maps….maps and learning…..maps

Have I mentioned that i’m terrible at reading maps in games….well in real life too…….but I love the concept of maps and how they connect ideas, places, people, cultures, learning. i’m considering the meaning in their design that helps a learner connect ideas, geographically, in cyberspace – how the design helps learners build upon concepts both geographically and in cyberspace. this visual connection between ideas in a game like Candy Crush helps me as a learner understand that elements of difficulty experienced in the previous levels will be experienced in subsequent levels. Part of how I define a ‘good’ game is the repeated testing of design elements in new, harder manners, and how I as the player understand how to make meaning from those designed elements. At a very high level, these goals mimic course goals. I want students to start with basic concepts, to build on the complexity of those concepts in their learning, thinking, speaking and writing, then produce a final product (which is the test phase) that demonstrates their learning of all these concepts (course elements by design).

However, we don’t typically consider course content in this manner. We traditionally view course content as a body of information, facts, ideas that must be memorized and regurgitated. Chronologically we can see the connection between ideas, but we don’t always see the skills at play in learning this body of information, we especially don’t see the skills we learn as we manipulate, rethink, question, discuss this body of information we’ve learned in a class. Instead we see a class like British Literature as requiring us to read a specific set of books, regurgitate the information on the books and write a paper at the end. Instead, what this class actually asks learners to do is engage with British Literature and culture, the history that influenced and produced those ideas and those works, how we see them today, what their place is within the academy, how we talk about them, why we talk about them, and what we can do with them. This actually plays out in different ways in classes, and we almost never discuss this. So how do we move individual classes toward discussing these practices. So we’re back to maps. Can mapping the practices engaged in and defining them as a group help learners visually understand the practices they engage as students of a course? Will this awareness help them understand their own learning better? What other benefits can we get from this (agency, identity, deeper learning, more engaged learning, etc)?

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