Finding New Metaphors

One of my favorite technologists is David Warlick. David opened me to new ways of thinking about digital literacy. I share David’s ideas in my teaching at Carnegie Mellon and in any technology planning efforts. At this year’s ISTE Conference I spotted David at the keynote presentation.

From David Warlick's web site

At the end of the speech David invited me to hear him the next day for his presentation, “A Garden’s Approach to Learning.” I took up his invitation and enjoyed his use of gardening metaphors to explain his new approach to teaching and learning. According to David’s own description on his blog, 2 Cents Worth:

In the same way that a garden is a rich and intertwined ecosystem where plants, air, soil, birds and bugs interact to grow and reproduce, today’s emerging information landscape is an info-system, where content is produced, published, accessed, consumed, discussed, re-mixed and re-published. To be a “master learner” — to be a teacher — today, you must learn to work the info-system in order to cultivate new knowledge and skills from a continual flow of information.

In his presentation David outlined how a life-long learner prepares his garden, sowing the seeds of learning, watering the growing seeds, and then nourishing the plants in order to grow the crops of knowledge.

We need metaphors, like David’s gardening image, to give us new insights in order to tap into the power of technology. As we move forward we need new metaphors to describe the world of school. Tim Magner, the former director of educational technology for the Department of Education, developed School 2.0. Like David Warlick, Tim Magner’s uses a metaphor for a learning ecosystem. In School 2.0 we need to think about the relationship between school, home, and the community.

The new movement toward personalized learning will require another metaphor, perhaps Learning 3.0. It’s no longer about a physical place, but a process that allows each learner at any age to find the necessary ingredients for life-long learning. We need to find metaphors that blend virtual and brick-and-mortal schooling. We need to find metaphors that provide opportunities to merge formal and informal settings for learning. We need to find metaphors that don’t limit our focus to any age or time for learning.

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