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Reflections on the Class: Origins of Human Behavior Professor Regina Ritscher By Jan Herder, August 8, 2012

The first time I read Bachelard it was like water to a person dying of thirst. His prose and sense of intimacy draws you into the book. I was just out of college in 1978, and carrying it with me camping and travelling in the pacific northwest. He captured beautifully that wonderment and mythopoetic relationship to space. Nesting in my sleeping bag or awestruck at the immensity of the vast grandeur from the Elwha River range on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Baudelaires wine and opium induced visions of reality were appealing to a 21 year old; Bachelard made them sensical. The word vast, for Baudelaire, is also the word that expresses the highest degree of synthesis....the lyrical spirit takes strides that are as vast as synthesis while the novelists mind delights in analysis. (1) This aesthetic was critical in my creative development and appreciation of nature. I translated this hyper awareness of space into my designs on stage, playing with the paradoxical perceptions that Bachelard articulated for me. And in terms of appreciation of nature, you can never look at a nest again and not think of interior space, imagining what it feels and looks like! The enduring vision I carry from Bachelard is that ability to inhabit intimate and vast places with my imagination and to see everything living and magical. For me learning about the different theorists, and especially Piaget, made sense out of many questions I have about learning. Now it seems everywhere I look I run

into blogs, research papers and theses that rehash the line of theorists we discussed in class. The discovery I made about how Seymour Paperts Artificial Intelligence, constructionism, evolved from Piagetian constructivism, continuously makes me think. (2) I have to say, the elephant in the room is technology. As a stage technician and designer I have always been around technology. In the context of technical theater technology augments reality and your ability to create, using technology in many amazing and unlikely ways. There are tremendous changes emerging in our world. Perhaps the changes in the functions of young peoples brains due to multitasking are an evolutionary adaptation to solve the problems of climate change and other stupid human moves. In Lovejoys vision of Gaia, technology is not separate from the earth, as it is the creation of humans, creatures of the earth, who could help Gaia reproduce through space exploration. (3) There is no denying that the synapses of the brain are mimicked by electronic networks. The evolution of the world brain mimics our brain. What it means to me to be an educator alive in this incredibly quickly changing world is to encounter and understand technology and use it so it does not use me. Bringing awareness of the paradigm shift, and guiding as best we can, our students into the future is imperative. In the research I have done about the effects of neurological changes due to technology in young people, it is the loss of the big picture that is concerning. Short attention spans, inability to focus on one thing and see it clearly and understand it deeply, is juxtaposed with quickly changing and shifting realities--schema. Being able to understand complexity needs an ability to be agile in ones learning. To make connections you have to understand things. Being able to synthesize diverse

creations characterize the connectivist approach to learning and knowledge making in the 21st Century. This tension exists in the split of paradigms of education that we see going on today. On the one hand you have the Common Core (4), One-Size-FitsAll approach. This seems to fly in the face of what we learned about how people learn by our theorists. And then on the other hand we have what I like to think of as the the Maker Faire, an individualized learner centric approach that focuses on creating and constructing knowledge. The Maker Faire approach believes, All modes of composition are valid and valuable methods of expression. All modes of composition benefit from design thinking, rapid prototyping (a.k.a. repeated failure), iteration, and user feedback.(5) This second approach is in line with what we learned about the theorists, specifically Piaget, Montessori, Dewey and Vygotsky as constructionists and social constructivists. Papert takes the next step with constructionist knowledge, with Downes and Siemens following up with connectivism. Naturally there will be new emerging theories adapting to the increasing pace of change and the need for greater, networked and collaborative strategies to solve our problems. What is the answer to this encounter with technology and the splits occurring in our approach to education and how we see the future unroll? I believe it is in the vision of Bachelard, that deep respect and awe of nature and the local place that provides the answer. If I think about what I learned from the creative process in my research project I get a glimpse of this. The collaborative project anchored in a specific time and place, an event, keeps the technology focused on the learning community, and the local community. This is the hotbed of creativity and innovation. Yes, this could

be simulated in cyberspace. But what is lost is the earth in that case. Learning, creation, collaboration, discoveries--many things can be simulated and experienced in cyberspace. But if we lose our location we lose an essential part of our nature. This is true in neurology as well. Where the synapses in the brain occur are a critical part of what part they play in cognition. Why shouldnt the same be true of our bio mimicked networks and communities? In terms of Kagans Guiding Themes (5), I am borrowing from the biological metaphor of human development. I am suggesting that to bring our earth and our education back into equilibrium we must disrupt some systems, introduce disequilibrium. And again, in Kagans terms, introducing discontinuity. This is occurring anyway, we cant stop it. This class was my first class in the Master of Arts in Education Program, and the first class I have taken (that was not a computer class) for 30 years. I learned a tremendous amount from the form and content of the class. Today I finished the second class of the summer, Technology in Education. The technology piece is central to the future success of our students and our species. Having the Origins in Human Behavior Class provided a foundation for scaffolding these tech tools into my practice of teaching. It feels like I learned about Piaget and Kagan just in time-- It would not have made anywhere near as much sense without what I learned with Origins. I am fortunate to be able to apply what I have discovered directly into my learning community in a few weeks. An amazing feeling. I have never had any formal education in teaching. I have just followed my intuition and my curiosity. Looking over the learning outcomes for your class I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had acquired the foundation for these outcomes.

1) Knowledge of theories and research in meaning making have deepened my awareness of the tools I use and the strategies I use to engage learners. Having an understanding about how we learn reinforced my approach to using design based learning. 2) Strategies for analyzing perspectives on identity, the impact of biology and culture on development, interpreting human activity and using the appropriate methods to generate original findings-- these things came into more clarity after I analyzed my research findings. It may sound silly, but I never realized I could borrow into the students processes like I did with the questions I asked. I understand I am just a neophyte in research, but you have to begin somewhere. 3) and 4) feel like processes that I have begun to understand. What is important to me is that I have a better idea of the direction I want to go in terms of my thesis and MA ED work. The tension between local and global, the dynamics of creativity and knowledge construction, the use of design as a base for learning--in a connectivist environment --looks like a fruitful place to explore. I am interested in hybrid and blended models of education. Where technology augments reality, but place based education is honored, where we have the affordances of the internet but remain grounded and learner centric, respecting the earth.

References: 1)Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, p. 192. 2) Edith Ackermann, Piagets Constructivism, Paperts Constructionism:Whats the difference? learning.media.mit.edu/content/.../EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert. 3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis (Gaia has not yet reproduced, for instance; it still might spread to other planets through human space colonization and terraforming, and/or panspermia), 4) http://www.corestandards.org/ 5) Chad Sansing, Democratizing composition: bringing together thoughts, people & resources. (2012), http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/democratizingcomposition-bringing-together-thoughts-people-resources/ 6) Jerome Kagan, The Nature of the Child, p. 4.5)