April 17th 2010. It seemed that thousands of travellers queued in the lines for tickets –although there were some ticket machines at every platform in Roma Termini where I managed to get my ticket to Verona.
I write down my thoughts while the train moves thinking about the promise I gave to write something about the am-learning project. This is about the possibility to change the use of language , to prevent the development of “Newspeak”.
Upon my arrival in Rome I found out that the hotel could not provide access to any one of the usual international TV programs- More than 200 italian programs could be received in brillant digital quality – a good example what Newspeak is all about. The reason for that is economic- they say that it needs extra fees to feed in international programs. There is no need for a ministry for language. “Thoughtcrime” is unheard of , language – this uttering of needs and deeds, pittoresque timekiller machinery vanishes even from television, Big Brother needs not to watch any longer.
It did happen during the lifetime of my children: They partly lost our language – in earlier childhood still creative with developing new words and concepts, fluently spoken and understood by our culture. After a couple of years of schooling the teacher found out that the language of these my children became “poor”. Nobody in the family thought about Newspeak
because I doubt that there has been intentional planning.
The train moves with increasing velocity, the view revealing small towns in beautiful promontories, springtime floating by.  In Rome I noticed large sheets of linen hanging in front of houses and imprinted with the image of the former or the future house behind, in order not to disturb the impression of this view when a photograph is made. These curtains have a strong philosophical association. Virtual reality dyed into cloth, stained for the time of reconstruction like a veil: an oriental touch of Roman reconstruction architecture.
We assume that work is done behind that veil. Is this a veil or just a theatrical curtain? What play is going to be given when the curtain opens, when the veil of the vulcano ashes disappears?
Will there be a balcony to the room of my hotel in Verona, what role do I expect to play?
Meanwhile yellow fields pass by and my coach is rolling, passing many realities, different languages, beautiful settings of so many stages, with all the same curtain of possible rain near Firenze- another curtain or a veil..
The young man across the seat uses an I-phone and appearantly had booked the place via that gadget, the conductor holds his handheld near the customers and prints out the ticket on paper-.ticket via telephone.
After Bologna there is much green, flatland: the story retold by Watzlawick, originally by Edwin A. Abbot, of this square, an inhabitatnt of the two-dimensional world, dreaming himself into the other dimension, into line-land and trying to convince the king of line-land, naturally the longest line, that there really is another dimension. No discussions at point-land.

Verona: Neither nightingale nor lark but just birds woke me up and rain towards the window.
Good coffee downstairs after dinner with vegetables from a buffet – all cars of europcar sold out and prenotations possible for the time after 48 hrs. No train information nor booking, no telephone hot lines. The nice young man (with that I-phone) had booked a room in a Verona hotel for me to his special rate and I had walked all the way . I like walking a city from the station through rotten fiera premises, dead houses, dead factories and the fiera with two  church choirs practising. Walking gives the good impressions. Like in that small bar where I asked for the hotel, the waiter answering with a voice that made me  want  to engage him for a medieval a-capella choir.

Next morning back to the itinerary: At the station” No tickets here for the train to Munich: buy on train!” Now finally sitting in the first class compartment together with five other people and their luggage. And coming back to writing a little and reading in the Watzlawick book.
I am fond of his words on human communication like “It is not possible not to behave”
So finally, the others stuck in Rome and I on my way home.
End of Prologue in front of the curtain made of Icelandic ashes.

Teaching strategies- artifice to reach a learning goal


vocabulary training  or message modulation

From my point of view the am-learning project still has to cope with the difficulty to make a clear distinction between the individualization of the learning process  and the acquisition of a “jargon”. Whenever the teaching goal is in the realm of acquisition of a jargon we have for many years experiences with programmes like “Coach”, a vocabulatry training programme developed at FernUniversität  from the early nineteen-nineties on.  In June 1996 e.g. I summarized the ideas behind such a vocabulary training programme: Error oriented tutoring is part of the didactical framework without which distance education would be nothing else but a special organizational form of teaching. I don`t mind talking about theory of distance education as long as the concept does not claim to be something really different from other teaching processes.
Error oriented tutoring is a concept from didactics - each error made should be taken as a chance for additional teaching, for corrections in the learning paths of students. We know from early learning behaviour studies like from Pavlov, that extinction takes much more effort to be achieved, than conditioning. So it is a merely economic issue to achieve correct behaviour at the earliest stage possible.
This means that errors made should be taken care of at the earliest possible instance.

In my life as a father of children I witness that schools tend to commit many a crime in this respect by not correcting errors when teachers administer tests but just indicating that at a certain place in a test an error ocurred. Is it lazyness of teachers? I think most of the teachers would reject this and argue that it is merely impossible to make a "positive correction", indicating not only the error but presenting the correct answer and trying to begin a process of additional input for remedy because of the number of tests to be corrected.
This is a severe argument and I dont have the solution for direct schooling at hand: but in distance education I think it would be waste of time and energy to go along that line of correction as just indicating: "You are wrong". For years I propose error oriented tutoring as a chance for an additional teaching effort - at an early stage of the learning process.

Students are used to being tested.
Tests will give at least some indication of quality, and although I dont want to step into the discussion of efficiency of grades for motivation and for real comparability of learning efforts, I think tests are good for training. It is just one known form of presentation of content. And we know of cultural differences in this field: In Germany a test in a classroom which has been failed by more than one third of the learning group either has to be repeated or to be approved by the administration. The idea is, that always the results of a test in a learning group will turn out to have the typical form of a Gauss-curve; in the anglo-saxon culture a notion of achievement up to 100% of the tasks is more prominent- at least it can be discussed.

One of the features of COACH is that the learner will go for a 100% while working with the system: One of the inbuilt elements in Coach is a small stochastic program that ensures that a student will be presented items not perfectly known before again and again - until the student has given the correct answer for the third time - . So the learner can be sure to really have mastered all items when the program finishes.


The main features of this vocabulary training program were:

Now we come to the issue that I want to transmit : sensitivity for error oriented tutoring

  1. The presentation of a new item in a meaningful context must not be too easy:
    For general practice in vocabulary learning COACH is a good instrument to fill in the blanks - you always have the possiblity to call for help or to break up your searching for the correct answer by filling in a question mark and receiving the correct answer.
  2. The synonym button is another teaching input - after testing: it makes fun to think of synonyms - they are all alternatives to possibly correct answers. The core of the problem is the list of possible wrong answers: To avoid guessing we have a log-file system from which we extract (by another software) the 5 most prominent errors - and here is the main question, is there a possibility to make up an automatic distinction between typing error and meaningful error.
  3. To think along this line of development we come closer to the idea of artificial intelligence: We may dream of a system that knows about the occurring typing errors in that software (which you know from marketed editing-software) and diagnose only the content-related errors - there is lots of work to be done! The more a learner tests out the list of possibly correct answers (synonyms), the better - the problem that remains is, that in case of a good student, always typing in correct answers, our effort with all the wrong answers and the sensitive comments that should induce future learning, all the presentation of new cognitive structures, will not be called upon.



on the need of "definitions"  in the times of derivatives, certificates and hedgefonds : write down what you think today!