A matter of context
Posted June 23, 2011on:
It’s strange how some things get triggered in one’s mind. I get most of my a-ha moments when I am about to sleep or when I shower. That is why I have my iPhone and Evernote near me all the time. Too bad they aren’t waterproof.
Anyway, this video of a journalist trying to tell the Dalai Lama a joke (that crashed and burned very quickly) reminded me of a conversation I had almost a year ago.
A group of us went on a study trip to the US to get ideas on e-portfolios amongst other things. At a social gathering, I mentioned to a fellow teacher educator how technology could be replicate, enrich, enable or transform what we do in education.
I mentioned how technology could be used to replicate or enrich how we already teach and how the other two concepts, enabling and transforming, had more to do with learning rather than teaching. I also presented my concepts as a hierarchy of difficulty (e.g., easy to replicate existing teaching, difficult to transform learning).
My conversation partner disagreed with technology as an “enabler” because she had a negative view of the word, e.g., how one might be an enabler of someone else’s addiction. My perspective more positive: Using technology in ways that enable learning that could not otherwise take place in the absence of that technology.
It dawned on me then how important context and semantics are when trying to sell ideas to other people. Take the use of the word “resistance” for example. It will have different meanings to a police officer, a freedom fighter and a physics professor!
Returning to the video, the breakdown in communication could have originated in a lack of a shared understanding of what a pizza was or what “one with everything” meant. This was an issue with semantics. But there also was an issue of context: Why tell the joke in the first place?
This is a reminder to me to be where my learners are at and to realize what they might not understand.