[Humanist] 28.263 making things difficult

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Aug 16 10:03:31 CEST 2014

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 263.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:13:51 +0100
        From: Ken Kahn <toontalk at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  28.262 making things difficult
        In-Reply-To: <98ef84c5-f93e-44bf-989c-8ced9a025e21 at HUB01.ad.oak.ox.ac.uk>

Nice article.

I wonder how something like Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief
World Systems fits with this view of pedagogy.

Another example is the video Misconceptions about Why Seasons Occur -
-- very amusing.



On 15 August 2014 06:50, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 28, No. 262.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2014 06:38:28 +0100
>         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>         Subject: on pedagogy
> The Chronicle of Higher Education for 14 August features an article which
> argues that making subjects less cognitively accessible is better than the
> accessibility which current educational doctrine preaches. Steve Kolowich,
> in "Confuse Students to Help Them Learn", uses the example of a physics
> teacher who by trying out clear versus ambiguous presentations discovered
> that "if you just present the correct information, five things happen....
> One, students think they know it. Two, they don't pay their utmost
> attention. Three, they don't recognize that what was presented differs from
> what they were already thinking. Four, they don't learn a thing. And five,
> perhaps most troublingly, they get more confident in the ideas they were
> thinking before." In other words,
> >  Confusion is a powerful force in education. It can send students
> > reeling toward boredom and complacency. But being confused can also
> > prompt students to work through impasses and arrive at a more nuanced
> > understanding of the world.
> When I was told this by my undergraduate advisor, also a physicist, I
> suspected that he was making excuses for poor teaching. And perhaps he
> was. But many years later, sick at heart from exposure to doctrines of
> accessibility, customer-service approaches to education, rights to resit
> examinations and so on, I am far less inclined to think my advisor could
> only have been wrong. I am told by an early medieval intellectual
> historian I know of strong evidence that an educational technique of
> glossators then was deliberately to make their interpretations obscure
> in order to force an enlightening struggle to understand. What they had
> to transmit required a cognitive transformation in the reader. Isn't
> that an ideal still of the humanities, despite current doctrine?
> I'd like to think that Kolowich's argument provides a glimmer of hope
> that a turn-around is beginning. In any case, it seems to me that the
> confrontation with computational reasoning at the cross-roads denoted by
> "digital humanities" provides us with an opportunity to help this
> turn-around happen. It seems to me that pushing forward with initiatives
> to bring the *making*, not just the using, of computational objects into
> the
> humanities is more and more the way to go.
> Consider these two books published 18 years apart: (1) Ian Lancashire,
> John Bradley et al, Using TACT with Electronic Texts, in 1996; and (2)
> Matthew L Jockers, Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature, in
> 2014. The former is a user-manual for a program that required a highly
> skilled professional programmer a long time to write; the latter
> instructs the reader in how to build text-analytic tools. Much has
> changed in those 18 years. But considering both (1) and (2) as
> exemplifying approaches to digital humanities, isn't it obvious which is
> educationally more powerful, more effective -- because more challenging
> intellectually? Yet to this day we are still largely attempting to hide
> the difficulties.
> For Kolowich's article see
> http://chronicle.com/article/Confuse-Students-to-Help-Them/148385/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en.
> And in the spirit of full disclosure
> I must tell you that when I began with this note I mistakenly transcribed
> the
> name of the publication in which Kolowich's article occurs as The Chronicle
> for Higher Education....
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
> Group, University of Western Sydney

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