Speaker Series

Dr. Donald Wink Professor Chemistry and Learning Sciences

The Zen of 2500 Metal Pieces: An Analysis in the Mode of Bruno Latour
Friday, February 17, 2017 1:00PM to 2:30PM
LSRI 1535A

A fundamental issue in learning is the relationship of learning and "things" that are learned about, including the important case of when the things are natural objects (as is often encountered in science). This paper presents a viewpoint of the relationship of learning and the things of the natural world that draws on the ideas of the French philosopher / anthropologist Bruno Latour. Latour, in particular in his books Pandora's Hope and the Politics of Nature, recasts scientific knowledge as an outcome of bringing entities to activity within a collective of humans and non-humans. This is part of his work to overcome irreconcilable perspectives that all, in one way or another, rely on a division of the world into subject and object. How this might work in learning will be discussed in the context of a specific activity within chemical education: the preparation of a set of materials for classroom use. Here, pieces of metal are transformed by an act of cutting up, packaging, labeling, and distribution into objects used for instruction about properties of elements. The metal pieces, which have their own properties, are thereby brought into the collective of a classroom and of a curriculum development project. As a consequence those already in the collective, including other substances, the project leaders, the classroom teachers, and the students become articulated in different ways.