There is a resident at Grandpa’s dementia centre who is constantly moving – his zimmer frame (the seat shamelessly loaded with purloined goods) clocks up the sort of kilometres each day that would impress someone preparing for the half marathon.
However, what impresses me most is not the total kilometres covered each day but the liminality of the route travelled. The zimmer frame tracks the fringes, the outer edges, the borders, the periphery, the outer reaches of the furniture and the people in each room.
The zimmer frame travels so close to the margins that it constantly nudges other residents – this nudging, a little like those toys that bump into an obstacle and immediately reverse motion 180 degrees and then try again, this repeated nudging can, and does, precipitate verbal and physical confrontation between nudger and nudgee.
It is simply not contestable to suggest that Grandpa has never been especially tolerant (of anything), and zimmer frame nudging is a seen as a highly provocative act... when visiting I suggest that the nudger is to be tolerated ... "he is simply exercising Grandpa – the equivalent of a dementia gym bunny" –
Grandpa is quick to point out the fallacy in my argument – he uses a thin end of the wedge argument to explain that if I don’t allow him to thump the margin traveller then “he might well be a Roman Emperor in ten years time”.
I observe the zimmer frame wanderer with new interest ... am I looking at a future Caligula?
Neglecting the obvious time frame problems in Grandpa’s argument, the truth is that, even if thumped, the zimmer frame wanderer would continue to explore the margins – he has long since lost the ability to learn from experience ...
Learning – behaviour that is changed as a result of experience.
Perhaps the Georges Perec “common thing” that I should be thinking about with respect to learning is what counts as experience in schools - for in the classrooms I visit it certainly isn't movement - with or without a zimmer frame
What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs everyday: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?
To question the habitual. But that’s just it, we’re habituated to it. We don’t question it, it doesn’t question us, it doesn’t seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren’t the bearer of any information. This is not longer even conditioning, it’s anaesthesia. We sleep through our lives in a dreamless sleep. But where is our life? Where is our body? Where is our space?
How are we to speak of these ‘common things’, how to track them down rather, how to flush them out, wrest them from the dross in which they remain mired, how to give them a meaning, a tongue, to let them, finally, speak of what is, of what we are.
We fuss and froth so much about school, (well I do anyways), about the educational impact of funding, of tax breaks, of the quality of teaching staff, of the curriculum, of pedagogy, of disparity, of class sizes, of the impact or not of social technologies .... perhaps I should simply question something habitual.
What seems habitual to me from watching the zimmer frame wanderer is our acceptance that learning in school (apart from in specialist disciplines) does not require movement.
It starts with learning to sit on the mat to listen to the often patronising discourse of the new entrant teacher ... and finishes when as adults we attend conferences and sit contentedly through patronising keynoter discourse from the over priced professional 21st Century edu_tainers on the circuit.
Furthermore it seems that learning in the 21st Century happens when you are not only stationary but also staring at a programmable light source rather than something more real and less representational - like the real desert locust or frog pinned in a wax tray, like a LED, a piece of coarse fabric, fermenting milk, the precipitate in the bottom of a test tube, a canvas dripping with paint or even another human being.
I note here that I am not ready to talk about the role of those Barbie and Ken doll like SL avatars in all of this ...
So I want to think about
- How is learning advantaged when we are stationary and gazing at a screen?
- How is social connection advantaged when we are stationary and gazing at a screen?
- How is society advantaged when learning and social connection is what happens when the learner is stationary and gazing at a screen?