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Appendix C: How to organize city as Text[TM].

1 Decide on site and theme. The theme and site should be linked in some intellectual way. What specific issues will the group investigate? Why choose this particular location for the inquiry?

2 Provide some introductory material to read before meeting as a group in order to ground the issues in some way. These resources should relate to the theme to be explored but should not include too much information. Introductory materials could include articles, book chapters, movies, or short books (novels, autobiographies, etc.).

3 Divide the exploratory area into separate locations--various locations on campus, various neighborhoods of a city, different parts of a museum, etc. These can be simple geographic boundaries, depending on the theme, but dividing the area into diverse neighborhoods each relating to the theme in a different way typically produces more interesting intellectual results. The areas should be clearly delineated and should not overlap so that the small groups (cf. #4 below) do not run into each other and form larger groups.

4 Divide participants into sub-groups. This works best with participants who do not know each other very well and who are from different disciplines. Each group is assigned to investigate one or two areas. The most important thing to do is not to tell them what to do other than to provide them with the four City as Text[TM] strategies--Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting--as detailed in Appendix D. Participants often come back with observations, insights, and experiences the organizers never considered. Individuals in small groups thus have the freedom to learn on their own and from each other, but they also become educators when they report to the larger group.

5 Each group has a certain amount of time to investigate. People from different disciplines notice different details, and this sharing of the experience helps all the participants notice their own blinders or filters through which they see the world. They discuss and reflect in their small group, and one or two members prepare a short oral report to give to the larger group.

6 Meet for large group discussion or debriefing with each sub-group giving its report. This should create a layered discussion showing an understanding of the theme explored. One or two relevant experts may be brought in for the larger group discussion. But rather than giving a lecture, the expert(s) should listen attentively to the groups' reports and briefly react to what the participants saw and answer their curiosity-driven questions.

7 Individuals prepare written reflections. Participants should reflect on the day's experience as self-conscious observers and connect their thoughts to the themes explored and discussed. Some examples of written assignments are given in Appendix E.

8 A final component of this methodology is the recursive element of learning. Essentially, a true City as Text[TM] experience is never complete with just one round of exploration and essays; it continues throughout the semester. During the course of a semester, students might share written reflections out loud, exploratory groups might be redistributed, areas of exploration can be expanded or focused in other ways, and more experts might be brought in for class interactions. The idea is that learning is bottom up, not top down. Individuals and small groups gather information themselves and have many questions. Semester projects can then be developed to explore unresolved or complex questions raised during the discussion.
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Publication:Shattering the Glassy Stare: Implementing Experiential Learning in Higher Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Appendix B: Template for institute design.
Next Article:Appendix D: City as Text[TM] strategies: mapping, observing, listening, reflecting.

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