(screenshot courtesy Star Wars Identities Exhibition: http://www.starwarsidentities.com/hero/en-ca/5712749a94e3d)
If you are an educator like me, then you know the feeling. Your “on” button is activated 24/7. Your teacher brain never really goes off. You not only devote hours in your “free time” to correcting, preparing and reflecting, but also find countless sources of inspiration in the things you experience outside of the classroom. You get ideas for lessons at the supermarket, while watching TV, gardening, playing music or during drinks with friends. I got a serious jolt of inspiration after experiencing the Star Wars Identities Exhibition yesterday at Vienna’s Museum for Applied arts. It was a fantastic demonstration of how personalising learning can provide something uniquely engaging.
The terms personalised or individualised learning have been bandied about a lot over the past few years and is being treated, as it should be, as an essential principle of 21st century learning and teaching. The creators of the Star Wars Identities Exhibition have perfectly understood that life in our Information Age is being enriched through personalised and interactive experiences.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that the Exhibition was a must-see for any fan and had everything you could imagine and more. There were original costumes, sketches, paintings, models of tie fighters and starships as well as life-sized replicas of R2D2, C3PO, Yoda or Darth Vader just to name a few highlights. So of course the content itself was engaging but the way they created a special experience for the user was truly remarkable.
The theme of the exhibition was Identities i.e. how does a person become who he/she is, or how do the characters in Star Wars become who they are. The different exhibits dealt with sub-heading such as culture, parentage, values, occupation, friends or life events. From the beginning the visitor was treated as if he/she were a person in the Star Wars universe. You chose your own name and avatar, and got to choose your home planet and life experiences. What was really cool was to be able to choose if you were a human or an alien or if you had the occupation of bounty hunter, rebel fighter or scrap collector. There were interactive terminals where you could choose how you would react in certain circumstances. You had to make choices based on situations or events and even choose who our influences were, the Dark Side or the Jedi masters. At the end you got a full profile which you could receive by email and/or share to social media. You will find mine via the above link.
As I went from station to station and from interactive display to interactive display I was fully immersed in the experience and engaged through my personalised journey. What a great way to learn about identity forming! Wouldn’t it be great if our lessons were done like this? Our students could choose avatars and virtual personalities, could move from one interactive task to another and choose what they looked at and when and repeat if desired. Along the way they would be learning about … anything, fully in control of their own experience and eager to see what was coming next. At the end, they would receive a report on their learning journey and save it for later.
Naturally a lot of work went into preparing this learning environment. But many (if not all) visitors would confirm that it was truly worth it. This is the reason we as educators should be investing time and effort in creating similarly engaging learning environments. It gives learners a choice and a voice. It motivates and makes things easier to remember. It is engaging because it makes learning personal. A great goal, right?