Experiential Learning


Dewey discussed the importance of “experience” in the education process. This concept is important for the development of modern education because it suggests that learning should be in a “context” instead of happening in the vacuum. It should be an “embodied experience”. As Dewey says in his article, “There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract”. In practice, students should be exposed to as much “educative experience” as possible, instead of being taught abstract knowledge and tested only for their grasp of such knowledge through standard tests. For educators who would like to create such experiences to facilitate students’ learning, the question is not only to have the awareness of implementing “experience” as part of the pedagogical approach, but also “what experiences will benefit students’ learning, how could teachers create ‘educative experiences’, and how much ‘experience’ do students need from the to be ‘educative’”. After all, it is not necessary, or impossible, for one to “experience” everything the “educate experience” may offer, and it is also important for students to engage their own “experience” in their learning process and interpret the “educative experience” offered by in the classroom. For example, if students are learning “the Second World War”, it is unrealistic that students should actually go to war to experience it – and even if they had been in a war before, their “experience’ is only part of the war. However, does that mean that they cannot “experience” war to understand it at all.and it is important that they have some “experience” of what the Second World War is like to understand its historical meanings.

In view of this situation, technology can serve as a powerful tool to help students “learn through experience”: First, teachers can use their knowledge and understanding to select the experiences that they deem may benefit students’ learning. And then, as Schivelbusch says in his article, Railway and Journey, technology has the effect of “shrinking and expanding spaces”. It is not only true about railways, from which he drew the above conclusion, it also applies to the multi media and and interactive technology that people are using today in an educational setting. With technology, teachers can expose students to the “experience” they are not familiar with through the “shrinking and expansion of space and time”, and make the experience “educative” according to the teacher’s understanding.

I was observed an instructor teaching a class about Japanese Americans during the Second World War in Queens College during the “Open Teaching Week” held by the Teaching and Learning Center of The Grad Center, and I feel that he vividly demonstrated how a teacher could use technology to help students to learn history through “experience”. While introducing to the students about how Japanese Americans were “relocated” to Hawaii and eventually sent out of America after the Pearl Harbor attack, the instructor presented photos shot during the years when the historical event happened, propaganda videos made by the U.S. government about the “relocation program”, and the transcript of the video to the students in order for them to “experience” what it feels like if they were in the shoes of Japanese Americans at that time, who had grown up in the U.S. and had to face the reality of being sent “back” to a country they hardly knew. While presenting the multimedia materials, the instructor also asked questions to encourage the students to think critically about how the U.S. government presented the whole “relocation” program in order to “attract” Japanese Americans to “voluntarily” to be sent out of the country eventually. This is a great example of using technology to provide “educative” experience to students through its “shrinking and expanding” space effect: The students were exposed to experiences that they may or may not be familiar with – they were very young and a lot of them were not Japanese Americans, and they were situated in New York and may or may not have been to “relocated” to Hawaii to face the reality of being expelled out of the country. However, instructional technology, well blended in the verbal instruction, shrinked the time and space for students, brought them back to the very time and space of the historical event, contextualized and historicized the knowledge they were learning, and then expanded the time and space in the classroom through engaging their existing experiences and their thinking.

The following are a few questions inspired by the readings of this week:

  1. Dewey’s theory of experiential education reminds me of the popular “task-based” learning (https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/a-task-based-approach)nowadays. If you are familiar with “task-based learning”, do you think it is a pedagogy inspired by and embodied the concept of “experiential education”? Why or why not? If not, then what do you think experiential education actually means in teaching practices? Is it meaningful to educational practice? Why or why not?
  1. As Dewey says: “It is a ground for legitimate criticism, however, when the ongoing    movement of progressive education fails to recognize that selection and organization of subject matter for study and learning is fundamental”. What kinds of subject matters should be selected as part of the curriculum? Do you agree with the current trend of cutting budgets for arts in the united states, represented by President trump’s budget plan (http://www.npr.org/2017/03/16/520401246/trumps-budget-plan-cuts-funding-for-arts-humanities-and-public-media) ? Why or why not?

3.How do Dewey’s chapters about “Social Control”, “The Nature of Freedom”, and “The Meaning of Purpose” speak to the critics of “the banking method” in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed? What do you think the “purpose”, or “means and goals of education” is?

4.In Dewey’s article, he talks about the following aspects of experiential learning:

“It is a sound educational principle that students should be introduced to scientific subject-matter and be initiated into its facts and laws through acquaintance with everyday social applications”, and Subject-matters should not be “learned in isolation”. Reflecting upon your own educational experiences, do you think the science education you have received observed or reflected, to some extent, this principle? What you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this principle?

  1. Dewey says “The future has to be taken into account at every stage of the educational process” in addition to the past and the present. How do you think teachers can, as Dewey said, “look into the past, the present and the future” in their educational practice? Is it too much to ask from a teacher since teachers nowadays usually have great workloads? How realistic do you think Dewey’s educational beliefs are to the teaching practice today and why?

Bass’ “Engines of Inquiry” Through an Educator’s Lens

Bass opens “Engines of Inquiry” noting that the contemporary version of the “technological sublime” once associated with the Industrial Revolution, is now associated with the “Information Age” centered finding solutions and using information efficiently (Brass 1).  Computers are now machines which make us more perfect and speed up our process of finding answers and our problem-solving abilities.  Brass notes Stuart Moulthrop analysis of this as “the game of perfect information,” and that it is precisely this understanding of technology as “perfect information” that has disillusioned educators and education leaders as to how they should use new technologies in education. Effective and meaningful learning with technology cannot take place with this misinformed understanding of technology is coupled with problems that already exist in education.

Bass’ paper explores the various kinds of learning that there are and the ways that technology can be used efficiently within and outside of these learning environments. To be effective pedagogues, then we must zoom out and understand the situations conducive to and enhanced by digital tools, and those that are not. Hence, technology cannot be used with the desire to integrate it, but with purposeful and imaginative intent in how the technology will be used.

He also argues that we cannot use technology effectively when there is a misunderstood notion of perfection and access to information via technology. Instead of access to perfect information, pedagogues can use technology democratically to foster engagement and to have students question and study their learning.  Therefore, students can engage with online and become responsible citizens with responsibility for knowledge creation.  Communication and accountability for this information will then become a collaborative effort.

Brass’ paper instinctively made me reflect on our society and the way in which we use technology as consumers. Every innovation that major technology companies come out with is their attempt to make the “perfect” technological society.  When thinking of technology as supplemental parts of ourselves that are used to extend our knowledge, arguably, people conceive it as a perfect means of exploring information.  After all, every iPhone is “the best iPhone ever,” and a perfect version of its predecessor. The idea of technology as perfect has permeated society with a misunderstanding of use that is evident in our schools.  And, when I think about teachers who use technology and those who don’t, the ones who don’t are scared not to have it “perfect.”  The most effective teachers who integrate technology are those who dive right in.

When I think about these questions with a teaching hat on, the most apparent provocation for me is: How can we do what Brass proposes in education institutions to help teachers use technology creatively, imaginatively, and purposefully as Bass so clearly argues?

On the other hand, when I think about Brass paper through the lens of my Urban Education experiences, it brings us back to the question of “What does it mean to teach in a democratic society” and “What is an education?”  Does everyone have the same understanding of what an education is? Therefore, are Brass’ arguments made here with technology universally relevant? Does our society want us to be citizens who contribute to and question the more in-depth and collective knowledge of the people within its society? And if so, how do we teach teachers how to do this in our educator preparation programs with all the other questions and anxieties they have going into the profession in the first place?


A novel use of Twitter Bots to study prejudice

Check out this Political Science study that uses Twitter Bots to assess responses to sanctions for racists tweets. This is really relevant to the topics we will cover in the last few weeks of the course. The author writes:

I employ an intervention designed to reduce the use of anti-black racist slurs by white men on Twitter. I collect a sample of Twitter users who have harassed other users and use accounts I control (“bots”) to sanction the harassers. By varying the identity of the bots between in-group (white man) and out-group (black man) and by varying the number of Twitter followers each bot has, I find that subjects who were sanctioned by a high-follower white male significantly reduced their use of a racist slur.

If you are interested in this topic and/or methodology, the paper is worth a read. I put it in our Group Files. You can skip over the lit review, which is very PoliSci, and read the methodology section, which is really translatable across disciplines. The results are much more nuanced than the abstract, including the fact that a significant percentage of the users had a reaction to out-group comments, causing them to increase their harassment.

Switch in Oct. 16th and Oct. 23rd classes

Because of a schedule conflict for our guest speaker, Luke Waltzer, we have had to switch the Oct. 16th and Oct. 23rd classes (both of which are about pedagogy). Please note the change in the online class syllabus (above), and be sure to do the new reading (Dewey, Bass, etc.) for the Oct. 16th class, rather than on the 23rd when it was originally scheduled in the syllabus.

Disruptive Innovation in Higher Ed

In The Innovative University, Christensen and Eyring introduce several means for disruptively innovating higher education and to revitalize the embedded academic culture that has not changed much in 150 years, which had mostly just grown and improved upon tried and true practices of educating students in higher education.  Some of the disruptions include, but are not limited to the following:

  • removal of intercollegiate athletics,
  • offering classes throughout the calendar year,
  • faculty scholarship should focus on integrative and applied forms over discovery,
  • more collaboration with students on faculty scholarship
  • consolidation and specialization of programs offered at a particular institution – program prioritization
  • offering credit for life / work experience
  • provide more experiential learning opportunities (i.e. Internships)
  • articulation agreements with high schools, community colleges, and companies
  • changes in accreditation practices to address different learning outcomes
  • technological changes that allow for students to learn at their own pace, increase cognitive outcomes, and provide adaptive technologies

The authors also point out that the value of a higher education is often intagnible in the form of value of social tolerance, personal responsibility, and respect for the rule of law.

In The Disruption Machine, Jill Lepore also points out that colleges and universities have been “subjected to disruptive innovation” but are not industries in the same way as other companies that have benefited from disruption.  Schools have “obligations that lie outside the realm of earnings” like the social values introduced through a college education as mentioned above.

What additional disruptive innovation is needed in the university to curb the rising cost of higher education and to better prepare college graduates for the modern workforce?  How will these disruptions maintain the social obligations that universities have long bestowed upon the graduates of the institutions?

Austerity Blues, Supremacist Whites, and Digital Reds

In reading the chapters this week from Austerity Blues, I couldn’t help but see the history of the SUNY/CUNY struggle through the haunting glow of Nelson Rockefeller’s ego.

Figure 1: Nelson Rockefeller showing his respect for SUNY students, 1976.

To share some personal bias, I am completely spellbound by the vile and repugnant history of the Rockefeller dynasty. It is truly a family history I love to hate. They are completely entwined with many horrors of history– chiefly the support and maintenance of American white supremacy.

With the exception of his scandalous death, Nelson’s legacy remains largely untarnished in the neo-liberal telling of history. As the namesake of “Rockefeller republican”, he is sometimes retroactively praised for his expansions of public goods and work against discrimination. He may have been the most progressive Rockefeller, even on issues of race, but that is a bar you couldn’t lower without a shovel. Continue reading