Posted by: arieliondotcom | October 16, 2008

Judge Judy, the Rosetta Stone and the River of Complexity

Right or wrong, I felt vindicated while reading this week’s reading on Chaos, Complexity and Language Learning .  One of my guilty pleasures is watching the television show “Judge Judy” where a sharp-tongued judge hears cases from everyday, real life people.  One of her favorite sayings (which is always screamed as she is a New Yorker as I am) is “That isn’t TRUE!  It doesn’t MAKE SENSE and if it doesn’t MAKE SENSE, it’s NOT TRUE!”  Now, lately, she has taken to saying “USUALLY not true”, but it annoys me just the same.  It doesn’t make sense that a good looking, affable, genius would be a mass murderer and keep people in his freezer.  But if you met Jeffrey Dahlmer you’d know it was true.  Judy’s statement makes sense in the linear sense.  Good looking, intelligent, affable men have no reason to chop people up.  But as the article discusses in terms of learning, there are complexity issues that are involved.  Neural, emotional, environmental, societal issues come into play and there is no saying what will effect that otherwise healthy boy into a becoming a lunatic.  So I feel vindicated (rightly or wrongly) because the universe doesn’t make sense.  Humanity doesn’t make sense.  And saying that only those things that make sense are true is a fallacy (and…doesn’t make sense).

I think, too, that Dr. Harshbarger has hit upon the success of the language learning program “Rosetta Stone.”  Like other immersive programs, Rosetta Stone does not (at least in the instances where I’ve seen it used) use any of the traditional methods of text learning of a second language.  Instead, photographs are shown and spoken words are heard, the same way a child unable to yet read can still learn language.  This allows the mind to make connections with concepts outside of (non-linear) the traditional parameters.  As Stephen Downes says in his “Toward a Future Knowledge Society” (slide 20), because of Complexity, these connections are not linear.  Therefore, as Harshbarger says,  the totality of associations by the learner cannot be predicted by the designer of the learning in total.  The success in immersive language learning is that the learner makes his/her own connections and associations and, in the process, learns that “chien” in French is “dog” even though he/she may have associated it with a dog on a chain and chain sparks an association of “chien” and no training developer could have foreseen that.

This, in turn made me ponder whether the answer to teaching with Complexity and Connectivism is to look for (and perhaps “be”) a river rather than a well.  Rather than forcing students to come to the well to draw knowledge, the “teacher” is responsible only for pointing students toward the river(s) of knowledge out in the world.  Through the workings of complexity, streams and rivulets will form and each student is free to drink deeply from whatever source he or she likes along the way.  The teacher says, “Listen for the river” as you go through life.   The river is that main subject (whatever that is), but the tributaries have their value as well.

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