Vol. 15 : No. 10
Michael J. Buell
Introductory Post September 24, 2001
Happy to hear from my "road trip", cross-country traveling classmate! When I first composed this section's introductory post, I was contemplating the actual "layout" of the electronic classroom. This past spring I participated in my first Internet experience, and the style of that "program" differed sharply from the environment of this course. The "system" did not use the concept of "individual, personal spaces", and followed more of a "newsgroup" format. Even NAU appears to have multiple "online" learning environments operating concurrently. For this course we are using WebCT, and the "personal space" approach to correspondence. Another NAU site offers a classroom of "dated" postings. In other words, the assignment itself represents the first post, and from that point on other posts are "turned in", and a linear "time" line of posts develops.
Someone will complete his/her assignment and post it "below' the instructors initial post. Then someone might respond to the post, or another classmate might "record" his/her assignment, and the next person could respond to both posts. All of this is accomplished by scrolling from the first response down to the most recent. The posts are placed in numerical (date) order, and one finds oneself scrolling back and forth, and it lacks the organization of the "personal space" approach. Another draw back to this approach is that at times it can be very challenging to relate a particular response to a given post. This is where the "personal space" approach (and its internal news group format) definitely simplifies the "connectivity" between a particular post and a given response. On the plus side it is "impossible" to miss a post, since they are all visible and numbered, just as long as you begin at the top and follow the (one) thread to the end. Of course the skillful use of "mark all read" (as it is available in our WebCT course) also eliminates the potential for missed posts. Thus, I was thinking of course format, and I am so curious as to your concept of the "personal side", please explain (Big Smile!).
In regards to the "Internet text" taking the place of lectures, I have a slightly different perspective that might be related to having experienced some of Guy's courses in the pre-internet era. In fact, when I consider the format of Guy's courses I have a difficult time applying the term "lecture", for his courses always consisted of peer to peer questioning and exploration, with Guy acting much more as a group facilitator (directing the flow of traffic when the intersection became too crowded, or, on occasion, "bump starting" a stalled "car" with a "well, Michael, what do you think about that?". The documents that are now online for "Carmen" used to be in "hardcopy", and while the subject of the lecture - I would say interaction - was related to the reading assignments, they in no way limited or constrained the "free flow of ideas" that are so much a part of the Bensusan Experience.
I might be a little biased, but the structuring of Guy's pre-Internet courses appear to flow naturally into the Web environment. Students would be required to read the assignment outside of the lecture, and come prepared to interact with their peers. The same is true for the electronic classroom, with the added bonus that, as Lynda Lee Vo noted, a tangible "record" of student growth exists. In the traditional classroom peer to peer interaction can at times become quite frantic, and important "discoveries" can be lost. It is difficult to take notes, follow the flow of the discussion, and participate verbally all at the same time. The Web environment avoids this frantic, at time emotionally charged situation by allowing for the asynchronicity of post, reply, contemplation, and post - without worrying about missing an idea in the exchange. The classroom interaction is all written out before your eyes, and this allows for a deeper analysis of the thoughts expressed during our 24 hour, seven day a week lecture format.
So Adrienne, I hope I have expressed clearly why the idea of "Guy" lecturing seems so foreign to me. He has always provided the resources for his students to explore (the Carmen publications), and left it the hands of the students themselves to interact and learn form one another - just as we are doing here! I also "feel" that your closing sentence so clearly expresses the "relaxed" atmosphere that exists in a Web course. Inherent in its design (asynchronicity) is an appreciation for the reality of what I would refer to as "differential rates of learning". Homogeneity of the classroom is far from a norm, since students often enter "the learning environment" differing levels of academic skill. The online classroom inherently allows for what I would refer to as "learning compensation" - the ability of the Web environment to provide "unlimited" access to the resources of course interaction (the dialogue, discussion groups, and other lecture materials). This "access" grants the gift of learning to working parents, part and full time employees, people living in remote areas, and those who might "doubt" their abilities (students who might feel intimidated by the traditional classroom environment for a whole host of reasons).
In fact, I personally know a number of individuals who have either not embraced the college experience, or did so with a great deal of fear, due to physical and mental deficits - such as speech impediments, learning disabilities, or other "personal" issues that they "believe" might hinder their interaction in a traditional classroom. Another example would be a student who might be afraid that they would not be able to fully follow the rapid discourse of the "verbal" classroom, and would prefer to have the discourse in writing. This might include those with hearing disabilities, and those with poor eyesight (given the recent and rapid development of speech recognition software - for both the verbal imprinting of words into text documents, and the "computerized" reading of electronic documents (our discussion posts or the course assignment).
So, a long answer to a fairly simple question, but I hope you enjoyed all the thoughts your post brought to my mind, and I thank you Adrienne for an evening of entertaining thought! Please remember to let me know what you "view" as the "personal side" of the online equation - I am so very curious. Michael
About the Author:
Michael Buell is an undergradute student at NAU. He has had extensive experience in a number of Distance Learning formats. We appreciate his insights and his analytical expertise.
Humanities and Mathematics Assignment #1
The Hexadigm is a six-part framework that can be applied to any subject to cast this subject within a broader humanistic picture. It is a tool that is designed to assist a person with viewing beyond their current nationalistic or cultural experiences. The application of the Hexadigm to any subject matter will portray that subject within the grand scheme of the human endeavor. The first part of the Hexadigm is to consider the cultural sequences involved within the intended subject matter. Next we consider the mutual influences of these different cultures and what affects this might have on the intended subject matter. As we do this, we keep in mind regional diversities that may help explain different approaches to our subject matter from differing cultures. These first three parts (Cultural Sequences, Mutual Influences, and Regional Diversities) may be considered as a triangle where each vertex can influence another. We then apply the final three parts of the Hexadigm model to this interacting triangle of viewpoints. We consider the effects of modernizing technology on our previous three-part picture. This allows us to focus on how human development has changed what was the past into what is now the present. From this broader view of our subject matter, we expand our comprehension and revise our interpretations. These six parts are intended to guide a human viewer into seeing the bigger picture as it applies to any specific subject matter. Dr. Bensusan gave us an example of the Hexadigm framework applied to the subject of American History.
This semester we will be asked to use this Hexadigm approach to view a subject of our own choosing. Keep in mind that this is a Humanities class, and we will be viewing our chosen subject matter from a broad humanistic approach. Using the Hexadigm, we will gain an important and powerful view of our chosen subject matter as it applies to the human endeavor. To better explain my view of the Hexadigm, I will briefly give an example of using it on my chosen subject matter for this semester, Mathematics. In order to give the right feel to this example, we will use our imagination. Imagine that you are producer for a PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) special. You have been given a subject to present to a large and culturally diverse audience.
Your main goal is the present the topic in an interesting and broad approach so that it could appeal to a vast amount of people. Imagine that your topic is mathematics. There will be some mathematicians in your audience, and you could present new research on high level topics that they would enjoy. Yet this would cause nearly 99.9% of your audience to turn the channel.
You need an approach to the topic of Mathematics that would seem interesting to almost anyone. You decide to use the Hexadigm approach and cast Mathematics as an interesting human activity. You decide to divide your documentary on Mathematics into six parts. You will first consider how different cultures entered into the activity that we now call Mathematics (Cultural Sequences). You will investigate its origins and show how Mathematics developed very differently in different cultures and at different times in human history. You will trace how these different cultures interacted through trade and conflict to understand how Mathematics grew from this interaction (Mutual Influences). You will consider regional diversities and how they affected different approaches and methods (Regional Diversities).
From this broad historical approach, you begin to focus on the driving force of technology. You study architecture, navigation, business, and communication among others. You trace how Mathematics affected each of these areas of technology, and how these areas of technology affected the growth of Mathematics (Modernizing Technologies). As your interacting historical approach comes to an end, you step even further back and begin to draw conclusions about the study of Mathematics. You explain how all these cultures and applications were drawn together within the same study that became known as Mathematics. You expand your comprehension of what the subject is and how it has affected humanity. You revise your interpretation of what Mathematics is to you, and instead view it from a humanistic approach (Expanding Comprehensions and Revised Interpretations). With this approach, you know that you have a PBS special that many would enjoy watching. It would not exclude any culture or nationality. It would treat all people's input into the subject of Mathematics equally and seek to unite this understanding into a broader definition of the subject. It is even a special that the mathematicians would still enjoy.
This explanation of the Hexadigm highlights many of its attributes. It is a tool that we can use to view any subject on a humanistic level. Yet like all tools, we must know their strengths and weaknesses before we can use them effectively. We would not try to use a hammer to cut down a tree, nor would we try to use an ax to pound in a nail. Each tool has its specific use and is specially designed for this purpose. Similarly, the Hexadigm is designed to present these broad and all-inclusive pictures of any subject matter. It is designed to treat all cultural influences equally, and highlight the humanistic nature of any subject.
If you are a PBS producer, a student in a Humanities class, or a curious human being looking for the big picture then the Hexadigm is a good tool for you to use. Yet did you notice that this imaginary PBS special on Mathematics did not focus on teaching very much Mathematics? It is unlikely that our special would teach us how to calculate the third derivative of f(x)=ln(x). It is unlikely that our special would contain the proof of Fermat's last theorem, or explain how the elliptical nature of the torus was involved. This PBS special is designed to give us the big picture. This picture is interesting and attractive to almost anyone. Yet if I were a student in Calculus, I would not expect to get an 'A' on my next quiz just because I watched our imaginary PBS special. If seeing the big picture were not the specific goal, then this PBS special would be just another way to waste an hour sitting on the couch.
There is certainly a great deal to see when one steps back and looks at the big picture of things, yet there should be equal importance placed on viewing the details and intricacies of a subject. If the Hexadigm approach was the only approach to Mathematics, then there would be no Mathematics in the world. Humans must and should see the big picture, yet they must also live in a world that is highly focused on the present details. Therefore I celebrate the tool that Dr. Bensusan calls the Hexadigm for its ability to give us an important view of life and ourselves. Yet I also caution that this view is certainly not the only approach to writing reports, for guiding research, or for viewing life. To each tool there is a designed specific use. The use of the Hexadigm in a Humanities class is certainly helpful and warranted, and I hope my example can be helpful to others.
About the Author:
William Leek is a student in an online Humanities course at Northern Arizona University. He offers an interesting and creative analysis of both Mathematics and Humanities using the Hexadigm as the analytical tool.
Carole Ann Seeley
Tuesday Sep 04, 2001
I was completely fascinated by Dr. Guy's explanation of the hexadigm, and as I read his theory of the hexadigm as a way of defining cultural evolution, it seemed to me that we could view a person as a microcosm of cultural evolution and metaphorically compare the hexadigmic principles to lifespan development.
Comparing the hexadigm layers beginning with cultural sequences: before a child is born, it is imprinted with the DNA of its parents; these will determine its sex, race, and physical attributes. Similarly, whether you subscribe to divine creation or the "big bang" theory, your view proscribes how the world came into being and what its characteristics were at that time.
The second layer, or regional diversity, the environment into which the child is born, is predicated upon her parents - whether they are married or not, their socio-economic status, ethnicity, and culture, whether the child was "wanted" or not. All these things directly influence how that child will perceive her own birth in the future. It could also be said that the view of explorers who "discovered" different parts of what we now call America and their subsequent historical accounts were impacted by that part of the country where they "emerged." In almost every case, there were previous inhabitants with their own culture, mores, and values that were superimposed upon those of the explorers.
As the child grows out of infancy, other factors begin to have some bearing on her life. Her awareness of different people and environments expands to include extended family, parental friends and acquaintances, doctors, babysitters, and strangers in a multiplicity of setting and varied circumstances. She may experience differences in routines, foods, or ways in which she is treated. The diversity of activities in which she engages will increase as her abilities unfold. This mimics the hexadigm's third level of cultural sequences wherein mutual influences are combined to create a marvelous potpourri of ethnicities in our country.
Continuing the comparison to our country's cultural evolution, the remaining three factors of the hexadigm - modernizing technologies, expanded comprehensions, and revised interpretations - are all equally intrinsic to how the development of the child will progress.
Some of her growth, as affected by these three aspects, will be dictated by the cultural and socio-economic circumstances of her family of origin. If she is born into a family of wealth and status as measured by the standards common in America in the 21st century, it is likely her world will be dominated and strongly shaped by the many technological innovations that are surfeit in our nation. She will more than likely have her own room and bathroom, furnished with her own TV, telephone/DVD recorder, stereo system, and computer. There will be little physical labor required of her, for machines will do it all; she will likely live in a gated community, in a home guarded by a complex security system complete with intercom and hidden cameras; she will probably be dependent upon technological gadgets to get through her day - Palm Pal to schedule her activities, cell phone and/or pager to keep in contact with her family and friends, laptop computer upon which to do her schoolwork, and FAX/modem/email to handle her social and business correspondence, and give her instant access to international news and information sources through ever-faster and more powerful upgrades to her computer system.
She might attend a private school with the most modern, scientific equipment available to enhance her learning opportunities via satellite downlink and electronic media presentations. It's very likely she would be transported to and from school and her many extra-curricular activities in a car fully-loaded with every electronically-powered and computerized automotive advance available; if she gets lost, sophisticated computerization will guide safely to her destination. She may perform a programmed workout combining weight-training and treadmill in a high-tech gym, while electronic devices monitor and measure her heart rate and calculate how many calories she has burned. She may have her physical attributed altered by laser surgery and her appearance computer-enhanced and electronically transmitted to potential suitors.
The older she becomes, the more she will probably expand her comprehension because her horizons are constantly increasing. Not only does she have unlimited electronic access to anywhere in what, in elitist terms, is called the "civilized world," but her wealth would enable her to physically travel literally anywhere in the world she may want to go. If her travel itinerary should include visits to so-called third world countries, the world, as she construes it, may well undergo a revised interpretation as she is able to see firsthand, perhaps for the first time, what it is like to live in conditions that would be deemed impoverished by her urbane, cosmopolitan standards.
Conversely, if our metaphorical child were born into what would generally be considered less fortunate circumstances, she would be "deprived" of most of these technological marvels. Optimally, she might, instead, be surrounded by many family members of several generations living in overcrowded, low-income housing in a neighborhood where people gather in the street in the evening to exchange community news; she will probably walk to a neighborhood elementary school with her brothers and sisters and ride a bus to her junior high and high schools.
She might watch TV, if someone else in the family happens to be watching something she's interested in on the only available TV in the house, but it is more likely she'll hang out with her friends at the mall or neighborhood park. Her entertainment may include reading library books and listening to the local pop music station on the radio. She may or may not attend a school equipped with modern equipment, but it is likely to be overcrowded in either case. She will need to rely on her imagination and intuition to gain the knowledge and skills she will need to be successful in a world where the criteria for that success are usually defined by white, upper-middle class, conservative males. She will likely be sustained by a culture rich in religious and national traditions, and take pride in her ethnicity. As she grows older, her interpretation of the world will probably change as she becomes aware of the disparity in socio-economic strata and political agendae that often discriminate against lower-income and/or ethnic minorities.
In either case, the worldview of our metaphorical child will be shaped and discerned within the framework of her composite experiences; her truth will be determined by the reality of her life.
About the Author:
Carole Ann Seeley has returned to the university setting after 35 years of homemaking and child rearing, in her words, "to find out who I am and what I want to be when I grow up." She is completing her baccalaureate degree in Speech Communication. Her classes and the WEBwork involved compete with the hours she spends in her full time job. She has grandsons and an 18-month-old granddaughter who bring great joy into her life.