In order to get a little up to speed on some of the basic concepts of tourism I have been reading an overview of the field by Arthur Berger called, "Deconstructing Travel". It's a gentle introduction to the main areas of tourism research and investigation via Cultural Studies. I'm guessing that its a quite popular book for introductory courses in the area given that there were three copies of it in the library. I'm actually looking for intersections between my interests in learning and my new position inside a travel research institute.
Well it wasn't long before Berger suggested some links between tourism and education. In chapter one he suggests that what tourists are primarily consuming are experiences that they believe will educate and entertain them. If being a tourist has a degree of educational experience about it (and I think that anyone who has traveled would agree that this sensation is often quite remarkably vivid after some travel experiences), then in nations where that experience is increasingly mediated by a sophisticated tourism industry, what is the role of teaching in the industry? Is the educational experience an inadvertent one, or is it something that a country could, and should, consciously supply to its visitors? In effect 'teach' to its visitors.
In thinking back towards an earlier post I made about James Farmers' Community of Enquiry graphic it occurs to me that the difference between educational experiences mediated by an online environment or an institution and travel as an educational experience is probably that the traveler doesn't particularly want the "teaching presence" to be all that up front. As Berger points out in reference to Aristotle, people like learning new things, even if that learning comes disguised as entertainment. So, perhaps technology could play a role in blending this 'teaching' a bit more subtly into the background so to speak and make the experience of learning on the move, and more importantly learning that shifts radically with changing locales and geographic contexts, somewhat less intrusive and more like entertainment. As technology becomes more and more mobile and more and more people travel with it in their backpacks, hotels, cafes, cars, etc., then the possibility of tapping into this educational potential of both the tourist and the technology becomes even greater. Hmmm... i'm starting to like this job more and more every day.