Thursday, June 02, 2011

Our epistemology, and entrepreneurial learning

Have you struggled to understand or explain the word epistemology?

Try this:
learning can be framed around the traditional Hellenistic knowledge dichotomy episteme and techn√©. Episteme stands for big picture learning, for learning about the world as a whole and one’s position in it. It represents education towards cultural citizenship, i.e. the responsibilities and contributions one makes to the society by participating in the community and generating culture. Techn√© instead focuses on learning about special traits, i.e. learning the techniques of a profession and producing economical value by performing the tasks associated with it through the division of labor – this knowledge allows for what Delanty (2001) dubbed technological citizenship.

If that's an accurate depiction, then I think I reject this framework for thinking about knowledge. To suggest that technical skills and knowledge is not concerned with big picture and culture, seems a ridiculous distinction to make. I must be missing the point (again). Is this really the (epistemological) framework for thinking about knowledge that our research and 'higher' education institutions follow?
This quote comes from an article recently suggested to me called, Entrepreneurial learning in the networked age: How new learning environments foster entrepreneurship and innovation. By Max Sengles, John Seely Brown and Howard Rheingold. It seems, as I begin reading through it, to be another article trying to explain the significance that computing and Internet technologies (and culture) has over notions of knowledge and learning. From, or I should say in their explanation, they are attempting to make the arguments for change. A change across the board, more inline with this so-called new understanding of knowledge and learning.

The sway that the subject of technology has over discussions about education and learning, is giving me increasing cause for concern. Absent from the explanations of new understandings of knowledge and learning, and their arguments for change, is some balance to the largely utopian ideals. The sub headings in the 'entrepreneurial learning' article for example, read like evangelical slogans, without a single word for caution or circumspect (that I could see by scanning). What would one include to strike a balance? Most obvious would be Postman, in particular his warnings in Technonopoly, but their could and should be many others. Surely we agree that technology gives potential to all traits of humanity, not just the bits we'd like to pick out.

For example, reading through the first few pages of 'entrepreneurial learning'..
Rather than developing in parallel with technology and modern businesses, education is still dominantly geared to condition its subjects to embody what Germans dub «Fachidioten» – people who are well suited to adapt into hierarchic organizations, and to perform repetitive tasks.

Are they suggesting that technology and modern business is going to somehow free us from fachidoten, because from where I sit, looking at corporations like Google for example, or worse Goldman and Sachs, it sure doesn't look like it. Perhaps their suggesting that corporations themselves are being challenged by "technology and modern business"? I wonder what the authors are going to make of Curtis' new doco, Machines of Loving Grace?

By focusing on the potential of innovative socio-technological learning environments, we address this discrepancy by proposing an enlightened humanistic educational paradigm

Enlightened humanistic educational paradigm! I feel like getting dressed up and putting on a wig. Is this article reading like it really is going to focus on the potential, in ALL its expected forms... oh but wait, it seems I can't get through a single sentence without a jolt of anxiety!

When all information is available, the educator’s challenge is to identify and select materials

Its a stark contradiction. Surely they'd rather not have an 'educator', most likely someone who has succeeded in a system of fachidoten, identify and select materials for people they'd class as 'learners'? And will there ever be a time when all information is available? Nothing new in that, plenty of potential for a not so pretty future really.

I think I have to stop reading... see if anyone challenges and motivates me to read more. So far I'm too uncomfortable to read on. I'd like to say however, that I respect the work and perspectives of the authors, despite my way of writing. I hope people can ignore my expressions here and see the point trying to be made. Show me how to discuss these points with civility and innocence - I'd like to remain in the conversations...

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