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Monday, July 21, 2008

Touring San Antonio - A Metaphor for Teaching

Or What I Learned at NECC

There are three ways to explore San Antonio Texas.
1. In a riverboat
2. Along the Riverwalk
3. On the Street

If you walk on the street you find that San Antonio is like many urban cities. Messy. It is hot on the streets of San Antonio. It is culturally rich, ethnically diverse, wealthy and poor. There are lovely green spaces with sculpture and there are dark alleys. And if you take a dark alley you will wind up someplace unexpected - a restaurant off the beaten track, a cinema that can be gotten to from a more obvious route, or an even darker alley. Here you can have a genuine San Antonio experience.

If you walk along the Riverwalk you will find a tourist's paradise, the stuff of Chamber brochures. It is tidy: a partially below ground, cool, well shaded and garden festooned pathway along the water on one side. Along the other side you find a seemly endless (maybe because the river walk goes in a circle) array of restaurants for everyone's budget. Everyone is well dressed, either in holiday comfort or employee uniform. Here you can have a pleasant tourist experience.

Taking the riverboat (4-foot-deep-man-made-canal boat does't sound as good) provides you with a view of the garden festooned pathway along the water's edge and the restaurants. From here you can not smell the flowers or taste the food. You will learn the history of the Riverwalk as invented by the seasonal employee who motors the boat.

As a teacher I can opt to offer any of these three experiences. If I teach from the riverboat I can ensure my student's safety, at the cost of engagement with San Antonio. From the Riverwalk students can interact with a simulated San Antonio. While I don't mind taking a break with my class in the cool and pleasant underground passageways, I want to spend most of my class time up onto the hot and messy sidewalks of the city, where the residents are, authentic events occur, where the unexpected can be found.

1 comment:

Eruditus said...

..and how many ways to explore a virtual world? In a virtual world you can be the tourist or the seasonal employee or a simulated San Antonian.. is the authenticity a product of the environment or does it occur on other levels, in other places?