|Image made on Learning Walk 7.1.11|
So imagine a commitment to learning that involved making regular learning walks with high school students as a normal part of the "school" day. Now, these learning walks should not be confused with walking tours, which are designed based on planned outcomes. One walks to point X in order to see object or artifact Y. The points are predetermined, hierarchical in design.
Instead, learning walks are rhizomatic. They are inherently about being in the middle of things and coming to learn what could not been predetermined. Learning walks are part of the "curriculum" for instructional seminar (which I described here). Instructional seminar--a service, not a course--will replace Lab Classes at a NJ high school this September (2011). Lab classes are a hold over of a factory model where students were deposited into generic English and/or math courses and "remediated." Knowledge transfer was the belief that fueled the efficacy of lab classes. Instructional seminar affords a more consistent opportunity for students to access fluid academic services and to do so with agency. A vision statement for Instructional seminar might well be: Experimentation Matters.
Learning walks represent one aspect of instructional seminar (they are scheduled for every possible block across a rotating schedule so there are lots of IS sections) that at least a few of us (Celeste Hammell, John Madden, @doumakara, @shklepesch and I) intend to experiment with during the upcoming school year. It's our intention that ownership of leaning walks will shift from teacher-initiated to shared between teacher and learner as the school year progresses. Although physically our learning walks will have start and stop points and be constrained by time, the potential learning that is engendered will not be confined to the walk itself, nor will the walk have a route that is determined. There are any possible walks on any day with the same and different people, as well as learning that is both predictable and unpredictable. The process is nomadic intentionally.
A Trial Learning Walk
|Contact Sheet of Images Made While Walking|
So I walked for an hour and snapped pictures along the way, as well as filming a bit too. I have included a contact sheet of 20 images I made while walking and a very brief film. It's still early to make much of the images or film, but I know that there's an emerging sense of differences within the city and how geography of place gives way to neighborhoods. These may well be ideas that I will explore more, contemplate--or not. I imagine how different the walk might be alongside others or if instead of filming and image making, I only captured sound. I think about what it might mean to interview those I meet along the way. Or what might happen if I and others captured (video) stories of people on the street and learned them well enough to perform a walk as an ethnodrama.
Possibilities happen when you remain in the middle of things.
Tacit Knowledge & Rhizomatic Learning
One of the outcomes sought via instructional seminar from an institutional point of view, is that students will deepen their capacities to read, write, and problem solve. Initially, invited students to seminar have been "identified" by teachers and based on former course and state test performances. I think of this year as a bridge year: a way to span the great difference between the factory model of lab classes and a more rhizomatic understanding of learning. As the practice embodied in seminar becomes better established, any student could opt in and out of seminar. Seminar is not an assigned course as no credit is earned, but rather an academic service. One might think of academic seminar as a learning center.
What is different though about instructional seminar is that tacit knowledge is critical, not ancillary. And so one might ask, how would walking about help a student to read, write, or problem solve better? These cognitive processes are deeply influenced by our tacit knowledge. For example, I can engage in complex reading, writing, and problem solving based on the narrative my reading of the images I made on the learning walk suggests. The walk may well anchor future expressions and inquiries. Instead of beginning with explicit knowledge, learning walks allow for embodied learning. This difference is critical and may well be difficult for many to understand. Learning is not determined but encountered within the experiences and as such is rhizomatic.
Thomas and Brown (2011) explain that:
In the old culture of learning, educational institutions and practices focused almost exclusively on explicit knowledge, leaving tacit dimensions to build gradually on its own, over time...Knowledge was valued in the old culture because it was seen as stable. It was thought to transcend time and place...The twenty-first century, however, belongs to the tacit. In the digital world we learn by doing, watching, and experiencing (np, e-book).
|After the Children Went Home|
Learning walks, like the one I took, are not about naming already determined facts, although these may well play a role in the learning and the expression of learning. Rather learning walks are about blending what we may have learned explicitly and tacitly with what we are coming to know.
Thomas, D.s & J.S. Brown. (2011). The New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.