New Class, New WordPress

RS-450: Sustainable Communities

Why? Fits the schedule I have to keep, meets the upper-division requirements.

What? Not just being green, being less degenerative. Make the world better, create a livable world, become better and more well-rounded citizens.

Posts? Weekly homework requires a post on two or more topics, as given by the professor.

Brief much? Yes.

Now that’s out of the way, here is the actual work:

John Seely Brown presents an alternative to “Sage on the Stage”, ironically while standing on an actual stage, after an introduction that certainly paints him as a sage. The idea of teaching as a mentor to groups is certainly a good one though, based on the results they saw in field trials. The fact that it initially failed to scale, until staff were educated on how to shift methods is interesting as well. (Which method was used to teach them I wonder?) From personal experience, I can say I certainly have learned better in the group mentoring environment when compared to traditional methods. This style of teaching is certainly not new: While on active duty in the US Marines, we were trained to give both traditional classes with outlines and learning objectives, as well as more impromptu training sessions called “hip-pocket classes.” The hip-pocket classes were meant to be group-based, and focused on teaching a specific skill or piece of knowledge, within small groups.

What struck me as humorous was the new technologies he mentioned, like MySpace and Nixty.

In regards to other alternative methods of teaching, the one the sticks out the most in my head is Kahn Academy and the “flipped” classroom. For anyone not familiar with this, it boils down to recording lectures, and assigning the video as homework, and then using classroom time for student-teacher interaction and focused help. This method also allows for the lectures to be curated and presented by the “best of the best” and refined until they are nearly perfect. This frees up the on-site teacher to focus on explaining the nuances and helping those that need more help. The ability to rewind, pause, and replay certainly help with understanding and retention as well. I have actually used Kahn academy videos to stay up to speed when I have had to miss classes due to illness.

Some final thoughts and concerns on sustainability: I know I have a very small understanding of the topic as it is presented by our professor. I expect that to change as we go along. My concern now is that it appears to be centered around decentralization, and the use of processes that must not be degenerative. This seems good on the surface, but it goes contrary to what I think is necessary for some activities that require massive effort. For example, if you consider space exploration a worthy cause, how can a space program be made sustainable? Certainly the efforts by SpaceX (reusable boosters) and United Launch Alliance (Oxygen/Hydrogen fuels) reduce the amount of wastefulness, but how can they “go past zero” to become sustainable? How, as a species, can we retain the advantages of economies of scale in production, and specialized labor, but decentralize at the same time? Hopefully I can continue to write about this last section as we progress through the class. I think it may be very interesting to see how my understanding and thoughts change.


One thought on “New Class, New WordPress

  1. Some very good and thoughtful questions Sean. Those should be answerable by the end of our term. The hip-pocket classes that you describe sound like fun. And I too enjoy the Khan Academy videos once in a while.


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