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Dogme Days

In reply to a request on the highly-esteemed Kalinago English blog

Materials-mediated teaching is the ‘scenic’ route to learning, but the direct route is located in the interactivity between teachers and learners, and between the learners themselves. Learning is a social and dialogic process, where knowledge is co-constructed rather than transmitted or imported from teacher/coursebook to learner.

Picture the scene, if you will. A busload of tourists are driving on the road through a large arid desert. Occasionally, sighs are heard as the bus rumbles past the dessicated remains of what might once have been a very large creature. The affable guide at the front of the bus reads from her notes, ” Bison once stalked the land…” As the bus drives on past cacti and vultures, the tourists’ satisfaction builds. They are getting everything that they paid for. Knowledge. A unique experience. The sensation of having embarked upon a journey that will end with them getting to the pre-arranged rendezvous. The smile. Snap pictures. Chat. And then…through the haze of the baking sun, they see a solitary figure standing in the middle of nowhere. He has jet black hair and thick-rimmed spectacles. He doesn’t have a map.

I'd-a gottwaway with it too, if it hadn't been for you Medding kids...

To the horror of the tourists, who have paid huge amounts of money to be on this bus, benefitting from the air conditioning that keeps them comfortably acclimatised and the pearls of wisdom that tumble out of the script from the guide at the front, the bus driver stops. With a hiss of hydraulics, the door pops open and up steps the smartly-dressed young man. The driver stands, embraces the man. Both turn and look at the passengers. Both have a demonic look in their eye. The bus driver speaks first, his accent antipodean. “Does anybody have any idea about where we’re meant to be going?”

Well, do you?

Categories: Commentaries on TTC
  1. October 11, 2010 at 22:32

    I am so sorry it’s taken me this long to come back to this post – busy, busy days – but I’m back to giggle for the second time.

    But also to talk about the very serious point behind the irony… the fear. I don’t know about you but even today, walking into a brand new group, where I haven’t had the “require a coursebook mandate” given and I have to start it all from scratch and tell them right off the bat we won’t be using materials, that I still carry something in my bag as a just-in-case. 999 times out of a thousand, I don’t need it but the fear, years and years later, still sits in my belly on the journey on over!

    Do you feel this way ever too or am a bad dogme girl?

    • dfogarty
      October 12, 2010 at 05:08

      I think I MAY have got over the fear, but still carry the guilt. This may be my latent catholicism giving me a twinge. And this is the point I have just made somewhere else – we are often seen as the bullies who storm in and rip up the books, but the truth of the matter is that we are often confounding people’s expectations and having to defend our actions.
      I no longer tell the students that we won’t be using the coursebook. That quickly becomes apparent. I DO draw attention to what has been learned and/or studied at the end of the class. I think there’s still a need to reassure people that what seemed like 2 hours of purposeless chat has just yielded up the fruit of a very rich harvest (unlike the arid desert of the classroom above).
      I have no doubt whatsoever that it does not take long before YOUR students are enjoying a much richer experience than they might ever hope to get from some published pap. Abandon that fear! Embrace the guilt!

  2. dfogarty
    October 12, 2010 at 04:56

    What’s it come to when a man has to comment on his own posts? Blogs as vehicles for narcissism? I have far too low an opinion of myself.

    But I did want to spell out some of the above. It’s not just a trite parable (well, that’s not how I intended it to be, anyway). Most of it will be obvious. The tourists are hardly paying too much attention and are fooled into believing that this is a unique experience, as the bus trundles along the road prepared by somebody probably long since dead and they stare out at Key Features that are interpreted for them by the guide at the front.

    Once Scott and Luke (for it is they) are on board, the journey gets interrupted. No longer are the passengers passively lapping up the well-meaning crap from the guide. Now they are going to have to contribute actively to the experience or they’re not going to move anywhere. They are now Actengers. Hurrah! They way that they are going to have to interact with their environment has been changed. And the point of human endeavour, as Mr Marx said, is to change the world in which we live. Not just to live it.

    • October 14, 2010 at 22:07

      🙂 I got it and it’s very clever.

      I never feel guilty… I’ll go with fear, it’s the best part of me: the jumping anyway.

  3. Luke Meddings
    October 14, 2010 at 15:33

    Diarmuid, I hope we’re insured for that coach…

  1. October 14, 2010 at 23:19

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