Assembling the heterogeneous elements for (digital) learning

Models of growth – responding to the grammar of school

This post serves as a brief placeholder of ideas and also to remind me to follow up further on this paper (Cavallo, 2004). The paper seems to offer a very interesting and informed perspective on issues that are of great interest to me, including the “Process” used in implementing e-learning within Universities and the “grammar of school”.

Even though I’ve only skimmed the paper, I would suggest that anyone currently involved in a Moodle implementation should really take the time to read this paper.

Some quick quotes follow

The problem

David Tyack and Larry Cuban postulated that there exists a grammar of school, which makes deviation from our embedded popular conception of school feel as nonsensical as an ungrammatical utterance [1]. They describe how reform efforts, whether good or bad, progressive or conservative, eventually are rejected or denatured and assimilated. Reform efforts are not attempted in the abstract, they are situated in a variety of social, cultural and historical contexts. They do not succeed or fail solely on the basis of the merit of the ideas about learning, but rather, they are viewed as successful based upon their effect on the system and culture as a whole. Thus, they also have sociological and institutional components — failure to attend to matters of systemic learning will facilitate the failure of the adoption of the reforms.

Telling people they are bad

Just as one cannot merely tell a child his thinking is incorrect
and then expect everything to fall into place, so too we cannot expect simply to tell a school, a school system, a country, that its schools are wrong and how to fix them.

Take this to the middle level, you can’t go along to an academic and say his/her use of e-learning is bad, and expect them to change it.

How to improve the practice of learning and teaching

As we see it, real change is inherently a kind of learning. For
people to change the way they think about and practice education, rather than merely being told what to do differently, we believe that practitioners must have experiences that enable appropriation of new modes of teaching and learning that enable them to reconsider and restructure their thinking and practice. The limitations inherent in existing systems based upon information transfer models are as impoverished in effecting systemic development as they are in child development.

This perspective connects nicely to the ideas of reflective alignment

So obviously, the author is intelligent, he agrees with me! The fact he was/is co-director of the MIT Media Lab’s Future of Learning group also suggests a modicum of intelligence.


Usage of e-learning – quantity


Phd Update #8 – steaming ahead


  1. gardnercampbell

    Yet another source from your research that’s contributed mightily to my own understanding–and because of the context of your research and thoughts here, the contribution happens more quickly and more deeply. Situated learning in the metasphere with rich personal/affective layers even in tiny, good-humored, wry gestures.

    The Cavallo article is crucial, I think. Great stuff. Between this, Papert, and your own work, I’ve begun to understand some of the stuff I do instinctively in ways that will allow me to articulate those instincts with more credibility.

    Many, many thanks. Keep on truckin’.

    • G’day Gardner,

      Glad you found the paper interesting, I have to take the time this week and read the paper in full. Your ringing endorsement suggests I do it sooner rather than later. My other task this week is to reflect more on your podcast/post re: engagement streams. The idea resonates with me a great deal and vaguely connects with some of the work/ideas we’ve had here. As did the perspective of your co-presenter Chip German – he sounds significantly well informed for an IT person.


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