Saturday, April 9, 2016

Transmedia Literacy and the Wicked Problem of Tech Integration Part 3

Pedagogical Shift:  What needs to be done?

The Bolsheviks had incredible titles for their revolutionary literature - What is to be Done?  Who is to Blame?  The topic of pedagogical shift is as massive and bloated as a Tsarist regime, especially for a generation of teachers who have been trained to implement programs, not reflect on epistemology and cognitive processing.  But if we change the toolset in a learning environment, and we truly reflect on what the tools afford, this potentially changes how we organize learning.  This list by no means encompasses the whole of the change, but it might provide some starting points for debate.

Learning is a social construction.  

Critical discussion drives learning and leverages students into defensible positions, creating a need to dig in and search for reasons for an argument.  Common group goals for students to work towards place students in an environment where they must empathize with the abilities and needs of peers.  The balance between respecting the drive within each individual but with an understanding that the support of the learning community is necessary to realize one’s potential.  The Doc is the tool providing the space for both personal encapsulation and social interaction.  Writing is one of the most difficult tasks we ask of elementary school students and yet students often face the blank slate without cognitive front loading.  Instead of treating the writing task as a unit of production, it should serve as the “talking piece”.

Break down the barrier of the time-production unit.  

There is plenty written about our Prussian school model being outdated, a robust design that is still with us today.  Chronemics is the study of how we use time to communicate.  The Industrial Revolution introduced a monochronic system in which time was broken into production units serving the efficiency of factories.  In this post-Gutenberg era we are regaining some of the communicative strengths of pre-Gutenberg culture, or adopting elements from cultures that never placed text above oral culture.  But working from the strengths of these polychronic time communicative systems we create a less fragile system more adaptable to change, innovation, and creativity.  Here goals and results are prioritized over schedules and deadlines.  Concentration is on an event, not on individual tasks.  In project settings this moves the focus to framing objectives around a driving question, not on the successful completion of a series of assignments.  People and relationships take precedence over job and results.  Google Docs provides this ability to “check-in” on progress without there being an explicit timed-production-assessment system.  Active documents are never really finished, there can always be another interaction, more continuity between tasks.  With group editors using critique models, there is a social learning net of support as opposed to graded feedback for every assignment.  We regain a more human-centered approach to learning, and more space for a personalized learning experience.

Authorship is not dependent on pure internal processing.  

In real life, we work from the vantage point of our strengths and knowing our areas of weakness, we go for help from others.  In writing, this metacognition of ability should be validated.  John Seely Brown talks about situated learning environments in which students observe by “legitimate peripheral participation” as cognitive apprentices.  Surfers learn how to surf by watching other surfers, by talking through the process in “hero narratives”.  Musicians learn to play by hours of observation, by being in proximity with other musicians.  Writing should also be socially active in a community of writers, while teachers should actively model writing and the “think aloud” narrative while writing.

Text and sensory media co-exist in creative writing.  

Role playing critical problems through participatory theater, organizing stories graphically, using imagery to discover multiple perspectives, and using film clips or virtual reality “trips” to spark ideas.  Using both the active critique of mediums but also the creative sprint in these mediums to organize thought for writing.   I recently watched a fifth grade student put together a well choreographed fight scene from his fantasy fiction writing.  The scene occupied only two sentences from his text, the perfect opportunity to film the scene, then revisit the writing and capture some of its complexity.  There are endless connections between writing and other symbolic forms.  Just because Google Docs is a text tool doesn’t mean the teaching and learning must revolve around the symbolic form of that tool.  Going back to Activity Theory model, it is the employment of multiple tools that create rich learning environments.  The metaphoric play between symbolic forms creates the deeper experience.  

Learning is not something that happens to the learner.  

Much of our learning design places the learner in a passive role and limits the trajectory and scope of the learning outcome.  Think of Math Blasters versus Minecraft.  There’s not much freedom within the game mechanics of the former and the latter, especially in creative mode, leaves creative space, the possibilities for constructive narrative endlessly complex.  Project design talks about voice and choice.  This is not only a motivational feature but a necessary catalyst for agency of learning.  Creation technologies such as Docs, Murally, Explain Everything, iMovie, iMotion, Veescope, Scratch, Book Creator, and GarageBand leave the learner to experience the process of moving between divergent and convergent thinking.  These tools within project learning models help leave leave learning goals open.


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