Saturday 10 September 2011

Modes of Being: a musical interpretation of Learning Technology

I've been asked to do a few sessions with some international students who are visiting Bolton from our overseas campus. I'd spent some time planning some cool (I thought) technological and cybernetic-related things to do related to their intellectual development and the need to improve their report-writing and research skills. It took a bit of setting-up servers, and jiggery-pokery in the computer lab to make things happen.

But then I thought again.

For all my enthusiasm about this (which is the enthusiasm that most learning technologists have about technology), I realised that as a teacher I was in a 'techie' space that my students might not immediately appreciate. They were, after all, an inter-disciplinary group, with a minority of technologists, and a good number of mature students.

So I stood back from my technological fever and asked myself "what do they need?"

At that moment I became aware of a distinct change of mood in myself. My technological grand-plan had the feeling of some frantic 'scherzo' - a bit like a Tom and Jerry cartoon! It was all logic and the logic leading inexorably to new logical and technical conclusions... my thinking was heightened and fast, and I was excited... but at the same time... I had forgotten what I was really trying to do!

Stepping back was the moment my mood changed. Suddenly, I was soulful and deep. Emotion was the key thing, and the need to connect with real problems and address them directly with a minimum of distraction. There are teaching and learning techniques I know for doing this (and have used many times before) - and this, I decided, was the best course of action.

My feeling on this whole experience is that, as with music, it is the variety of moods and movements which makes the piece. And each mood carries benefits, but can be too much on its own. The technological "scherzo" mood is exciting and energetic, but it distracts and risks blinding us to what really matters. The soulful mood is deep and engaged, but can get stuck in introspection and a lack of dynamism. Then there are other moods: for example, the playing of games may be partly technological, but is also joyful: maybe that's the 'rondo' movement! And finally, there is the mood to inspire and be visionary. That is different too - because it doesn't necessarily have to connect to reality, but it has to steer the emotions of those present.

What is the relationship between these things and forms of knowledge? What is the relationship between them and the different types of speech act involved, or the positioning involved? In what ways are they coercions? exhotations? or disruptions?

I suspect we do all of them all the time to some extent. But being aware of the different modes of being, and developing the skill to switch from one to the other seems to me a sensible thing to do... and possibly a way of looking at the world more musically.

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