Elliot Eisner

13403-Eisner_newsBack in the late 1980s, I used to sit in the Library at Dartington College of Arts and read Elliot Eisner.

I was fascinated by his advocacy of arts education. This had powerful connections with my work at Dartington.

At the time of writing my PhD thesis, I was particularly interested in his views on connoisseurship and criticism.

I liked the proposal that ‘Connoisseurship is something that needs to be worked at – but it is not a technical exercise. The bringing together of the different elements into a whole involves artistry’.

I have revisited his work regularly since my Dartington days.

Elliot passed away on 10 January 2014. He was 80 years old.  Larry Cuban wrote of him:

Eisner’s eloquence in writing and speech gave heart to and bolstered many educators who felt that the humanities, qualitative approaches to evaluation and artistic criticism had been hijacked by those who wanted only numbers as a sign of effectiveness.

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Photo Credit

Elliot Eisner, Stanford Graduate School of Education

Dartington Hall, Devon (Zoe Rimmer, CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

 

Mobility and Engagement

On my way home the other day I listened to a Radio National Artworks program.

The discussion was about the show en route  a the creation of a group One Step At A Time Like This.

The ideas discussed took me back to my days at Dartington College of Arts in the late 1980s and early 90s when I had access to some remarkable performance artists and installations. I remember one student examination piece in particular. It involved a journey of discovery around the Dartington Hall Gardens.

I was delighted to discover that Leigh Blackall had heard the program too and I enjoyed his blog post Situated art, situated learning. I noted in particular Leigh’s use of a William Hanks quote:

… learning is a way of being in the social world, not a way of coming to know about it. Learners, like observers more generally, are engaged both in the contexts of their learning and in the broader social world within which these contexts are produced. Without this engagement, there is no learning, and where the proper engagement is sustained, learning will occur.

As I was reflecting on these thoughts I happened to hear a great interview on another Radio National program, Bush Telegraph. Centrelink on the Road is a great example of a mobile service to the community. I was fascinated by Kath Sacks and Debra Inskip’s discussion of their work.

I found the juxtaposition of en route and Centrelink semi-trailers delightful and was charmed by the passion that drove both groups.

Photo Credit

Dartington Hall 05

Discussing Performance

I have been involved in coaching canoe slalom for the last two months. It is a busy time of the year in Australia when athletes compete for places in Australian teams. I travel to the Penrith Whitewater Stadium twice a week from my home in Mongarlowe. Each visit involves a 600 kilometre round trip and during these trips I listen to Radio National … there are some great programs at 4 a.m. to help focus my attention on the very quiet roads (I missed this program on recommendation and social networks!).

All week I have been musing about the CCK08 wrap held on Tuesday morning (Australia time) and it is fascinating how many other items have attracted my attention this week. I thought I would bring all these strands together in this post to explore some of my interests in performance and the connectedness of people and ideas. My most recent journey on Saturday morning (28 February) was the catalyst. During that journey between Braidwood and Tarago I listened to a fascinating discussion of whistleblowing in the workplace between The National Interest‘s presenter Peter Mares and Labor MP Mark Dreyfus, the chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee. The discussion was framed by this observation “History tells us that there’s usually a high price to be paid for whistle-blowing. Organisations being challenged understandably turn nasty and there have been few protections, even for individuals who act out of a sense of honesty or integrity.”

The next hour from Tarago to Exeter was filled by Music Deli. Many years ago I worked at Dartington College of Arts and became fascinated by ethnomusicology at a time when my interest in ethnography was developing. Saturday morning’s program provided a great stimulus to reflect on those times. In the program there were two studio sessions the first featured the clarinet player Bobby Dimitrievski and his band from Sydney. He talked about his Macedonian musical heritage. In the second session, Italian musician Enrico Noviello sang, played and talked about traditional music from Puglia. I was enraptured by Bobby and Enrico’s discussions of oral tradition in music making. The podcast can be found here.

Early on Tuesday morning I was set for the CCK08 discussions and was keen to be part of the sharing ethos so prevalent in CCK08 and to be involved in the practice of connectedness. Stephen wrote that he was delayed in participating in the Elluminate session by clearing snow at his home, I failed to arrive at all because of Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3 Lulin). Conversations about CCK08 between the thirty-two participants went on without me and I became an asynchronous participant! However, I did see the comet pass over my part of Australia and thought that the once in a thousand years experience was a very important moment for me. (It was interesting to note other networks at work during Lulin’s journey and noted this set of photographs from the Alborz Mountains in Iran.) On reflection CCK08 was that kind of experience for me too.

I have written a number of posts about CCK08 in this blog and most of them are reflections-in-action. I have written some reflections-on-action too. As a result of CCK08 I think and act differently. My understanding of teaching and learning has been transformed and I hope I have a group of friends who will amplify my understanding and practice. My participation in CCK08 was part of a wonderful cosmos of energy, thought and engagement that CCK08 brought.

I have stored many of the resources shared in CCK08. I am storing my photograph of Lulin too!

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I took a series of photographs with a Fuji camera using varying settings. Some of them have no trace of the comet! In retrospect that seems to be some course participants’ experience of CCK08 as they discussed the tools and knowledge required for participation in CCK08. Throughout the course I discovered new ways to communicate and share. I hope that by taking a fallibilist approach to learning I grew my understanding by the on-going inclusion of ideas and tools.

I mentioned earlier that I had been listening to Radio National. It struck me that no one talks about being a lurker of radio channels. I discovered the term ‘lurker’ during CCK08 discussions and note that it reappeared in the Wrap discussions. I have assumed that each of us has a different approach to engagement in learning. I find it hard to use the verb ‘to lurk’ let alone call someone a ‘lurker’. I noted too that there was some discussion about what to call a CCK ‘course’. I have tended to think of courses in a very literal sense. In the sport of canoe slalom participants navigate their way through a series of gates. On natural rivers the flow of the water varies as does the course of the river. Water courses and canoe slalom courses vary enormously even during the same event. I felt very comfortable in CCK08 and like Oh Laura was ‘a glass of water longing for the ocean’. I think the Wrap had some excellent suggestions for CCK09.

What struck me about many of the participants in CCK08 was their polymath interests. Last week there was enormous discussion about another polymath, Gail Trimble. This post attracted my attention on Thursday last week. I read, in particular, that:

The acclaim she has received for her stellar knowledge – “In the cautionary poem by Hilaire Belloc, what was the ‘trick that everyone abhors’, practiced by Rebecca…” to which she correctly answered “slamming doors” – has not been one-way. She has been ridiculed on social networking sites for being too geekily smart and one newspaper this week asked: “Why do so many hate this girl simply for being clever?”

I find it remarkable that a person with such a wonderful knowledge could be viewed as a threat to anyone. It seemed to me that CCK08 was able to celebrate knowing and the introduction of guests amplified the course for me. I am hopeful that CCK09 will develop its use of guests and the explicit role of the external voice that Dave Cormier provided. I am keen to participate in CCK09 and to be part of the evolution of a very special community. Next time around I may be even a participant in Moodle!

Whilst pondering all this I was dipping into Facebook and catching up with friends. One of my friends, Michael Herlihy, has been very active this week and has posted some great videos. (I have posted this about one of his video posts.) Michael posted two videos about sport performance and the videos provide an excellent end to my week of contemplating performance and the connectedness of people and ideas.

CCK08 opened up the enormous possibilities of growing through sharing. I have spent much of my last thirty years in elite sport. In this environment it was assumed that success was based upon secrecy. Michael’s video post about the analysis of Irish sporting performance offers an interesting juxtaposition of the openness and secrecy debate.

Alistair Gray offers this assessment of Ireland’s performance at the Beijing Olympics



This is Pat Hickey‘s response

The Irish Times gives its take on the review of Irish Olympic performance here and provides this brief summary of the key points of the review of performance.

What is exciting for me is that this discussion is a public one. CCK08 has given me enormous confidence to pursue an openness approach to performance that recognises that sharing enables transformation. There have been so many instances this week where the power of sharing is so evident. I see possibilities everywhere. I am excited that they are real opportunities rather than imagined connections.