Learning the landscape

Discovery learners go on adventures, find paths to explore and come across memorable lessons in their travels. The ground covered and finds along the way are the lesson. The terrain is the teacher.

Educators who take "terrain" literally limit what students can learn to field trips, school gardens, nature hikes and classroom terrariums. They assume it's not possible to learn "textbook topics" by adventuring. They see no landscape to explore that would come across technical topics.

School dropouts have always known better. The "kid on the street" quickly learns how to survive, who to trust and what counts in that world. The young apprentice finds out how the craftsperson performs his/her trade by observing and experimenting. The shop keeper reveals the tricks of the trade to keep a customer satisfied and coming back for more. All this occurs without books, quizzes and grades.

Digital landscapes are emerging. It's now possible to travel networked terrains in search of answers and better questions. It's easy to come across exactly what we were looking for. It's likely we will encounter online some like-minded denizens who think like us, want the same things and have their own finds to share with us.

Instead of traveling dirt paths or city sidewalks, we are following links, visiting sites, and exploring 3D realms. These terrains are available 24/7. We can log on or off anytime we please. We can go where we want to go for our own reasons. We are gaining satisfaction by pursuing our own aims at a pace we choose. We are free to learn naturally, like our unconscious mind does so well.

This "return to the land" looks to me like a McLuhanesque reversal. Harold Jarche has explored similar reversals with cars, LMS servers and social networking technologies. The increasing use of digital terrains will transform classrooms into quaint reminders of a bygone era. Sitting still to learn will become an entertaining contrast to the vast movement in digital learning terrains. Tourists will visit the few remaining schools to sit in desks, be told what to think and take tests on textbooks. What a kick!

Meanwhile the current technological advances will restore an antiquated mode of learning from hunter-gatherer cultures. We will return to learning the landscape.


  1. Good stuff, as always.

    I'm currently reading the "Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb. I enjoyed his previous book, "Fooled by Randomness," but this is much better. I think you'd get a kick out of it. He really puts a foot to the groin of established thinking.

  2. Thanks Roger!
    I'll check out "Black Swan" soon. It's always great to hear from you AND to discover more compatriots outside of the consensus trance.

  3. The concepts presented in "Learning the landscape" and "Helping the learners" resonate well with me. The most transformative learning has taken place in simply exploring, engaging, and being engaged by the landscape. Following trails of discovery to where they may lead, which is often to places uncharted and unexpected.

    As mentioned, "gaming, handhelds and online activities are all learned by self-discovery."

    As alluded to, this intuitive sense of "self-discovery" has been deminished in to other areas of learning, particularly the content areas "pushed" in the traditional learning model(s).

    As we're on the journey of becoming more than knowledge dumps and dispensers of information, and as we're processing with others how to recapture these elements of intutitive self-discovery, how can we help others process and utilize the organic self-discovery experience(s) with elements that have been regulated to textbooks...?

    Are there elements of 'transition' where educators and others are taught - to get out of the way - and assisted in becoming co-sojournors? A process that helps link 'them' to the native learning processes and helps generate creativity as how to partake in that process with them...

    I love how Dr. Leonard Sweet in his book Carpe Manana uses the image of "Natives" and "Immigrants." The Natives are those who have/are growing up submersed in this technological-organic-self-discovering-learning-process...

    Are there ways of acclimating the Immigrants to not only the landscape, but also the Natives who live there?

  4. Atlas Shrugged - a classic but a goody. It also throws a kick to the groin on the collective thinking habits of the masses.

    I'm currently working on a project that allows students to, essentially, "explore". My goal is to break the system from within - yes, it's the holy grail.


  5. Jerrell: Thanks for the great questions. Expect a post from me soon to give you some answers. I've been thinking about those transition issues a lot lately.

    J: Good luck with setting up an exploration process and "breaking the system from within"