Updated: Jun 29, 2019
~ A Speculation of Learning Possibilities ~
This is a work of both nonfiction and speculative fiction inspired by real experiences of my learning experiences in life. It includes passages of real events, people, places etc. as commentary, but the story itself is fabricated from my imagination in which all events, places and people–living, dead, or anywhere in between–are entirely fictional, but entirely possible. The real stuff is clearly indicated as such at the beginning of each chapter, followed by nothing but a nonfiction/speculative fiction mix until the beginning of the next chapter. Why? I'm not sure. It just seemed the best way to get this story written.
~ The True Stuff ~ When attempts were made to indoctrinate me into the US public education system–a poorly designed compulsory system more attuned to industrialization of babysitting than anything remotely resembling any sort of effective learning system, with its primary mission focused on conformity–I immediately rebelled. At first recess of my first day in first grade I went outside as instructed and began looking for a good hiding place. Finding a decent spot behind a dense hedge trimmed with perfect square corners and edges growing up against the school building, I watched for my chance to slip behind it as the end of recess period approached. Timing it just right, it was difficult to stifle my giggling as the teacher scurried around the playground yelling my name, trying to find and drag me back into the classroom for the next session of public educational nonsense. She dashed about to and fro as volume and pitch of her voice escalated, coming within a couple of feet of me several times during her frantic search. Finally giving up, she went inside to perform her industrial babysitting duties for the good little children who knew how to conform. Obviously more concerned about keeping on schedule than about my safety and wellbeing, she never reported my disappearance to anyone. Not to the principal. Not to another teacher. Not to my parents. "Such a crock of total bullshit," I thought to myself as I doodled a blade of grass around the walls of an antlion pit in the dust beneath the hiding hedge. How did I know this at the tender age of six? Because I had been fortunate to have attended kindergarten classes conducted by a pair of brilliant young women who understood how learning really happens. Their kindergarten classes were totally project based in every aspect, and every single kid in their classes were completely engaged and learned effectively in their own way at their own pace. They spoiled me by letting me find my paths of learning this and that by asking my own questions and then finding the answers to those questions in my own time and method. No memorization exercises (lists and flashcards). No regurgitation exercises (quizzes and tests). No grades. No credits. No report cards. Nothing but pure, unadulterated, self-directed learning experiences I will never forget. I've titled this story Learning Lib:Avoiding farce and waste of public education/Delivering Dreams:Contributing through AR as a nod to Ted Nelson's 1974 visionary two-cover book Computer Lib:You can and must understand computers now/Dream Machine: New freedoms through computer screens–a minority report. Without any feasible options, and being nothing more than a six-year-old kid who obviously did not know anything of value, I was forced back into public school classrooms and pretended to conform for twelve excruciating years as most everything they tried to do to educate me flowed in one ear and right out the other. I graduated from that sorry system the same year Ted Nelson self-published his brilliant book. Then I avoided school for a couple of years as I tried to find a way to learn to do something meaningful which would pay enough to keep me happy, clothed, fed, sheltered and mobile, with happiness being the most important goal. It would be ten years before I took heed of Ted Nelson's public service message to dig headlong and deep into the nuts and bolts of computer science and mathematics, eventually earning a bachelor of science in both fields of study (with lots of music and engineering coursework framing that collegiate accomplishment). And it was twenty two years more before my primary goal of happiness was finally realized and achieved as a self-employed creative services contractor when I finally stopped conforming altogether and took an alternate path of my own design and development, just as my kindergarten teachers so wisely taught me to do so long ago.
~The Mixed-Up Stuff ~
Donning the ARrig, Jessie powered it up. Anticipating the moment since waking at age four this morning, she held her breath. Her older friends invited to the birthday party had tried to describe what was about to happen, but none really could to any level of accuracy.
“It will show you cool stuff to explore,” Joti had informed her.
“You’ll get to make cool stuff,” Andy had said.
A chime indicated system boot completed. Virtual objects began appearing in her field of view. Some resting on furniture in the room, some floating, some growing from the floor. One of her favorite songs began playing. Then nothing else happened.
Jessie reached out and touched the most interesting object, a bottle opening into itself, but not. A voice described the bottle to her.
“This is a Klein Bottle,” the voice said as the bottle slowly rotated in the air before her.
Jessie complied by reaching out and smashing it with her clenched fist. It flew apart into a pair of flat strips which twisted around onto themselves so that both sides were the same.
“These are called Möbius Strips. Try pushing them back together.”
Jessie did and they rejoined into the Klein Bottle.
* * *
Jessie sighed while awaiting liftoff, very happy to have completed her advanced mathematics study goals by her sixteenth birthday. Topology of non-orientable surfaces was her specialty. Now she was heading to Saturn to apply her uncanny mathematical knack to research that planet’s complex, strangely braided rings.
~ ~ ~
Yes, the 250 word story above has already appeared in this blog, originally posted alone under the title Mind Leaps. It's repeated here as the opening of the story for the very reason that its 250 words encapsulate the core of the future of learning systems as I, and I'm sure many others, see that future. As Ted Nelson said "If computers are the wave of the future, DISPLAYS ARE THE SURFBOARDS." His emphasis on displays is important because he wrote this back in the days of cathode ray tube displays. Now we have flat panel displays of stunningly high resolution and flexibility, and emerging most recently are virtual reality displays and augmented reality displays which paint light directly onto the retina so that viewers are still able to see their immediate surroundings as well.
Ted was so right, regardless of how displays have evolved since the 1970s or how they will evolve beyond today's amazing lineup. Each technological advancement in both displays and computing has provided more and more freedom to visualize just about anything we can dream up and represent digitally using computers. And as haptic feedback systems are developed, refined and integrated into advancing display systems, their use in conjunction with ever-evolving and ever-advancing computing systems will eventually yield tools which will allow visual and tactile modeling of anything and everything we can imagine. No expensive real-world materials or related tools to work with those materials required!
With that modeling power, learning will meld with doing and making within virtual and augmented realities to the point that models created within those realities will be detailed enough to use as blueprints for production of useful deliverables which can improve the human condition.
~ The True Stuff ~ What my kindergarten teachers did that no other teacher would even attempt throughout the remainder of my days attending public schools was simple and elegant: they allowed and encouraged self directed learning at all times. They provided tools, materials and proposed goals using those tools and materials then tickled our young minds into generating our own ideas of ways to use the tools and materials to achieve our own vision of goals. Then they stepped back out of our way and did nothing more than serve as helpers and safety monitors as we eagerly worked to achieve our goals. They did not judge us in any form or fashion as we worked. They did not mandate step-by-step operating instructions and rules. They did not question us about this, that or the other as we worked on our projects. They did not mark grades or sum up grade points to award credits based on correct or incorrect regurgitation of memorized material. There were no rewards or punishments involved aside from personal joy and frustrations experienced while accomplishing our goals to create something through application our individual wit, skill and will driven by innate, insatiable curiosity to explore and learn that every child naturally possesses. I can just hear the public education pundits. "That's fine for kindergarten, but it will never work beyond that learning level, especially for teenagers. And what about special needs children? They all need tight structure and control. It would be too chaotic. Too much work for teachers. Too risky." To all of those lame arguments I emphatically reply "Bullshit!". And when I was barely six years old, forced by law to attend public school for the first time in my life, I knew right then and there, thanks to my two brilliant kindergarten teachers, that there were better ways to learn. I was just too young to articulate this experience-based knowledge well enough to convince anyone of my sound assessment of the toxicity of such a badly designed and poorly implemented system of education. Even if I had been able to effectively express my convictions on the matter, no one would have listened to a six-year-old kid. How preposterous to put down a system so thoroughly established by law of the land and operating like a well-oiled machine to churn out droves of young people so accustomed to conformity. Such absurdity! But I was right to despise the compulsory public education system immediately upon my first day in attendance in elementary school, which was essentially a toxic prison for the powerless young. I was right to despise it for the remaining twelve years I was forced to attend and I am right to continue despising it to this very day. I learned absolutely nothing of value by comparison to knowledge and skills acquired during free time away from school pursuing topics and activities of interest in self-directed learning experiences (otherwise known as play). Fortunately, there are movements striving to remedy this crime perpetrated for decades against defenseless young, such as that happening at The Alliance For Self-Directed Education.
More coming soon....