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    A Utilitarian World (2)

    Imagine a world in which the daily experience of attending school does not exist. Take that a bit further and imagine learning as an experience that is both lifelong and not constrained by institutions, not necessarily located within institutions, but fundamental to everyday life.

    In a utilitarian world, learning is sequestered to one place or one time.

    Learning, in my opinion is by definition never finished. Of course there is a narrative to the learning experience — a beginning and an end, but the entire process of learning is always temporary and crucially, contingent.

    In a utilitarian world, learning is first of all ‘located’ to some place and then given a particular time, fit into a schedule.

    Even online education which should be open and less linear has in many instances been structured into a sequential process. If the digital age has so far taught us anything, it is that sequence should be based on multiple pathways and diverse strategies to learning. Learners want to map their direction based on a vast number of factors from state of mind, to the demands of everyday life.

    This need to take control — manifested most fully in the rise of social media — has its own problems. For example, given the wealth of information that now suffuses everything that we do, how can we distinguish between good and bad information? This is a major issue for parents whose children are exposed to any number of questionable web sites and problematic claims from many different sources. But, the need to take control is also essential to the learning experience. After all, learning if it is to be valuable must also be seen to have value. Value is gained when learners feel some degree of empowerment from the process.

    In this context, teachers have become curators as well as mentors and guardians of history. The word curator is derived from the Latin, “curator” which means overseer, manager and of importance to this discussion, guardian. Curator also comes from the word, to cure. The challenge is that curators have to be able to teach critical thinking.

    In a utilitarian space, there is less and less time for historical and critical engagement with ideas. The rush is on to achieve a great deal as quickly as possible and the notion that for example, it might be important to spend some time on areas of study that seem peripheral to a set of pragmatic goals becomes less and less attractive.

    In my next post in this series, I will explore contemplation which marks out a territory that is far more speculative than an overly utilitarian approach could ever permit.

    Part 1 can be found here.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    If I look back at my own education much of it has occurred on the periphery. I have lived, learned, and dealt with new experiences on multiple continents and each have offered me a perspective, which thanks to my most recent bout of post secondary institutional education has allowed me access to insight much deeper than I would have ever anticipated as a 20 year old. That the age old adage (wisdom comes with experience?) be applied directly to the education institution context and be understood as valid much earlier on in the process is one that I look forward to. I have never thought of myself as a curator but perhaps that is the direction that I am moving in. Reflecting back on the curators that have played a key role in my life ( Margaret Day née Clark in particular) I am looking forward to it!

    May 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelene Day Fraser

    Thanks Helene....age is not the key arbiter, but experience certainly is!! Mentors are curators because they provide many and different kinds of ways of resolving issues and challenges, true teachers.

    May 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRon Burnett

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