Bridgette Fincher- Masters in Educational Technology and Leadership. 2006

Terms and Classes

Summer '05

Fall Term '05

 Winter Term '06

Spring/Summer Term '06

Action Research Project


The Book of Learning and Forgetting

Upon reading Learning and Forgetting, I was struck by two things. Not the obvious connection of the current NCLB thought patterns which dominate the public school systems, but primarily, how the classical thought characteristics shed light on why systemic change is so hard. Robert Evens writes in his book The Human Side of School Change(1996) that change is of two types: first and second order. First order is to improve the efficiency or effectiveness at what we have already been doing. The change is usually single, incremental and isolated. Change of the second order aims to modify the way an organization is put together, altering its assumptions, goals, structures, roles and norms. It requires people to not just do what they have been doing slightly differently but also to change their beliefs and perceptions. When people have to shift deeply held beliefs, which are garnered according to Smith, by identifying and interacting with significant people in their lives, the Classical characteristics of persistence and permanence work against change occurring.

The second thing that I was an event that happened to me when I was doing Breadloaf (The University of Vermont-MLit program) in their Alaskan campus. There I was taking a class on how language transmission worked and this particular assignment dealt with poetry. I was doing some reading on the Hopi and Navajo dance traditions and I was curious about the derivations of some of the traditions. So, I trotted down to a gal who was in the program and Hopi to read her my poem and also to ask questions. I wasn’t prepared for what I got-she must have been having a bad day but it was a great object lesson in how people learn. In essence, she basically told me that I had no right to ask questions about the traditions at all. Flummoxed, I asked, “But how am I to learn if I don’t ask questions and make sure that I represent things, right?” She looked me dead in the eye and said, “You sit there and watch. You watch people do. Keep your mouth quiet. Be quiet. No 1,000 White questions. Watch and learn.”  Although an intense event, it is a lovely example one of the Smith chapter note listings of Gumperz and Cook-Gumperz (1982) statement that “language acquisition varies according to the social, ethnic and gender backgrounds of the people talked to” and the social framework for learning.

Author: Hines, Isabel Date: 09-14-2005 20:10


I found your anecdote very interesting. That's how language is acquired, by watching (paying attention, listening). As we get bombarded by the mass media and all this technology, we have lost the power to concentrate, to watch and learn. Students are bored after 10 minutes if it isn't "fun." Learning is not "fun." It isn't entertainment; and contrary to Frank Smith's statement that is effortless, I think that it takes effort to learn anyhting, to put it in our long term memory. By the way, he says on p.86 that "patience and effort are often required." For instance, I want to learn Russian because I have been traveling to a Russian-speaking country for the past seven years. I "keep company" with Russian-speaking friends. I am going to Russian lessons an hour a week, and I listen to Russian tapes every morning on my way to work, but I still have to sit at home and memorize vocabulary, and practice all those Russian cases. (I know. I'm crazy to do all this on top of OMET!). I want very much to be part of this  Russian "club," but I still have to work hard . It is by no means "effortless."

I am keeping a dialogue with Mr. Smtih. My book is full of margin notes and post-its.He is talking about peer influence and moral values. It used to be that a family would decide that a son needed to learn a certain trade, and that child would be sent to live and work with somebody who practiced the trade. That's how learning took place then, but it was very specialized. Our schools in the United States want every student to acquire general knowledge about everything. Of course, not everybody wants to learn everything. Keeping students interested on something that they consider irrelevant is very hard. Learning by the company we keep would involve sending children again into the working world of adults for on the job training. Are we ready to change child labor laws?





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