Friday, September 30, 2011

Up the pyramid...better but sloppier

We did the Mark Twain on Gadgets plays.  As you can imagine, not great theater, but I think the work of creating (highest level on the updated Bloom's taxonomy--of learning processes) a Twain interaction with contemporary gadgets did help students think about themselves and their gadgets a little bit.

If you look at the taxonomy you'll notice that the higher up you go the more interpretive and debatable we get.  You may remember that Twain wrote Huck Finn.  You probably understand that there were significant literary aspects that made Huck a great novel (and Twain a great writer).  You might be able to use the understanding of Twain's social critique to think about issues in contemporary life (like communication patterns).  But even here--only half way up the taxonomy--we veer into thoughts inflected by the particular disposition and values of the the one doing the thinking.  As we move up to evaluation, the whole question gets even more diffuse.  (Remember the debates in the academy a while back about whether Twain even belonged in the canon of great American authors.)

Think of it this way.  Those first two tasks--remembering and understanding--were things your teacher could basically provide.  Moving up, you're more and more on your own.

So, creating a play about Twain texting is fraught with ambiguity and weakness (as a lesson plan), because it must be, if it has any chance of working.  Too much direction on a task at the top level and you stifle the process that's supposed to yield the learning.  And I, therefore, must surrender my desire to closely control the learning outcome.

That's what I mean when I say, "education is a sloppy endeavor."

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