A Question Concerning the Interpretation of Content

Before we move to week 4 of #rhizo15 I wanted to post about something that has been coming back around for me in the whole journey of “Content is People.”

What is to be said for the way that content is interpreted? I think that we often don’t take away what the person intended. How does this fit into the idea of content is people and what does it say about the nature of what many call content?

In many ways this is the same as the artist’s dilemma – the one where the artist paints a picture of a rabbit and someone comes along and says oh what a nice picture of a duck.

As teachers and learners how do we deal with the Gestalt of the everyday real world?

Choosing Content: The Use of Imagination in Direct Faculty Instruction

Part 1 – Content is People

What is content?

Text
Books
Video
Movies
Sound
Songs

but People??

I had a hard time with the week 3 prompt for #rhizo15 at first. Content is People.

The first thing I started thinking about was the problems with defining content in this way: corporate personhood came to mind. Problems of plagiarism would continue to be of issue if “Content is People” and how is that addressed in mashing, sharing, retweeting, and the like? But who are these people? Are they okay? Could they be dangerous? How do I go about vetting these people to decide if they are good for my life? My class? My students? My faculty?

A big part of getting my head around this prompt actually came from a good friend’s mom who came to visit me while she was passing through town doing research on genealogy. In our conversation I was relating to her about how I’m always arguing points and ideologies in my head – comparing and contrasting them based on context and position. And then it hit me, while we were standing there at the rooftop waiting lounge trying to get dinner, that all that arguing (many times only in my own head – cameo to the solitary learner), was not with

Text
Books
Video
Movies
Sound
Songs

but People.

People that created

Text
Books
Video
Movies
Sound
Songs

Content is People.

Part 2 – Choosing Content

And then I realized all of those “problems” that I saw with defining content as people they weren’t problems that were in conflict with making that definition but rather real problems that we have to hash out every day when we deal with content.

What does any of this mean in the “real world”?

Which brings us to choosing content… say for a course. This recently came up at work as we were trying to show that online courses meet the federal definition of the credit hour which here in the U.S. relates to a ratio of “direct faculty instruction” and work completed outside of class. And is it direct faculty instruction to expose students to someone else’s content? Well if they were in class and you played a movie that would not be questioned. However, if you have them watch the movie online (potentially a better use of class time I would argue) that seems to be a harder sell as “direct faculty instruction”.

To what end? or What does it mean to choose content?

While it is great to have these arguments in one’s mind – to what end? This week I read a great post by Keith Hamon in regards to imagination in MOOC ethics but I think that his points are easily extrapolated to online, hybrid, and even face to face learning in regards to choosing content. First, if I am reading him correctly – I hear Hamon agreeing that we need other points of view to grow and learn so it seems like bringing in other people is a good idea. Second, I hear a call for tolerance in confronting beliefs and behaviors (that will often come to us in the form of content) so that we might rethink our own beliefs and behaviors. Finally, I think that Hamon is drawing on the theme of imagination to call for teachers and learners to imagine themselves in those differing viewpoints while evaluating them to find harmony among them.

Going all the way back to week 1 of #rhizo15 I am reading Earnest Becker as I grapple with bias as it ultimately ties to fear and then to fear of death. Becker has this harmony and talks about it in the preface of his book The Denial of Death. He uses the word Eros (one of the ancient Greek words for love) to describe a longing to bring truths together rather than keep then in a perpetual state of discord. He says one of the reasons for writing the book is because he has “had more more than my share of problems fitting together valid truths” (xi). He says that the book is “a bid for the peace of my scholarly soul, an offering for intellectual absolution” (xi). He is bringing together different voices and ideas to create a valid truth. He is choosing content to make a point.

Choosing content.

I would like to posit that the more one grapples with the choosing of content – the more one engages in that internal conversation, uses their imagination to understand that point of view from the context of the person that developed it, compares it and contrasts it to other view points (content) with the end in mind of creating harmony among those ideas to create new ideas – the closer that is to “direct faculty instruction”.

I would love to hear more about choosing content while we are still in week 3 of #rhizo15.  From the prompt I got the feeling that Dave Cormier was struggling with the idea of preloading any kind of content into a course whatsoever. So I am curious what everyone thinks. If Content is People how do we relate to them and how do we choose who we are going to bring into our classes? What is that process like?  When is the best time to do this – more often in my own work I need to help faculty do that up front before the course ever runs. Does this kill some kind of spontaneity in the learning process? How does choosing content work for you?

Becker, E. (1973). The denial of death. New York: Free Press.