Monday, May 02, 2005

Mrs. Morrow Stimulated the Soup

Brown, J.S., Collins, A., and Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, Jan/Feb, 32-42.

It is really no relief that Alfred North Whitehead wrote The Aims of Education almost 80 years ago, and there is still an almost criminal amount of useless knowledge being passed on from teacher to student from year to year. Why haven’t we learned that decontextualized learning just doesn’t stick? And if we have learned that, especially as information specialists (an offensive term, I think) we either believe that all of the theoretical concepts we have read and written about will suddenly become clear, or connected to some experience, or even become useful. But, then again, probably not. The curriculum goes on teaching abstract concepts as self-sufficient things, like carrots.
Knowing and doing cannot be separated. Its corollary also makes sense: using the tools of a profession without being inside the culture makes no sense.
The language is a tool, and learning it is a natural process. The best way is immersion. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated has some of the best examples of language learned directly from a dictionary rather than social experience. In other words, language is totally context-dependent. The article is built on the central metaphor that all tools are like language, and are acquired through situated use and practice.
How can classroom activity approach authentic activity? How can library practice approach authentic activity?
As long as there is education there will be education reform, and this article points to the lethargy of a system that does not work but has been situated for a long time.

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