TED: Larry Lessig – How Creativity is being strangled by the law
I’ve been talking a lot lately at conferences and consultations about the idea of “scaffolding” content. Scaffolding isn’t new. It’s teacher talk for supporting a resource or learning objective with various structures such as: questioning sequences, introductory discussion, activities or some form of production (an written, oral or multimedia item) connected to the chosen resource. In this way, we don’t just show or share an item, we provide an explicit and directed inquiry to actively engage participation in meaning.
Why scaffolding matters
Whether you’re a magazine editor, media producer or teacher, it’s not enough to simply share something you think is compelling enough to inspire engagement and expect readers, learners or colleagues to have a ready response. You must actively solicit that response via supporting materials (to activate prior or missing knowledge) as well as specific calls for inquiry, learning or repurpose.
Progressive teachers scaffold learning materials through structured activities or self-directed tasks (or better, both – which appeals to more than one style of learning!) that serves the purpose of having the learner do more with the material than passively consuming it. Here’s a story I wrote and produced for the CBC about Canadian author Margaret Laurence. The CBC hired teachers to scaffold selected stories and create curriculum to make use of these materials in Canadian classrooms. This approach transforms content into experiences.
But I have yet to see this kind of approach outside of education. Whether it’s a conference or a lecture. We’re often simply unpacking material and expecting participants to know what to do with it. This is fine for the 3% of the population who do all the talking and participating in most web spaces but not especially inviting for everybody else. And we also know this from decades of study of how people learn. The old “sage on the stage” lecture format is going the way of the dinosaur for this reason.
Instead, we need to guide and support engagement and participation in a way that explicitly invites it. For example, if I tell a client they ought to know about Second Life. I don’t just say: go to second life and get an avatar, I suggest they attend an educational conference and tell them what time I’ll be inworld (or how to go about arranging a visit). Similarly, if I say: check out Twitter, I give examples of industry professionals or peers they should follow and send them a link to my 100 or so collected bookmarks.
Here’s an exemplar of scaffolding web content from Howard Rheingold, who has been using Sprout widgets to create mini-learning units that include video, articles and links around an item of inquiry. In this case, “the public sphere in the internet age.”
I would like to issue a call to action to all of you who feel we need to go further than merely sharing cool stuff. To those of you who think we ought not to simply leave it up to those already confident or entitled to participate, and start asking – explicitly and creatively – for some form of response that transforms passive reception into active exploration. Especially those of you who teach.
For most of us, even asking ONE question is going further than traditional media. You’re not just sharing, you’re inviting a discussion, an action or a larger application. That’s what I’m talking about!
Let’s start with the video above. As compelling as it is, it’s even more compelling if we invite people to DO something with it. Using the video above as an example, I’d like you to consider the following approaches. These can be applied to any type of content – whether it’s an article, a web page, a game or multimedia.
STEP ONE: Preparation
1) Bookmark and cue the video above
2) Open up a document – preferably in notepad so you can easily import your final text into a blog post or other interactive format
STEP TWO: The work(s)
The following scaffolding approaches range from simple tasks to a culminating project. You can choose to explore one or all of these depending on your purposes. But for most of you, I’d recommend just starting with the first: 5 – 10 questions.
Inquiry: 5 – 10 questions
While watching the video above, I’d like you to come up with 5-10 questions ranging from basic comprehension and knowledge of Lessig’s presented facts and contexts to calls for critical thinking. You could watch the whole video and then write down a few quick questions (fine for a blog post or sharing among colleagues) or pause and replay as you go (more time consuming but better for classroom purposes).
Resources: 3 related links or resources
After viewing the video, find 3 related links or resources that augment or support the content. For example, Lessig’s Wikipedia page, the Creative Commons website or another remix example.
Simple activity: An applied task that engages further exploration of the topic
This should be a relatively simple activity. My suggestion? Create a Creative Commons license for a piece of your work – either for your blog or perhaps one of your photos in Flickr. Or, if you haven’t yet started a blog. Go to the Creative Commons site and find a piece of CC licensed work to use in your next presentation (according to the license agreement). But this activity is yours. Maybe it’s a skype conversation, Twitter crowdsource or something else … sky is the limit!
Don’t just post a youtube video in your blog and expect everybody to engage it. Support that video with a few questions or calls to action. Preferably a question that yields further material, resources or ideas that support the ideas presented. For example, with this Lessig video, I’d ask people if they can post a link to their favourite remix video. Here’s one of mine.
Culminating project: Your own product and inquiry
This is for instructors or teachers who want to use the material in a context where time and resources are provided. For example, it could be a mashup or remix piece produced to demonstrated the knowledge and understanding of the topic. Here’s what I’d love. I’d love for somebody to not only make a cool remix but teach me and others how to go about doing it!
Remix this post
If you have any other ideas, please leave them in a comment below. Otherwise, feel free to grab all of the above and repost it on your own blog or website (with attribution, of course! all of my stuff here is licensed with a share and share alike creative commons license – see the bottom of the page for more info).
1. Activating prior knowledge
2. Blooms taxonomy
3. Constructivism – learning theory
4. Open Source Cinema – Create and remix media (tools and content)
5. Marzano: Nine instructional approaches that work