Taking the Plunge

I can now… explain (at least to myself) what ‘immersive learning’ is all about.

A week or two after attending the Sceptre conference on Immersive Learning at Surrey University in January, where we were immersed in all kinds of learning, I am still trying to figure out what immersion is all about, and how you would recognise it in the dark at 50 paces.

If I go back to my experience of the Conference event itself, the best metaphor I have for it is 'taking the plunge', with strong echoes of Alice in Wonderland.


Borrowing from Dave Snowden's work (with some licence perhaps!), I want to see how useful it is to use the magic of faery stories to make the links to strong experiences, and to explore what the experience of ‘immersive learning’ is all about at the level of myth and metaphor, first of all, without being too intellectual about it (that can come later).

Plunge into what?
Mutual Risk/ Magic: Uncertainty, disruption, suspending belief, disassociation, resonance and harmony, unexpected connections, collaboration, inversion, displacement, .

How do we get in? ..
Down the Rabbit Hole: Strip-out our contexts and comfort zones; free-fall, interact with the strange/r; disclose, explore intimacy and silence, trust, fun, working together: physically, without words really is the most powerful; with support and back-up clearly in place.

Where are we going?
Wonderland ... A place where we can scramble the given/ current reality, play with the emergent patterns, divert happily into the aesthetics of new patterns, take a deep breath, and return back to the quiet of the meadow (Christchurch meadow for Alice).

How do we get back/ out?
We turn to our narrator… The person who 'knows the story': surely the reader of the faery story is an essential part of the experience of magical stories: the archetypal guide? Faery stories are risky things to get involved with.

What do we need to look out for?
Friends, surprises, emergent outcomes, new event horizons, useful frozen accidents, bottomless pits, dark places, poisonous mushrooms.

How do we proceed?
With caution, taking our time, building awareness of what's hidden in the forest. And if we're very lucky, we have our own fool to accompany us too (we had two fools at this conference!).

So what’s all this got to do with Higher Education then?
Someone said that the transition into H.E. is about becoming comfortable with uncertainty, or developing a ‘tolerance of uncertainty'; I would add another too: the celebration of uncertainty.
We could say that tolerance of uncertainty is a prerequisite for becoming part of Higher Education; the celebration of uncertainty is a prerequisite for 'membership'.
In other words, you know you've arrived in higher education when you enjoy the beauty and serenity of sitting in the meadow as much as you enjoy the uncertainty of falling down imaginary rabbit holes.