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The Purpose of Instruction and Education

From January 29 to February 2, 2002, LDI's Jan Visser hosted an online dialogue on the above topic with graduate students of Florida State University's College of Education course EDG 6328 on Alternate Views of Teaching and Learning, taught under the responsibility of Dr. Robert Morgan by two other LDI researchers, Yusra Laila Visser and Ray Amirault. The dialogue was started off on two questions, namely: "What are the most compelling problems of our time that we should consider while reflecting on the purposes of instruction and education?" and "What is it that we don't know about learning and what is it that we don't know about instruction?"

The online dialogue was followed on April 8, 2002 (see adjacent photograph, taken by Ray Amirault), by a face-to-face encounter with the same group of students, allowing the group to revisit some of their earlier concerns. At the same time it was an opportunity for students to get exposed in a more structured way to Visser's theoretical considerations regarding the ecological nature of human learning and how learning takes place in interacting environments, the instructional context being on of them.

The online dialogue explored, thanks to the students' diverse interventions, issues such as the possibly too great responsiveness of education to political and commercial interests; the question of shifting or not shifting of paradigms regarding the ways in which we attend to human learning while traditional face-to-face educational modalities are being replaced or supplemented by online and other forms of distance education; the connection between education and the possibility to make "the examined life" worth living; the problem that frequently the political and bureaucratic environment is not conducive to letting education and instruction serve the purpose of people's coming to terms with their private spiritualities, personal dreams, and their quest to find the meaning of life; the desired integrated - as opposed to separated - development of humans in both the affective and cognitive domain; the dominance of political and economic concerns in thinking about education as opposed to concerns with serving the community, developing a healthy and peaceful society, and balancing the "evil" power of politics and economy; questions relating to the decline of moral values and how appropriate attention to this issue by those responsible for education might turn the tide; the potential role of educators in attempts to make education responsive to the purpose of creating a society of humans governed by the principles of love for others; the role of synchronicity and a-synchronicity, virtual and face-to-face presence, in developing dialogue for learning; the need to foster critical thinking and deep understanding; the need for education to go beyond the learning of content and skills; the role of philosophy; depth and breadth in learning and the value of deep involvement with the thoughts of others; the inseparability of living and learning; and the issue of what slavishly following some technology fad is doing to education.