A few days ago Emilio Quintana sent me an e-mail regardging my gig next week at IPON 2008Acccording to a Blogger profile he is a Profesor de ELE (Español como Lengua Extranjera) at the Instituto Cervantes in Utrecht, (Can not find him in the institutes web site, which is why I refer to other sources). [quick update] He is listed at their staff page.

In his e-mail Quintana just kindly informed me about the blogpost Re-think Learning, Gatarski en Utrecht that he published January 13. Clearly Quintana is a spanish teacher, and his posts all over the web are in spanish. That is a nice challenge for me, who does not understand that fine language and argues that we are more important than I (am). From a knowledge perspective that argument implies that I do not need to know much – including spanish. (This is a way for me to challenge a dominant idea that education in school is about individal learning).

Anyway, I immediately tried two automated translation services that I know (of). As a result we can read both the Babelfish version and the Google Translate version. Unfortunately the latters stops at a video embedded in Quintana’s post (a bug I guess). Therefore I took the remaining paragraphs and had Google Translate them separately. It also just happens to be so that one of my current students is Mexican, so I asked him too for a translation. I found it cool that Babelfish and Google did a pretty good job, my student did not add much (besides a kind of assurement).

As I started to read I smiled of joy when my paper Marketing and Public Education: Mutual Benefits? was described as a ”classic”. Furthermore I appreciated the notion that watching my presentation at EDEN last year is not a waste of time (available as a video). Then I noticed a number of critical, and much valuable remarks, concerning my endevours. In particular a provocative one (I think).

The problem is that I am not sure the remark is provocative. All of us (me, Babelfish, Google, and the Mexican) can´t really figure out the meaning of:

O eso, o los que lo invitan a abrir sesiones plenarias y la BBC Learning, que acaba de contratarlo como asesor para sus nuevos proyectos, son unos masocas y unos irresponsables.

Google turns that into:

Or that, or those who invite you to open plenary sessions and the BBC Learning, which has just been hired as a consultant for their new projects are about masocas and irresponsible.

First of all, BBC Learning has not hired me as a consultant, meaning to advice them on a continous basis. Rather they invited me to inspire, discuss (and provoce) a project team for one afternoon. Second, ”masocas”? I tried an handful of online dictionaries, but masocas was not there. Then I did some further searching and now guess it means masochistic – ”pleasure in being abused or dominated”. If so, that would make me a sadist :-). Of course I could have asked Quintana, but that would not be as fun, and as much learning, as publishing this post and see what happens.

Whatever Quintana means, and I must really stress that I appreciate his sharing of thoughts, here is a fantastic opportuinity for me to explain that I have no intentions to let us suffer for the sake of suffering. But I am aware of that the implimentation of some of my ideas will cause pain. Just like when a dentist remove material decayed by caries from ones teeth.

Rather, I try to navigate between at the gentle endpoint just hinting at what is going on (blogs might be better than books, see how fun the students have with it) while giving some anasthetics (it is not crucial yet). The tougher endpoint is stirring minds with all the power I can assemble. The latter was the case when I said ”forget school” at EDEN. I just assumed the audience to be more than ”un público 100% de profesores” . They were special. At least they should have deep insights in new technology for educational purposes. And many of them are already arguing that we have to do some fundamental changes. My suggestion is extreme, but I mean it – as a thing to fuel our minds.

Generally my aim is to move the audience from ignorance to a strong sense of expectancy and frustration – not pain. In my view it is not masochistic and/or irresponsible to go to the dentist when one believes there might be a tooth related problem. But if the dentist suggests removing the tooth, and one believes (for good reasons) removal is a bad solution – simply complying is irresponsible. Are you complying?


p.s. Listen to Business Week, where John and Stephen talk about Google’s Next Big Dream, including how Google developed their translation services. They ”forgot” how translations are made. d.s.