Wednesday, 30 March 2011


I know teachers get edgy when considering business theory for use in the classroom, but gamestorming in class seems like a sure thing. The problem with it is the breaking down of conventions around learning. We structure our classes on this stuff. Would a good gamestorm be acceptable in English class, or is it too artsy? Would it be acceptable in art class, or is it too text driven? Would it be ok in a music class if it wasn't entirely musical? That these questions get asked gives you an idea about how far we have come from playing with our ideas. We've cut thinking into arbitrarily compartmented piece work.

I love looking at Leonardo's sketch books. Write about it when it fits, sketch when it doesn't. When I look at those, I wonder what a modern Leonardo would do with modern media. Where we used to be limited by word and graphic on paper, we can now create virtual 3d spaces and plaster them with images, sounds, text, video, some, none or all of it interactive. I wonder how well a universal mind like that would operate in such a rich media environment and then finding itself in our school system with it's little buckets of knowledge, none of which should ever mix.

I know this is beginning to change. Being able to differentiate instruction and accept multiple paths to proof of broader understanding is happening, but slowly, in school. I still see (usually) older teachers resisting the mash up, saying it doesn't respect the discipline of the... um, discipline.

In the meantime, I keep asking myself; how can I see that they know what they're doing without falling back into the same old habits? The text trap is the worst of all, it carries with it a patina of academia. If it's in text, it must be academically rigorous and appropriately difficult. Anyone who still thinks this hasn't seem the time, energy and creativity my students have put into a media project.

Here is a copy of one of my favorite audio assignments from the beginning of the grade 10 media course. The instructions were loose (1-2 mins, tell an audio story, multiple sound tracks, original content only - no internet pilfering). This is only sound, yet what a story unfolds. This medium is all but ignored in typical school. Imagine being able to read an essay while hearing student spoken comments at various times - or accepting a sound/graphic mashup of brainstorming, instead of just text. The software exists for this to happen now, but the urge isn't there because we keep retreating to our buckets.

Instead of having the technology push us out of bad habits, why not let some new habits push the technology? We keep seeing tentative steps towards mixed media (I'm thinking Prezi, Ning and Googledocs), but no bold changes in how we think. The ultimate change would be to forget what 200 years of scientific compartmentalizing has done and kick open possibility in thinking.