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The New Technologies: No Place to Hide?
by Prof. Edna Aphek
- 3

Possible reasons for lack of participation in the forum, besides Exposure.

Lack of practice

H. the head reading counselor claims that a few of the participants complain, that they don't know how to access the forum and how to use it.
They need more practice.
I must say that I am having some difficulty with this notion of learning and learning again how to access the forum, write a message and send one. Three reasons lie at the basis of my wonder at the request (though all the participants in the forum support it) : for the last year most of the participants took part in a course in which accessing the internet was one of the foci.
At least one of the complainers complained that learning how to use the internet is a sheer waste of time, as she does it, "all the time", at home.
Yet, she used this "lack of practice argument" for not accessing the forum.
Furthermore, I believe (and maybe wrongly) that once one knows how to access the internet, the instructions for writing a message in a forum are very clear. In fact all one has to do is just read and follow them.
Quite a few teachers believe that using anything new is a serious, grave task, which requires much effort and investment and therefore anything, no matter how easy it might be, should be practiced thoroughly.

On being exposed

I think one of the most important changes of our time has been our attitude to fear. Every civilization defends itself by keeping fears out and saying 'we protect you from fear'. But it also produces new fears and throughout history people have changed the kind of fears which have worried them
Theodore Zeldin

The traditional situation

The traditional, familiar situation in a classroom is that only the students and their products are exposed. The students are the ones to show their products to the other learners as well as to their teachers. Their work is often put on display for everybody to see and to comment on.
Students are required to write a lot and their written work is often criticized by their teachers, but their teachers are rarely required to write essays, summaries, prepare projects etc. to be later on criticized and reviewed either by their peers or superiors.

Hell is other people.
Jean-Paul Sartre

When I posted the messages asking for helping me understand what the reasons for the lack of participation in the forum, might be, it never occurred to me that being exposed and open to criticism, ridicule, might be lying at the root of the matter.
What other people think of us, say about us, can do to us, in light of what they think about us, is one of the major causes of our fears.
In his book, An Intimate History of Humanity, Theodre Zeldin traces the fear of the other, what the other might think of you, to the conquering , "fearless," Vikings.
This fear of being worried about what other people might think or say, has according to Zeldin, become a plague, in our society. People are terrified of being constantly judged and criticized by others. Being ridiculed is even a greater fear:

What should I write?
How should I write?
Who am I in comparison with the professionals?
I keep censoring what I am writing.

All of the above are voiced by the active participants in the forum.

Zeldin maintains that the [bad] reputation one acquires is the new hell.
He is echoing Sartre who maintained that hell is other people.
An old Hebrew saying advocates the same idea : Tov Shem Tov me-Shemen Tov -meaning that it's better to have good reputation than to be wealthy [literal meaning its better to have a good reputation that to own good oil].
Being so worried about not living up to others norms, holds people back. They don't dare do, because if they do they'll be judged and who knows how it could mar their good name.

It may well be that this threatening fear is hindering teachers [and others] from participating in an open on-line forum.

A New mode of learning

The originality of our time is that we are becoming more curious
Theodore Zeldin

In another article , Clashing Cultures: Why Some teachers have Difficulty Using the New Technologies , I pointed out to possible factors serving as obstacles for teachers, mainly senior ones, (but in no way the only ones) on their way to use the new technologies. In that paper I listed a few differences between the Book-Pen Culture (BP ) and the TD culture ( Technological- Digital). One of the differences I mentioned is:

…. the difference between a "real-here " tangible culture and a virtual one. The believers of the "Concrete- Here" culture are confronted by the culture of "somewhere out there", in Cyberspace. In this "non-tangible" culture, one sits on a chair in a small limited physical environment, and the spirit roams in the unlimited space of the cyber: visiting museums, meeting people, going on expeditions and much more.

In addition to the above as H. pointed out, learning on- line is a new mode and it takes time to adopt this novelty , of which teachers might be apprehensive.

There are, to my mind, two ways to fight fear:

• The one is not to adopt anything new and to fortify and surround ones self by and with the old ,familiar "blocks" of teaching and learning.

• The other is the one Zeldin points out to in his book, to be constantly open ,ever- curious and searching. Being intrigued by and curious about the new and the changing is the celebration of optimism and intellectual pursuit over fear.

I would not like to concede that the teachers I have been working with have surrendered themselves to the first option. Time will tell.
Jerusalem, Nov. 2002

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