Tech and Ed

Disruptive Education and Desire Lines

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The inspirational Learning without Frontiers Conference   had many speakers sharing their vision of the future. Fundamental to this was new technologies tearing down the barriers to success with mobile devices and cloud computing.

During a debate on whether the VLE was dead ( although this title assumes that it was once had a life). Steve Wheeler  made the point that the VLE is not something that the students would choose to use themselves and this struck a chord regarding Desire Lines.

Desire lines are those paths that emerge from paved areas and roads that are trod by those who don’t agree with the prescribed direction. One person on their own cannot make the path , it is the others that follow this lead.

paper by Carl Myhill explains this

“Desire lines are an ultimate expression of human desire or natural purpose. An optimal way to design pathways in accordance with natural human behaviour, is to not design them at all. Simply plant grass seed and let the erosion inform you about where the paths needs to be.”

It seems to me that most aspects of our educational curriculum are set in stone with no option to follow your line of desire. Mobile technology releases us from the constraints of the past where the information and tasks came from the set text book and there was one answer and one way of showing that answer.
VLEs are a case in point with many having very fixed paths that make sense to us, but are not natural paths to our students would follow. Emails make sense to all educational planners, but are not used by our students and so dont follow their lines of desire. Dan Pink makes a very strong case for autonomy and purpose being a fundamental part of motivation in his RSA animate here . Forcing our students to use technology they dont value is not pointless, it is actually damaging and alienating
The challenge is to not look at what we have done before and use technology to do it better, it is to look at what technology can do, plant the seeds and see where the desire lines lead us. Whoever is brave enough to do this wins!

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