The Studio for
The Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education
The Studio for
Friday, May 9th
Followed by an end of semester celebration.
A Studio is a Place for Study
For Spring 2008 the Studio has the project of designing and developing itself. To begin, the Studio exists only in conception as a nascent potentiality. As such, it recursively creates itself. Perhaps that engagement in recursive self-creation is an axiom of education, a starting point for the historical and philosophical foundations of education.
— NB: New Location —
We formally meet Tuesdays, 7:00 to 8:30, physically in 214 Zankel Hall or virtually via Acrobat Connect (http://connect.acrobat.com/studyplacestudio)
Towards a Studio for the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education
An Invitation from Robbie McClintock
During the Spring 2008 semester, I am starting a basic reconceptualization of my teaching activities in an exploratory effort to make more effective use of digital technologies in studying the historical and philosophical foundations of education. The course system is a highly routinized arrangement, designed in the late 19th century, to implement the elective system in undergraduate education. Its hegemony has come about for large-scale administrative reasons, not for ones of proven pedagogical superiority. In developing the intellectual affordances of digital technologies in higher education, we should avoid the mindless assumption that these must manifest themselves through "online courses," or through "hybrid courses." There is no reason to assume that the the course system will provide the optimal way to use online information resources in either face-to-face situations or asynchronously and at a distance.
There is good reason to suggest that in the long run the course system and digital information resources will prove antithetical. The basic design technique employed in constructing the course system uses arbitrary conceptual boundaries to divide the stuff of intellect into interchangeable chunks. The credit-hour has nothing to do with intellectual substance, for it simply tracks how long a single student outwardly engages in some activity deemed to be educational — attending a lecture, a lab, or the like. The division of the cultural repertoire into different subjects, and those into a list of separate courses, has more to do with the constraints of packaging than with necessary divisions in nature or culture. And all those arbitrary divisions are breaking down in the digital world. The library, hitherto a monument of stolid immobility, now spreads everywhere at gigabit rates. Intellectual boundaries, once upon a time enforced physically by the need to stack journals and books on different subjects in different places, with a distinctive mind-body coodination required at each location for the effective use of its particular resources, now dissolve — everything is googling into one database and wikiing towards a universal mode of retrieval. The ubiquitous library becomes comprehensive and managed through a single, integral system. Only time will tell how all this will play out in the historical long-run as it unfolds over this century, and perhaps the next.
In the shorter run, I would like to explore the hypothesis that in highly academic, bookish areas, instructional activity in universities will start coalescing into studios, as distinct from courses, sponsored by one or more faculty members, joined by a variety of students, all of whom want to inquire into a broad, open-ended human concern. In thinking about the characteristics that a studio might develop, let's avoid boundary metaphors — field, area, domain, and the like. A studio does not develop its character and coherence from a boundary that defines what is inside of it and what is outside of it. Activities take place in a studio — a studio is a place, the boundaries of which in space and time are incidental relative to the activities occurring there. Rather than being a type of container, something like visual awareness informs how a studio works — in seeing, one is attentive to certain things more than others and these constitute a point point of focus that continually shifts as the eyes cast about centered within a dynamic peripheral vision, in response to which active vision will dart from this to that, leading to many judgments about relevance and importance. I am inviting anyone who has the interest to join in a digital studio in which we attend to the historical and philosophical foundations of education as an open-ended concern in which we accept everything to be potentially relevant and valuable, making attentive judgments about actual relevance and value as each proceeds.
A studio is a place where people engage in creative work on projects and questions, individual and collaborative, sharing resources, constructive criticism, and mutual encouragement. For Spring 2008, the Studio for the Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education will have as its major, recursive project the task of creating the studio itself — what resources should we mobilize through the studio and how should we organize them? What patterns of interaction among participants are most fruitful? To what degree should they be online or face-to-face? And so on.
Anyone who wishes can participate in a digital studio within an open environment such as StudyPlace, and such intrinsic motivation is highly desirable. But, in addition, those most likely to participate work in academic settings as students and instructors whose motivations are constrained by the system of academic credits. We often fail to observe that academic credits are merely conventional constructs, abstracted from any substantive content, useful in various ways to quantify and compare. Most of us encounter them attached to "courses" and we take frequent association to be the emblem of an essential nature and assume that only "courses" can carry academic credit. That is not the case — the system of academic credit is a complex structure built according to the measure of the "student contact-hour," which has no more association with this course or that than 12 inches on a ruler have with my foot or yours. To initiate a digital studio, we need a way to fit it into the established instructional framework at Teachers College. I am simply going to try to wrap everything I teach, as I would traditionally offer it, into the digital studio, with the different "courses" that I offer serving as means to join the studio and to get academic credit for participation in it. Those course will be, thus, doorways in for those wanting to get academic credit for their activities in the Studio.
Some thoughts about a digital studio
- A digital studio adapts the practices of studio pedagogy as it has developed in art and architecture to advance the study of academic matters that have traditionally used a course-based pedagogy. A course is bounded, unitary, and finite, containing a quantity of knowledge scaled to the metric of contact-hours; it starts and ends, treating a fragment of knowledge as a whole, with mastery of it measured according to a grading system. In conctrast, a studio is a place, not a container. A studio is a place where people gather to exercise and develop skill and interest, an art, a techne. A studio provides the tools of a techne and opportunities for their use, invitations for their development, a challenge to accomplished performance within a community of peers.
- Participants initiating the studio for the historical and philosophical foundations of education share little direct experience with studio pedagogy or practice in art and architecture. This is a risk, and a potential advantage. Some stimulus to the imagination, and to a sense for the scope of the effort, may be useful. Examples are:
- Lois Hetland, et al, Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, chapters I, III, IV: StudyPlace Reserve or TC Library Reserve.
- Donald A. Schön, Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions, chapters II - VII: StudyPlace Reserve or TC Library Reserve.