It has been a bit of a rough transition moving the IT FORUM from UGA to UNT. I’ve been getting a lot of great support from members of the list when things aren’t quite right or someone becomes upset when things do not work quite right. This is always the case when things change.
The whole idea of moderating such a forum is difficult for me. By nature, I get overwhelmed by e-mail communication and have spent a while now seeking solutions to that problem. By confronting this through discourse with others and seeking the means to deal with my personal failing, I hope to improve my ability to communicate and support others. This is what I have committed myself to as an academic and teacher after all.
The Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions theory (LTCA) that I have formulated in accordance with Habermas’ principles comes from that place of weakness not only in me, but in education in general. The focus on strategic communication in educational settings is flawed, but understood; it is easier to deal with as a teacher than to engage in constative and other forms of communication. To order others to do without discussion, requires little communication, only a directive to act. Problematically, engaging learners in a development of shared goals and objectives through discourse takes time and a recognition that all power should and does not rest in the instructor; it is instead shared and learning works best when this is understood by all members of a learning community.
It is this understanding that shapes normative discourse and establishes appropriate rules and norms for behaving and participating in learning by all members whether they be teachers or students. Understanding one’s own role in establishing effective communications and having the tools with which to do so is absolutely essential and if the system that governs such communications is not supportive, it requires change. Those tools are not necessarily technologies as we commonly view them: computer, smart phone, etc. Instead, these tools are cognitive, affective, and communicative. They require that we know how to communicate clearly, engaging in discourses fairly and constructively, and understand and value the feelings of others as we engage in critical discourses towards intersubjective understanding. This affective domain of each communicative act can and should be understood to be as important as the cognitive and psychomotor domains, because emotional speech acts have a large impact on whether or not a claim to truth is accepted. The affective domain of communicative actions is something that, in own theory (now shared and being constructed with important other academics), we are only starting to understand the importance of in educational settings. Habermas only touches on the role of affect in LTCA. Does it infuse all four forms of communicative action or are there speech acts that deserve their own communicative action like dramaturgical and constative? Should their be an Affective Communicative Action in our theory or should it be formulated differently. I don’t know and it is under debate and may not be settled any time soon.
However, I know that the affective domain is very important to any discourses that I will moderate on the IT FORUM, so I must remain vigilant as I seek to support those members.
Applying the Eightfold Path
Getting past my weakness is part of my attempts with the eightfold path. Specifically, it related to engaging in Right Speech as I moderate the forum and seek to mitigate problems warmly and with humor. This ensures Right Action, avoiding harming others, especially affectively through my words or acts. Again, this should lead to Right Effort that is disciplined and kind; compassionate towards those with whom I work in the community. Right Mindfulness follows as I seek to see things as they are rather than responding immediately and inappropriately, driven by first impressions and a failure to be compassionate towards members of the forums, seeking to understand their perspective rather than only my own.
The whole of this will require Right Concentration if I am to maintain compassion and clear vision regarding my role moderating the forum. Daily meditation should help with that, according to the Path, though I’ll try to exercise a lot as well to maintain a compassionate mindset by releasing my stress and preconceived notions to the void. These are lessons I will seek to apply in all my dealings, educational or not, professional or not, easy or not.