of others.
I don't take his constant cries for research very seriously. Most every
'research' I've read in the educational field (not much, granted) has relied
on measurements of student evaluations of this and teacher evaluations of
that. That's not experimental research, that's surveys. 'Galluping off in
all directions'.

> Dr. Moore and all who embraced these ideas recognized clearly that the sage on
> a stage just a few feet from his or her student might be more distant from
> them psychologically than
> a sage many miles away on a computer, but this uncomfortable
> fact did not prevent a rush to the theory.

Have you ever found yourself expressing yourself more clearly,
cogently, and succinctly in email than you ever could face to face? So much
for transactional distance.

> We have no robust theory, no paradigm, no defensible system.
> And perhaps we don't need one.
> Steve Eskow
> [log in to unmask]
What I feared most has come upon me - you are starting to make sense.

(that is meant in a lighthearted and respectful manner, of course.)

(You don't have to agree with me just because I happen to agree with you, we
can keep our transactional distance.)

Brad Jensen IIHITWGH (If I had Initials They Would Go Here)

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home


June 2005  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?