Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Designing for Learning: Engaging Students and Teachers from the Arctic to Australia by Aaron Doering

These are my notes from Aaron Doering’s presentation, “Designing for Learning: Engaging Students and Teachers from the Arctic to Australia” at the 21st Century Learning @ the West Lake Expo held Oct 31 – Nov 3, 2009 at Xi Hu, China, also known as West Lake. West Lake is in the center of Hangzhou, China, which is about an hour by bus southwest of Shanghai. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Aaron’s faculty page at UM

We need to figure out what “transformation” looks like
– think, act, feel

What is technology transformation?

9.5 guidelines for technology transformation (joke)
– going to show three environments: Adventure Learning: GoNOrth!

reaches about 4 million people worldwide

From the University of Minnesota website:

GoNorth! is a free adventure learning program for the K-12 classroom developed at the University of Minnesota. Our team of educators, scientists, and K-12 teacher explorers are dog sledding LIVE to 5 circumpolar Arctic locations (2006 – 2010) to educate our audience around the world.

The online education program is anchored in natural and social science curricula for K-12 classrooms. GoNorth! provides each participating classroom with a free 300+ page curriculum and activity guide, a different set for each trek. Activities on the trail are synched real-time to the curriculum.

Each spring, during the 14-16 week LIVE event, learners enter the online classroom for powerful collaborative opportunities. We present live field updates and field research findings in collaboration with NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The result is a community of motivated learners on the Internet acquiring knowledge from the expedition, the Arctic peoples, subject matter experts, and from each other.

Join the team and more than 3 million learners worldwide at

GeoThenic supported by the National Geographic Society that helps students learn geography

We are designing experiences, not products
– designing for engagement, not completion

I want my students to have valuable experiences throughout the entire learning process
Now showing a 30 second video

University of Minnesota

As a former K-12 teacher, I always wondered why we didn’t use the affordances of technology and bring them into the classroom?
– so I created “aventure learning”
– a hybrid online education approach that provides learners with opportunities to explore real-world issues through eauthentic learning experiences within collaborative…

It is not a “Where’s Waldo” program because it is focused on a theoretical foundation

1- We first identify an issue and a place

2- We next think about the narrative, the story we want to share with studetns

3- we develop the curriculum

4- we develop as many collaborative possibilities as we can

it is delivered FREE to everyone on the Internet
there are many “synced” learning opportunities with students
– as we traverse the landscape, we are collecting a variety of data on an ongoing basis which enhances learning
– we are collecting a variety of media as well as we travel, anything that can enhance learning for the students

First trip we did we went across the Canadian arctic

We deliver educational assets “from the tent” to schools worldwide every week
– we also collect snowflake data for NASA and use that within our curriculum
– we also collect and share ecological knowledge, knowledge from the elders, and share that as well

When we arrive in the communities, hundreds of students come down because they have been using our curriculum and participating in our activities
– this photo is in the middle of the arctic, where there is little more than ice and snow everyehwere

Next project was GoNorth, each year had a different focus on a region and specific topic

Here is a 2008 video of Aaron

Now discussing Geothentic
– wanted to scaffold the use of geospacial technologies with learners

– focuses on students solving problems: what areas of the world are most impacted by climate change, where is the best place to build a hospital in a specific community, etc.

Now talking about using Second Life, to design experiences
– trust is so important in an environment
– traditionally trust comes from the instructor, than from content, then design
– in online learning environments, that is flipped: trust must come first from design, then from the content, then the instructor

Learner as designers
– we try to develop opportunities for students to be designers
– in the go north project, students share their own videos with each other, from Australia, to the United States, up to the Arctic

Example from Geothemtic: student providing a justification for where they would place their hospital in the bay area, based on their analysis of the data

I also try to tap into the expertise of the students in my classroom, and thereby model “learners as experts”
– example in students’ blog, life in Kaktovik, 5th and 6th grade experts from Arctic Alaska

working together without boundaries
– designing collaboration and discourse opportunities within our learning environments
– we have both synchronous and asynchronous opportunities in GoNorth!
– showing an example of a meteorologist from a local weather station was the expert for our live chat


I try to always keep an eye for aesthetics

I want students to develop a self-narrative, when they are so excited about a project and learning that they go and share it with others

As an example, in the GoNorth project we always tell a story from the perspective of one of our dogs, in this case “Timber”
– students begin to follow this on a daily basis, and for many this became part of their narrative
– students really connected with this aspect of the project (showing photo of kids holding signs at the airport when Aaron came back, about Timber)
– for this reason, I try to develop narratives within my online learning envrionments

eighth principle: I try to design for TPAK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge
– people like TPAK, but many are not sure how to design with it or how to assess with it

So in our project, there are three different ways teachers can assess with TPAK
– one based on reflection
– another based on where students have spent the most time in the learning environment
– another is based on an objective test

We now have developed User-Driving Adventure Learning (AL 2.0) so others can develop their own adventure learning projects
– we have had many different attempts to use technology to transform education

I always try to help my learners become designers
– the self-reflective process is very important
– it is now up to YOU!

Overview of the principles we have outlined together
1- designing experiences, not products
2- trust
3- learning as designers
4- learners as experts
5- aesthetics
6- self-narrative
8- innovative pedagogy
– design as a learner!

Now Q&A:
– these iterations from these learning environments have gone through numerous changes over time
– we can’t stand still and be satisfied with doing things as we’ve done them in the past

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