Saturday, 7 March 2009

Collateral learning

Steven Johnson is fairly convinced that popular culture is making us smarter. His influential book, "Everything Bad Is Good For You" identifies a whole range of cognitive abilities that have been developed as a direct result of the increasing sophistication of popular television, the Internet and video games. He argues that non- linear narratives are especially important in stretching our ability to process complex information. Even when the content of popular media is less than edifying, the way that it is presented to the reader/viewer is what counts. Johnson calls this "collateral learning." I wonder if this idea is something we could consider when we think about learning in school? Perhaps we should be a little less concerned about the content of the curriculum and more interested in the connections, processes and metaphors that provide rich "collateral learning"?

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