lovehate: The One Minute Lesson

In as much as I have trouble staying concise (especially when I get on a roll) the ability of a person or organization to convey a story or message in a short period of time is admirable. It is a skill that especially becomes necessary when acknowledging that learning skills are diversifying to include "snippet education".

I can't complain. Most of my knowledge of US History (being a Canadian) came from three minute Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons sandwiched in between the Superfriends and Laff-a-lympics. I suppose that's where I also got my basic knowledge of Parts of Speech, because Verb is What's Happenin'.

I do not think, however, that either extreme of learning can be sacrificed totally for the purposes of today's educators. The one-minute long Amnesty International video showing the different faces and horrors of war over the centuries is a fine example of making an impact in a short period of time. But, as much as we might like to believe this is learning in a minute, the process of comprehension and analysis takes us far beyond what could be termed "snippet education".

The descriptor "snippet", which I like to join to not only education, but journalism as well, doesn't really speak to a full education process in as much as an introduction of a concept. But that is really what the web is turning into, brief (sometimes very brief) introductions of concepts. The Twitter link referral often doesn't even introduce a concept so much as provide an advocacy gateway for the link itself. The greatest use of "snippet education" can be derived from elective learners, i.e. people who get to pick what they want to learn next. Quite frankly, if someone doesn't want to learn history or grammar or multiplication tables, even one minute is too long.

So while there is a constant push to integrate web2.0 and like technologies into modern education, there is often an inconsistency between the methodology and the pedagogy. The web has become the great repository of elective learning and, for that purpose, is unequaled in scope and accessibility. While education advocates have been clamoring for free education for years, the web can provide a great tool for self-instruction and free learning. The web and its like technologies are not, however, the be all end all of formalized education.

Multimedia can be great, but can also cloud a concept. As much as students are more likely to think an impactful snippet is cool or memorable, such an impact is shallow. The deep learning starts to arrive through discourse and discussion, which, on an individual level, could be facilitated by the web, but on a real life level is much better achieved through face-to-face interaction.

Someday all public schools will be able to afford the tools which will allow these methods to be meshed together seamlessly, but one or two computer labs doesn't cut it. Until then, a thousand shallow dents of knowledge is probably better than tabula rasa, but one or two deep wells of knowledge is probably preferred in the long run.

thinglets: City Orders Bad Grammar

apostrophe now

Now I know, as an English teacher myself, that one of things a student hates most is studying grammar. For years I have had to contend with students who opine, "Oh, what difference does it make?" In defense of my chosen subject and profession, I maintained that, like any discipline, there were certainly times when one could toy with conventions for a purpose, however, in order to do so, one must know existence and application of the conventions.

Apparently, in the home of the English language, all of my efforts would be immediately overturned by the Birmingham City Council who recently decided to abandon possessive apostrophes on city signs as "it would cost too much to change signs referring to areas such as Kings Norton, Druids Heath and St Pauls Square."

A further justification was offered as the Council "said the decision had been taken in an effort to end decades of debate over the lack of punctuation on some signs."

With the world economy in collapse, it's good to see Birmingham saving the cost of person with a bucket of paint and a stencil going around the city. And after all "Councillor Martin Mullaney said the authority had consulted with the Plain English Society and Plain Language Commission before taking its decision." 

Perhaps in the most absurd aspect of the story, the Council's use of the PES and PLC's authority was to countermand "John Richards, the founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society."

With these powerful lobby groups in mind, I'm (or Im as the case may be) tempted to start up a few grammar oversight efforts myself. I invite people to weigh in on one of the following:

  • The Colon Preservation Society
  • Misses Dash
  • Parents for Parentheses
  • Kids Need Braces
  • Total Ellipse of the Heart
  • To Air Quote is Human