John Moe, on yesterday’s NPR’s Marketplace Tech Report, spoke about the new “indoor” Google maps that will be available on Smartphones (for shopping malls, airports, and the like). He mentioned that he would probably upload and use those maps, but remarked that he would miss being lost. It would ruin the element of discovery, he said, and his brain will miss that kind of exercise.
I have been in plenty of airports with tight connections to know that this may have helped me out a bit. Shopping malls – love the idea of an online map, because shopping and me go together like peanut butter and peas. I want to get in, get what I want, and get out. (shudder)
One never really knows if they are born with a navigational-savvy brain until it’s put to the test. Those who are navigationally challenged usually figure this out pretty quickly – and so GPS and Google maps become their friends. Those of us who can navigate, and have a good sense of direction, can delight in being lost as a way of discovery. After all, I didn’t learn my way around our cities and towns by relying on maps, but by getting lost and learning about all sorts of new routes and neighborhoods.
But, in this age of “NOW” thinking, there’s not a lot of exploration, which in my mind, inhibits learning. If it’s not handed to people, they don’t want to try and find it. Students want to know what the “right” answer is, rather than trusting the process of learning. We have a lot of technology that will do work for us, but we are missing out on calculating, plotting, examining, revising….all things that get us to the point of discovery. Remember Rilke’s “Live the questions now…and someday, perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” ? Or this gorgeous poem by David Wagoner:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, And you must treat it as a powerful stranger, Must ask permission to know it and be known. The forest breathes. Listen. It answers, I have made this place around you, If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here. No two trees are the same to Raven. No two branches are the same to Wren. If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows Where you are. You must let it find you.
I remember setting up a webquest for students, and having them look for sites that had to do with a certain concept. They did a keyword search on Google, and after scanning through page one of the results, their hand was up in the air. “There’s nothing online,” they explained. “I even searched for ____- and it’s not here.”
In the span of 30 seconds, they had briefly looked, and given up. That’s it.
I mourn the gradual loss of discovery, but there is hope. Inquiry is a method that has been gaining traction for a while now, and it’s lighting students up. Check out Reflections of a Techie – MRatzel is doing a lot with inquiry in her classes. She then led me to Voices of the Learning Revolution, which headlines a piece on inquiry, actually. There’s a lot of Socratic Method being utilized as well.
Discovery, and the process of discovery, is such an integral piece in the development of strong citizens- folks who will become our leaders, our scientists, our problem solvers. Although technology makes it easy for those who do not like to be lost, I encourage each and every one of us to seek the discomfort once in a while. Being lost isn’t so bad. You usually learn a thing or two.