I’ve been out of linguistics for so long that I don’t know if this is still the case, but it used to be there was a distinction in some branches of cognitive linguistics between what programmers might recognize as ISA and HASA relations.
The idea is this: a giraffe “isa” animal. The zoo “hasa” giraffe.
The difference in cognitive linguistics was that “isa” relations are indexed by our brains only from the instance to the category, whereas “hasa” relations are indexed from the category to the instance.
What does this mean?
Well, consider the problem of naming all animals that you know, a standard intelligence test. Want to know what most peoples answers look like? They come in clumps:
Um…dog, cat, mouse, hamster……cow, horse, goat, chickens — no wait, chicken’s a bird right — pig, bull…….giraffe, zebra, gorilla…
So what’s going on there with those groupings? Well, the person realizes there are no downward pointers from the concept “animal” to all animals. So they do the next best thing — they think of locations that contain contain animals (farms, zoos, etc), and then list off the animals they contain. An answerÂ might be in clumps of domestic animals, zoo animals, animals at the circus, farm animals, and animals in the movie Evan Almighty.
Humans like containers. They are visual and reassuringly physical; they run with the grain of our general thought.
So it’s no surprise that the modern LMS developed under what I would call a “container model”. We “upload files to” it. We have discussions “in” it. And if the “outside world” needs to see something “in there”, we give them “access”.
And the students? Well, they’re “in there” too. At least the piece of the student that belongs to that class is. You know, the English major slice. The part of the student that is a science minor is in another box, and the part of a student that is looking for a job or hanging out with friends doesn’t have a box at all.
So here’s one of the paradoxes of HASA-based LMS systems: they follow the grain of of our thought, and at the same time they profoundly fracture our experience. The unintentional message of the HASA LMS is what goes on in class stays in class — that it is seperated zoologically from the personal and the professional aspects of a students character.
Which brings me to my point (a variation on my “student-centered” question of a few weeks ago) — what does an “ISA-based” LMS look like? What if we moved from the container model to the tagging/syndication model, and instead of uploading something into theÂ ENG 331A box, we kept it on the student’s own site and tagged it as being relevant to his ENG 331A class and say, his professional portfolio? And maybe tagged it as a submission to the Academic Excellence Conference as well?
What if we made an “ISA” based system, and inverted the traditional LMS? What would it look like?
The answer is it’s a HASA system where the student is the container, and the different courses are attributes of that student’s output. Can anyone say “student-centered”?
Or “whole person education”? Or “integrative studies”?
Because that’s what this is about, in spades.
Once again, in a student-centered LMS, the student contains part of the class rather than the class containing part of the student.
Too abstract? Luckily you can see what the inverted LMS of the future looks like,Â because.UMW is putting one together. From free materials and code. On a server that costs $6.95 a month.
I’d file such a thing under both “cheap” and “pedagogically correct”.
But then, I can do that: I’m an ISA sort of guy.