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Smartphones, learning, and hands in the dirt; reconnect with your senses to reconnect with this world.
I don’t know a world without the internet. So when I noticed that my students were standing beside a beautiful Creekside and they were ‘Snapchatting’ on their smartphones with classmates less than a metre away from me, why did I leap to the conclusion that they were using the technology to escape rather than engage with their immediate environment? As it turned out, they were ‘Snapchatting’ about the creek we were working on in that class. This experience prompted me to delve deeper into this workshop’s theme, the sensorial connection between the human and the more-than-human, through technology.
This process took place in five parts spread over one year. Once a week, throughout the school year, I worked with students from the Vernon Community School in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Using the tools available to us, from a couple of pencil crayons to the smartphones in our pockets, we learned in, and collaborated with, the natural world; discovering and getting to know the more-than-human members of our community in a riparian area behind the school. Our goal was to “co-create” with our environment using new media and performance-based eco art. We attempted to reclaim the use of our senses in the natural world, aiming to reconnect with our human right and responsibility of planetary stewardship. Each one of the five parts focused on a mutual exploration of one of the five human senses between us and our more-than-human collaborators. And at the end of this co-creation experience, participants invite their community to a public art sharing in the natural space where they have been making these explorations.
As I learned standing beside that creekside watching students ‘Snapchatting’ one another mere meters apart, there is value and knowledge all around us, all the time, in all forms. It is knowledge that has to be sensed, lived, and experienced to be attained. That knowledge, generated from this sensory exploration, is the human form of a download.
In 2015, a condensed version of this process was toured as a workshop series to the venues listed below.