This post is about two very different learning experiences last week. I accompanied our eighth grade on our annual trip to Washington. It is a great trip, although understanding and appreciating aspects of the trip requires students to do some learning on their own. Sadly, this is not a strength of this generation (link). We toured the Capital after meeting our local state representative. The Capital has a brand new visitors center, but the tour was cut from the traditional teaching mold. We had wireless headsets to hear the tour guide. Interesting technology, but it could have been used for so much more. The tour guide blasted us with snippets of data about names, dates, and places. No overarching themes. No intriguing questions. Nothing to activate my brain. The students were bored in five minutes, while the teachers held on for fifteen minutes before losing interest. It struck me that a national monument (with a reasonable budget) has no idea how to present and educate people. Where was the multimedia? How about hotspots where we could hear audio reenactments of historical conversations? How about being able to choose the conversation? How about communicating with another eighth grade who was in the building?
Flip Side. It was interesting to note that the Capital tour was is in sharp contrast to an online graduate course I was completing. During the trip, I worked at night to complete a course about online education. The online course was taught using asynchronous tools. It was infinitely more interesting that my experience at the Capital. I have not met the professor or any of the students in person. Yet, I feel energized during the discussions and working on group projects. The course makes use of social networking (Web2.0) tools to communicate. These are the same tools I use everyday in my personal life. This online course successfully plugged into my digital world. Unfortunately, the Capital tour did not.