Engagement: learning to be affected
THINK: Engagement can be broadly defined as a pedagogical encounter with something other than the self. This encounter may be with a human, it may be with a plant, animal or environment, or it may be an encounter with a film, an artwork, a book, or an idea. What is crucial to engagement is its materiality: the body's time and place within which a pedagogical encounter occurs. Ingold (2000) refers to this as an ‘education of attention’, also common to many Indigenous peoples, which involves a sensory apprenticeship and attunement to the cultural landscape that surround us. Deleuze (1995, p. 165) similarly describes this as an ‘education of the senses’, in which the process of learning establishes the ‘bond of a profound complicity between nature and mind’. This active form of engagement as a deep correspondence between self and environment is different from passive interactions with a device or apparatus that simply captures our attention momentarily.
When a learner is genuinely immersed within a multi-sensory space, the distance between human and environment can be diminished or even erased. This kind of close encounter with the environment offers an intimacy with other beings through direct sensations which are crucial to learning. The 'experience of the learning self' emerges at those pedagogical pivot points which are 'the times and places of knowledge in the making' (Ellsworth, 2005, p. 2). These pivot points are what Winnicott (1971) refers to as 'transitional spaces': potential spaces that are activated when learners engage with immersive environments in playful and noncompliant ways. This means that we can never really know in advance how or why someone will come to learn (Deleuze, 1995, p. 165). Rather, the very possibilities for learning are activated by experimentations with the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a learning environment at a certain place and time. This is what Ellsworth describes as the 'paradox at the heart of pedagogy' (2005, p. 54).
WATCH: Artist Maya Lin speaking about her art and architectural practices
"I create places in which to think, without trying to dictate what to think" (Lin, 2000, p. 2).
DO: Design a prototype learning environment for noncompliant learning. It could be a classroom, an outdoor space, a museum, a website or something else. What would your learning environment look like? What would it sound like? What would it feel like? How would it operate? What kinds of features would you design to allow for different modes of engagement?
Put together a 'map' of your prototype learning environment using words, images and drawings. Then record yourselves describing how your learning environment works, and how it creates spaces for diverse forms of engagement. Post your maps and recordings using the text/photo/audio/video portal provided below:
DISCUSS: What was it like designing a new kind of learning environment for student or public engagement?