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Fairy Tales & Learning To Be


In the final chapter of Lankshear & Knobel's Everyday Practices and Social Learning, my understanding of the connections between social learning and storytelling were further clarified through the empirical case studies presented. In the case of the teacher education Master's programme, the students taught themselves and each other how to use new technologies in their efforts to create a digital media artifact that told some kind of story. Through social sharing of resources and collective problem solving, students who had minimal prior experience creating digital media successfully produced collaborative content in a limited amount of time. In the second case, presented from New York's Quest to Learn (Q2L) school, Lankshear & Knobel briefly outline how at Q2L, 'gamelike learning' is utilized to help "kids figure out how to be inventors, designers, innovators, and problem solvers." In connection to James Paul Gee's 'learning to be', students are asked to "behave like them, within contexts that are real, meaningful, or both to the students." As a readers and producers of content and media that supports these identities through stories, the student is immersed into the world of the character they are imitating, much like becoming immersed in a story.

Stories and folklore have remained a significant part of cultural and social practice since communication and technology were in preliminary stages. Some of the very first art we have from the caves in Lascaux, France, tells a story of how people and animals interacted in the world 18,000 years ago. Cultures from around the world have traditional folklore and fairy tales that re-emerge in different forms of new media each generation. Why do these stories remain despite the changes in technologies?

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

In The Irresistable Fairy Tale, Jack Zipes suggests that the stories we tell are fundamental to our individual and social needs. "Fairy tales are informed by a human disposition to action - to transform the world and make it more adaptable to human needs, while we also try to change and make ourselves fit for the world." This is very reminiscent of Gee's 'learning to be', as through our efforts to live and thrive in the world we adopt new practices and participate in consumption and production of new stories that support our efforts. Reinforcing the connection to social interaction, Zipes suggests that "the various tale types are dependent on actions taken and conflicts that humans have experienced, and continue to experience, through biological and social behavior." The stories are very relevant to our social practices and learning, and Zipes further emphasizes this importance and suggests that "if it is through language and story that cognition is fostered, it is all that much more important that we see the connections between ancient stories and how as well as why we continue to repeat them in innovative ways."

What will the stories of the future be like? Will we be telling the same tale but in new ways with new technologies? What new stories will emerge and tell the tales of our generation? Creating successful platforms for collective and collaborative storytelling is a challenge for the educators of today. We must continue to pass on the knowledge and wisdom that exists in the stories and experiences of our collective social mind. To begin to tackle this task, educators must also 'learn to be'. Lankshear & Knobel conclude their story with a positive reinforcement for innovation:

"Exploring these possibilities will involve taking some risks, venturing into unknown territory, redefining our identities and roles as formal teachers and learners, doing some experimenting, going down some blind alleys and getting some wins, reflecting on our experiences, and sharing what we have done and learned with others, and keeping connected to the wider efforts of kindred spirits"

Chapter 1 of Jack Zipe's The Irresistible Fairy Tale, 'The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Tales: Human Communication and Memetics' is available online through the Princeton Press site if you are interested in a preview of this thorough and interesting book about traditional stories and folklore.


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