Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PL 36/09: When did the course start?

Filed under: LATINA — plinius @ 7:58 am

elephantThe LATINA course started on Monday. Or did it start before that?

One of the questions Helge posed on the first day was: when did course actually start? The automatic response would be: today. The consensus among the participants – after some discussion – was: the course started when they committed themselves to participating.

We might say: A course is not a static object, but a social process.

Courses start before they start – and continue after they end. One person might sign up three months before the formal opening. Another might do it three weeks before. When the sessions end, one participant might turn her attention to something completely different – and never ever come back to e-learning. Others might integrate the lessons learnt deeply into their professional lives..


zanzibarWe may call this personalization or even the social construction of reality. My LATINA is not identical with your LATINA. My Norway is not your Norway. My Tanzania is not your Tanzania.

Imagine Tanzania.

The various LATINAs are related, of course. The world is not a total chaos. But I would not use the story of the four blind men and the elephant. That takes the elephant for granted – seen by the seeing, but not by the blind.

LATINA is not an elephant. Elephants are born. LATINA – and Norway and Tanzania – are created objects. Social entities are constructed by the people. LATINA is a course because students, teachers and administrators coordinate their activities – making it into a course. The moment they stop collaborating, the course itself vanishes. A party without guests is not a party.


norwayboatIn Norway, constructivism is quite a popular term among teachers and their professors.

Imagine Norway.

Taken seriously, the concept is extremely radical – and very much opposed to ordinary ways of describing the world. Benedict Anderson sees nations as constructed entities: he dcalls them «imagined communities». Few Norwegians – or Tanzanians, Ukrainians and Nepalese – would accept that. Their nations are real, substantial, out there.

Norway is the language, the fiords, the trolls and the king, the Midsummer Night and the Midnight Sun, the Saami in the North and the sailors on the Seven Seas. As a Norwegian I admit it: Norway feels very real.

But that’s how imagination works …

Communities of practice

worldThe Vikings did not see themselves as living in Norway – as opposed to Sweden or Denmark. Nations came later. They were attached to their local communities and regions. The country of Norway is a created object. The process of nation-building took several hundred years.

Imagine the world.

From a local point of view, LATINA is an effort in course-building. From a global point of view, LATINA is a tiny little part of today’s struggle for world-building.

Courses, nations and the digital world are not elephants, but communities of practice.


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