Thursday, March 22, 2012

Learning and Letting Go -- The Imagination Runs Wild

Talk about the pure joy of geeking out on something. I got home last night after a fantastic dinner and great conversation on learning with folks from different independent K-12 schools, and then discovered the new "street view" of the Amazon river available through Google Maps.
The apparent result of this discovery was that I went to sleep way too late. The real outcome was that I rediscovered (yet again) the importance of imagination in learning.

As a matter of fact, I have actually navigated down the Amazon river in a boat and. I have also watched many movies that either showed the real Amazon river or at least depicted people having adventures on what was purported to be the Amazon,

And yet, none of those gave me as much pleasure, I think, as traveling down the Amazon river on Google maps last night and imagining what it would feel like, I thought about what might be in the jungle (rain forest) beyond the river banks. I thought about the animals and people beyond my sight. I imagined the feeling early Europeans must have had when they first encountered this magical place (along with fear and trepidation). After all, they were seeing something for which there was really no analog in their experience or understanding.

In fact, like me, they could only grasp it fully with their imagination, by filling in the gaps between what they were seeing and what it must really mean/be (or what it might mean/be).

And isn't that so much of what learning is really about -- the connecting of the dots and lines between what we initially see (the information we are presented) and our eventual understanding of it that results in real knowledge?

At any rate, I need to buy some popcorn and get ready for my next adventure (probably tonight).

For a more structured take on these and other thoughts, I recommend you read Stephen Downes' post on Knowledge, Learning, and Community. Stephen does a good job of articulating what knowledge of something actually is, how we go about learning, and the importance of community in the process. If you don't already have a good personal theory of learning this one is a pretty good place to start.

In a similar vein, although moving slightly sideways, for some reason the Amazon river, imagination, and learning make me think of the Everything is a Remix presentation I attended at SXSWi a couple of weeks ago. In particular, I'm reminded of the ideas shared in the third video installment of Kirby Ferguson's project.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Back to Stephen's post, community does indeed play an important role in the learning paradigm. I was reminded of this yet again last night when two colleagues on Google Circles responded to a query I had posted earlier in the day, and then participated in some follow-up dialogue with me. This is precisely the kind of thing I really like about Google Circles. If you would like to check out some of the activity and conversations, check out some of these circles for educators.

Finally, I'll finish this morning's post with a link to this informative post on Beyond the Textbook by Wes Fryer. In it, Wes does a great job of synthesizing posts by Bud Hunt and David Jakes, and helps frame the general discussion of textbooks and what they can/should be (I'm using the term "textbook" very loosely here). Wes also has great notes on the event put on my Discovery, and I highly recommend them.

Suggested Reading

Visit The Amazon Through Google Maps “Street View” | Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…
Educational Technology Guy: Interactive Biology - free videos, quizzes and study guides on Biology
Knowledge, Learning and Community ~ #change11
Top 50 Google+ Circles for Cutting-Edge Educators | Online College Tips - Online Colleges
Moving at the Speed of Creativity - Required Reading for #beyondthetextbook

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