I remain unwavering that we suffer from overconsumption of technology in everyday life, and especially relating to our mobilities and sedentary lifestyle that is often screen-based. Research supports a connections between screentime and poor health, including vision-related impairments. As such, higher education institutions are failing to be adequately critical in the use of technologies, as are academic and research associations tasked with the role of instructional technology in teaching and learning. These groups — like EDUCAUSE, New Media Consortium, and others — appear closely connected to their sponsors, and not critical nor creative enough with respect to instructional technology’s ability to transform education.
Opportunities to apply mobile and location-based technologies, notably the GPS-equipped smartphone held by most higher learning and junior and senior high school students today, are staggering. Place-based, problem-based, experiential, inquiry-based, location-based teaching and learning strategies are enabled by location-based technologies. Such an approach can empower all learners and perhaps especially marginalized learners to engage their community and natural surroundings for a more effective, facilitated approach to education that prepares students in a “learning by doing” environment, and not a staggered “it will pay off some day, we promise!” approach.
Most importantly, such an approach will help address the dismal set of political affairs that exist in the United States, where a self-avowed sexual predator is elected to the position of President of the United States of America. This is only possible with an uneducated population that conflates procedures with humanity and humanness, and that relies upon the success in monetary terms of the former to the ability to appreciate humanity and the sustainability of our fragile human existence.
Educators have failed and this is clear. The curriculum must be challenged in new and innovative ways, including the lame and tired and stale classroom metaphor that disconnects learners from each other, from their funds of knowledge, and from a sense of culture and social participation. Yet campuses with qualified facilitators relying upon effective technologies already used in daily life, could transform all of this. Will we see this happen? I do hope so. But I can sense the inertia everywhere, including in this course. The resistance is palpable, and the lack of criticality is apparent. Better to focuse on the nuances of a particular software program such as Twitter, or Google Docs, or Voicethread or whatever. Better to focus on the individual trees than to contemplate the challenges of the new, dark and foreboding forest.
Eubanks, V. (2011). Digital dead end: Fighting for social justice in the information age. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. (ISBN: 9780262518130)
Horn, M. B., Staker, H., & Christensen, C. M. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. (ISBN-13: 978-1118955154)
Pacansky-Brock, M. (2013). Best Practices for teaching with emerging technologies. New York, NY: Routledge. (ISBN: 9780415899390)
Whitaker, T., & Zoul, J. (2015). What connected educators do differently. New York, NY: Routledge. (ISBN: 9781138832008)
Place-based learning offers learners the opportunity to engage in experiential learning, projects, real-world problems, and collaborative efforts including research to engage these authentic ways of learning. Michael Foucault, Henri Lefebvre, and Manuel Castells offer powerful perspectives on why we are moving from a temporal perspective of reality to a spatial one that is globalized and technological.
This Pecha Kucha offers a look at the meaning of place-based learning in the backdrop of technological advances in mobility and mobile communications technologies and locative media. These philosophical, social, and technological shifts in our approaches to learning support a more effective way of supporting all learners, but perhaps especially marginalized learners whom research suggests benefit greatly from place-based, experiential learning. This benefit appears to be related to improved self efficacy and confidence among learners, especially marginalized learners, and offers opportunities to change the curriculum and our way of seeing education almost exclusively through the lens of the classroom and campus.
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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGI_ZyS7AcA
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.
“Technology,” notably “disruptive technology” as defined by Clayton Christensen has been identified as a game changer for education (Christensen, 2011; Oblinger, 2012; Peters, 2003). Networked, multimedia, and other communication technologies offer the promise of greater access to education among the marginalized, those with scarce resources including money, time and mobility; and to the many living in poverty in this world (Borgman, 2000; Dutta et. al., 2003). Since the mid-1990s we have seen the battle lines drawn and sincere efforts to provide “access to technology” for all learners (Ebo, 1998; Eubanks, 2012). Whole government programs like the E-Rate for schools and libraries and more recently ConnectED explicitly seek to close the so-called “Digital Divide” with the refrain that doing so will empower everyone to get an education, job, and enable participation in civic and political life (ConnectED, 2013).
Yet there are troubling signs everywhere relating to technology and its failure. The real challenge appears to be overconsumption of technologies rather than access per se. Globally it is clear that the dominant transportation and mobility technologies of cars, trucks, and other motorized vehicles are creating significant problems ranging from global warming, health, safety, community and environmental degradation, and general unhappiness as commute times become ever longer and traffic increasingly more congested (Frank et. al., 2003). Similarly, we see the increase in sedentary screen time among all ages, and especially youth who are becoming addicted to computer, smartphone and related screens in greater numbers (Brody, 2015). Together, these two types of technologies contribute significantly to the dismal data that points to a sedentary lifestyle (Nelson & Gordon-Larsen, 2006), and therefore an unhealthy society where since 2012 half of all Americans suffer from a chronic illness or disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. This national health crisis has prompted the United States Surgeon General to request that we Americans Step it Up! by exercising more and living a more active and healthy life.
While Pokémon GO! Offers an example of screen-based technology that does get people to walk outdoors, or to ride a bike and walk, we need educational institutions and those groups that support the use of instructional, educational, research, and administrative technologies to coalesce around the notion that they are in fact responsible for guiding the appropriate use of technology. This means owning up to the deleterious effects of screen-based technologies, whether as a contributor to sedentary life, or as having poor health effects relating to eyesight, sleep, and therefore cognition. We need to see universities, colleges, and K-12 institutions actively engage more walking, bicycling, and generally a more active student body that commutes to campus in more healthy, less environmentally degrading ways that sap our communities and residents of health, happiness, safety, and overall resilience. This can be done with relative ease and with a keen eye to connecting to the curriculum such as using a platform such as Ride Amigos or one based upon Stanford’s CAPRI platform — both of which allow institutions and campuses to offer employees and students a way to be rewarded for improving their daily commuting habits by walking, bicycling, ridesharing, using public transit, or not traveling as much altogether.
Perhaps even more importantly, we need to see those professional and research groups that support education’s use of technologies to address the realities around technology and instructional technologies. Nowhere in the joint New Media Consortium – EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) annual instructional technology Horizon Report publications for universities, schools, museums, libraries, and more, do we see evidence of concern for or recognition of technology’s deleterious effects upon learners and communities. In fact, a perusal of the different Horizon Reports suggests that we have little or no need for social justice in education, and that most learners who engage technology are White. Similar to the kinds of broad assumptions made by those like Mark Prensky and his “digital natives” nomenclature and Don Tapscott whose Growing Up Digital (2008) and The Net Generation Takes the Lead (2009) suggest already in the title that today’s youth have a more robust connection, understanding, and set of practices around “digital technology” than others, these assumptions may be dead wrong. Evidence suggests otherwise, and challenges the very notion of “digital natives”:
While the use of technologies is limited in terms of the range and the nature, there is some evidence that younger students use some tools more actively than the older students, but neither of these two groups uses these technologies to support their learning effectively. Educators therefore cannot presume that all young students are “digital natives” who understand how to use technology to support and enhance their learning (Margaryan et. al., 2011, p. 22).
While we do see evidence of “a significant positive small to moderate effect size favoring the utilization of technology in the experimental condition over more traditional instructions” over the past 40 years since 1985 (2011, Tamim, et. al., p. 16), these same researchers who methodically reviewed research literature based on performance and other learning outcomes suggest that we should move beyond a “technology/no technology” research comparison given that “it is arguable that it is aspects of the goals of instruction, pedagogy, teacher effectiveness, subject matter, age level, fidelity of technology implementation, and possibly other factors that may represent more powerful influences on effect sizes than the nature of the technology intervention” (p. 17). In other words, there still exist significant practical and research questions before we can assume that we are beyond the “no significant difference” regarding learning from media as concluded by Clark (1983).
Today we know that we cannot simply avoid modern technologies such as automobiles, smartphones, computers, and electronic networks any more than we can avoid the common cold . As with reducing our chances of catching a cold by washing our hands more often and diligently and sterilizing our dishes in a dishwasher rather than hand washing our dirty dishes, we can though reduce the negative effects of technology by reducing our consumption of technologies and using it more effectively and with purpose. For example, “Private vehicles like cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs, account for 60 percent of trips of a mile or less,” according to the Federal Highway Administration of the US Department of Transportation (League of American Bicyclists, 2010). Relatedly, somewhere between 28% and 40% of total trips are two miles or less. If all capable, walked or bicycled for such two miles or less trips, we could reduce our use of private vehicles by up to 40% and that is achieved without any infrastructure changes. Such a reduction would be meaningful as setting a global leadership example that helps reduce motor vehicle travel, the number one contributor to CO2 emissions associated with climate change since February 2016 according to the U.S. Department of Energy (before early this year, the biggest CO2 contributors have been energy power plants).
Behavior modification is critical to solving real-world problems such as climate change, and there exists a direct connection to education, learning, and technology. A realization that the local and known place and context serves as an environment in which to participate and from which to construct knowledge, represent and engage in discourse, assess, self assess and reflect upon as social and transactional place; is critical to empowering our learners with agency and the ability to engage these problems with meaning and impact. But for this to happen, we must see our schools, higher learning institutions, and technology research support groups step up to the proverbial plate. Today we have more of these groups involved in cheerleading and schmoozing with vendors than fulfilling their functions as critical research, teaching, and learning institutions that can offer a new model for learning and research, supported by technology. This is too bad, since we know from Pokémon GO! and other technologies that it is possible to activate people to engage their environment — we need only now apply this to a meaningful learning experience that challenges the status quo, including our current, very tired, very sedentary, very interior classroom model of learning.
Borgman, C. L. (2000). From Gutenberg to the global information infrastructure: access to information in the networked world. Mit Press.
Brody, J. (2015). Screen addiction is taking a toll on children. The New York Times.
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M., & Johnson, C. (2008). Disrupting class. How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns Mc Grow Hill.
Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of educational research, 53(4), 445-459.
ConnectED. (2013, June 15). Retrieved September 04, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/connected
Dutta, S., Lanvin, B., & Paua, F. (2003). The global information technology report 2002-2003: Readiness for the networked world. Oxford University Press, USA.
Ebo, B. L. (1998). Cyberghetto or cybertopia?: race, class, and gender on the Internet. Greenwood Publishing Group Inc.
Eubanks, V. (2012). Digital dead end: Fighting for social justice in the information age. MIT Press.
Frank, L., Engelke, P., & Schmid, T. (2003). Health and community design: The impact of the built environment on physical activity. Island Press.
More than ever, we need learners who are engaging real-world problems outside of the classroom, guided by expert teacher-facilitators who can provide context. Our learners are more diverse than ever before, and often these new learners seek a stronger connection to their community, family, and a social context of learning — including the need for a holistic approach that engages the mind, body, and spirit. Yet our universities and higher learning institutions are failing to break the boundaries of the classroom and campus despite the digital tools available to do just that.
Today’s typical higher education institution focuses on two main uses for digital technologies: improving institutional efficiency across functions, and enforcing data security. Much less emphasis is focused on improving the student learning experience and redefining the boundaries of time and space in which learning happens. Instead, a typical higher education institution and its IT departments use digital technologies to improve efficiency in the admissions, financial aid, payroll, and other key administrative functions while they enforce the course metaphor and model through the ubiquitous learning management system (LMS) such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle, Desire2Learn, or other enterprise-level LMS platform.
The LMS is the online equivalent of the physical classroom and is securely cordoned off from the wider internet through login restrictions based upon student enrollment. This makes perfect sense for today’s higher education model that is based upon the course model, which is part of the overarching campus-institutional model and higher ed’s tuition revenue model. This “bread and butter” model, in turn, depends upon verifying student course data and how well the student does in the course on exams, assignments, participation, and other academic performance criteria. This model also highlights why we increasingly see MOOCs (massive online open courses) that are either entirely free, or that cost a fraction of what a comparable online course offered by a nearby state university or county or city college; but that are of a much higher quality than those online university courses that contribute to the actual degree.
This same classroom-course model myopia explains the expression “flipped classroom” research and focus. How else can higher education discuss changes to instruction through technology? It must still be about the classroom, and so it can be ‘flipped.’ Beyond shifting existing classroom activities, changing the actual place appears unfathomable for universities.
Until now, we have seen little in the digital gaming realm that connects gamers to their physical environment — to their actual location and place that they occupy. Much like today’s educational model that keeps students safely nested and sedentary within the confines of the classroom and campus, until Pokémon GO!, digital gamers have remained safely ensconced and physically inactive on their couch or Lazy-Boy usually placed in front of a large screen.
Suddenly Pokémon GO! though involves moving the body through time and space to engage, collect, discover, and interact with virtual artifacts that are layered over Google Maps and an exact representation of our physical reality. While I do not much play Pokémon GO! myself, I can see that for my teens and students, the true entertainment value comes from the social interactions the game provides. Certainly this was the case among those whom I interviewed about the game: “It’s the social part that makes it such a fun game!” exclaim my kids. This new gaming model is also a profound departure from our sedentary gaming model, and a harbinger for how we can completely rethink learning based upon actual surroundings and places. An experiential, place-based rather than classroom-based model of learning can open so many new doors for learners and for the institution.
For learners, having a social and digital connection to place offers a real-world and familiar context that allows learners to build upon prior knowledge. Educators speak of “scaffolding” and the “Zone of Proximal Development” whereby peers, instructors, and facilitators fill in the knowledge gaps of what was already known about the concept, context, and place, with new concepts and knowledge that bring the learner to a whole new plane of understanding — a new plane of knowledge that is self constructed and based upon the learner’s previous foundations of knowledge. Often educators refer to these existing learner foundations of knowledge as the “funds of knowledge,” and these funds of knowledge, research tells us, are especially important for many of our marginalized learners. Applying the same user experiences and interface principles as with Pokémon GO!, it is now possible for learning designers and instructors to create a learning experience that connects to the learner’s surroundings and real world.
Now it is possible to frame meaningful community and global challenges such as climate change, transportation problems (safety, congestion, local emissions, health, etc.), public policy and planning, public art, civic engagement and local government, community health, food security and access, and much more. These common and pervasive problems can be leveraged in ways such that students can collaboratively engage these issues in a place-based, social context that map directly back to the learner’s curriculum and degree program. We can now focus on both problems and solutions toward empowering students with new confidence, agency, and 21st learning skills associated with communication, collaboration, and problem solving.
The main obstacles keeping this from happening are not technological nor relating to human resources (learning designers, instructors, experts). Rather, the obstacles are mostly around institutional recalcitrance to rethink the tuition revenue model and offering an “experience” rather than granting a degree. To change this will require aggressive risk taking by key higher education providers — key universities and colleges that are willing to forge meaningful articulation agreements and verifiable assessment models together with MOOCs and other non-traditional online education providers, and to pilot new revenue models.
Combined with learner identity management across these risk-taking institutions, a socially connected place-based model of learning would be transformative and might also prompt higher learning instructional technology support groups such as EDUCAUSE, the New Media Consortium (NMC), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and others to be more critical of technology and more effective in improving its use in higher education rather than mostly endorsing vendors and products that encourage obesity, poor health, and a sedentary lifestyle.
The promise of autonomous vehicles portends new levels of freedom and efficiency. The driverless journey affords interactions and productive activities precluded until now by dint of our required attention to driving. Predicts Dan Neil of The Wall Street Journal,
“Autonomy will make it possible for unmanned automobiles to be summoned, via app, to your location. And not just any passing tramp steamer, but exactly the vehicle you need for the occasion, cleaned and fueled, for as little or as long as you need. … When you’re done—poof!—it will go away.”
This suggests less cars on the road as car ownership becomes unnecessary, while a more efficient transportation as service model proliferates. An entire infrastructure will ignite, as evidenced today by the Tesla efficiency model of solar-to-battery as energy source, which might entirely replace today’s gas stations.
Safe and efficient flight options will change radically as demonstrated by the soon-to-be-fully-autonomous passenger drones showcased at CES 2016 including the German Volocopter and the Chinese Ehang 184 . Flying efficiently anticipates the same Tesla solar-charged battery replacement model. Autonomous drones will follow with the same Uber-style-on-demand transportation-as-service and software model. Car makers such as Ford Motor and Honda agree that we are in a new era of mobility as reported by Wired.
These radical changes, above all, suggest an opportunity to vastly improve our various daily travels that bring us safely and efficiently (fast and reliable travel) to places and people for our professional and social engagements. Everywhere we go will soon be joined by a corresponding preparation effort that anticipates the destination’s human, place-based, and contextualized interactions.
We might for example call upon a private office room for our autonomous and shared van-like vehicle equipped with electrical power, WiFi, a common lounge cafe, and restroom. Or we might join a team of engineers going to a field-based project to review all technical schematics and representations in a boardroom-style set up. Alternatively, we might call upon a smaller vehicle that let’s us simply rest and look out the window in anticipation of ‘just getting there’ like we do today. Whatever vehicle type and services we request, the journey and destination become joined and complementary rather than fundamentally separate phenomena as these are currently.
The Rise of Blended Learning
In higher education, the flipped classroom concept is a simplistic way to suggest that students can prepare outside of class with organized online lectures and readings for a more interactive, socially connected, in-class experience — moving away from the traditional in-class lecture. Experiential learning takes it further, and connects learners with actual experiences in time and space — most often occurring naturally outside of the classroom. Both forms of technology-enhanced learning correspond to the rise of networked mobilities by redefining how learning happens. Researchers Alice and David Kolb describe experiential learning this way:
“Experiential learning theory offers a dynamic theory based on a learning cycle driven by the resolution of … action/reflection and experience/abstraction. These two
dimensions define a holistic learning space wherein learning transactions take place between individuals and the environment. … The process of learning from experience is ubiquitous, present in human activity everywhere all the time.”
While research is still mixed on the efficacy of “experiential learning,” it is also true that there is little agreement on what we mean by experiential learning. Do learners receive guidance? How much are they exposed to expert insights and factual knowledge? How much do they learn in terms of abstract knowledge and frameworks? What is the level of facilitation and support?
Let us then assume that learners received at least as much support for experiential learning opportunities as in-class learners who check on Blackboard, Canvas, Saba or other learning management system for the syllabus and course logistics, assignments, and possibly readings and video lectures. To be clear, blended learning environment is common today and typically 80% of face-to-face courses are “blended” to some degree given the LMS, and likely this is a core reason for the high level of interest in flipped classroom research. It is also likely that research will fully validate the strength of experiential learning as a successful learning model once the facilitation and support levels are comparable across teaching strategies and pedagogies.
As an indicator of what works to improve learning value and outcomes, a 2009 engineering research study found that situated learning, a form of experiential learning that incorporates ‘flipped classroom’ principles, was verifiably successful in both increasing student motivation and improving learning achievements. This should make sense to anyone who has learned to ride a bike, cook a meal, fix a car, or even build an IKEA bookshelf: it is a lot more powerful to construct or actually physically do something and to remember more details and principles over time, than to read about it only in recipe, owner’s manual, book, or video instructions.
New Mobilities for a New Learning Paradigm
As autonomous transport becomes a reality, and our journey becomes integrated with activities that are inextricably linked to time-sensitive location technologies, we have myriad new opportunities to reinvent education to conform to our natural lives. Lifelong learning might mean recombining with teams focused on contextualized problems, challenges, and projects. To a great extent, industry is already forming teams and providing blended learning environments that satisfy compliance requirements for managers and employees, while incorporating the learning design into the work.
Educational institutions that recognize the power of blended learning and flipped classroom strategies that work for the learners and instructors in the context of the course, program and institutional learning goals, will fair much better in our just-in-time efficient human interaction future. Such institutions are focused on both efficiency and efficacy, and are measuring outcomes based on existing instructional and academic standards that are supported with a sustainable resource model.
As we anticipate our new mobilities future, we are well served in education to consider our services and how these can be measured. Knowing what works in today’s static, place-based campus model that is supported by networked web and mobile technologies such as the learning management system, will go a long ways toward transitioning to a more dynamic model that threads in time-sensitive, location-based interactions with ‘flipped classroom’ content and static knowledge.
Isn’t it time to consider more radical ways to flip the script on education? Certainly we are going to experience some big changes in how we move, interact, and learn.