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(zitiert nach Strohmaier, Gotthard (Hg.) Al-Bírúní. In den Gärten der Wissenschaft. Leipzig: Reklam, 2002, p. 32.)

Wenn wir an manchen Stellen bei einzelnen Gegenständen verweilen und uns in Probleme vertiefen, die mit dem Gang der Darstellung nur eine lose Beziehung aufweisen, so geschieht das nicht aus einem Hang zur Weitschweifigkeit und Ausführlichkeit. Vielmehr möchten wir den Leser von der Langeweile fernhalten; denn wenn die Untersuchung lange bei einem einzigen Gegenstand verweilt, führt das zum Überdruß und zur Ungeduld. Wechselt sie aber von einem Gebiet zum anderen, so befindet sich der Leser in der Lage eines Mannes, der durch Gärten spazierengeht. Er hat kaum einen durchschritten, da taucht schon ein anderer vor ihm auf und erweckt die Neugier und das Verlangen, ihn auch zu sehen. Nicht umsonst heißt es: “Alles Neue macht Vergnügen.”

Aus: Chronologie (S. 72,10-14)

Das Zitat liest sich wie eine Beschreibung des Internets und letztere ermöglicht uns hier eine ähnliche Gestaltung.


This is a quote from a Persian scholar who lived in the Middle Ages (973-1048), explaining his pedagogy, which is interspersed with seemingly peripheral themes, not because he is unstructured but rather to keep the reader alert and curious. It might seem that he were describing the pedagogy available to us now, using the internet.

The Internet

comment on online education

This was one of several thoughtful comments on an NPR article re: online learning. Let’s summarize it:


useful syllabus

list of decent study questions

links to well-made YouTube videos


lectures were hard to follow

classmates were interested in getting someone else to do the work

good teaching:

point out nuances

differentiate between knowledge that is

– critical to the discipline and that which is

– incidental to learning

guide student through common misconceptions that tend to trip up students and cause confusion

Sometimes all of these are combined but they still lack individual feedback that is so crucial to learning.

So even if we do all of the above right:

– make the course interesting

– structure it well, using right and left brain strategies

– avoid lectures and keep an eye on who goes on the forums

– and guide the students

We are still going to be missing the key variable: interaction with the teacher.

For that you need TRUST … you need a safe place and online is not really safe. So some of our interactions will, of necessity, be via snail.

In order to guide you, I’m going to need info about your development:

– where you are coming from and

– where you are going.

Before we delve into that, let me explain how I intend to do the standard good MOOC. Let’s explore for a moment my role as a teacher, as I see it.

  1. sort what’s out there and set up a program that will cover all the aspects you will need. Sift through the trash and work up a paradigm of pieces that fit together around a common set of principles. It has to be written like a symphony; you need not be just entertained, you need to have your horizon opened gradually, or less gradually, if you can manage that. So feedback is essential.
  2. My aim, since the beginning of my teaching has been to link theory and practice. That means not only, have a theory and know how to implement it; or have a good practice, bolstered by a theory that let’s you know when things are going wrong and what to do about it. It means that both drive one another. It’s basically a hermeneutic that is circular, feedback linked.
  3. BUT you also have to have a hermeneutic that envisions various levels of abstraction. We developed this in the 70’s in family therapy: whenever you interact with one level of the system you must simultaneously address both the next higher level (extended family or social environment) as well as the next lower level (sub- and unconscious processes and fears and motivations). It’s a tricky business.

Once, many years ago, I overheard two students talking about my class during a break. One of them was explaining to the other, who had just transferred, that sometimes it got confusing, but then at one point, it would open up and you’d see a whole panorama. N.B. In that class I was using a grid,

– explaining where we had come from,
– where we were going and
– where we were now,

which I kept coming back to.

The goal was to give them choices.

– Here are the roles you might play;
– here are the theories you’d need for that;
– here are the courses you should take to get there.

This is one aspect of the interactive component that Christopher Dahle so missed in his comment.

Now I can

entertain you with my “Moments of Zen” (see “Tribute to Jon Stewart”);
– use colors and indenting (and maybe at some point animation) to activate the imaging function of your right brain;
– work back and forth between theory and practice;
– develop a coherent syllabus and guide you through the rapids,
in order to really give you access to your own strengths, we are going to need to interact. I’ve prepared a series of entry level exercises.

Some of them I want you to do for yourself and use as a basis for deciding whether this course is right for you.
Some of them I will ask you to submit, so that I can tailor the course to your level and needs (and goals).

Because you are learning dialogue, you will be required to be present and vulnerable. Dialogue means you are within reach of the other: this always makes you vulnerable.

Why should you trust me?


you already know from reading the introduction pretty much what my style is and whether it will match with yours.  You can also consult my profile under “us”.

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