Sunday, December 6, 2009

Learning by Doing

The oldest and easiest way of learning is not via instruction in a classroom setting, but by observation and copying. That’s how babies learn such complicated things as walking on two legs, and languages. The human mind is programmed this way. It works extremely well, given a chance.

The original intent of classroom teaching was economies of scale and increased efficiency in spreading knowledge among larger numbers of people. Teachers in lecture halls are a rather modern introduction of production line techniques in the learning environment, of exerting power over the learning subjects, through regimentation of practice and thought.

Before modern classroom teaching was introduced, there was the family’s or the tribe’s “telling story” time, which meant parents, siblings, and friends sharing their experiences. By design, humans’ receptors for learning are automatically set on full absorption when they are listening to, maybe watching, shared experiences, or whatever the story is being talked about tonight. If we need to be instructed, an additional effort on our part is needed, i.e. that we WANT to learn about the subject and pay full attention. It’s a lot more exhausting, too.

It seems that we’ve come a long way since then, in fact full circle.
Paradoxically, that one-to-many teaching method in a controlled setting via regulated procedures has become a purpose in itself, a self-perpetuating education machine which is run at tremendous cost, forever rising. While technology has advanced to the point where the dissemination of information costs are exorbitantly low, and still dropping.

Of course, to be utilized, we need to give up cumbersome classroom teaching and replace it with individual teaching and learning relationships which can, essentially, go from any place to any location in the world, including one’s home, tent or under a tree on the beach. Yes, learning can be that easy and inexpensive for almost all forms of learning, up to and including Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Far removed from studying Einstein’s theories, but as a practical example, I suggest that, if you are so inclined, you have a look at a less than 100 seconds movie clip of my popular “Tai Chi Win” course, which in its entirety consists of 150 movements and takes up to 53 minutes, depending on the exercising speed. As a side benefit, if you were to practice Tai Chi every day, your body and mind will be put in close-to perfect balance, steeled against the stress onslaughts of the day.

Again, merely as an example of how easy it is to learn from individual demonstration and individual participation, you can download free of charge how I am doing my Tai Chi Chuan form, slowly. All you need to do is follow along. Not a single word is spoken. No directions are given. Nobody talks at you. There is no one trying to sell anything. The presentation is for you alone, from me alone. You can just watch, enjoy, follow along if and when you wish, come back to it and play it again. Learning and practicing was never easier. Coming to you from Hawaii with Aloha! By Win Straube

P.S.: The purpose of this story is not to create interest in learning tai chi, but to realize that in this time and age any form of teaching can and truly needs to come back to the method which works best: Learning by observation and copying. Also that nowadays this is possible at vastly reduced cost compared to what presently are thought of as conventional teaching methods. Yes, if you can, do pick up a copy of QGE=A Quality Generic Education is the Answer, University Press of America, 2007, for keys to the solution.

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