Note: This post was cross-posted on talkingaboutdesign.com. Thanks to Amanda Riske for her excellent editorial review!
Over the past few weeks, I have revitalized my crush on the RadioLab podcast--specifically the currently airing series "Mixtape." I was hooked from the first episode, Dakou, when host and producer Simon Adler starts the series describing the introduction of the Walkman to a group of Japanese journalists in a public park. The engaging and thought provoking episode pushed me to think about a world before personal audio and how our self-designed soundscapes have changed how we experience and make meaning of daily life--like when I was stuck in an airport last week, walking around with my ear buds in, listening to the second episode of the Mixtape series: Jack and Bing. It was a personal meaning-making experience, completely separate from the hundreds of people around me.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the first episode--which Simon ended with this intriguing cliff hanger:
"Now, what strikes me about all this, more than anything, is that we’re all sort of living in this world now. From Spotify playlists that span eras and genres to the scatter shot of news we consume and then weave into our own understanding of what’s happened. I mean our tastes, our beliefs, our realities are a collage. A mixtape of decontextualized and then recontextualized snippets. Next week, we’re leaving China and going back to the moment this remixed existence began. We’ve got the story of the first splice in our reality and the two men, one you definitely know, and one you most definitely don’t, who made it happen."
All leading to this:
❗ SPOILER ALERT❗
The Jack and Bing episode explores how radio developed the ability to pre-record shows in reaction to Bing Crosby's refusal to continue performing multiple live radio shows for different time zones. It was much more complicated than I imagined--technically, yes, but also navigating social and ethical implications, because now the producers could easily edit--and even distort--the audio. Was it OK to add laugh tracks, even if a live audience didn’t find something particularly funny? What about taking away some of the context of a guest’s comments? Should the audience be informed that it is pre-recorded and edited? We transitioned to a world where producers could use new techniques to finesse the audio beyond what might have been originally intended.
We have come a long way since Bing Crosby refused to perform multiple shows each day, but the technology around us continues to shape our reality in sometimes hidden ways. What I see on Facebook presents a certain social world that rarely reflects reality--I only see what people choose to post (almost always the best parts of their life) and what Facebook decides to highlight. My Google feed offers its own compilation or “Mix-Feed” of what it thinks will reinforce my personal reality, or how I make meaning of the world. My Mix-Feed for today includes:
But I digress.
What's important here is that my reality is a bunch of "decontextualized and then recontextualized" interpretations. This isn't good or bad, though we might question ethics behind some techniques used to create and present this mix-feed (an interesting exploration of this: Coded Bias). But it is the world we live in, a world that is designed.
Taking a more optimistic perspective, deliberately creating our own mixes can be a type of learning. We can use new technologies to develop and communicate our own understandings: networked technologies offer resources that can support us in creating media that demonstrates our ideas while also enabling us to share these ideas broadly. We can develop our own voice as we learn to communicate through various types of media, all while sharing our creations with a real audience (cool example: Curious Kindergarteners Podcast).
And a professional example--consider this commercial (brought to my attention through one of Punya Mishra's old blogposts):
I recently used this video in my class to illustrate how design can communicate--or even shape--meaning. Through the use of certain people, expressions, symbols, camera techniques, video speed, etc., the video powerfully connects "embracing life" with seatbelts. It takes what might be culturally viewed (and even sometimes called) a "restraint" and offers a different interpretation: an embracement we accept for those we love. It uses an artifact to create an experience that can impact culture.
Learning (to me) is seeing something differently or making new meaning, and design helps us both see and communicate the meanings we develop. Networked technology can support collaborative creation (meaning making), connecting us to diverse people, ideas, and experiences. We create our own mixtape of ideas, one informed by not just our own experiences, but also the experiences of others. This, I believe, is the power of modern technologies: they provide new ways to form and express ideas, giving a voice to those who otherwise might be silent.
Today I presented a paper I wrote about how design principles informed the work I did for my dissertation--a responsive professional development program that ended up having to respond to COVID-19 school closures. The result was an unexpected stress test for the design principles.
The figure below outlines the theoretical structure of the program, with design principles as the foundation, a professional model based on "teachers as designers," and a specific program designed to explore these ideas.
You can read the full paper here or view the slides.
Want to participate in an activity on epistemic fluency?
Join below or follow this link: padlet.com/warr1/mhs5mwi8ujsdtqyu
Read more about this approach!
“Seeing Things Differently”: Using Diverse Representations to Promote Epistemic Diversity and Fluency
Fluency in the application diverse epistemic approaches can help individuals develop a deep understanding concepts. By combining multiple ways of interacting with an idea, learners deepen their understandings. In this session, participants will experiment with an approach that can help learners develop epistemic diversity and fluency in both in-person and online contexts. The approach is based on research on a teacher professional development program conducted before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Markauskite and Goodyear (2017) described epistemic fluency as being “flexible and adept with respect to different ways of knowing about the world” (p. 1). They identified epistemic fluency as a skill critical to engaging in complex professional work and dealing with complex problems. When individuals can switch between different ways of knowing, they can see things in new ways that offer new solutions.
I conducted a teacher professional development program designed to support addressing a problem-solution space from different epistemic perspectives. Four junior high school teachers selected a problem of practice of importance to them. Together, we explored their problem from many different perspectives, what one teacher called “seeing things differently.” In this context, we explored the use of four basic epistemic approaches which I introduced to the teachers as mindsets: analytic, creative, empathetic, and aesthetic. By combining these mindsets, including creating representations of the problem space based on each, teachers were able to see the problem-solution space in ways that afforded new action, akin to what Markauskite and Goodyear (2017) described as epistemic agency.
For example, the teachers were concerned about how to support learner engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applied an analytic mindset by reviewing empirical research about student engagement and creating mind maps of key ideas. One teacher came across research that focused on “relatedness,” that learning engagement can be increased through feelings of connection to others. Viewing the problem space from this perspective provided a new way to view the problem—instead of a focus on student engagement in general, we could consider how to build relatedness amongst students and teachers, something difficult to do but extremely important when teachers and students were physically separated.
An empathetic approach describes coming to know or understand through others’ emotions and experiences. For example, the teachers called students to ask them about their experiences with remote learning. The teachers were surprised to find students enjoyed talking with the teachers and expressed gratitude for the phone calls. They liked to know that they were being heard. This offered another dimension of relatedness: being sure that students not only are heard, but know they are heard.
A creative mindset, where we explored the problem-solution space through divergence, metaphor, and redescription, included finding pictures that could represent relatedness. One teacher found a picture of eggs in an egg carton, leading to a view of relatedness as being an equal member of a peer group. Supporting students in group work, where every student has a part to play, might then increase relatedness.
Finally, an aesthetic mindset is coming to know through personal feelings and experiences. One teacher wrote a poem about a time he felt relatedness during a marching band rehearsal. The poem was a powerful description of feelings of relatedness. For example, the phrase “a sea of sweaty bodies cinched by kinship at the shoulder” helped us experience what relatedness might feel like, something we could strive for when designing for relatedness.
Exploring the idea of relatedness from different perspectives helped teachers develop a deeper understanding of the concept. A similar approach might be effective for helping any learner come to personal understandings of a complex concept.
In this session, we will explore some of the tools and approaches I used to help the teachers in my study practice epistemic diversity and fluency. For example, we used an online bulletin board to collect representations of the concept from each epistemic perspective. The bulletin board allowed us to group our insights in various ways, allowing for unique combinations of ways to think about relatedness. By creating representations and reflecting from diverse epistemic perspectives, and combining the ideas in multiple ways, learners can deepen their understanding of complex ideas.
Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (2017). Epistemic fluency and professional education: Innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4369-4