Definitions and Knowledge in Successive Educational Media

A presentation at The Second International Conference on Pedagogies and Learning: Meanings under the microscope
on 18 September 2005
at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia

by Steve McCarty
Professor, Osaka Jogakuin College, Japan
President, World Association for Online Education (WAOE)

KEYWORDS: contextualization, discipline, paradigm, expertise, profess

c to brainstorm with international colleagues the implications of the recent research paper: "Cultural, Disciplinary and Temporal Contexts of e-Learning and English as a Foreign Language." A framework for understanding concepts in new disciplines in their full dimensionality also sheds light on why definitions of concepts such as in e-learning have been so inadequate. Consider the supreme irony of Plato's Socrates: "would that wisdom [or knowledge] could be poured from the full cup into the empty one." It offers faint praise to interlocutors believing that someone can have "lots of knowledge" that can either be transmitted from teacher to student or stolen off the Web. Knowledge is more like expertise: when the actual author walks, for better or worse, his or her knowledge also walks, leaving only information that others need their own background knowledge or expertise to understand. c Choosing educational content to profess involves turning specialist information into generalist communication, offering interaction opportunities through which students construct their own knowledge. Another metaphor is that, after plays became an established genre, Shakespeare could write that "all life's a stage." Each successive medium redefines the previous media and renders them identifiable in terms of paradigms. Concepts such as "offline," "f2f" and even "analog" used as a loanword in Japanese discourse arose from the newly established digital online media, rendering previously taken-for-granted assumptions about classroom education identifiable as a paradigm. A second meaning of "stage" could apply to successive educational media, where for example CAI, CALL and Network-based Language Learning are not defined in the abstract but in practice, contextualized in the historical development of a discipline. Constructivism arose contemporaneously with online education, but they may actually represent separable disciplines, since online education is liable to be adopted without constructivism in most educational cultures. c will report on one test of the universality of constructivism with online education across cultures. There are cross-cultural dimensions also in the salience of distance and the importance of face in contrasting Australia with Japan, cultural contexts that affect the uptake of distance education even if "Webagogues" realize that space and time barriers are now largely surmountable.

Outline of the PowerPoint Presentation [ download the .ppt file ]

Deconstructing Definitions

Definitions up to now have generally been:
   circular, so dictionary definitions are often useless
   two-dimensional, incomplete, lacking in full dimensionality
   decontextualized, not specifying related phenomena
   culture-bound or monocultural:
      not even bilingual dictionaries explain the cultural context
   cross-sectional, changing over time but not longitudinal
   different depending on the discipline or perspective
   not agreed upon in new fields, definitions are in contention
   influenced by the power and position of definers or gate-keepers
   changing with technological advances or new media

Defining Understanding

   Contextualizing concepts - dynamically, not absolutely
      Cultural, temporal and disciplinary contexts
   Defining concepts in practice - not in the abstract
   Grasping the full dimensionality of concepts
   Recognizing other disciplines and viewpoints
   Seeing relations, the interdependent cumulativeness of all history
   Global outlook as the default context
   Sorting out content, media and perception
   Tracing changes through successive media

Understanding Knowledge

   Knowledge is (the living potential) to know now
   Professional knowledge is expertise
   It is not a thing or commodity that can be stolen
   It cannot be transmitted to others (cf. the Socratic irony)
   It is most often confused with information
   Steve McCarty confuses it with wisdom :-)
   Nevertheless professors ought to profess
      to uphold academic ways of distinguishing truth
      because learners can construct their own knowledge

Successive Educational Media

   "All lifefs a stage" - e.g., now "f2f", "offline"
   With new media all previous are redefined
   Innumerable virtual learning environments
   Accelerating development of new media
   Accelerating educational applications
   Accelerating uptake by
      educators, and for professional development
      learners, in school or work, formal or informal
   Effects on definitions and knowledge

Podcasting as an Example

   iPod .mp3 "music player" and iTunes
   Criteria for popularization of technologies
   Community, Web services form around it
   Effects on previous media
   Effects on definitions and knowledge
      E.g., "Offline" gains a more positive meaning
   Educational uses suitable to the media
      Benefits of portable sound files and recording
      Listening to foreign languages or accents
      Spoken Libraries
      Podcasting blog example: Japancasting

For Further Research

"Cultural, Disciplinary and Temporal Contexts of e-Learning and English as a Foreign Language"
eLearn Magazine: Research Papers, April 2005:

"Spoken Internet to go: Popularization through Podcasting."
The JALT CALL Journal, 1 (2), August 2005 [reprinted at]:

World Association for Online Education (WAOE) Spoken Libraries project


All linked from the online library Bilingualism and Japanology Intersection,
an Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library (based at ANU/Canberra) 4-star site:

e-mail the author

Web page updated on 6 September 2005