Monthly Archives: June 2012

Why why why

Nice project by Purpose/ed – sum up ‘what education is’ in 500 words and post your entry to their site:

http://purposed.org.uk/

This should help all mothers explain to their children why they have to go to that weird noisy building when they’d rather be sleeping.

My own answer would be something like ‘Education should help people to engage and grow into the world meaningfully. It should provide the social, cognitive and psychological skills necessary to working in and coping with a lifetime spent in an office (or other) talking about soap operas and vacuous celebrities around the coffee machine  everyday.’

I think this alone is good reason why education needs to be kept live and interactive, rather than just virtual and based in affinity spaces, MOOCS or online lectures only.

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Dumb Angel

I’m writing about questions here.

I’ve been thinking about The Shallows and Nicholas Carr’s assertion that the internet stunts out intelligence. We are all getting dumber and dummer and we is dummin down…but I don’t really believe that. Maybe in the culture, but not in educational approach.

Surely the internet enhances inquiry? I mean, despite research being processed through sub-standard search engines, which tend to standardise responses – I believe kids are developing a sincere curiosity about the world which is being fed and filled by their devices.

The internet is an extension of the human brain, as McLuhan might have said (with it’s networks and routes, memes and memory, associations and links – and overloads). The internet answers everything you need to know (sometimes predicting the questions you wish to ask long before you get to typing a key word). Everything is known.

So, a kind of game I used in a language lesson this week. Given the question device words, what does Google predictably (and by trend) throw at you – and let’s try to reach some answers here please!

Firstly ‘WHO’. This extracted the following curiosity:

WHO KILLED FRANK FOSTER? Any thoughts anyone? Further searching informed me that Frank Foster is either a Tasmanian or Australian politician, or a Coronation Street soap opera character. I’m going with the first. So please tell me. I have to know now or bad things might happen. Make up your own answer to this if you don’t know. It’s all a bit of fun.

Secondly, ‘what’….the possibilities are endless in leading with this word. But I go here with what Google gave me first and foremost: WHAT DOES YOLO MEAN? This is definitely a really, really important question. One that would have many leading academics scratching their heads and pontificating. Just think: the most powerful search engine known to man, capable of answering or searching anything, that works on previous leads and predicted sentences. You enter the word ‘what’, anticipate the scope and breadth and depths of what could be summoned by previous users. And this is what appeared.

It’s not one that’s kept me awake at night before, as I only learnt that this word existed a few minutes ago, but now it might. So let me know, or I won’t sleep.

Thirdly, Which. This was problematic, because there’s a magazine that’s colonised this word, so it offers rhetorical enigmas like ‘which mobile, ‘which car’ and ‘which blackberry‘ (definitely the ones that grow on the South Downs in late summer, for me). So I prompted with another word and have come up with WHICH WAY DOES THE EARTH SPIN? a perfectly wondrous query, and one I’m sure I should know the answer to.  Maybe I do. It seems it’s normal to know something vital like this. Answers on a postcard below.

Now to when, which resulted in a bit of  blank from Google, but ‘when will’ gave me four strong choices. I’ve lumped for ‘WHEN WILL THE WORLD END?‘ No reason why, I just prefer it to the rest of the options. And I need to get some washing done before the big day. And I’m a cantankerous man.

Where, oh where…you presented me with the worst possible predicted questions. I had to probe a bit to get away from some simple-minded questions. I’ve gone with ‘WHERE IS THE LOVE‘, which is certainly not answered with the words Justin Timberlake, as I believe this question is more of a philosophical search (than an answer on the worst songs ever recorded). I might also have asked ‘where did the titanic sink‘, but quite frankly I couldn’t give a toss.

How results in a variety of possibilities. It could be: ‘did I meet your mother’; ‘deep is your love’; ‘is acid rain formed’, and – curiously – ‘how is Robin Gibb’. I’ve manipulated the search a bit here and am posing this, because it’s got a real ring of perplexity about it: HOW CAN SHE SLAP? How indeed. I think we all want to know.

Finally, the ultimate question of all – the one that we all ask each and everyday:

I’m gonna have to make a list here because so many tantalising quandaries were raised that have got me well and truly stumped.

WHY ARE MANHOLE COVERS ROUND?

WHY DO WE YAWN?

WHY ARE THE KARDASHIANS FAMOUS?

and WHY IS IT (oh, so many great configurations arose…tough choice) CALLED SCOTLAND YARD.

I know that the internet/Google knows everything and I could easily find the answers in 0.14 seconds generating 143,000 results but I just want to muse on this, so indulge me – and pray tell, otherwise I may well be a dumb angel forever.

Also, I’m really interested to know if there are really any questions (of perhaps a more tangible than ethical or philosophical basis) that t’interweb really cannot answer. Like ‘why are you so unpopular with the chicago police department’ (this also exists through Google, and is a question I often ask myself).

Other choices I liked from Google included ‘what happens when you die’, ‘when is saturday night live on’, ‘where did a t-rex live? when is my MOT due? and – of course – ‘why are all caravans white?’

“questions are a burden to others, answers a prison for oneself” (lovely quote from the Prisoner – but one I don’t agree with).

OK, time to do something more productive.

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