Students as “Information Flaneurs”


School structure can easily be described as containers of time, space… content, standards…accountability.   This is the reality of today’s education system.  How does this fit with the real world need for developing entrepreneurship, creativity,  and invention?   Can these skills—habits of mind—be developed within the confines of our current school structure?  Where does discovery, through the process of inquiry, come in to play?

We ultimately need novel ways to support the practices embodied by the information flaneur in curiously and critically moving through information landscapes and creatively constructing meaning.

This conclusion is from the research paper by Marian D¨ork, Sheelagh Carpendale and Carey Williamson, The Information Flaneur: A Fresh Look at Information Seeking,  addressing the need to develop technology tools and landscapes to benefit information seekers. It has me thinking about different structures – the structures of education.  I believe we ultimately need novel ways to support students so they can have the heady experience of serendipitously encountering just the right piece of information  to help them understand or make sense of something– like finally seeing how puzzle pieces will fall into place, and suddenly being able to see the big picture.  Students need to have the time and space to “curiously and critically move through information landscapes and creatively construct meaning.”

It seems that time is the greatest enemy –how can teachers possibly give up precious classroom time for this kind of free-style inquiry? There is content to cover, tests to prepare for, grades to be doled out.

But inquiry is at the heart of learning. Can true inquiry be contained? Within the boundaries of our education system , inquiry does occur, but tends to be highly structured, with little room for choice, free exploration, and sense-making.

Perhaps a first step is to allow students the opportunity to curate information. By curate, I mean more than collecting, but synthesizing, discarding what doesn’t fit as our understanding shifts and grows, creating context, and sharing with a broad audience (More on curating here) Even within our highly structured environments, we need to carve out time and space for students to truly explore, possibly find that spark of curiosity to dig deeper, make connections, and ultimately take ownership of their learning.

Inspired by Tim Wray’s post (discovered via Robin Good on Scoop It):  Collections As Landscapes: Part 1: Empowering Spatial, Experiential Interaction , which linked to The Information Flaneur: A Fresh Look at Information Seeking by Marian D¨ork, Sheelagh Carpendale and Carey Williamson

Author: Nancy White

Learner, Curator, Innovator, Teacher, Librarian, and Collaborator. Passionate about designing learning that is engaging, relevant & sticks. 20+ years in education.

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