Technology, Dogme and language plants

May 1, 2011 § 15 Comments

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.
No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”
Elbert Hubbard

During a lull in the YL SIG at IATEFL, I nipped out for a spot of window shopping in the boutiques of Brighton. By the time I had sneaked back to catch the end of the next session, 300-odd hard-thought-out reasons had supplanted the 300-odd hard-earned pounds I’d outlaid on the latest addition to my wardrobe, a nice new navy-blue suit.

For centuries, philosophers’ utopias were ruled by rationality and devoid of passion, for only then would people be able to make correct decisions and lead fulfilling lives. Plato’s image of a charioteer commanding runaway horses as a metaphor for reason subordinating emotion is attractive, but completely wrong. We humans are the most emotional animals of all. It’s how we are able to make decisions, and we are, for the most part, able to control them.

It’s like that with technology. Technosceptic Scott warns us that it can be all too easy to fall prey to a shiny new product and then convince others, and ourselves, of its worth. There must be a link between what this technology can achieve and why we would want this in the first place. The stronger the link, of course, the more dogmeists endorse it. I can’t find fault with this attitude.

Wordle is a case in point. As the inventor states, it was never intended to perform an educative role, it was merely the rather attractive result of some messing around with algorithms in his free time. But people like the images, they have an emotional impact on us, we want to find uses for them, and are grateful to teachers like Dave who have picked up the gauntlet to give us activities that, I’d say, do have value.

In fact, leaps of progress often come from unexpected sources. Accidents have more than their fair share of statues in the pantheon of human achievements, the mouldy antibiotic that became known as penicillin being perhaps the most famous example.

Creativity, a new idea, happens when several existing disparate ideas come together at the same time. Behold! a new connection, logical and obvious in hindsight, but if it were that easy, it would have been invented, or discovered, years before.

When you get a sound idea and integrate it with smooth technology, things can really catch on. The new language plant maker is designed with technophiles and technophobes in mind, and Surfing Brad will go “hey dude, this is cool, man”. But don’t worry – you won’t have to scratch your head and furrow your brow in a quest to unearth reasons to support its use in class. That’s what language plants are made for.

“The feeling is often the deeper truth,
the opinion the more superficial one.”
Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare

§ 15 Responses to Technology, Dogme and language plants

  • I love this, David! I think that was basically what I was ranting about on Twitter… I just can’t really get why people who don’t read the multiple posts on multiple tools get a say on whether or not teachers “are” thinking about the pedagogy or not.

    It seems to be for some time, for a very long time, that in fact the teaching implications of the tool have been a clear and certain priority for those of us edtechers and masked technobashers only satisfies the those who can’t be bothered to try – polarizing, yet again, the differing sides.

    I mean basically, who cares if someone uses a tool or not in their classroom: it’s their classroom. As long as learning occurs then the teacher is doing the right thing…

    Anyway, enough rantx2… Love your quotes!


  • Vladka says:

    Thanks David for this post.
    I guess being rational and sensible, maybe critical but also perceptive is the way to survive all of this. 😉

    And never forget that it’s not particular approach, course book or technology that matters in the classroom. It’s student!

    Thanks again. I really enjoyed reading it!

  • Surf’s up, and so are language plants.

    Humans as the most emotional animals… hmm… where emotion and movement are the same word etymologically. We do seem driven by our emotions, and we are the greatest movers of the Earth on the Earth… we move more land with bulldozers and the lot than all earthquakes combined. Wild, eh?

    Alas, as Voltaire, said “Il faut cultiver son jardin”… I’m glad you’re cultivating more and more language plants, my friend. 🙂

  • DaveDodgson says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for another well thought-out and for the mention as well.

    One of the things I love about recent resources that have appeared on the web such as Wordle, Glogster and is that they weren’t designed with language learning or education in mind. That means anyone who wants to use them with their students has to sit doen and think about how and why. These are questions that are ignored or forgotten when a nice package of pre-prepared ‘interactive’ activities for whatever group of learners is thrust into the teachers’ hands.

    Maybe we need some public annoucement style posters for teachers:

    STOP! Think before you tech! 🙂

  • kylieliz says:

    I’m not sure why . . . but this post reminded me of a quote I read last night:

    “The greatest form of genius is that which isn’t noticed.”

    I love finding those little things that someone else put time into, are easy for me, and make my students straighten up and pay attention!!

    • David Warr says:

      We should always be on the lookout for those little gems! Thanks for visiting, and your comments. I like the quote you mention, it looks so easy and natural that we don’t notice how hard it actually is to do!

  • […] David Warr’s Technology, Dogme, and Language Plants: Now, I must admit, I am still pretty lost on the whole “Dogme” movement. But, I have […]

  • Anna says:

    Hey David

    Wonderful post as always… can’t wait for your new plant maker as you know 🙂

    Reading your blog somehow always leaves me feeling lighter, happier and more at peace. Just like wandering in a garden full of plants this is an airy space with plenty of room for growth.

    Thank you!

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