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Mapping Virtual Geographies of Learning

Mapping Virtual Geographies of Learning Kristen SwensonFollowing Nov 9, 2020 · 3 min read

Covid19 has shifted our understanding of the world as entirely human-centered & driven, it has shown us the power of something “more-than-human” to drive and shape our society. It has challenged our understandings and conceived notions of home, freedom of movement, and community.

We have had heavy restrictions placed on our freedom to physically move across borders (suburbs, states, and countries) and have been forced to reconnect with our immediate physical environment. The notions of ‘space and place’ have become increasingly more important under these restrictions and have challenged our society to find peace within a smaller and more static material world. Whilst societies have undergone similar challenges in the past, none have been experienced in a world where technology permeates our society to such a large extent. Under these restrictions, humans have become more and more reliant on new technologies to stay employed, connected, and educated.

Access and participation in these virtual spaces challenge our preconceived understandings of how and where children learn.

We must be encouraged to challenge the belief that learning only takes place within the confines of the classroom and encourages us to consider the fluidity and connections between the home, school, online, and offline. In many of these online spaces’ adults have limited ability to locate or understand the parallel spaces in which their children reside. These spaces provide children with the ability to control the learning and make decisions about where and when the learning should take place. It is within these spaces where the true agency can exist.

Furthermore, the Covid19 situation encourages us to analyze and map the spaces which are now even more important to our children; to identify which ones they frequently visit and the learning that takes place within these non-traditional places. Within this new paradigm, teachers and parents must place further emphasis and consideration on the contribution of both “place and space” to the learning process. Both concepts hold extreme significance for our society, and in particular for educators. By studying and mapping these “virtual geographies” we can explore the places and spaces that are important to our students and begin to bridge the gaps between home and school for our students to make learning more powerful, connected, and transformational.

So what does the term virtual geographies actually mean for an average kid?

For my son, despite the fact that he hasn’t set foot in a library for 8 months, his virtual map would show that he is a frequent visitor to our local library. It is in this space that he chooses to spend most of his time, curating his reading list, listening to stories, and re-reading his favorite books. His virtual map also stretches across the ocean all the way to Australia, where he regularly plays games, such as memory, connect-4, and noughts and crosses with his Nanna. He intricately knows every truck in his Poppy’s workshop in Australia, every alpaca in his Grandma’s backyard, and spends many happy hours in the UK and Canberra interacting with his aunts, uncles, and cousins. He is obsessed with creating his own worlds with the Duplo app and is also a frequent visitor to that well-known New York street — Sesame Street! He is constantly learning and shaping his own understanding of this world from the portal of his own home.

I’m interested to know… what spaces and places would be on your children’s virtual geographies map? Which places do they regularly frequent? Does their identity shift in these spaces? What are they learning?

And finally, how might these maps of learning be redesigned to strengthen the relationship between home, school, and community?

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