Friday, July 14, 2006

Pigeon holes and perceptions

As online courses become more the exception than the norm for the way learning solutions are structured, I find I deal with a variety of reactions when I propose the sort of learner-driven "black bag of knowledge" approach I've posted about before on this blog. People tend to have a preconceived notion about things and have to change gear when something doesn't behave the way they expected. Forced out of their nice safe comfort zone of things they have taken for granted, the initial response is often resistance, as people imagine all manner of worst case scenarios. Sometimes we need to demonstrate something in context for people to believe that it will work.

I think the whole DOPA issue may well have arisen due to assumptions being made by people who haven't observed social media at work in the classroom context.

For the past few months, my husband and I have had to tolerate umpteen people asking us when we were going to get our younger son's hair cut (he sports - by choice - shoulder length curls). I presume that he has had to put up with even more of this. Our view is that it's only hair, it's his hair and there are more important things to fight about, which is exactly what we have said on countless occasions.

Last night, he played the bass guitar with a band in his end-of-year, end-of-key-stage school concert. He put together his own outfit (suit trousers, basketball boots, a white shirt with the top button undone and a tie with the knot halfway down his chest) and totally carried it off. After the concert, more than one person commented on how much he looked the part of a bassist (I had to agree: he had it all going on, down to all the right "moves") and how good he was. I asked one of his new-found (adult) fans what she thought of his hair. She declared it "totally cool" and begged me not to force him to have it cut (as if!).

So when people see him as a 12 year old church-going school boy, they find his hair inappropriate, but when they shift their paradigms and see him as the bass player of a preteen rock band, it's a different story.

Like my son, we are up against it as we try to persuade people that putting the control of learning into the hands of the learner is a Good Thing. Once they see it in context, the penny may drop, but we still have to get them to let us put it in place so that they can see it....

It all comes back to control. I am happy to relinquish control of his hairstyle to my son. Management faces the same challenge in terms of the control of what, when and how learners learn.

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