Most know that a real estate agent’s top three rules for buying a home or piece of property are location, location, location. This is due to the fact that while you can add a swimming pool, put granite counter tops in the kitchen, or tear out that orange, shag carpeting in the family room, the location of the house is pretty much set. As a result, factors beyond the state of the house or property such as having scenic views, a healthy job climate, and being close to destinations for recreation and public transportation all effect its value to a large degree.
Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Agencies have also found these same rules for real estate hold true for talent attraction. While the number of Americans that move has fallen over the past decade and a half (according to 2016 Census Bureau data, approximately 4.7 Americans moved across state lines as compared with 7.5 million Americans in 1999), young, college-educated people are flocking to certain cities and metropolitan areas including Washington, San Francisco, Boston and San Jose at a high percentage (City Observatory, 2014). In each of these areas, 7.5% of the population is made up of college-educated, 25 to 34 year olds, well above the national average of 5.2% (City Observatory, 2014). These locations not only boast a thriving job market, but feature amenities that draw in young professionals such as a thriving downtown, bike sharing services, and easy access to outdoor recreation.
In light of the changing nature of how and where we work and the type of work we do, I would argue that this principle of “location” will need to become more central to the nature of teaching and learning. As local industries and jobs change and evolve at a quicker pace over time due to technology advances, automation, and the use of artificial intelligence, educational systems will need to have a tighter link with their communities in order to stay relevant. Place-based education, with its emphasis on “using the local community and environment as a starting point to teach concepts in language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and other subjects” (Sobel, 2012), stresses the importance of location to the learning process. Yet, while place-based education is about utilizing and exploring the place around oneself (i.e. - investigating the health of a local stream, exploring local history, etc.), it does not necessarily put a similar amount of emphasis on “authenticity”. For example, in a place-based education unit students could investigate the ecosystem around their school, plant a garden outside of their classroom, and write poems on benches placed within a local forest preserve, but without a clear direction or purpose behind them they simply become activities related to the community, not authentic experiences connected to the community.
Toward a New Conception of "Place"
As a result, as opposed to defining place as one’s local community, I would argue that in designing learning experiences place should be thought of as the types of authentic connections one can make. Viewed from this perspective, “place” can generate three different types of connections, each of which has a different degree of authenticity:
Given these three different types of authentic connections (temporal, virtual, and local) that can be made, there are various ways that an educator can approach the design of a project. They could, for instance, look at what temporal connections exist that connect to the standards and skills they would like to teach and from there explore what virtual and local connections they could access. Conversely, educators could begin by exploring what local connections they could work with and whether any of the real-world issues they are facing relate to the standards and skills that they are expected to teach. Ether way, taking this approach to place within project design ensures that authenticity is front and center.
Sobel, D. (2012). Place-based Education: Connecting Classroom and Community. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from https://www.antioch.edu/new-england/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/02/pbexcerpt.pdf
City Observatory. (2014). Young and Restless. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://cityobservatory.org/ynr/
About Jason Pasatta
I am passionate about learning, design, and the potential that we all possess. Currently I am the Director of Innovation Services for the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District in West Michigan, where I the lead the development of new and innovative educational programs, supports, and systems.