Time, Transmission, Learning

Dear Friend,

Thank you for the long view over the Montreal skyline into the landscape beyond. I, myself, tend to capture specimens in my own or “borrowed” gardens when out on walks. My long view is temporal. For some gardens that I have observed over many years the trees are now shading out the original plantings…

I have been making good use of the resources of the Toronto Public Library including their audio recordings. I discovered a BBC series (made from recordings in the British Library) of poets reading their own work. I have heard the three discs of the Americans and have on order the British. I find for the most part that poets are actually poor readers of their own work. There are two noteworthy exceptions among the Americans: e.e. cummings and Amiri Baraka. I find their cadences conversational, like invitations that build a space of reciprocity, an awareness of the listener. Or so I believe.

This return to aurality makes me wish I was teaching online. I would have my students read a passage aloud and choose another student to provide a verbal comment on the selected passage who would then choose someone else to produce a written note to share with the class. Rinse and repeat. The trick, learnt from language teaching, is to have them speak, listen, read and write. And with audio-visual records being easy to produce an environment is provided for full language use by the students.

But instead of being in the classroom, I am engaging with colleagues through the Humanities Commons where I blog and participate in two groups: one on narratology and another on literary theory. Perfect for whiling away the time in retirement.

Interestingly, I was doing a blog entry on Benjamin Franklin’s sayings from Poor Richard’s Almanack and in the research came across the Wikipedia entry for John Lancaster, who coined the phrase “a place for everything and everything in its place.” I found out that he was an educator.

Lancaster’s ideas were developed simultaneously with those of Andrew Bell in Madras whose system was referred to as the “Madras system of education”. The method of instruction and delivery is recursive. As one student learns the material he or she is rewarded for successfully passing on that information to the next pupil.


The online environment allows the teacher to witness these acts of transmission peer-to-peer.

Well, enough of my ramblings. And wishing you clear skies for your vista. Or mists should you prefer Keats.


And so for day 2860

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