Apparently we’ll need a series of posts to explore celebrating success. I had drafted yesterday’s post in a hotel room at the end of a long, busy, eventful day of CAMWS-Southern Section; thought about it on a long, but peaceful drive home; and posted it Monday morning at the beginning of a long, busy, eventful day. I knew there’d be more to say – much more once you readers had made connections, asked questions, made comments.
So I’ll save the panel itself – and my students’ work Friday and Monday – for later posts.
Today’s post starts with a successful insight, a slide I added to my presentation, after a conversation with fellow panelists. Other than stepping joyfully beyond the textbook, our session’s title, what do we have in common, we wondered? Why do we see our work (the Tres Columnae Project and Operation LAPIS) as complementary, not competitive?
I realized there are different ways to step joyfully, different roads to deeper learning, different games you can play to learn in a post-textbook world. Let’s call two of them the untextbook and the antitextbook. Unlike 20th-century textbooks, both are built on the dynamic affordances of 21st-century technology. Both help learners build deep, personal connections to material and to each other. In both, narrative is central. Like textbooks, both help learners acquire knowledge, skills, and understandings in an organized way. The rulesets of both are utterly different from that of the game of school.
But thosee rulesets, the roles of community, and the games themselves are quite different!
The folks at LAPIS say they’re building a role-playing game “wrapped in” an alternate-reality game. Communities form in those kinds of games, but they’re a result and a tool, not a goal. Participants “play” the narrative, but the narrative itself is controlled by someone else. I’d call that an untextbook.
The Tres Columnae Project begins as a learning community – a community playing and creating a story game together. Within the overall arc of that story, members add their own characters, their own situations, their own narratives large or small. Ownership and control of the narrative belong to them as much as to me! I’d call that an antitextbook.
The opportunities for collaboration, for building joyful communities between us, actually flow from the differences in our intentions.
Commenting on yesterday’s post on Google+, Debbie said:
The word that comes to mind as I ready your preamble as well as your blog is “Intention”.
Why do people go to conferences? A day out of the classroom? To gain information? To get freebies – handouts, meals? To converse with peers? To gain knowledge and Wisdom?
And how do we get that joyful community? Again we have to look at intention. What does that joyful community look like? Just being nice, having fun? Or being excited and engaged in the learning process? Different intentions = different strategies.
And peeling back another layer, what are the students’ intentions? Get through the class? Get an “A”? Interact with peers? Gain knowledge and Wisdom?
When our intentions mesh, when we are both on the same page as they say, then the experience should be much more joyful, don’t you think?
To form a joyful community, you don’t need identical intentions. A community that’s too “compatible,” with no diversity of viewpoints, is shallow, superficial, potentially destructive. Along with diversity, you do need a shared commitment to the idea of community, a willingness to listen, to learn together.
… that feeling of growth and camaraderie that comes between sessions and outside of sessions when you are at a conference with great people. You know I enjoy the discussions more than the sessions and I feel that in-the-moment discussion and ideas are amazingly powerful and insightful in a way that sitting and listening passively to a lecture (even though I often gain new tips and tricks that way!) does not offer.
Those conversations establish and grow from learning communities. Yet schools, of all places, rarely build learning communities! So everyone suffers, everyone is diminished. Walls form, labels fly, there’s an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion, of pain and punishment.
New reader BryanE is angry about that:
I think teachers and principals are lazy. That’s because the change that is needed isn’t easy or lucid enough for everyone to understand because there is so much (everything) that needs to change. I also think teachers and principals are afraid. They’re afraid of things not working out because there’s really not one single answer to the problem. It’s not like testing, that there’s only one right answer and if you don’t get it right you’ve failed and that’s it. It’s the way they think. It’s the bureaucracy in schools. It’s bad, it’s ridiculous. Now, what I wish they realized is that we will fail a thousand times before we get it right. Ope, but, no. They’re not used to failing, because that’s the way they’ve been taught… Tests… (Oh, and this is just a HS student’s pov btw:)
Bryan, I feel your frustration! I don’t like being labeled lazy … but we school people often deserve. And we frequently are afraid.
How do we move away from labels, the win-lose paradigm, the scarcity mindset, the other central features of factory-model schooling? How do we join forces with others traveling on similar – but parallel – roads away from the teaching factory? How do we read the intentions of potential allies in our quests, and how do we respond (do we respond??) when our intentions are different?
How can we build learning community not just in deserted corners of teaching factories, but on the long-abandoned paths leading elsewhere?