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4

In the following clip, just the segment about the professional surfer Dusty Paine, Brown describes a fascinating interplay between embodied lives and online lives.

…It turns out that my neighbor turns out to be a 20-year-old kid, moderately world-famous in the surfing world named Dusty Payne. And what got interesting to us is that Maui has never produced a world-class champion before. They basically come from Oahu, from the North Shore and so on and so forth. But all of a sudden four kids make it big, big time here in Maui. You say “What Happened?”

And it turns out that if you kind meet these kids they have all come together very much like a guild in World of Warcraft, and what they do is they compete with each other and they collaborate with each other incredibly intensely. They think up a new move, they dash down the hill, they try it out, they take their video cameras with them. They’re videoing each other. They dash back up here. They start kind of analyzing what worked, what didn’t work, build new ideas, dash down the hill again, try it out. And then what they start doing is they start looking at, of course, all the other people surfing around the world, which they get from YouTube. They have all this kind of stuff. They start picking up new moves like that. That’s a kind of interesting way that digital media has enhanced the ability of these surfing kids to pick up all kinds of new tricks. And I can actually show you how a particular move now on a surfboard takes about 48 hours to propagate around the world before all the key surfers of the top edge are trying it out themselves, okay? And of course any time something changes they’re the first to try it out and to appropriate it, so these kids live for picking up something new. They live for trying out something new. And some of this stuff, by the way, is moderately dangerous. So these are high-cost mistakes, but the passion that they have to do this is really awesome.

Well, guess what. The passion that I see in the World of Warcraft of the high-end high performers is also awesome, but it doesn’t stop there. If you look at the artists, if you look at the musicians, if you look at the dancers, if you look at athletics in general and to the extreme edge what you have is kids that are turned on. And when they get really turned on in the right context there’s almost no stopping.

Any interest that any kid has, I am sure there’s already existing out there a passionate community of interest group or a community of practice that you can try to join…. (Brown, 2013)

I love this example for me it does double work. I see it as an example of the demographic I have isolated. I see it as well as an example of my meaning of “conversation.” Certainly, we see face-to-face conversations between the surfer buddies; we see “conversation” take on valences as the videos are posted and commented on and video responses posted. Indeed other social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all play into the conversations and in nuanced and different ways.

Perhaps, the place I might insert myself and raise a self-reflective moment with this demographic is the distinct model of learning that is constructed in this example.  As well, that the learning model maps between entirely virtual activities, World of Warcraft gaming and fully embodied activities of professional surfing. I think this is a fundamental realization that the model of learning maps across this continuum. This type of learning is about identity, about curiosity, about real compensation. I think these definitions of online learning and online learning community is substantially different from the online learning in which universities or human resource departments engage. To understand better, the process that Brown describes includes the following elements:

This type of learning is about identity, about curiosity, about real compensation. I think these definitions of online learning and online learning community is substantially different from the online learning in which universities or human resource departments engage. To understand better, the process that Brown describes includes the following elements:

  • Shared passion
  • Face-to-face cohort
  • Practice capture technology
  • Play/practice (elements of gamification)
  • Online cohort
  • Published/peer reviewed (open)
  • Failure has a real cost (injury, financial loss)
  • Practice refinement and improvement (lather, rinse, repeat)
  • Success has potential for compensation/recognition in both real and virtual world

Here learning, and community is learner/passion-centric. Inquiry originates with passionate individuals following their dreams. That is, less frequently, or not at all how we describe school learners. More often in schools, our starting assumption is that learners are deficient in the knowledge we also assume that they need development across a broad curriculum. This approach to learning puts identity, curiosity, and real compensation at the far end of learning.

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Playfulness by Robert D. Heath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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