Friday, 31 January 2014

Uncertain, Uncertainty and I don't know!

I sometimes wonder why I bother to write my thoughts down as there are so many thoughtful responses and replies to the "uncertainty" question Dave Cormier posted this week in #rhizo14. Often I write to clarify my own thoughts on my path to figuring out the "I don't know, but I hope to find out/understand." And I read from the community to help me in that process and also from the sheer delight of seeing how other people think, because it is not how I think.

There is Kevin's excellent post on how he views uncertainty which marries nicely with my ideas about change. It helps that one of the books that was recommended during ETMOOC (I think) was the "The Half Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know has an Expiration Date" by Samuel Arbesman. What we learn changes and mutates over time, as does what we teach. Where's Latin, for example? I only got one year of Latin because there were not enough students who wanted to take it ( I loved Latin too!) And yet Latin was the staple of higher education 100 years ago.

I loved Jaap Bosman's post about the place of wonderment in uncertainty. I know I feel anxious and frustrated as I learn new things, but also exhilarated and I am soooo pleased with myself when I finally understand how something works. Learning something is rather like opening a present (and I rip my presents open rather than try and save the wrapping paper, though that has been changing too as I grow older!)

Lou Northern's discussion about the place of ego and it's barrier to being open to uncertainty was a great read but I, like Frances Bell, was struck by this phrase "What am I assuming that makes me so sure that I’m right?" I love this.

But really, I am not sure about the idea of embracing uncertainty. Life is uncertain at its core and the only way we have to deal with it's very unpredictable-ness is by clinging to certainties. When we teach in the elementary panel, we are encouraged to create a place of safety for the learner. Isn't that in conflict with the idea of embracing uncertainty? For life and sometimes learning are not safe. Can we only embrace uncertainty at a certain age? When we have internalized the reality of living in an uncertain world?

Certain things are certain for now. The sun will rise and fall, everything born will die, gravity still works, ice is cold. So should we only teach the concrete, for only that is true and all else, fleeting and ephemeral?

I don't know.