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    Onderwijskrant Vlaanderen
    Vernieuwen: ja, maar in continuïteit!
    21-07-2014
    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Onderwijs. Myths in education (Palgrave, 2014)

    Myths in education

    by Marcus Harmes, Henk Huijser and Patrick Alan Danaher (Palgrave,2014).

    Voorstelling boek door prof. Fred Dervin 

    “At bottom, the intellectual, in my sense of the word, is neither a pacifier nor a consensus-builder, but someone whose whole being is staked on a critical  sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas, or ready-made  clichés, or the smooth, ever-so-accommodation confirmations of what the  powerful or conventional have to say, and what they do.”  Edward Said ( 1996: 23)

    The idea of myths, but also of acolytes such as imaginaries and even hoaxes, has been central   in   my   work  (Auger,   Dervin  &   Suomela-Salmi,   2009;   Dervin,   2012). Many myths from the field of education are reflected in the titles of my books and articles: the myth of the native speaker, myths around the notion of the ‘intercultural’, myths about study abroad and myths about Finnish education, among others.

    What   the   editors  and   the   authors   propose   corresponds   to   what  I   would   like   to   call Mythologies of Education ,   in  reference   to   a   book   by   Roland   Barthes,   published   in 1957. In this collection of essays Barthes examines myths of bourgeois culture and dissects   their   functioning   in  everyday   practices.   Barthes   (ibid.)   shows   how  myths naturalize certain norms and prevent people from being reflective about them. In other words myths can easily become ideologies. Some of his analyses resonate with many arguments  made  by  the   volume  authors:  For   Barthes   (ibid.)   certain  myths  remove history thus giving the impression that something simply exists and does not need to be questioned; myths allow the mere statement of fact to emerge and thus a certain idea of unquestionable Truth. Based on these two examples, one can easily see how dangerous myths can be for education.

    Now   let   us   examine   how   the   Mythologies   of   Education   are   enacted   in   the   volume. The   editors,   Marcus   K.   Harmes,   Henk   Huijser   and   Patrick  Alan  Danaher,  justify rightly the need for such a volume by explaining that “Given this diversity of myths concerning  contemporary   education,   it  is   timely   to   interrogate  a  selection   of   them, with   a  view  to  elucidating     their    origins   and   composition,   their  effects  and implications,   and   appropriate    ways   of   engaging   with    them”.   Some   chapters deconstruct, challenge but also – and that is very important – propose alternative ways of thinking, doing and researching. Interestingly some chapters consider myths to be “very   powerful   and   productive”,   especially   in   didactical   terms.  This   is,  I   believe, another stimulating vista for future research.

    The list of topics (read myths) covered in the volume corresponds to a very up-to-date ‘carnival’  of   myths.  The   volume  opens   with  myths   about  teaching  and  learning: Learner-centredness   vs.   Teacher; Intrinsic   and   extrinsic   motivation  ; Curriculum on paper vs. the observed teaching practice and implementation of staff.   The   reader  will  no  doubt   recognize   these  ‘old’  but   still topical myths, which need to be revisited again and again.

    I found the second part of the volume to be so exciting that I could not put the volume down. It deals with the much-hyped context of digital and online education. In all the countries I have visited recently everyone seems obsessed with jumping on the digital bandwagon.   In  my  own    department    for  example    we   have   been  urged   to  create Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I remember asking the person who made this   suggestion  what    MOOCs     were   –  he   had  no  idea  but  said  “Americans  are producing many !”…

    The authors of this section cover the following myths in relation to digital and online education: The rhetoric that surrounds digital literacy); Social, organisational, instructional and   technological  myths       Myths  about  online  education.

    Two ‘sub-myths ’ that appear in many chapters are, in my opinion, essential. The first myth concerns the idea of ‘Digital natives’ (as opposed to ‘Digital migrants’). I was born in  1974  and  owned  my   first  computer  at   the  end  of  the   1980s .. Does this make me an immigrant when I have owned a computer nearly my whole life? Using such labels in research and practice can give the impression of newness and innovation (yet another mythical term). As such the Academy of Finland is currently sponsoring a project under the label Newvisions of learning and teaching which centres on “Digital Natives”. When one reads the  description  of  the   project,   the  term  is  not  questioned  but  basically  accepted  as ‘true’:   “(the  researchers) are  currently  studying   the  development  of  the   mind  and brain of a generation they call “digital natives”. These are the young people who were born   and   who  have   grown  up   surrounded  by  new  technology  and  communications.

    (The research leader) says that a gap is now opening up between earlier generations and the children and young people of the digital age.” If we go back to Said (ibid.), is this the work of “someone whose whole being is staked on a critical sense, a sense of being unwilling to accept easy formulas, or ready-made clichés, or the smooth, ever- so-accommodation confirmations of what the powerful or conventional have to say, and   what   they  do”?   Another  important  ‘sub-myth’  that  appears  in  the chapter repetitively   relates   to  “the   idea  that  the  internet  is  a  panacea   for  the  issues  of increasing costs of higher education and increasing demand by students for authentic and     interactive   learning    opportunities” .

    The authors also suggest many ways out of myths in education. Barbara A. H. Harmes confirms   my   previous   comment  on  Mythologies  when   she   asserts   “It  is  only  by understanding these myths – and by interrogating the research relating to them – that positive action can be taken to address them”. In a similar vein, Adriana Ornellas and Juana Sancho explain “Deconstructing mythical thinking, in this case about the use of digital  ICT   in  education,  seems  fundamental  to  promote   critical  thinking,   construct sound  knowledge   and   prevent   ignorance-based   mistakes”.   For   Federico   Borges   and Anna Forés “myths as pockets of belief or understanding (that) require clarification, or revision”. The two scholars also propose a model for analysing myths which   is   intriguing   and   deserves  exploring.  They   propose   to   categorize   myths   into ‘out-dated’      myths,   ‘over-optimistic’    myths,   ‘drawback’   myths,   and   ‘confronted’ myths   (where  there   are   two    sides   to  the  same   myth,   an overstatement  and   an understatement). These are just examples of ways of examining myths, all the other chapters represent a minefield which will no doubt lead to more research on myths in education.

    To conclude I would like to insist on the fact that research and practice need to be more political   and  less  politically   correct  today.   Deconstructing   myths    –  thus‘attacking’   truths   and beliefs –  can   be   painful   for   both   the   listener   and   the   utterer. However this is more and more necessary. … Research on education is full of myths that still require our attention. My next targets are   already   decided   (in   order   of   irritation):   overreliance  on  Bourdieu,  the  idea  of social justice, and the concept of communities of practice. Like this volume, let’s now take myths seriously …

     




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