In a moment of self-importance, I thought it might be fun to start blogging. Based on conversations and experiences at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, posts center on my life as a Jesuit administrator/edtech in a 1:1 BYOT environment. Older posts are from my adventures in certification with the NETS via PBS Teacherline/ISTE... recycle/reuse.
Monday, April 8, 2013
The Value of Shared Experiences
As I tried to write this post originally, I was interrupted
by an 8 year old screaming “There’s a RAT in the bean bag!” Apparently our cat had killed a mouse and hid
his trophy in the kid’s bean bag…an offering of affection as it
were. End writing process and begin mom
process of community dialogue on a shared experience...
What is the difference
between a mouse and a rat?
Why would the cat put a dead mouse in the bean bag?
Why can't we touch dead animals?
What are you going to do with the body?
Humans do not live in a community of one. We live in relationship with others: our
families, our friends, our co-workers, and strangers on the street. We
create discourse communities based on shared experiences – like dead rodents in
bean bags. This dialogue helps all of us
reflect on the experience, taking new knowledge forward into our lives. Knowledge accessed via a void, with no
dialogue or reflection, at best lives in short term memory, leaving us at a
loss when faced with the need to access that knowledge later in life.
I have recently read about The School of One and the concept
of personalized learning. My concern
with the focus on personalize learning to the extreme is the loss of dialogue
in shared experiences. Creating a
discourse community is still relevant in education today. Learners in a void do not have the
opportunity to engage others in shared discourse. This hinders the reflective elements of
learning, which encourage new or innovative articulations of thought. I would argue without this opportunity for
reflection, for the creation of a discourse community, we are hobbling our
In her book, “Reality is Broken”, author Jane McGonigal
writes of the importance of social connection as element of satisfaction and
experience of success. We as humans
build “intrinsic rewards, positive emotions, personal strengths by social
connections that we build by engaging intensely with the world around us.” (45)
Personalized learning privileges the one over the many. While in some cases this may be temporarily
successful, the danger of isolation is very real… holding the learner from
others with whom valuable reflection and collaboration could enrich the
Practically applied, this means creating opportunities in our classrooms for learning as community. As educators we can encourage dialogue based on the shared experience of new content (Mitosis to Shakespeare), events (Prom is on the horizon) or skills (Ultimate Frisbee anyone?). Offering our students time to engage each other, working through experiences together, creating communities of discourse is what we do as professional educators.
Because that cat is only a year old... and there will be more mice in house thanks to our large wooded lot... retaining this new knowledge is going to be critical.