Saturday, April 9, 2016

Transmedia Literacy and the Wicked Problem of Tech Integration Part 4

Stepping Back from Tech

“In the midst of a fabulous array of an historically unprecedented and utterly mind-boggling stimuli…   

whatever.” - Thomas de Zengotita
Tech often gets associated with fostering attention deficits, a distractedness blocking deep learning.  For that reason, stepping back from the tech, and moving slowly through mechanics of thought necessary to use these tools effectively, could make our classrooms more productive learning spaces at the same time.  Using technology as a pedagogical mirror causes a reflection on how we utilize our classroom space as learning tool.  Just as tech tools potentially affect how we learn and interact, space with purpose becomes a “third teacher”.  Here are some classroom tweaks, manipulations that support a collaborative learning culture, where the process of learning is a visible, manipulative process.  

Walls with Cognitive Purpose

Move all furniture away from the walls, make them approachable and use whatever manipulative materials are available (tape, chart paper, post-its, wipe boards, windows, etc…).  Use wall space with purpose, each wall, assuming one wall is windowed, for a different kind of cognition - acquisition wall where teachers post content, processing wall where students process, and the “life” wall where learning transfers into the real world.  Space takes on a cognitive purpose and provides a point for classroom ritual.  The teacher presents material here and this pattern of thinking surrounds this space.  Here is where I work out my thinking…  Meaningful wall space for habits of mind coupled with a reflection on why we group together within the walls begins to construct a reason for school, the culture of learning within.

Metaphors of Human Interaction

Why do we even gather in schools if we could access content online and interact digitally?  Thornberg offers the four classroom metaphors based on human interactions - campfire for whole group storytelling (or mini-lesson) time, watering holes for small group interactions, caves for solo-encapsulation time, and mountain tops where learning goes out into the real world.  As mentioned above, patterns of expected behaviors in the classroom create rituals, it also communicates how we validate learning process as both social event and internal process, and how learning is to be transferred into actionable knowledge in the world.  We need to interact in the same physical space where prosody, affect, and gesture are 360 degree all encompassing experiences.  Luma Institute, the d.School, and Expeditionary Learning’s Ron Berger offer explicit critique models for modeling these interactions (see reference links).  If we define the rituals within the space itself, and establish the forms of interaction, we are left with the question of how we think together?

Making Learning Visible

Warning:  Repetitive thinking moves, applicable to a wide range of content to use on the wall space, foments patterns of thought within the group.  Edu-culture has a bad habit of crossing from culture into cult, often propagated by educorporate objectives, including our teacher trainer centers within universities.  A good test of the intentions behind a “program” is the amount of content and training offered as open source.  Another rule of thumb is to never let the proscribed thinking moves overshadow natural thinking moves that recur within a learning community.  When this happens, name them, encourage them, and make them habit.  The goal is for students and groups to evolve their own patterns of thought.  This means overarching dispositions promoted by a school’s mission statement are critically important.  Mindsets within these arches should be openly discussed, methods reflecting this consensus.  Too often one teacher’s method gets attacked as conflicting with the way things are done when a macro lens would show alignment with dispositions and mindsets.  If prompts to students are only producing regurgitation of content or a pre-scripted process of thought, then perhaps it is time to try something more provocative.
Beyond the warning, having a few explicit examples to repeat throughout the year makes visible thinking on the wall explicit.  Some examples from Project Zero are great starting points…  see, think, wonder - circle of viewpoints - compass points - color, symbol, image - I used to think, now I think.  Agency by Design has developed others particular to maker spaces such as parts, purposes, complexities.  Design Thinking offers collective brainstorming and affinity grouping methods for quick crowdsourced data sets, inquiry, and ideation - all methods identifying the complexity of divergent viewpoints within a group, and moving forward into convergent goals.  Games for Actors and Nonactors from Boal is loaded with provocative participatory theater games to proceed thinking critically around content, excellent for pre-writing.
Awareness of thinking process should be visual, on wall space, with clear cues to the mindsets and methods surrounding each step.  This culture of thinking within a school, made explicit on interactive wall space, validates both individual and collaborative experiences, and prepares for thinking in shared digital spaces.

Reflect the Tech

Tech tools often afford meaningful insights into pedagogy not emphasized in the classroom such as collaborative learning, socratic dialogue, movie assembly, connecting sensory media and text, and processing through sketchnoting or doddling.  Stepping back from the tech, slowing down the action, and focusing on these process in analogue space creates a cognitive bridge between the two spaces.  Here are __ simple moves.
  • Google Docs commenting function performed with printouts of text on the wall with highlighters, sharpies, and post-its brings the mechanics of Docs into a physical manipulative space and opens up the space for “comment critique”.  
  • Chart paper and post-its on wall space or tables enables a silent, slow-motion socratic dialogue where students can visualize the threads of their conversations in shared space, before moving to a interactive board space (Murally, Padlet, Realtimeboard).  
  • Storyboarding in physical space before video editing opens up critique space for multiple video and audio tracks and ideal for bridging back and forth between writing space and media creation.  
  • Bringing images and screenshots into physical space as a focal point for deeper thinking critique counters the “swiping” habit associated with digital image.  
  • Sketchnoting and doodling on wall space validates a visual form of processing and for most students yields higher recall.

Stepping forward

After 15 years, we stop saying 21st Century Learning.  When Google’s AlphaGo beat one of the world’s leading Go players, the program ran off of a basic laptop, questioning the importance of the brute computational force of Moore’s Law.  What I think this means for tech integration is, we don’t have to wait for the next greatest all powerful personalized learning device, we have to focus on better integration of the software we have, creating deeper learning experiences.  What that means for educational tech designers is better merging of the affordances of our current patchwork of applications to create “personal” learning experiences enabling  individual and group appropriation, not the “personalized learning” our closed environment learning management systems promise.  In this reorganization of tools there could be a wider balance of multimodal inputs, incorporating a broader cognitive architecture.  Google Wave hinted at this merging of tools for group communication across time and space - a multimodal version of what Dr. Aaron Kuntz described in the Disruptive Dialogue Project with discussion threads branching off vertically and horizontally.  Imagine a Google Docs space as a transmedia experience, sketchnoting, audio, video inputs all part of the writing experience.

Beyond the curating of our current tools, two of the next advances on the immediate horizon that could drastically change our learning environments are virtual reality, text to speech technology, and personal learning assistants.  
When taking a virtual field trip to far corners of the world is as simple as putting on a 3D headset then we should perhaps have some strategies for how to frontload cognition before the event, and how to reflect on an experiential learning experience after.  The question will not be who has access to the devices, but who has access to the pedagogy.  The place to practice for this, taking a real field trip.
Speech to text advances could change the way we approach writing, our creative impulses more dependent on our “centaur” bonding with the devices.  Imagine students audio journaling a walk through a forest, senses honed, then curating their thoughts to report observations - or skimming the transcriptions of a critical discussion for selections to sprout the next inquiry - or as Psychologist and Learning Specialist Maria Jose Serpa just showed me, using voice to text technology to move a student from sketching a written draft, reading it into the iPad, then editing, revising the document into a final draft.
The future of technology in education is not in chasing the latest device but In using tech in deeper learning environments.  It should be noted the incredible potentials of bridging transmedia/transcoding literacies in maker space, gamification, game based learning, STEM/STEAM environments, participator theater, and forms of experiential learning.

Interstices Within

The structural variables of tech and learning space are often the easy answer investments for institutions.  They look great on the school tour and photograph well for publications.  The process variables reflect the human centered design of learning, what kind of interactions are happening within the walls.  Changing human behaviors can be like changing the course of a river.  Pedagogical shift is slow.  But learning space design and tech tools serve as catalysts for this change if their purpose is made explicit and is aligned with the culture of thought within the school.  
Text is vital for civilization but our tech integration can bridge multiple symbolic forms in sensory medias with our language development making us not post-human, but more human.  But advances in technology do carry the false hope that humanity is on a continuous improvement plan.  Continuous human centered innovation needs a dispersed learning network, a completely decentralized agile approach that conflicts with the current hierarchical, educorporate structure that resembles Gorbachev’s Glasnost and Perestroika.  The hope is in connectivity and transparency, in our ability to document and share the incredible learning processes happening every day.  These lenses will reveal the interstices within the edifice, the seeds which spread the roots, which, networked and intertwined overcome the host.

Postnote: Beware not blogging or only sketching out notes here and there.  Then, when you do try to write, it is all bottlenecked and comes out not as blog but as manifesto.  Excuse the melodrama.  Pretty much everything here can be expanded out into further posts.  Everything I write about is anecdotal, meaning from real classroom practical observation.  If I touched on anything that you also have experience with and are passionate about I’d love to hear from you.  Or if you have references to related readings, please share. The more we break down the silos, the more we can exchange and create moments when we sit back in awe of our students… (this audio was one take)

see part I
part II
part III


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