Place, Multicultural Learning, and Mobile Technology

Three-minute video on place-based education, multicultural learning, and the mobile technology revolution.

Place-based education supported by mobile technologies offers an alternative to the classroom model, whether flipped, blended, or traditional. Connecting learners to their community and existing social networks offers opportunities to learn through expert and instructor facilitation in ways that support real-world problem solving of challenges that are consequential to our communities and global reality. Our globalized reality, in turn, suggests that we are all inter-connected and mutually dependent (Castells, 1996). Such a place-based strategy draws upon the learner’s funds of knowledge (González, et. al., 2006) in ways the empower scaffolding (Risko & Walker‐Dalhouse,2007) by bridging the learner’s knowledge gaps associated with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (Chaiklin, 2006). It also beckons opportunities for an action-based research agenda or social design experiments (Gutiérrez, 2016) that render meaningful data for researchers focused on new models of learning — especially for marginalized learners for whom our current system is not succeeding as well as for the dominant culture (Hemphill, 2001).

Mobile technology and its powerful networking capacity combined with its (location-based) audio, image, video capture and numerous “apps” together with  geo-location (GPS or Geographic Positioning System) is transforming the web and orienting search to place . Place-based learning as a form of experiential, collaborative, and problem-based learning can reap the benefits of mobile technology. Already we have seen the disruption of the entire taxi industry through locative media (primarily smartphones equipped with GPS) applied to the Uber mobile app model whereby consumers beckon a ride on demand, and suppliers (drivers) respond in real-time through the power of locative media (Gordon & e Silva, 2011).

We are witnessing the onset of a major disruption in education that challenges the notion of “place,” notably the classroom and institutional campus. Instead, we will see the rapid rise of learning as an “experience.” The big challenges to realizing this change are verifiable credentialing across education, or verifiable assessment and evaluation, and the will of education and educators and educational leaders to change.

But it will change.


Al Jazeera (Producer). (September, 29, 2016). Bill Nye’s Climate Call to Action [Video file]. Retrieved from

Castells, M. (1996). The network society (Vol. 469). Oxford: Blackwell.

Chaiklin, S. (2003). The zone of proximal development in Vygotsky’s analysis of learning and instruction. Vygotsky’s educational theory in cultural context, 1, 39-64.

González, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2006). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Routledge.

Gordon, E., & e Silva, A. D. S. (2011). Net locality: Why location matters in a networked world. John Wiley & Sons.

Gutiérrez, K. D. (2016). 2011 AERA Presidential Address: Designing Resilient Ecologies Social Design Experiments and a New Social Imagination. Educational Researcher, 45(3), 187-196.

Hemphill, D. F. (2001). Incorporating postmodernist perspectives into adult education. Making space: Merging theory and practice in adult education, 15-28.

Poushter, J. (2016). Smartphone Ownership and Internet Usage Continues to Climb in Emerging Economies. Pew Research Center: Global Attitudes & Trends.

Risko, V. J., & Walker‐Dalhouse, D. (2007). Tapping students’ cultural funds of knowledge to address the achievement gap. The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 98-100.

8 thoughts on “Place, Multicultural Learning, and Mobile Technology”

  1. Otto,
    I very much found a connection in your vlog and the idea of a revolution will not be televised but mobilized. I say this because primarily, when I talk about revolutions, be it in class or in discourse with colleagues, I speak to a mobilizing element that must exist. So while they say the revolution will not be televised, they forgot that technology exists and that with the help of our mobile technology, not only will it be televised, it will be GPS enabled with multiple views and captures from people who occupy these spaces. And its very much part of what we read this week in connecting people to these avenues, in that we are those facilitators of knowledge not only from what we have experienced, but from where we have been and how we broadcast that reality. I led a discussion this week on liberty and how we exercise our liberty through our ability to migrate and move to places that fit our ideal. My point was that in Early America, for the Pilgrims to leave and arrive in the Americas was a liberating act that involved not only the physical relocation of the self, but the spiritual and mental relocation of the mind, that natural act of freeing oneself by removing oneself from oppression. So your idea of movement as liberating and mobilization as a physical and technological manifestation of revolutionary change was great to engage.

    1. Otto,
      Your vlog presented a rather futuristic view of how technological tools can change education. It was packed with innovative and interesting ideas all connected to the use of technology at different times and places to provide rich, hands-on, real life learning experiences.
      I want to focus on the last comment you made in your vlog, that of the will of educators to change and hence change the world. Although the ideas contained herein may seem far-fetched , it is real and here as we speak even in my developing country. I agree that it is up to us educators to change our perceptions and harness the technological tools available to build our world . This is the greatest challenge as if we do not change to embrace these opportunities, the world will move ahead without us. In many of my Belizean classrooms, many of our present day educators may shy away from these opportunities. I guess these volgs on its own can be used as eye openers to doors of learning opportunities that are waiting to be opened. I am hoping that we can use these vlogs to promote and advocate for the use of technological tools in our classrooms to promote learning.

      1. Janeen, Thank you for your inspiring words. I know from your past and present writings and presentations — including the recent Youtube Vlog you posted, that you are committed to change and to improving. This is a hugely important difference between you and many a teacher. I see the same challenge that exists across teachers/instructors and students: we are overwhelmed by the changes we are seeing — with globalization and the ways that it disempowers entire regions, countries, economies, economic sectors, and of course people. We see it with technologies and the ways that we fear robotics and automation — and rightly so! And I see it in youth who struggle with our antiquated society that is in denial about so much. We know from our readings and our own experiences, especially upon reflection in this course, that the curriculum is biased and insufficient. The will to overcome this must be strong. Else we will not thrive and reach our potential — and the potential is mind blowing. Let us not forget that in 2008, Facebook was only then becoming widely used across the world. Let us not forget that ‘social media’ did not exist as such until around 2000. We are connected in powerful ways, and have not yet fathomed what this means, nor applied its true power. In education, we are at the epicenter of change. Learning is all about mimicry. We follow each others cues — we mimic in discourse. This technology – and the power of mobility and mobile connectivity — is suited very, very well for satisfying our need to ‘mimic’ those with expertise and approaches that we wish to emulate and follow. The future is bright, but there will be much suffering and uncertainty until we fully define ourselves and what we are doing as instructors and researchers.

    2. Ty, As always, you have some poignant and oft intellectually searing words to offer that I fully appreciate. Indeed, I feel that only an historian who ponders and reflects upon the events that shape us, can have the insights on how something like “place” and social structures can relate to a sea change of the kind you speak of, regarding the Pilgrims and the ways that they had to relocate their mind as well as body. We are certainly in that realm today, and it is almost trite to say today that we are sharing physical and mental spaces in ways like never before — oscillating between virtual reality and our physical spaces. But that is exactly what that is: trite. We have been doing that since before the Pilgrims, going inside ourselves and digging deep to produce actions that affect our physical world. Everything that we see is a condensation of our imagination — of course! Every building. Every bridge. Every curriculum. But now we can reconcile these things in ways never before possible, which does suggest that we need a much more accelerated ‘action-based research’ agenda and approach. Then we can test phenomena quickly, and move to the next level of application, while sharing the intent and outcomes across vast networks of seasoned experts. It is possible, but it requires us to engage the simultaneity of place and knowledge (“VR” as it were) with a positive spirit of change.

  2. Hi Otto – Wow – what a beautiful video blog! I was thoroughly impressed by the professionalism of it – the music, the images, and the interweaving of videos, titles, etc. As far as content, I got an overview of Place-Based Learning and its benefits. I like how it is experiential and connects the learners to their communities. You also touched on a few of my favorite education concepts, saying that it taps into students’ existing funds of knowledge, encourages scaffolding and puts learners into the zone of proximal development (ZPD). That said, I was not so clear on how it connects to these three concepts, most likely because there was a lot covered in a short video. I think I still lack a clear picture of exactly what Place-Based Learning looks like on a day-to-day basis, and furthermore, how it connects to technology.
    Thanks again – it was an enjoyable and informative video, which has piqued my interest in finding out more about place-based learning!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Thanks so much for checking out my video. So, the connections are as follows — admittedly very compressed — Place-Based learning, because it is all about the “place” and its people in that place (which can be community, family, and other existing social networks), allows the learner to connect with these people in the context of learning at a nearby institution (be it K12 or higher edu, albeit, more likely high school and postsecondary edu). This process can be supported well through mobile technology — esp. smartphones equipped with GPS — because the affordances on a smartphone enable the capture of place-based (geolocation tagged) artifacts — video, images, audio, etc. This can serve as verification (assessment verification, for example) of a given learning lesson (I simply didn’t have time within the 3 minutes to cover this adequately). So, we now have the ability to go way beyond the classroom — whether flipped, blended, or F2F. 🙂

  3. Otto,

    Your video is very well-done! It appears that you know how to use audio, visuals, and text to create a powerful, passionate blog. Your message is very strong in talking about blended learning & flipped classrooms vs. place-based learning. You explained the idea of place-based learning very well. This is actually something that I have been thinking about. Our society is very involved in formal and technological education, however, I look in my classroom, and I am thinking about how I can create meaningful educational experiences in the community. I think the world is becoming our curriculum and our classroom and technology should support us in reaching out to the world. I can see how your ideas about technology can connect to place-based learning that is meaningful to our students.

    Thank you for your vlog,


    1. Maggie,

      I really appreciate your feedback — positive feedback! — and your observation that “the world is becoming our curriculum.” That is precisely the message I was hoping to communicate — and probably should have said exactly that! Alas, in three minutes, there were some important research-base points that I hoped to make. Technology is an interesting thing. We don’t think about using it for certain things, until we experience it. Like using Uber instead of calling a taxi. I see many who are hesitant, and who balk at this, stating that it is unreliable, or “you don’t know who your driver is” or it’s risky providing your credit card. And not one of these arguments is valid given that the exact same reality applies to face-to-face taxi services — perhaps even more so given the lack of a data trail. I do believe strongly that we are in a “classroom paradigm” and are either stubbornly clinging to this notion of our education, or cannot move past it because we cannot fathom anything else. There is so much more that can be done in terms of educational efficacy AND efficiency that can leverage our global reality and our communities — in ways that are extremely cost efficient too. We hear so much about complaints. Complaints that are schools aren’t working. Complaints that teachers work too hard and are unappreciated. Complaints that schools are expensive and produce poor outcomes for learners. Complaints that learners aren’t prepared for the “21st Century” (kind of a puzzler that one, since, YES, we are all here in the 21st Century – thank you!). And so on. Imagine if suddenly you could break from these bounds — as student, as instructor, as institution that offers exciting curricular alternatives, that hop from campus, to classroom, to community, to online, and to new configurations of teams that are all engaging the same problem or facets of a bigger problem? Imagine if we could leverage mobile technologies (and mobility technologies — planes, trains, automobiles — bikes, drones!, and so on) to connect with each other on specific learning opportunities. We know that this can work in terms of ‘conferences’ and ‘blended learning’ and so on. Why not rethink this entirely? Clearly, the current system is slogging at this point, and it is especially in need of reinvention when we look at the dismal numbers for non-dominant-culture learners. If it were better, we would not be sending our young men (and increasingly women) to jail, or to the unemployment line, or to rehab from substance abuse – in the numbers we see today. We would be seeing our young men and women active in our communities, talking and engaging with retirees and the infirm, serving as mentors for our children, and offering that leadership that this country so desperately lacks today, in the age of the 2016 presidential elections all that is being said by at least one candidate, if not both in some ways. I am passionate about where we can go with place-based learning, and I know from my life that the classroom fails many a learner.

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