Self-Driven Learning is Self Perpetuating

I have to say I am quite liking our newest selection, The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly and Jonathan Littman. In it, I was especially drawn to what they refer to as the Cross-Pollinator which is someone who can make the “unexpected juxtaposition” of unrelated ideas, at least at first glance, and put them together in a new way. This was similarly called the synthesizer from another class I took a few semesters back.

I honestly had no idea the computer keyboard came into being because a piano. And it was one person translated this quirky idea from its genesis to something that is absolutely natural for us now. That is the cool thing about synthesizing/cross pollinating. It feels as though you can feel your mind enlarging, being stretched and reshaped. I love it because it is one of those rare times you become aware of your own process of thinking. I guess that is what the internet/world has come to say as having your “mind blown”—it is the active connection and rapid synthesis of new ideas in an unforeseen manner only a moment ago.

I am very drawn to this “persona,” perhaps because it resonates with me on a personal level. I love to learn, and I have very wide and varied interests. “Eclectic” is a word I use to describe myself frequently. There have been many a time that I have found myself in a unforeseen tab explosion on my computer from burying myself in links upon links upon links in Wikipedia (or tv tropes. Let’s be honest). It is like Inception on steroids. I once found myself studying something fascinating about polar bears (did you know their skin is in fact black and that their hairs are hollow—and that is how they stay warm and get their white color?) and suddenly found myself learning about coconuts and what makes a young or mature coconut. Only the thorough trail of link breadcrumbs showed me how on earth I came to this new place.

I believe the world is made of connections, and that everything is in fact, connected. I think too often we try and “pigeon hole” learning. It is just so easy. First we study Handwriting in the morning, then at 10:00 we have Social Studies, followed by Math, then Lunch, and Reading, then Art. Tuesdays and Thursdays are Science, Wednesday is Music, and Friday is Gym. (This is based of off a real schedule I had in Elementary school. While not exact in its placement, the idea is very nearly a duplicate of the model I learned through nearly all of my childhood and teenage education). It’s so linear, so… formulaic. So sterile.

But there is math in art

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And in nature

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And math in cooking. And science in cooking (chemistry in action, anyone?).

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Not to mention art

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And this is just one infinitesimally small example. It goes in all directions and across all subjects. The key is finding the connections that don’t seem obvious and making them part of the integrated whole. Where is the art in math? Where is social history or (I should really be saying “and” here) music in botany? I mentioned it in my last post that even in history I didn’t realize how integrated everything was until I was shown those connections in a very remarkable college class. Because it isn’t just a linear “cause and effect” formula that I had been taught all my life, but rather a hive or spider’s web where one thread resonates and affects nearly all the others in constant motion. The key thing is to find a way to teach (or learn) that so that a personal connection is made and your/their own learning is ignited and becomes self-driven. Because I know by far the best and deepest learning has come for me when I had a personal investment in its discovery. That is the stuff that lasts and is self-perpetuating.

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