lunes, 12 de noviembre de 2012

The Mcguffin Project

Hola a todos y todas

Comparto un texto que forma parte de un capítulo que escribí hace un par de años. Es la primera vez que explicité esto de los Mcguffins, aplicado al contexto educativo. Como veo que varios habéis explorado este tema, me parece oportuno compartirlo. 

Está en inglés, pero es mi inglés, o sea sencillito,  así que seguro que podréis leerlo bien. Si no fuera así decídmelo y ya vemos otras posibilidades. 

El texto de fondo lo tenéis aquí (por cierto no se ve el vídeo que hay mencionado con un enlace, trataré de resolverlo, el autor era un alumno de hace unos seis años, que hizo una aplicación de lo más curiosa). 

One specific way of playing with the generation of contexts with the purpose of promoting exploration, connection and research processes and its effects on creating challenge and curiosity for knowing, is what we called the McGuffin project.
The McGuffin project was born by chance. It emerged during the subject of “Learning Disabilities” belonging to the Psycho-Pedagogical Studies, and it is still open to new applications. It became a joke for labelling some topics discussed during the classes that shared some particularities:

1.   They were neither a central issue of the subject nor were explicitly stated in the program.
2.   Although topics were not a central issue, and maybe because of this, they called attention on themselves.
3.   As an example of their peripheral nature, they were never completely and exhaustedly covered.
4.   Actually they seemed more an excuse to work something else, a mean to get an end, but a mean that seemed intriguing enough to evoke interest and attention.
5.   They could appear just once or from time to time as if they wanted to recall their presence. In this sense there were two different types: occasional McGuffins which appeared just once or transversal ones which were developed in parallel with the subject.
6.   McGuffins helped to start processes of exploration which led to different places which coincided with explicit goals of the subject.
7.   Many students began to think outside the class about the nature of the McGuffins and their connection with other McGuffins or the goals of the subject. It served then to initiate hypothetical reasoning so typical in abductive thought.

In general McGuffin helped to gain attention, to evoke questions in the student minds and to prepare the possibility of connecting classes, concepts and practices. In essence finally it implied going beyond the content of the subject to promote something more important, the processes that we were trying to practice as students of that subject. Generally these processes involved the discussion or participation of small groups or the whole class as a group. As we realized it was one way of promoting the work of competences due to it paid attention to the processes performed by the students instead of contents they had to learn.
Furthermore McGuffins usually were presented erratically during the classes. For example after a short or long explanation or the question of one student, the teacher could add like diminishing its importance:

well but this is just a McGuffin”.

This short sentence could call the attention of students towards the previous explanation in a different way, reframing it as a special explanation, not an ordinary one:

Is it what?” 
Of course the name of the McGuffin is in itself a strange word for the major part of the students unless they are interested in the cinema and know the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. Interviewed in 1966 by François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term "McGuffin" with this story[1]:

"It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says, 'What's that package up there in the baggage rack?' And the other answers, 'Oh that's a McGuffin.' The first one asks 'What's a McGuffin?' 'Well' the other man says, 'It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands.' The first man says, 'But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands,' and the other one answers 'Well, then that's no McGuffin!' So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all."

More succinctly, Hitchcock defined the McGuffin as the object around which the plot revolves, it is a plot device that motivates the characters and advances the story, but has little other relevance to the story.
For us the strange name works as an invitation to define it, to explore its meaning, it suggests a mystery to be resolved (Cialdini, 2005). Instead of the content of the McGuffin, the idea of McGuffin could be in itself a McGuffin as well. Some examples of McGuffins worked during our classes are the following:

-     The idea of digital immigrant and digital native (Prensky, 2001), could be connected to our students? Or better said, are our students digital natives while we as teachers are digital immigrants? How is this separating us? What could be taken into account of these two ‘cultures’ in order to communicate people belonging to them?
-     What is the difference of dynamic VS static ways of evaluating aptitudes? How can be done something dynamically or statically?
-     What is a process? How is a process related with the dynamic evaluation? How can we track processes though time when working with an individual or a group?
-     What is an inference? How do we construct meaning of the world? What does it mean to mean something? How is this related to deductive, inductive and abductive reasoning? What is abductive reasoning? What processes are involved?
-     What is a context? How many contexts could we differentiate? How is the context connected to motivation, social skills or even learning disabilities? What is the connection between context and meaning?
-     What is a pattern? Why it was so famous the sentence of Bateson “the pattern that connects”? What is the relationship between pattern and process? And with meaning?

After reading these few examples of McGuffin you could understand the typical headache of many students but also the awakening of a new class of wondering process. As you can also notice the McGuffin are better expressed with questions which could orient our attention towards a new scenario, a new possibility. Besides it enhances the need of creating connections. McGuffins are not isolated structures, neither isolated processes. They can connect with different McGuffins and above all with the themes, topics and activities worked and presented during one or more subjects, which are not neither isolated nor independent. With the purpose of objectifying this dynamic we have discussed about McGuffin in blogs, forum and wikis[2].

[2] The following links illustrate attempts to define what a McGuffin is ( and ).

2 comentarios:

  1. Por cierto, no sé por qué se resaltan algunas palabras. Antes de que alguien piense que se trata de un juego de algún tipo, no... no sé por qué ocurre... lo juro...

  2. Lo ponto en este color porque es la única manera para que se pudiera leer bien...