A post in DailyBlogTips retells the story from Robin Williams (the author The Mac is Not a Typewriter –not the manic comedian) about the importance of finding language to describe things that are important to us. It’s a great parable about the importance of learning to see the important details in the rich content of our educational environments.
Once upon a time, Robin received a tree identifying book where you could match a tree up with its name by looking at its picture. Robin decided to go out and identify the trees in the neighborhood. Before she went out, she read through part of the book.The first tree in the book was the Joshua tree because it only took two clues to identify it.
Now the Joshua tree is a really weird-looking tree and she looked at that picture and said to herself “Oh, we don’t have that kind of tree in Northern California. That is a weird-looking tree. I would know if I saw that tree, and I’ve never seen one before.
So she took the book and went outside. Her parents lived in a cul-de-sac of six homes. Four of those homes had Joshua trees in the front yard. She had lived in that house for thirteen years, and she had never seen a Joshua tree.
She took a walk around the block – at least 80 percent of the homes had Joshua trees in the front yards. And she had sworn she had never seen one before!
The moral of the story? Once Robin was conscious of the tree, once she could name it, she saw could see it everywhere. Which is exactly my point. Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You own it. You’re in control.
Developing a shared understanding within a community requires an enormous amount of work to find ways to name and describe the technologies that might really transform student learning. Defining even simple trees are difficult enough–but think about the activities we want to identify in our own environment. How to we get students and faculty alike to recognize the power of complex interactions like authentic learning, digital imagination or transformative learning? This little story was a good reminder for me that the continuing conversation is important, even it’s hard sometimes to point to specific results.