16 December 2005

On the web and distance learning

I've just had an email from someone doing a distance-learning master's course. She thanks me for expressing some ideas in language she can understand (as opposed, by implication, to her course materials). I'm flattered, but equally aware that the style of my sites is not for everyone; for some they are too flippant and lack academic gravitas; for others they are too discursive and indirect. However, the sheer blooming buzzing confusion of the web means that there is probably something out there to meet her particular need.

The problem is how to find it. We have umpteen different search possibilities at our fingertips, and with ingenious devices such as http://del.icio.us/ we can build communities to share mutual interests, but the issue of the distinctive "voice" remains.

Sites on learning and teaching have a limited range of "voice": (no examples given!)

  • There are of course the business sites plugging the latest educational panacea
  • There are the prescriptive sites which tell you how to teach in a mechanistic way
  • There are the academic sites which are more about the writers' concerns than the readers'.
  • And a distinguished few, particularly;
  • http://tip.psychology.org/
  • http://www.infed.org/ and
  • http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/
  • and more broadly http://www.businessballs.com/
  • and doubtless others which would take for ever to cite (it's getting late and I've just realised this is an endless quest), which are more interested in their readers than themselves.

    I'm not a great believer in "learning styles", but it would be great if there were ways of tagging "voice" or "style" as well as "content" for all the distance learners out there trying to tune in to stuff to which they can relate.

    13 December 2005

    On Cobblers' Children

    The proverb is; "the cobbler's children are worst shod". (No relation to "load of cobblers", although that might also be apposite.)

    I have just been trying to read around to provide some sound academic base for my stuff on the "Content and Process" distinction, so I have been looking at material on pragmatics and discourse in communication. One would assume that academics writing in this field would be aware of the ramifications of their work, and their texts.

    So why is it all so badly written?