In the vein of backwards design, the long-term educational impacts and enduring understandings that Bike to Scale is attempting to achieve are:
- An increased interest in learning about energy — whether from an environmental, financial, economic, or human perspective.
- Awareness and consideration of energy in one’s future actions and purchases
- Scientific literacy for purposes of civic responsibility and lifestyle choices
These goals are not likely achievable through one simple interaction with the project. Rather, they will be triggered, built, and developed through a variety of experiences, resources, and activities. Interest development is not a linear pathway, and literacy in any topic may take a great deal of time and interaction.
On a more short-term level then, Bike to Scale aims for knowledge acquisition, information transfer, and a spark of learning. These may be simple understandings — that biking is useful, that we as humans are capable of using our own effort to achieve a goal that requires much more energy from a car, bus, or train. It may be a more complex realization that energy comparisons are not apples-to-apples, as the consumption of gasoline to power an appliance is different than the use of electricity to power another. Or a short-to-medium-term outcome may present itself in the effort to learn about those differing energy sources, to think about power usage as shown on a household electricity bill, or to consider the convenience and effort required when pressing a bike pedal versus pressing the accelerator of an automobile.
From a technological design perspective, Bike to Scale is an intersection of tangible tools and digital technology. In considering what affordances that specific tools (technological or not) have to offer, a bicycle — and the pedaling associated with it — requires and allows a person to undergo physical exertion and feel the energy and effort needed to travel a certain distance. This is an affective design goal that ties to the iPad interactive animation. The human effort is felt and measured, converted to numerical quantities, and then shown as a graphical image. In this case, effort is now represented in a non-abstract way. This visualized effort is then used as a standard of comparison to the energy consumption of other devices and activities.
The project also takes into account the nuggets and insights drawn from a number of initial needfinding interviews and surveys. The questions asked related to their perceptions of energy and how it relates to their own lives. The resulting thoughts were useful in focusing and confirming the project’s assumptions and designs.
Bike to Scale utilizes a few key learning theories:
Hidi and Renninger (2006) write that while “the potential for interest is in the person, …the content and the environment define the direction of interest and contribute to its development” (p. 113). They also note that “understanding that interest can develop and that it is not likely to develop in isolation is essential” (p. 123); in other words, interest is dynamic and changed by contexts. In this case, the social context – of being in a free public space, possibly with friends (or strangers) – and the physical context of a public sidewalk or park may influence interest development in a way that a formal classroom may not. Hidi and Renninger (2006) suggest that interest develops over four stages, from “triggered situational interest” to “maintained situational interest” to “emerging individual interest” and finally to “well-developed individual interest.” These stages form a continuum of development, highly dependent upon timing, social setting, access, and ease. Ideally, this project triggers situational interest and continues to be motivated by extrinsic factors, emerging from an interplay of contexts, tools, and people (Barron, 2006 and Lave & Wenger, 1991).
Prior Knowledge, Future Actions, and the Whole Learner
The project and associated curriculum (existing as online content, videos, etc) should also be as neutral and objective as possible. While curriculum can rarely achieve this, my purpose is not to push forward an environmental agenda that pre-supposes an interest in and care for science, climate change, and renewables. Banks (1993) explicitly writes, “A transformative, action-oriented curriculum… can be best implemented when students examine different types of knowledge in a democratic classroom where they can freely examine their perspectives and moral commitments” (p.5). In this case, the classroom will be the sidewalk, the action the bicycling, and the knowledge the information on the website, which will point to other resources. As Hungerford (1998) says, “It is critically important for young people (and adult learners as well) to be able to critically analyze environmental issues and identify the players, their beliefs and values. Only in this way can learners understand the anatomy of the issues” (p. 55). These theories touch upon Dewey’s as well.
Multiple Points of Entry
Incorporating Gardner’s ideas of multiple intelligences, Bike to Scale aims to provide a new entry point to learning. Whether it’s kinesthetic (through biking), visual-spatial (through the graphical cube of effort), logical-mathematical (through the energy comparisons and relationships), or interpersonal (by interacting with others), the learning can be accessed in new and different ways.
Drawing from the ideas of Papert, Piaget, and constructionism, the project — being a standalone “exhibit” without an active teacher — requires the learner to find and discover some of the meaning on his/her own terms. It is experiential, designed to convey enough information that is relevant to the learner’s own lives and experiences that will pique his/her interest to learn more.
Additionally, elements of visualization, behavior change theory, and free-choice education provide background for the project.