Humor in Facilitations Online and Offline


“It is our contention that humor, particularly humor that conveys ethos, pervades the rhetorical process of forming and maintaining online groups. Humor theorist Michael Mulkay (1988) affirmed the socio-rhetorical power of humor when he observed that “both ‘social structure’ and ‘joke’ refer to organized patterns of discourse” and that somehow “social structures may reproduce the linguistic form of a joke” (p. 157).“


Humor carries ethos

Aristotle, when speaking of ethos said that the ethical appeal was exerted when the speech itself impresses the audience that the speaker is a person of sound sense.

Ethos is otherwise defined as the characteristic spirit if a culture, or community.

The CMC discourse of virtual communities may resemble oral discourse because of its informal, conversational nature, but a digital text message, particularly electronic mail, is a “hybrid” text that shares elements of written and oral communication in novel ways (Johanyak, 1997, pp. 91–92). 


“NONONONONONONONONONONONO!… YOU ARE GETTING VERY SLEEPY! YOU WILL FORGET THAT YOU EVER READ MY MESSAGE! HAHAHA! YEAH! THAT’S IT!” (p. 10). The combination of emphasizing with capital letters, blurring words together without spaces, using exclamation points, and adding a canned textual laugh set the tone for the hypnotic humor. 

Explaining humor=great way to kill humor 

Super cool article by David Jones. You NEED to follow him

The Weblog of (a) David Jones

One of the tasks for the course I teach is to explore in a bit more detail one of the 150 ICT innovations identified as “good” in the Decoding Learning report. The list can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet. Preferably, the idea is we should be exploring ICT innovations that we might like to apply in our teaching.

The Wii, proportion and embodied mathematical cognition

The Decoding Learning folk describe this innovation this way

This project uses a gesture control device (Wii remote) and an onscreen representation to help learners explore and discuss their mathematical understanding, for example, of ratio. The underlying idea is that the design encourages learners to make gestures to represent mathematical concepts and then to reflect upon and discuss how their gestures related to the concepts. The innovation requires the gesture console, the prototype device and peers to be available so that learners…

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Some Favorites from John Dewey

From Chapter 12 and Chapter 24 of John Dewey’s Democracy in Education (published 1916)

Just a note: John Dewey is in the public domain and the whole book is available here.

“The material of thinking is not thoughts, but actions, facts, events, and the relations of things.”

“A difficulty is an indispensable stimulus to thinking, but not all difficulties call out thinking.”

“A large part of the art of instruction lies in making the difficulty of new problems large enough to challenge thought, and small enough so that, in addition to the confusion naturally attending the novel elements, there shall be luminous familiar spots from which helpful suggestions may spring.”

” A well-trained mind is one that has a maximum of resources behind it, so to speak, and that is accustomed to go over its past experiences to see what they yield.”

“But practice in applying what has been gained in study ought primarily to have an intellectual quality. As we have already seen, thoughts just as thoughts are incomplete. At best they are tentative; they are suggestions, indications. They are standpoints and methods for dealing with situations of experience. Till they are applied in these situations they lack full point and reality.”

“Ordinary experience does not receive the enrichment which it should; it is not fertilized by school learning. And the attitudes which spring from getting used to and accepting half-understood and ill-digested material weaken vigor and efficiency of thought.”

“Classroom instruction falls into three kinds. The least desirable treats each lesson as an independent whole. It does not put upon the student the responsibility of finding points of contact between it and other lessons in the same subject, or other subjects of study. Wiser teachers see to it that the student is systematically led to utilize his earlier lessons to help understand the present one, and also to use the present to throw additional light upon what has already been acquired.”

“Since the only way of bringing about a harmonious readjustment of the opposed tendencies is through a modification of emotional and intellectual disposition, philosophy is at once an explicit formulation of the various interests of life and a propounding of points of view and methods through which a better balance of interests may be effected.”

“Since education is the process through which the needed transformation may be accomplished and not remain a mere hypothesis as to what is desirable, we reach a justification of the statement that philosophy is the theory of education as a deliberately conducted practice.”

How to live; how to philosophize

In the readings today was mention of Plato’s Gorgias. Gorgias was a rhetorician who demonstrates the power of words and the almost irresistible power that they hold.

Dramatis Persone:


The conversation begins between Socrated and Gorgias, once they have been introduced, with an attempt to discover rhetoric. Socrates asks Gorgias what it is that he teaches. In dialogue with Chaerephon, Socrates instructs him to ask Gorgias who he is. Chaerephon seeks clarification and Socrates replies:

Socrates: “I mean such a question as would elicit from him, if he had been a maker of shoes, the answer that he is a cobbler.”

Gorgias believes that if a rhetorician and a doctor were to debate how to treat the patent the audience would agree with the rhetorician. There are real life examples of this happening–but my immediate example is a little inflammatory so just ask if you want me to expand on that.

Anyway, armed with power like that a person could literally get away with murder. In Plato’s interpretation of Gorgias, Gorgias claims at to teach virtue along with rhetoric but sophists do not always make such a claim to teach goodness. “For the  Sophists, the importance of oratory lies precisely in its instrumental value (it enables individuals to achieve their predetermined goals) and a lack of teleological relevance (it assumes that the individuals goals are either already constituted or constituted by other means)” (Laverty, 2006).

Gorgias’ view on rhetoric is to make the speaker persuasive so that they sound as though they know what they are talking about. Such as the rhetoricain vs the doctor. Similarly, the rhetorician may be able to persuade an assembly without knowing what the best course of action is.

When Socrates explains, at the bidding of Gorgias’ student Polus, that he thinks rhetoric is more of a skill than an art. Socrates expounds on what it is that rhetoric does:

Socrates: And the same holds of the relation of rhetoric to all the other arts; the rhetorician need not know the truth about things; he has only to discover some way of persuading the ignorant that he has more knowledge than those who know?

and Gorgias agrees by saying:

Gorgias: Yes, Socrates, and is not this a great comfort?-not to have learned the other arts, but the art of rhetoric only, and yet to be in no way inferior to the professors of them?

This goes on until the discussion reaches rhetoric’s ability to potentially grant life or death to a person–because a skilled rhetorician would be able to either kill or convince someone to kill a person by virtue of his words only. Gorgias and Polus find this to be a great thing while the ever moral Socrates declares that he himself would rather be put to death then to condem a man to death wrongly.

Further, at the cajoling of Socrates, Polus agrees that justice is good and injustice is bad…but wait! Something is usually good because it is pleasant, and justice is not always pleasant so it must be beneficial and therefore unjust or injustice must than be harmful (which is the antecedent and consequence topic within rhetoric). Virtue then by Socrates account is knowing how to get what is good by attaining what is most beneficial.

Socrates posits virtue, but not altruism. Perhaps because he knew his audience.

Finally Socrates the virtuous spars with Callicles the immoralist. They have no common ground and so Socrates cannot, as he did with Polus and Gorgias, get Callicles to concede to any point which would make it possible for Socrates to refute him. For what is good or bad to someone who cares not for morals?

On such grounds it may be failing of the teacher or failing of the student but the inability to reach a commonality makes it pretty difficult for learning, or conversation, to occur.

I embedded the Plato link, but for Laverty:

Laverty, M. (2006). Philosophy of education: Overcoming the theory-practice dividePaideusis – International Journal in Philosophy of Education, 15(1). pp. 31-44.

Reflective Praxis

“Reflection is an active process of witnessing one’s own experience in order to take a closer look at it, sometimes to direct attention to it briefly, but often to explore it in greater depth” (Amulya, n.d.). 

I have struggled a lot with reflection at times. I think I have gotten better at it from starting with MALAT as well as some of my writing. Word to aspiring writers reflecting on your writing, as well as fear of the commenters, will make you a better writer. 

In a classroom whether online or face-to-face I don’t think you can overstate the importance of at least attempting to create a safe space for students. I don’t think that means that student’s will never be upset, debate can be challenging and uncomfortable,  but dissent between pupils can happen in a way that still maintains respect. 

The idea of reflective practice is well-defined here:

…the practice of periodically stepping back to ponder the meaning of what has recently transpired to ourselves and to others in our immediate environment. It illuminates what the self and others have experienced, providing a basis for future action. In particular, it privileges the process of inquiry, leading to an understanding of experiences that may have been overlooked in practice. In its public form, it is associated with learning dialogues. (Raelin, 2002)


Praxis is a term always linked to feminism for me because I learned it first from bell hooks when reading on her theories of engaged pedagogy. Teaching is inherently traditionalist or conservative if you think about it. When an instructor performs a lecture he or she does so in a similar way to those instructors from which they learned. 

However some things in the landscape have changed, including the technological advances that have allowed for open education, and there has been a move toward liberatory education as written about by Paulo Friere…who I will write about more tomorrow because I am tired right now. 

Amulya, J. (n.d.) What is reflective practice? Center for Reflective Community Practice. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Raelin, J. A. (2002). “I Don’t Have Time to Think!” versus the Art of Reflective Practice. Reflections4(1), 66-79.