Not long ago I attended a conference on a particular genre of educational technology. The conference presenters were endlessly positive, uplifting – they sought to inspire the attenders with the potential that their subject could offer for student learning. But some discontent rumbled among the attenders, rightly I think: these presenters are not really saying anything. Their theories are abstractions, perhaps even platitudes, that are difficult to disagree with but mean very little in application. Emotionally they can inspire us; rationally they give us no value.
In the conference’s smaller- group discussions (of which there were fortunately many), there was more of a chance to speak of problems, to complain, to be negative – and paradoxically, by being negative they were able to be more constructive. Why? It is far easier to understand what to do when you understand what not to do; you learn what’s true in part by learning what’s false. Endless affirmation of how good something is won’t tell you anything about what makes it good, let alone about how to put it into practice successfully.
As it happens, on the way to this conference I had been reading a book about Kant. Continue reading