Tie And Jeans

Social Hubs for Learning

Andrew Watt’s post started me thinking about our future/present of ubiquitous mobile information, with a dash of Augmented Reality and Constructing Modern Knowledge.

I came into teaching with a strong distaste for school as I had experienced it, but quickly fell into many of the same oppressive habits and structures. Clearly, those structures are *better* for the adults than the students, but they’re still not *good.* That experience, finding my pedagogy and principles corrupted by the structure of school, combined with the mobile shift Andrew mentions, pushed me to find a new identity for schools.

School is where you build relationships that help you learn.

Even with ubiquitous information, that mission serves an essential part of childhood and adolescent development. Those relationships will be with peers and adults, with those around you and far off. Maybe some people can form all of those relationships on their own and won’t benefit from the structure. Bully for them. They are the social-learning autodidacts, and I’m not sure they’re any more prevalent than any other stripe of iconoclasts. But unlike the current skill/standards/information model of schooling, where informational autodidacts that trample over date-of-manufacture deadlines and drift listlessly through engagement free curriculum, I’ve yet to meet learner that doesn’t benefit from *more* connections, from a stronger community of support.

In his post, Andrew wonders whether any teacher would have the time, skill or inclination to build software with students that further erodes the Information In A Box mission of schools.

From my perspective, working in a school dedicated to helping students build new relationships and new models for learning, I’d try it in a heartbeat.

I’m probably the nerdiest teacher at my school, and I know I’m not ready to build a Augmented Reality app this summer.

But even as I type that sentence, I’m spinning up all the neat ways that those apps could work. Our school is right outside DC – let’s build an app that shares student made AR triggered tours of the lesser trafficked landmarks and monuments. Let’s build one that focuses, architecture, geometry, space and meaning – a student researched version (less homicidal, less psychotic,  possibly less occult)  of that great hansom cab ride in Alan Moore’s From Hell. (Sadly, I don’t think there’s a work/school safe page in that sequence to link)

I know I’m not equipped to tackle that problem. With my current skills, I can imagine that with a fantastically focused week-long class, I’d refine those skills enough that I’d be able to put the framework together.

But there’s not a week of tailored PD out there for every great idea that strikes me.  As a classroom teacher, if I have to choose between finding a week-long seminar to learn something new, then take the time to parse it into 45 minute lessons for adolescents, then support them enough to ensure that the end product ticks off some of the semester’s curricular goals … well, it’s not getting done.

But if I had the opportunity to work with students through the learning and design process, then my time investment drops drastically.

If I can accept the uncertainty that comes with doing something honestly and authentically new, then I don’t have to map the entire territory before students arrive.

If I have extended periods of time with the same students, I don’t have to build arbitrary milestones into the learning process.

If I have confidence in my own learning, I can be confused and frustrated and model my techniques for moving through those feelings.

If I have confidence in my teaching craft, then I can expect to support students along the way and receive support from them in turn, knowing that those moments will be rich and meaningful even if they don’t hit every curricular checkbox.

I don’t know when I would ever find the time to build a traditional classroom unit to build an augmented reality app. But I think if I had two weeks with a group of middle school kids, we could make a serious run at it.

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2 thoughts on “Social Hubs for Learning

  1. I think this is great, because it starts an important conversation about what the purpose of school is, and what it should look like. One possibility suggested by these AR apps is something akin to the opening of Hill Street Blues where the Sergeant/Teacher gives both marching orders and warnings to the beat cops/students who are out and about doing their learning, and then checking in by radio/internet throughout the day, or coming in to school to use the library or get mentoring advice. And no one is suggesting that this should be the model for kindergarten or the lower grades, who clearly benefit from in person, social and academic encounters in groups.

    But our colleagues’ mindset (or our mindset) of “we just don’t have time for this, too bad” will likely lead to such apps being developed, not for truly educational purposes, but for entertainment and profit. And that means that our digital landscape will be as littered with advertisements as our physical landscape.

    Although I love your idea about an AR app to teach DC’s lesser and minor monuments. As I noted in my own recent post about visiting our nation’s capital, DC functions as part of my palace of memory, to help me store and retrieve information about various structures and themes in US History. The city’s own geometry and monument placement helps with that, too, which is nice.

  2. Pingback: Sample Size Insufficient « Tie And Jeans

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