• Amy Burvall

Breaking Bread with Steve Wheeler #blimage


A few days ago I challenged Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) to compose a blog post based on 1 of a choice of 3 images I sent him. Being the sharp mind he is, he happened to incorporate all three!

He volleyed back with this image of bread spilled on the street, and was careful to say he took the photo in Paris. After some rumination here it goes – 3 analogies…

Bread as Knowledge

One if the first things that struck me was the tone of “waste”. It was particularly intriguing that this discarded bread, so haphazardly cast aside, was from France. My thoughts shot back to the 18th century French Revolution when the people of Paris were indeed fighting for ( and sometimes killing over ) bread. Such a drastic contradiction to this image!

That got me thinking about knowledge. Prior to Gutenberg’s printing press and to some extent long after its introduction information was scarce/ rare and monopolized by the elite. Even throughout most of the 20th century mass media dominated and “expert culture” persisted. Things have changed. We of course are now bombarded with information and data and a plethora of media channels. One’s network and one’s ability to curate and make sense of information are much more powerful than mere accumulation of facts or consumption of “knowledge”. We’ve moved from a knowledge economy to a creative and networked economy. In that sense, this abandoned bread, casually strewn on the Paris sidewalk, in some way represents our increasingly blasé attitude with the information we can acquire at the touch of a button. What we revere and privilege now is not “the daily bread” as it were, but rather the complex, nuanced meal of which “bread” is but one component.

Bread as Students

To be frank, my first thoughts when seeing Steve’s image resulted in the personification of the bread loaves as students. They are “escaping” the containment of the bag. They want to be free from this walled garden and roam willy-nilly in the grit of real life (insofar as one can call Paris “real life”).

Perhaps that’s a stretch, but I’ve been  speaking and writing a lot recently on rethinking learning spaces. Most importantly, the notion of leveraging mobile devices and social media to facilitate learning “in the field”- either in physical or virtual environments. Students have already moved from “brick-based” to “affinity space” in their personal learning pursuits- we should be listening…

Bread as  Experience

When one hears the term “breaking bread”, all sorts of cozy collegial images pop into the brain. It’s really a metaphor for friendship, communication, a shared (lovely) experience.

I have to admit that at first glance these little bread loaves are reminiscent of mobile phones ( same shape, right down to rounded corners, and about the same size). Until we get more sophisticated wearables, implants, and smart clothing smart mobile phones are the greatest game changer we have. In a few short years they ( cleverly combined with GPS, Internet, and social media) have caused a revolution in how we live our lives. Unfortunately , the same cannot be said about formal education….yet. (It must be noted that I do believe it’s revolutionized personal learning)

This sad heap called to mind stories I’ve heard of teachers collecting mobile devices at the door of their classroom “so students won’t get distracted”. We should be helping them direct their distraction to purposeful, powerful use of their personal device. I often refer to smart mobile phones as extentions  of ourselves (for better but on occasion worse)… As our  “vade mecum”– or “go with me”.

We do a disservice to students if we severe this relationship between them and their external brain. I do think students still need guidance in how to leverage these devices and the technology they afford for creation, global connection, and grand purposes other than SMS or indulgent selfies ( although anything can be made academically worthy if taken on a meta level IMHO).

The “breaking bread” metaphor is this: a tool ( in this case the loaves) is great for its own sake ( who doesn’t love to chomp on a nice piece of warm bread slathered in butter?)…BUT it’s the experience that is the crux. What experiences (i.e. “breaking bread”) can students participate in with these tools that will make learning rich and sticky? Instead of stressing about keeping up with new hardware and software we shod focus on the pedagogy and crafting of learning opportunities that can be enhanced with this technology.

Well, there goes my first experience from the text side of #blimage... I think I’d rather be on the image side but the whole point is to play with creative constraints and push one’s metaphorical thinking. Thanks, Steve- hope to break bread with you soon.

#edtech #blimi #personallearning #creativity #mobilelearning #blimage #Gutenberg #SteveWheeler #timbuckteeth #knowledge #metaphor #pedagogy #amyburvall

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