Thursday, January 05, 2006
Situated Language - Situated Learning
Just reading James Gee Situated Language and Learning and a very interesting read it is. He speaks about the three kinds of learning: natural, instructed and cultural, and consequently I start to think about my own learning of blogging and other web 2.0 tools that I have come to know in the last six months. The learning is not instructed by anyone, it is “just in time learning”, and if I want to know something I go in search of it (see Steve Dembo’s post about where teachers go to find out things) and I read and imitate. In the last resort I just click it and see. When Gee talks about the learning of a first language (he implies that humans are hardwired to pick up on a first language) I again think about my own experience. For three years I spoke my first language (didn’t learn to write in it, though) and then learnt my second language at school. For a variety of reasons I stopped speaking my first language in the next few years and although I understood it (and still do) I am unconfident and deficient in speaking (and writing in it). My mother often speaks to me in Dutch and I answer in English and it has been like that for most of my life. I can still remember learning to speak English as my second language, and my interest in what I could express in it (an example is learning the concept of “damp”).
This has to do with my identity. Gee reminds us that our first language is “connected to … family and community. Thus a person’s vernacular dialect is closely connected to his or her initial sense of self and belonging in life.” (p. 17) I had never thought of that before. There are things I couldn’t speak to my mother about growing up, as we didn’t share a common language. The sad thing is that I didn’t keep my first language. I wish the technology had existed to record my speaking a language I have now forgotten. Speaking of identity (and the very common experience of being the child of migrant parents) here is a photo of my mother’s grandparents. There were taken in Holland about 100 years ago I think. These ancestors of mine are Pieter and Cornelia Willems and Hanneke and Josina Van Dongen. Coming back to James Gee, however, his argument that schools should change to take account of what students bring to school in the way of language and that learning should be situated in the culture (very gross over-simplifications of what he is saying) is interesting and thought-provoking. It also fits in very well with a presentation by Jay Cross on his Informal Learning Research which is really well worth viewing and listening to.