On my day off in San Antonio, while I was attending ISTE, I was really looking forward to visiting SeaWorld. I had seen my husband’s photos from his visit the previous year to San Francisco and I couldn’t wait to experience the amazing orcas. Through the power of the internet, I had spent time researching how I was going to get to SeaWorld and what I was going to do to make the best of my time there and I was very excited to be going there.
After a long bus ride, which was made rather pleasant by the great free WiFi on the bus, I was finally at SeaWorld.
I excitedly made my way to the huge Shamu Stadium with many, many other people and followed my husband’s advice of not sitting anywhere in the splash zone if I wanted the camera to keep on working for the rest of my trip!
The show began and it was truly amazing to watch these beautiful creatures move so gracefully through the air and water. I loved watching them swim close to the glass so I could observe so clearly how they were moving.
But this was where my admiration of SeaWorld ended. What was really disappointing for me, and for the whole premise of SeaWorld was that this show was purely about watching these amazing animals perform tricks. There were absolutely no learning opportunities available, no explanation of why the animals might exhibit these behaviours in the wild or how they had trained them to “perform” these tricks.
The saddest testament to this is that when I returned to my school and was sharing my overseas experiences with my students, I wasn’t actually able to answer any of their questions about these creatures. I had experienced their show (twice in the one day in fact!) and didn’t actually know anything about them outside of the knowledge I brought with me.
I worry that educational technologies and education in general could go down this path though. That we are so in awe of the amazing things we can do, that we forget to go deeper and actually develop a greater understanding of what we are actually learning about and acquire the skills that allow us to continue to develop our learning. I would hate to see my students only learning amazing tricks that allow them to put on a show – I would much rather see the deeper, richer learning that only comes once the gloss is stripped away and the messier undertaking of real learning takes place.
I definitely don’t want to be a SeaWorld educator!