Postscript to Restrepo

27/09/2012

There was a quite a large hole in my critique of Restrepo namely Said’s “Orientialism” and how the media presents Islam and terrorism. I tried to address this in a subsequent piece of critical media analysis:

Critical Media Analysis – Mohammad Merah

My decision to compare how the Guardian and the Daily Mail reported the same story was influenced by having recently read Terranova’s (2007) paper which led me Said’s (1978, 2003) Orientalism.

The Mail positions Merah early on in the article with the terms ‘Al Qaeda fanatic’ and ‘Toulouse terrorist’ and further on with ‘convicted Jihadist’. Language like this reinforces the hegemonic view, which newspapers like the Mail through their reporting steer public opinion, that Islam poses a threat to the Western way of life. The Guardian uses more neutral language in describing Merah as claiming “allegiance to al-Qaeda. The Guardian goes on to report the events surrounding the shooting of Merah quoting the police and French authorities. The Mail however, misuses information by saying ‘the fanatic is understood to have had contacts with fellow North African extremists living in Britain’. Where is the evidence to support such a claim? The language perpetuates and reinforces a particular vision of reality that Islamic extremists are working together to try and overthrow the West. This language will also confirm Daily Mail readers’ view of the world by appealing to their confirmational cognitive bias. The Mail makes other claims that it does not provide sources for and in fact even contradicts itself when it says Merah ‘was arrested by U.S. authorities in Afghanistan in 2008 and sent home to France’ but then says he ’broke out of an Afghanistan jail in 2008 as part of a mass Taliban escape’. By prefixing such claims with terms like [he] is understood and it has been reported the Mail can suggest that these are statement of fact. The Mail clearly is manipulating and misusing information to put forward a particular point of view while the Guardian tends to stick to reporting the facts.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/22/mohamed-merah-toulouse-shootings-sniper?INTCMP=SRCH (Accessed 29 March 2012)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2118052/Toulouse-shooting-Mohammad-Merah-dead-jumping-flat-window-guns-blazing.html (Accessed 29 March 2012)


Problem-based Learning

20/02/2012

What type of problem is it? (It might have elements of more than one type.)

What information might you and others need to solve this problem? From whom, or where, might you retrieve, or produce it?

What technologies might help you out? What skills? What specialist knowledge?

What criteria would be used to judge the relevance of this information? How might your criteria differ from those of the other people involved in the problem?

What obstacles might get in the way of finding out this information? Or otherwise making best use of it?

What information might you look to produce, as a way of helping solve, or at least address, the problem? (As in the example of the schoolchildren making some kind of presentation to local businesses, the council, etc.)

 

 

The problem is there being a significant variation in the learners’ satisfaction with their teaching/learning experience. How do we try to address this variation.

I think it is probably principally a case/systems analysis and dilemma problem element. Is the problem real or perceived as real based upon the questions we ask in the survey (subjective). Do teachers see it as a problem? Do students?

 

Feedback from students on their learning experience. Information from customer services staff. Observation reports. Information from teachers of their teaching experiences. Meetings with the staff representatives. Official complaints made by learners about teachers. All subjective. Use questionnaires, interviews with CS staff, focus groups with students, focus groups with teachers. Ask colleagues around the network (within the organisation) for their experiences. Seek out experiences from outside the organisation. What solution have been found.

 

On-line questionnaires  of current leaners.(Survey Monkey, Constant Contact). Dropout questionnaires to find out why students stopped studying. Clear observation criteria and experienced observers (using Diploma criteria) what constitutes a good lesson (subjective). Video of other teachers’ classes. Always will be personality differences one students perceives the teacher as very good and another in the same class sees the opposite. Skills in designing questions that will provide you with the information.

(how will you know this? This has to involve double-loop learning http://www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm

“When the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its presents objectives, then that error-and-correction process is single-loop learning. Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action. Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives.”). Focus group skills – can the facilitator ask questions to draw out the information – good facilitation skills.

 

Filters – managers criteria might different from that of teachers and staff reps. Managers criteria will differ within the group. Seniors mangers criteria are different (legal and contractual) considerations. What do students consider to be a good lesson (cultural contexts of Spanish education)? CPD – resistance as not seen as relevant (IWBs), nearing retirement age. Perception by teachers that there is no problem. Is CPD the answer?

 

Questionnaires, focus groups and information gathering might be seen as imposing a solution from “above”. Need to negotiate and discuss with all stakeholders that there is in fact a problem, and how to go about finding a solution. Danger of colonising the problem as the solution probably lies partly with the individuals and they need to recognise this and respond to it. Teachers’ previous experiences of dealing with under performance becomes part of the collective memory “witch hunts” – create and intersubjective opinion. Teachers question managers’ skills and ability to assess class room practice, especially if they have been out of the classroom for a long time. Are managers up to date with current thoughts, ideas, research and trends in classroom practice?

Did the questions provide the information? Do they need to be redesigned based on the results? Double-loop learning

 

Workshops from colleagues, CPD, peer observations. The raising of students’ awareness of we (as teachers) believe to be a “good lesson” – explanation of the theory and approach we adopt (cultural differences Spanish students expectation that they bring to the classroom are different). Teachers design own training programme. Mentoring. Both mentor and mentee can learn from each other. Develop intersubjective opinion on a plan of action to solve problem. Get teacher buy in.

The dissemination of information – make students’ comments from surveys available to all staff (as with the Ipsos/Mori research from several years ago). There is need for long-term work to develop new perceptions on the information that has been collected. This is change and this is not easy; it is political. It is all very well learning about what the issues are but we need to change them and this needs to be communicated to all those involved with the issue

 

The mental processes involved with this activity and my reflection on it show that  problem solving (where the problem is a case/systems analysis and dilemma) is complex and the process of addressing the problem itself will the change the problem environment. What is the impact of the solution on other people?


Researching a Topic

20/02/2012

For question a) I started my search, as I always do, by putting key words, in this case ‘Bill Archer’ into Google. I then scanned the first few entries to see if I had found the Bill Archer I was looking for and as there was nothing obvious I looked at the Wikipedia entry for Bill Archer and read he once the “controversial” Chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. The Wikipedia entry mentioned ‘Build a Bonfire’ so I decided to search this in Google and this took me to Amazon.co.uk and the book ‘Build a Bonfire: How Football Fans United to Save Brighton and Hove Albion (North, S. and Hodson, P., 1997) and read the first few pages that were available on the Amazon site. I found out that Bill Archer along with David Belotti and Greg Stanley sold the club’s ground leaving the club with no ground and virtually no income from the sale and hence his lack of popularity in Brighton. I also find out that Liam Brady managedBrighton.

 

For question b) I deliberately chose not go to the Wikipedia entry on HebdenBridgeand tried to search in Google using ‘HebdenBridge+ housing + law’ but this, unsurprisingly, just brought up results for estate agents and solicitors. I could not find anything about the specific law (I even posted on the Hebden Bridge Web) but I did find out via the The Independent that the town has a significantly higher suicide rate than the national average and this led to the making of the film documentary ‘Shed Your Tears and Walk Away’ by Jez Lewis. In the end I went back to Wikipedia and found the answer; the Flying Freehold legal arrangement. By not go directly to Wikipedia I found out a lot more about the town than I otherwise would. I did spend much more time finding the answer to this question, but my searches led me to learning more about the town that just the Flying Freehold legal arrangement, for example, how Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath have connections to the town.

 

For question c) I followed my usual search routine and searched for ‘Crowborough and Winnie-the-Pooh’ in Google and found out the local area was used as the setting for A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books. Being a lover of maps I also found Crowborough’s location using Google maps (I did the same forHebdenBridge) and then using Google and Wikipedia located where A. A. Milne lived and where 100 Acre Wood was (500 Acre Wood in reality).

 

 

For questions a) finding that a book had been written on the subject gave validity to what I had read on Wikipedia. I also tired searching ‘Bill Archer’ on the Guardian website and found references to his asset stripping. Unfortunately, the Guardian’s web searches only go back to 1999 and sale of Brighton’s ground happened in 1997. For question b) I checked the Wikipedia citation for Flying Freehold from The Independent which indicated that this legal arrangement exists. For question c) the validity of claims is more difficult to ascertain although the number of different websites stating the same would suggest the claims are true.

 

I found with all three questions I could have gone on researching. For example, I stopped with question b) when I found myself looking on Google Maps for Mytholmroyd (Ted Hughes’s birth place) and realised in spite of enjoying myself I had gone off task. I think we have all found ourselves going of task while researching on the web. I think we did this in pre-Internet days too where you could spend hours researching using encyclopaedias, but the ubiquitous nature of Internet access and the huge amount of information held on the web means it is much easier to pursue lines of enquiry in the moment they occur to us.

 

I think Google and Wikipedia can be good places to start researches; the information found using these tools then needs to be validated which I think I did. The main reason we use Google and Wikipedia is that it is that is an uncomplicated and fast way to search for information, though we must exercise caution and be critical of the veracity of the information we find. An ‘information literate’ way of doing any search is to be critical; do not take information you find on the Internet (or any where) at face value. We need to check references and citations; we need to look at the URL and ask ourselves if this is a reputable and credible website or just a page that someone has put together to express their personal point of view. We need to build our own critical framework to direct and assess the validity of the content of our searches and also we need to reflect on our framework of inquiry and modify or re-think it based on what we discover through our research.