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Posted by on May 7, 2013

Perpetually becoming: mLearning models for simultaneous activities

The river is everywhere & perpetually becoming: The Thames River as a vehicle for articulating simultaneity and presence from Michael Gallagher on Vimeo.

I suppose I am still feeding off the rush of a successful workshop conducted in Helsinki this past weekend and that energy has prompted me to continue exploring mobile learning from a standpoint of habitus. Essentially, this is what my colleague Pekka Ihanainen and I are working on in regards to our burgeoning Pedagogy of Simultaneity (PoS). We are looking for a pedagogy  that accounts for the simultaneous activities that occur in overlapping sessions of conscious and unconscious workflows. How we can be working on one learning activity consciously while subconsciously processing another. This encapsulates many of the traditional dichotomies that often unnaturally compartmentalize our thinking: here/there, then/now, intention/serendipity, formal/informal. We meander and oscillate between all of these at all times and Pekka and I are looking for models, models with organic, natural structures, that might prove useful in trying to articulate what PoS is all about.

This has direct bearing on mobile learning as it is decidedly an intersection of simultaneous activity towards a larger understanding. It is a constant emergence, structured and governed by the artifacts and intentions intersecting. I can’t see how this is a mere technological issue, but rather a cognitive/philosophical/theoretical one. Learning theory needn’t contort our cognitive processes to fit some structured process resulting in some desired outcome; we need merely to align theory with perception and practice. Align the variables in time and space intersections to create meaning.

As always, I look to the past in literature, art, history for ways in which that can be done. I have evoked Shakespeare, Dante, and even Fitzgerald. Now I turn most of my attention to Herman Hesse and his exquisite Siddhartha. It is in this context of perception, understanding, and breaking the repetitive chains of human existence and cycles of misery do I see the hallmarks of a model for mobile learning. A spiritual model. One that acknowledges impermanence, ephemerality, fluidity, shifts in time and space, shifts in perception and motivation. Water. A river. A tired metaphor, for sure, but an apt one. It is never the same twice, regardless of the vantage point (looking at or being in it). It emerges constantly. It is a myriad of meanings, a pool of endless permutations. It is the raw vessel of creativity. So I went and recorded the Thames here in London from many different vantage points. I layered those together, with the audio of the lapping waves against the rocky shores. I embedded passages like these to remind myself of what I was looking at and what it meant for perception and learning.

He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha. -Herman Hesse

I then moved further along the video of the Thames and referenced this passage, which proves the crux of the entire argument about emergence in learning:

They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming― Hermann Hesse

Perpetual becoming is one of the most beautiful phrases and particularly relevant to mobile learning. Step by step, we extract meaning from the chaotic assembly of circumstance and artifact. A thousand variables, all well beyond our control, that we can align or dismiss to create meaning. And this is where I feel the PoS (and other constructivist pedagogies) differs from a more scientific method approach to learning: control. With PoS, we assume none. That there is no control over the variables being rendered; there is merely alignment, a perpetual process of foregrounding and backgrounding to fit the need, purpose, or pure creative impulse. This is where mobile learning excels. We don’t transform the landscape with our captured media; we are inexorably transforming ourselves to make possible understanding. We are harmonizing ourselves with the sequences of activities occurring around us. It is a spiritual process of calming oneself to receive and articulate meaning. We don’t capture or own anything, merely articulate an understanding, a small truth, nod our heads, and move on to the next chaotic intersection of time, space, and meaning. This last passage isn’t from Hesse, but rather from Rainer Maria Rilke and it articulates a delicate, poignant approach to learning, one almost dutiful and observant, a prayer.

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children― Rainer Maria Rilke

That is learning to me.

Hyde Park, London.

Hyde Park, London.

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4 Comments

    • Loved those water reflections, Pekka. I suspect we are in an aura of simultaneity, these waves from water when a stone is thrown into it. You and I always seem to be circling the same ideas so that must be good! Loved your blog post by the way; you articulated a few points that I was struggling to think of myself. Well done. Keep creating!

  1. Flowing water is an excellent metaphor for the time. It changes and is still the same all the time. There is no time, and it still exists. And life is wonderful!

    • Agree with everything you say, Tero! Agree that life is wonderful, especially once we embrace that idea that it is moving endlessly around us and there is nothing to fear. One of my favorite quotes and a good quote for all teachers and learners:

      Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less-Marie Curie

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