‘Seizing the day – revisiting Carpe Diem’

At senior school, I did one year of Latin before giving it up with, as I recall, a feeling of thankfulness. Whether I was ‘linguistically challenged’ or whether the ‘chalk ‘n talk’ teaching and rote-based learning was insufficiently challenging to an inquisitive 11-year old, I cannot remember. What I do know is that I regret not being able to continue education with a stronger emphasis on languages.

So with the term ‘Carpe Diem’ established as part of BDRA’s e-learning language, and ‘seizing the opportunity’ to find out more about the words, I learn that this commonly–used expression is part of a longer saying. The words from the stylus of Roman poet Horace (Odes 1, xi, #8) are ‘carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero’. Or in plain English, ‘Enjoy the present day, trust the least possible to the future’ (1).

Now this is interesting in the context of developing e-learning and learning design capabilities. Much has been published on the ‘Carpe Diem workshop concept’ by BDRA colleagues (for example, see Armellini and Jones, 2008) as an effective means for course teams to work together to design or redesign their courses to take advantage of developments in e-learning and learning technologies. And this is surely the central point: that it is about people, bringing them together to agree a set of goals and to work together as a team to achieve a common purpose for the benefit of future learners. Yes, the technology and the pedagogy are key, but arguably the servants, not the masters, of the online teacher.

Over the past year, I have been able to participate in and contribute to several such Carpe Diem sessions at UoL and other UK universities. Recently, I attended another external post-workshop review session. What struck me once again, is the importance of people taking time together away from everyday teaching and learning concerns to reflect upon what they are doing, and the how and why of it all, and to consider possible, and thus hopefully better, alternatives.

Horace surely would have approved? To ‘enjoy the present day’ in the company of trusted and respected colleagues is a worthy, and hopefully productive, end in itself, and one that communications based on technology alone cannot satisfy. Of course, if trust and respect are somehow deficient or missing, then that is a management or leadership issue or one of community culture, not directly one of developing e-learning capabilities.

And what about those last few words? To ‘trust the least possible to the future’ suggests the importance of looking ahead, anticipating future needs, planning how these can or might be met, and then implementing the appropriate mix of technologies and materials. And not forgetting the need for evaluation, for learning from experience and not being afraid to make further changes.

So ‘Carpe diem’? Not just seizing the day or the opportunity for e-learning development, but doing so in a considered and appropriate way working together with colleagues. Here’s to success!

Roger Dence, 5th May 2009

1          In one translation, rendered as ‘Seize the present; trust to-morrow e’en as little as you may’. Source: http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_horace_odes1.htm, accessed 24th April 2009

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