DAILY INSIGHT: Summer Reading: Kenneth Burke's Permanence and Change, Part 2 - Tech Learning

DAILY INSIGHT: Summer Reading: Kenneth Burke's Permanence and Change, Part 2

Think before you speak.  
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By Jen LaMaster, CIO Advisor

Part Two: Avoidance and Escape

Burke continues his trained incapacity discussion further by introducing avoidance and escape. It is natural for human beings to avoid an “unsatisfactory situation” (the book was written in 1954—Skinner, anyone?). Burke is more critical of those who use the term escape—the term focusing more “to designate any writer or reader whose interests and aims did not closely coincide with those of the critic.” Forbes magazine writer Rick Unger had to post this note at the end of an article on government spending


NOTE: Some of the comments to this piece have gotten well out of control, involving threats and obscenity to other commenters and myself. While I welcome and encourage comments from all points of view, obscene remarks are removed and not tolerated. I’ll be happy to jump back into the conversation and reply to some comments when those who are misusing the forum settle down.


And it happens in our hallowed halls of educations. During Sal Khan’s keynote address at BlackBoard World, the backchannel Twitterverse lit up with anti-Khan sentiment. Heck, I posted a picture of me standing cheesily before our presentation title slide to my college speech team alumni page and got a flame message about learning management systems being “so 1997.” (Really—flamed on Facebook, and from an alum who is an ed tech consultant!)

Earlier this summer I attended the Jesuit Secondary Education Association’s Symposium. It was focused on building adult Ignatian Learning Communities in our schools to meet the challenges of education for 2020. In table discussion, we explored our individual orientations and in dialogue identified where our trained incapacities hindered forward movement. We openly explored alternative strategies, weighing pros and cons based on experiences. I participate in a similar experience in Twitter #chats (#BYOT Chat – Thursday nights at 9pm EST ... shameless plug.) These two venues allowed for multiple orientations to dialogue without hyper-criticism and name calling. Ideas are freely shared, given and accepted.


I think Burke was trying to point out the challenge of dialogue when dealing with topics that make people uncomfortable because the dialogue challenges existing orientations (again, context is key). Related to educational technology—online learning, 1:1 initiatives, eBooks, mobile tools—the past 5 years have seen a dramatic upheaval in how we communicate, collaborate, consume and create. The alternative strategies may be overwhelming as they change the orientation too quickly or dramatically. Asking an educator to embrace a 1:1 program when they have never had a personal laptop is disorienting. Criticizing that same educator for trying to avoid or escape (I hear "resistant to change" a lot) is unfair.

I hope we remember this as we enter the 2012-13 school year. Recognize context, experience alternative strategies, and reflect on how to reorient in light of experience.

St. Ignatius in 1524.

Kenneth Burke in 1954.

You and me in 2012…

This will take time, but settle down, settle into the dialogue, and together, we can settle some of the challenges in orienting education in the 21st century.

Jen LaMaster is director of faculty development at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

See this and other blogs by Jen at Ed Tech Reflections.

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