Welcome to our on-line ED 200 class, Foundations of Education.
I think you will really enjoy this course. I really want you to enjoy this class. Take your time, think, read, ponder, but most importantly, enjoy contemplating something that is obviously important to you–education.
Now that you have made it here, would you please email me just to let me know that you have arrived? In your email, would you please let me know that you have read the syllabus carefully, know that you will have five responses to submit biweekly starting October 5th, and that you are ready for fun and excitement? Well, you don’t need to include the fun and excitement part 🙂 My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really enjoy this class. I love thinking about, or should I say I love being confronted by, the ideas we encounter. As you have probably read in the course catalog, you not only examine the foundations of education but we also try to help you evaluate your commitment to becoming a professional educator and reflective practitioner who will be able to make informed decisions to enhance the environment for children and youth. What does this mean? It means that we do want you to become a great future educator. But we don’t want you to enter a profession that you are not really interested in. If you don’t enjoy learning ‘about’ education, learning, and schooling, you probably wouldn’t enjoy being a teacher. Nobody wants that. And it is better to figure that out earlier than later. I have had students nearing the end of their teaching program come to me and confess that they never really enjoyed teaching, but they felt pressured to become a teacher.
You are, in a sense, wearing two hats when you take this class–the student hat (learning all you can about education and schooling) and the teaching hat (learning a bit about teaching). Student and teacher, both at the same time.
So, in a sense, I will be doing two things here:
I will be helping you understand how to be the best student you can be (helping you learn how to learn so to speak);
and, I will be inviting you in to the world of education and schooling from the perspective of a teacher.
How, you might ask, will I help you learn how to learn? Well, I will share with you many different strategies that we know helps students learn. I will also share with you some of the latest research on how neurons in the brain work and what learning is from a scientific point of view.
Well then, how, you might ask, will I invite you into the world of education and schooling? I will do this by helping you see why we do the things we do in schools. Not just because we are expected to do things. I want you to see the invisible forces at work. For example, why do we have grades? Was it because they magically appeared or always existed? Why do we have students grouped together by age groups? Was it because students were always sorted like that? We will try to find out. You will see that there have been many forces at work to shape our schooling system into what it is today.
So this is a class that looks deeply into those aspects that allow particular practices to come into being.
Don’t worry about the term ‘being.’ All that means is that which makes things appear the way they are. If your mom or dad told you to go to the store to buy some bread, we can think of all of the things and events (the invisible forces) that put that action (buying bread) into motion.
What sorts of things or forces? Well, the fact that we have something called bread comes from somewhere. And the fact that we eat bread at meals is a result of something in our past. And the fact that we have stores. And the fact that you have the capacity to go to the store. And the fact that we are hungry. We can look at any action or object and think of the many things that allow that object or action to “appear” or “come into being.” Simple as that.
Let me give you a schooling example. In our teaching practice we assess students. When we ask why we assess students, our initial response seems to point toward the obvious. The obvious is simply a restating of what we do because we do it–because it makes sense. We assess so that we know that students learn. We assess so that we know what we might have to re-teach. Perhaps assessments are used to rank students. Seems obvious. But then when we step outside of that which seems blatantly obvious and ask again, “yes, but why do we assess? Where does this whole idea come from? What is it that makes it seem that we should assess students?” Now we are delving into the narratives that give meaning and direction to what we do. Now we are searching into the foundations–that which founds what we do. We are delving into the underlying basis or principle of assessment — not simply the technological and the procedural.
To continue this questioning, we might ask, “why do we grade our students?” Once again we find ourselves giving grades to our students because that is what has been done in the past. It seems to make sense. Why would we even question such an activity. But then when we ask about the origin of grading and begin digging a little deeper, finding that a lazy professor from the 18th century created the practice of grading from the way shoe factories were grading the quality of shoes, we begin to get a sense of the strangeness of all of this. We begin to get a sense that a lot of what we do was just a made up practice by someone. Furthermore, we might begin to wonder why we follow a practice that really does have questionable beginnings. What is it that makes these ‘questionable activities’ a part of our school lives? Well, I suppose narratives have a lot to do with that. So, we will spend some time exploring some of those narratives.
Rather than reading textbooks, memorizing what the authors have to say, we will act more like educational archaeologists, uncovering the human dimensions that contribute to schooling practices; in addition, we will attempt to uncover the schooling practices that contribute to our own humanness (or lack thereof). We will try to uncover the foundations of schooling. Much of what we attempt to uncover resides in the stories, the language, the metaphors, the narratives of our existence.
I guess I like this approach because of my background in philosophy. And, because I believe we are all philosophers, I think you will like this too. I hope you will.
So to recap briefly: You are wearing two hats–learning how to be a great student hat, and the teaching hat–learning how to be a teacher by learning the reasons why schools are the way they are.
This is one of our classmates wearing two hats.
Sally: “Hey Joe, you must be in the ED Foundations class. I notice you are wearing two hats!”
Joe checking out the foundations of education (wearing his foundations hat).
To learn about schooling we will spend time critiquing schooling.
Let’s not mistake critique for criticize though.
I do want to make a distinction that is sometimes missed. In this class we do act as critics. But there is a difference between one who critiques and one who criticizes. As a critic we attempt to understand narratives so that we can analyze and evaluate our school environments–not find faults in a disapproving way.
Some of the educational theorists we listen to sound very critical (as in criticizing), but we use their views as a way to consider alternatives to the system. Also by knowing alternatives, our own practices become clearer to us.
Our purpose is not to simply adopt a captious or harsh position.
If we can understand schooling and educational narratives, we come out with a deeper understanding our the system.
I do know that we become empowered, and can empower others, when we develop an intimate understanding of what makes aspects of schooling meaningful. This is not to say that there are necessarily ‘right answers’ that others can just tell us. Significance is often different for each of us and is often unique to the environment. One of the mistakes many educational theorists make, and I am sure you have thought this yourself at one time or other, is that they presume methods are generalizable to all contexts.
“Here is the greatest teaching technique that all teachers should adopt! Let’s make every fourth grade teacher in the nation adopt this practice!!!”
You and I both know that a practice that works for the teacher down the hall may not work for you and your students. You are your own unique individual as are your students. Why would we presume that a practice that works for one researcher’s small subset of the population would work for everyone? Perhaps there is a schooling narrative that has us presume this.
Who Am I Anyway?
Let me briefly tell you about myself so that you know who is at this end. My name is Dana. My first name is Randall but I go by Dana. I did my undergraduate work at the University of Alberta, majoring in philosophy and English. I returned to the same university to get my degree in education. I taught elementary and junior high for five years. Did my graduate work at the University of Oregon and Doctoral work at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. My research was in, and continues to be in, the philosophy of education, language, technology and media.
My initial interest in technology and media developed while using music technologies (MIDI synthesizers and sequencers) personally and in the classroom. When I was in high school I turned my parent’s basement into a recording studio. It began as a fairly modest endeavor (this was before the advent of digital recording equipment). I had an 8 track reel-to-reel tape recorder, sound board, mics, etc.. At the time, all of this seemed pretty exciting. Of course, it was difficult to replicate what major studios were doing because they had the money to bring in any type of musician to play any type of instrument. Plus, the major studios had some pretty impressive sounding synthesizers and sound samplers (all in about the $50,000 range, which in today’s money would be closer to $100,000). Anything I could afford was pretty limited in comparison. But, as you know, computer-based equipment started to take off. Synthesizers started to become affordable. The personal computer was marketed as something affordable. And, before long, it was easy to be sitting with a 64 track digital recording outfit. Anyway, enough reminiscing. Suffice it to say that I became interested in computer technologies through music.
While teaching in the public school system I was the computer coordinator of the school, and I developed one of the first electronic music labs for student composition and performance in the province of Alberta.
After teaching for five years, and completing a Masters in Computers in Education at the University of Oregon, I began my Doctoral research at Simon Fraser University in Canada. My area of study focused on the ontology of technology and the human-educational implications that emerge through phenomenological analysis and existential examination. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? What that means is that I like to come to understand how people experience the world and how schooling and education plays into that.
Eventually I moved to Alabama where I taught at Auburn University at Montgomery for three years. Finally I moved to Oregon and have been teaching here for twenty one years.
As for my hobbies: I am a pilot, a downhill skier, a scuba diver and a musician. I am trying to learn Chinese and continue to try to learn Spanish.
More importantly, I am a husband to my high school sweetheart, and a father of two girls who are also in university.
Ah ha you will say. Now when I start giving you fatherly advice, like getting enough sleep or eating well, or trying to do your best in university, or not getting too stressed about anything, or being kind to others, you will know that the father-side of me that comes from caring for my own children is coming out and being directed at you. Well, I also care about your well being and success.
That’s enough—maybe even more than enough. Not enough of being here–enough talk about me.
As you know, in each lecture there will be questions that you will encounter as you read through the lecture. You will have to answer the questions and then on the day the questions are due you will send me the answers to your questions. Compile all your answers to the questions in one document. You will email that document to me. So, you will have 25 questions to respond to for your first response and you will email those responses to me on Monday, October 5th.
Please use this email: email@example.com
I will read your answers and email you back. I will simply reply to the email you sent me, so if you used an email other than your WOU email I will be replying to that. In other words, if you send your responses to me using your gmail account, I will reply to your gmail address if that is the address in your reply field.
When is your first set of questions due?
**** First Set of Responses are due Monday October 5th ****
So there you have it. That gives you a bit of an introduction to this course and what we have ahead of us. Now, I would like to know a bit about you.
For your first set of questions
Question Set Number One
I told you a bit about me, now please tell me a bit about yourself.
1. Please tell me your name.
2. Are you taking this class because you would like to eventually enter the Education Licensure program?
3. What are your hobbies? Or, what do you like to do in your spare time?
4. What is something you are particularly good at?
5. If you could make one change to the way schools operate, what would you change?
6. Is there anything I should be aware of in terms of struggles you might have taking this class? For example, do you have any technological issues that will make taking an online course difficult? Do you have other responsibilities that might make it a challenge for you to succeed in this class. Just let me know so that I can help if possible.
Please compile the answers to these first six question in a document and be ready to add your next responses from the next Part 2 to the document.
Now on to Week One Part Two.