after watching several hours of buckminster fuller talking: https://archive.org/details/buckminsterfullereverythingiknow01
ive been thinking about the way (some) teaching frequently builds brick-by-brick, and how frustrating that can be for the learner when they reach a “brick” or step that they are stuck on.
the truth is, not every step along the way is really part of a supporting wall. but (particularly when the subject is one the instructor is less familiar with-- computers are an example. lots of details are important, but which ones?) when this step-by-step thats designed to make things easier to grasp breaks down it leads to a tedious lesson, where the entire experience starts to make the goal seem out of reach or in the common phrase: “too hard.”
by nature, an overview (which is a start, at least) starts with the starting point, as well as the “finishing line” of the lesson, and points out steps along the way:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
but then, so many lessons revert immediately back to one-brick-at-a-time, slowly building the lesson without much idea about the structure except “previous brick” and “next brick.”
i am still working on the details of this idea of a “holographic lesson.” i am convinced that it can be done with a book, but i am not convinced a book is the best tool (though the old “choose your adventure” books do come to mind. so does a wiki. so does wikipedia.)
but the biggest advantage of holographic learning would be the accomodation for the natural learning process of skipping whatever the learner is having trouble with, and jumping ahead when the learners mind naturally does so.
there is almost no tradition of this, so creating non-linear learning materials is not as intuitive (or familiar) as non-linear learning itself. i am trying to do a new book on computing based on this concept, and it is proving a challenge, even though i have the idea i want to demonstrate.
but one thing is certain-- i want to take the overview concept and use it as a guide. i want to disrupt the unnatural “sequential” learning process this way, starting with the overview:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
where 1 is the starting point and 10 is the “goal” of the book. if the book is about coding, then 1 is written for the “non-coder” and by 10, you know a number of things about how to write and read code.
next, instead of plodding through brick by brick, i want to create an overview of each part.
having toured through the overview of book, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, now we do an overview of each item in the overview:
1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9
2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9
3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9
so the overview (like the subject itself) is a one-dimensional summary of each part, and the next step (refining the overview) is like a quick tour through each step of the overview-- now we have moved from a one-dimensional summary to a 2-dimensional lesson. we are beginning to flesh out the overview.
instead of starting at the bottom and working up to the top slowly, the idea is to get from the beginning of the subject to the end very quickly, and then start over but each time, refining the subject in a little finer detail.
this way, instead of just stacking brick, brick, brick-- we begin to create a structure for all knowledge of the subject, which (hopefully) makes it easier to place all the knowledge related to the subject. instead of focusing on the bricks, we focus on the connections-- the context-- the structure.
then not only are we teaching facts, but we are teaching the entire subject at once. while this might sound counterintuitive and overwhelming, it is how ive learned many things while self-teaching.
buckminster fuller says “all education is self-education” and i think all (the best) teaching is assisted self-learning.
its good to have a “tour guide” who knows the ins and outs and pitfalls of a subject, while the (occasionally, hapless) learner is getting lost in the jungle. but they will learn more from a guided exploration of the subject than a series of 2-dimensional photo slides, right?
i dont have (nor want) a patent on any of this, and i wont ask you to do the research for me. however, if you are interested in this concept i welcome a conversation about it-- otherwise, you can consider this a pre-introduction to the book im working on now.
the final aspect of holographic learning i want to introduce is the one of building a “primary subject” (in this instance, computers) onto the framework of other subjects.
in other words, teaching more than one subject at the same time, at least with a primary focus on a particular subject, interwoven with the others. dont be afraid to teach geographical information or geometric information along with teaching how to code.
for a long time, we have separated subjects and segregated subjects, hoping that this will make them easier to teach and easier to learn.
what if this doesnt really achieve either of those? or as i say in what im trying to put together now:
“one of the cornerstones of holographic learning is the flipped nature of learning by doing what you dont necessarily know how to do. you learn to teach by teaching, you learn by teaching yourself. this is an innate human ability, and the goal of holographic learning is to assist and help sustain that ability, guiding it through some of the rough patches.”
i dont expect anyone to adopt this idea fully, but if it inspires a particular lesson or a particular approach in part of a book you create, or part of a class you teach-- great. id love to hear from you.
two of the examples in my teaching that i would share are:
- for one person i was teaching, i created a quiz before we went over any material whatsoever. i explained this was a “trick quiz,” where it was known the material was unfamiliar, and the questions were designed specifically to steer the learner towards the right answer.
in this, i was “tricking” the learner to study for the quiz while taking it for the first time. i figured it was a quick, easy, fun and painless way to get an overview of the subject in, without saying “here, study this.” (and get bored.)
just ask a question, guess the answer, move on. he got most of the answers right (one was poorly worded, ok, i blame myself for that one.)
i would call that a success. i am proud to say that i did not invent this technique. i thought perhaps i did, but there is a name for this sort of teaching approach. which i couldnt tell you at the moment.
- i have tried (also with some success) to teach coding by helping the learner design and use their own programming language.
with coding, one of the hard parts is moving from teaching how each “lego” works to talking about writing algorithms and routines. many instructors seem to just hope that will fall into place.
my advice there is that when i learned to code, i didnt just start with a goal-- i didnt just learn each piece-- i learned to take examples apart and change them.
certainly, learning the pieces is vital. but theres nothing wrong with learning the context, before the things that go in it. so this is what i mean when i say “maybe this is closer to the natural way we actually learn things,” rather than the way so much teaching works.
there is the “if its not broken, dont fix it” argument to contend with. teaching brick by brick works, right?
sure, people manage to get by with the brick-by-brick approach every day. the problem is the amount of extra work (and guessing) it takes from the learner to finally move on.
i compare it to token-ring networking vs. ethernet. in token-ring networking, each packet gets passed to where its going-- eventually. so long as the ring isnt broken. everything is orderly and doesnt collide. with ethernet, packets are just sent out-- if they collide with another packet being delivered, no problem! wait a random amount of time and resend. token-ring seems like a better system, more logical, of course it works. but ethernet has so many advantages, despite sounding like something that shouldnt work very well, that it is a standard for home networking, as well as networking in businesses.
none of this is intended as a lecture, it is intended to kickstart new ideas and maybe a new approach, at least sometimes. have fun, and please get back to me anytime. please feel free to use any of this under a cc by 4.0 license as well. actually, i think all our posts on here are cc by 4.0.