Friday, July 12, 2013

Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes

The article, “Australia’s Campfires, Caves, and Watering Holes,” discusses how the creation of new learning and teaching environments can enrich curriculum and better engage students.  By using instructional tools which better relate to the world that students exist in, teachers “can personalize instruction and allow students to explore different modes of learning.”  Using David Thornberg’s archetypal models of the campfire, watering hole and cave, the article promotes physical and virtual learning spaces which can be used for both student and teacher learning.  The campfire, a “place where people gather to learn from an expert,” is where students can receive the story necessary for instruction, either through the teacher or other students.  The campfire exists physically and virtually.  The watering hole “is an informal space where peers can share information and discoveries, acting as both learner and teacher simultaneously.”  The watering hole can be online, via social media like Facebook or blog posts, or exist physically in the classroom, and fulfills the NET-S standard of communication and collaboration.  The cave “is a private space where an individual can think, reflect, and transform learning from external knowledge to internal belief.”  The authors, Davis and Kappler-Hewitt, argue that the cave is both the most important and difficult venue for students, as they are required to “reflect by themselves.”

I see the models of the campfire, watering hole and cave as opportunity to blend traditional instructional models with new technology advances.  I see the benefit of being able to provide instruction online, like in a flipped classroom model, where students can absorb instructional material at their own pace, on their own time.  This information can then be carried into online forums or back to the classroom (the watering holes) where students share and discuss ideas.  I agree with the authors that the cave and the time to digest new information is the most important aspect of the learning process; this time for self-reflection will nurture students’ abilities for critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, as well as creativity and innovation.  In my own classroom, I think that classroom time would be better spent working with individual students rather than lecturing on a lesson and sending students home to work through the ideas alone.  “If the class uses digitized content, and students are empowered to access the content through the media that makes the most sense to them, then teachers can move throughout the classroom zones of campfire, watering hole, and cave, both personalizing and individualizing instruction.”

The article’s final point is that teachers must be fluent in content and have a “solid pedagogical background” in order to use these ideas; otherwise, it’s akin to the blind leading the blind.  The article also suggests that teachers also create these same environments for themselves; in mirroring the student learning design, teachers can learn from each other, test out new ideas, and take personal time to reflect, think and create.  

Read the article here: 

Davis, A. & Kappler-Hewitt, K. (2013). Australia’s campfires, caves, and watering holes. Learning & Leading with Technology, 40(8). 24-26.

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