I want to continue the discussion from yesterday: the graphic syllabus. Two comments were posted that extended the logic and/or conception of the post. You can visit the comments to get read the ideas, but they came from Tom Woodward and Britt Watwood respectively. Another colleague, Laura Gogia, introduced me to a website and collective art project called This Exquisite Forest by Milk and Koblin. My first point is to emphasize the importance of collaboration. I’ve never subscribed to the Descartian idea that we are isolated minds. Rather, I tend to agree with John Donne’s claim that “No man is an island.” My second point is to further investigate what might be involved in having students create a course syllabus using illustrations (pictures, images, drawings, charts, graphs, metaphors, similes, analogies, etc.). This work is built on the intention to challenge students (and the instructor) to think in oblique ways about learning and teaching. My assumption is that doing so regularly will provide new lenses by which to build deep understanding and creative capacities.
Day 24 question: How can we realistically create a course (syllabus) that visually and conceptually similar to the exquisite forest project?
The basic idea is that a particular line of thinking is started and others make contributions that either follow the original intent, build tangential lines of thought, or seed a completely new area, topic or perspective. As the concept video states “from one beginning to many possible endings.” Does this pose pedagogical problems? Challenges for sure, but not necessarily problems. Does this approach pose curriculum problems? Yes, but once again I want to think of them as challenges. (Please note that I realize the word “problem” does not have to have a negative connotation, but I am choosing to frame it that way for this discussion). I think Britt Watwood captured an important dimension of approaching these problems in his 30 Day Challenge post for Day 23 entitled: Trust, Leadership and Learning.
If I, as the instructor, work to build a safe and constructive culture of learning, then I must be willing to trust that students will be able to exercise choice responsibly. I am the guide, of course, but I must be able to let them act and fail. Otherwise, they may not own success deeply and they may not see themselves as part of a learning culture. After all, a coach cannot play for the athlete. I think Craig Owens article “Bringing the locker room into the classroom” does an excellent job of articulating the importance of trust and collaborative culture well drawing on his observations of a women’s basketball coach.
I want to maximize student choice and ownership of content knowledge and issues. To do so involves building a culture of trust and engagement. I would love to see the ecology of learning be a richly exquisite forest of learners. That’s what thinking and learning innovation in the 21st century will involve.