Tacit knowledge, without the interest or skills to let it out, has no effect on society. (Art Harkins)
This week, Iíve been reading and thinking a bit about the last chapter in Rogers. In that chapter, he talks about the consequences of innovation, and the example he gives of the introduction of the snowmobile among Lapp people in Finland is quite striking, I think. The case can certainly be made that the snowmobile changed their way of life, and due to the fact that they couldnít anticipate the consequences, things didnít go very well.
Yet, Iíve been thinking that thereís consequences of not innovating as well. In other contexts, not innovating may be the end to oneís way of life. I think this is true for language education because at the minimum, consequences of technological innovations and the impending singularity will likely change When language educators teach language for specific purposes, for exampleóbusiness Englishówe think we know what weíre teaching. But, what if the business context is changing so fast and new language is being invented so rapidly that language teachers themselves not only cannot keep up, but they canít predict what their students will need to know? The production and diffusion of new language may be faster than language teachers will be able to keep up.
I feel like Iím in a weird spot in my thinking because Iíve been doing a lot of active processing of my topic this summer. So, right now Iíve been checking out the website www.implicity.org, which is a website about innovation in education, and relates to the role of organizational culture in cognitive and linguistic processing and innovations. The website is definitely a harsh (and deservedly critical of the US educational system, basically arguing that the educational system goes against our natural tendencies to learn and sucks the creativity out of us.
Iíve also just begun some explorations of a few researchers who have been recommended to me as decidedly innovative and converging in the spheres I seem to be surfacing in. Iíve been starting to look into the work of John Schumann, a theoretical linguist who is interested in language as an evolutionary process (and Iíve been told that some of his ideas are considered to be quite ďout thereĒ).and Robert Logan, a theoretical physicist who is interested in the concept of the ďextended mind,Ē which is about language from a systems theory/chaos theory perspective. (See this website for a good paper on the topic: http://www.upscale.utoronto.ca/GeneralInterest/Logan/Extended/Extended.html). In some ways, I think my paper will be an extension of this work, or maybe not an extension, but an application to the concrete nature of language education. In many respects, language educators are weary of theory; they want to think about, and act on, what works inside the classroom. They donít really care why or how it works. My goal is that I can inspire the individual language teacher to become more innovative, to do some leapfrogging in terms of technological adaptations and acceptance of the singularity.
Iíve been thinking quite a bit about paper topics for this class, and I want to focus on my interest in the future of language education. I have been a language educator in various forms for the past ten years or so, and in my current work in the General College we think weíre pretty innovative because we teach ďcontent-basedĒ language. That is, we teach English through content areas, like anthropology, biology, or art, for example. My students are all multilingual, and English is not their mother tongue. While most programs would have them taking remedial classes, focusing on the so-called traditional areas of listening/speaking, grammar, reading, and writing, we teach those skills in the context of credit-based content courses. My point here is that what we do is better than the current alternative, which is the norm in English language learning, but itís not sufficient. We still make a lot of assumptions: that disciplines, rather than transdisciplinarity, matter; that grammar editing is something that should be done without the aid of technology; and that somehow we know what they will need to know in the future. These are just some of my programís assumptions, and obviously, my list reveals some of my own assumptions.
I just think that very soon, language education is going to have a serious breakthrough in terms of technological assistance, and that, along with our current and increasing spinning out of control approach to the singularity means that as a language teacher, I donít know what my students will need to know. Language education, like practically every other profession, needs to innovate or risk extinction. I want to explore this for my term paper as a major destination on my path toward my dissertation.
A couple of resources I want to share:
This is a blog devoted to the film; itís not the official website, but the guy who began this blog really wants to have an online forum with people interested in the film.
Also, Vernor Vinge has an article about the Singularity, and itís located at the following url: