Monday, January 26, 2009

May It Be A Lofty Mountain

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allA Peak near the Shore of Lake Wakatipu - photo Ken AllanA peak near the shore of Lake Wakatipu
Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei.
Pursue the treasures you hold most dearly – should you stumble, let it be against a lofty mountain. – Māori proverb

I’ve just dropped in on Andrea Hernandez’s latest post, Getting (and staying) focused. She summarises her goals for the year but goes further, speaking of the self, the inner being, its place and relationship with the rest of the universe, and the need for avoiding overstretching. She has started what she set out to do by giving her blog a new look.

I said in my heart,
“I am sick of four walls and a ceiling.
I have need of the sky.
I have business with the grass.” – Richard Hovey

Andrea also reflects on her resolve to blog this year. I recommend you take a look at her post. It made me think about how I do things and how I go about them.

Praxis through observation:

I’m a great believer in ‘practice through observation’. Yes, you may have to read these last 3 words again. This may be a strange concept to some, but it’s one I’ve been aware of for a while. I call it mind praxis.

I first discovered how it worked for me about 30 years ago, when I had to hang a new door while renovating my living room. The plan was simple. I knew what to purchase. I had the tools and got all the required materials. I’d just never hung a door before.

I had watched my father do this task when he did renovations at home. And I’d watched him perform similar jobs with his chisels, many times, for I loved to watch my father at work in his joinery workshop. Through the practice of observing, and only observing, I’d learnt a lot.

I pencil-marked the positions of the hinges. When it came to the chop and I had to lift the chisel and mallet to chip away the recess for the first hinge, I knew how to hold the tools. It was awkward at first, but the memory of watching my father showed me how to present the chisel to the timber, how to tap with the mallet, lightly at first, to mark the wood. How to take care not to tap too heavily, working delicately close to the pencilled line, clearing away waste timber from the recess as I went.

I’ve also experienced this learning when watching technique in playing a musical instrument. Studying a master musician can lead to learning by proxy, if it’s done vigilantly and often enough, making it so much easier to accomplish when the technique is attempted by oneself.

I’m not saying that all can be learnt this way. There comes a point when what’s perused has to be put to practice. But if one is familiar with related skills, putting a new technique into action isn’t as traumatic as it may first seem.

If I don’t manage to fly, someone else will. The spirit wants only that there be flying. – Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s the same with blogging. Skellie’s advice is to study other expert bloggers. Just do it, and don’t think about the subject of the posts you’re studying. When the desire to write is there, the key is to start. If you have no past experience, pull on what you’ve learnt form your observation of others. For most bloggers just starting off, this will be all the experience they have had.

Richness in variety:

My involvement in the Comment Challenge in May last year was so very helpful to me, and for a number of reasons. One of the most helpful things was the sheer variety of tasks we were given to perform. And every new task held something different from the last. Michele Martin and her team of masters, recognised the need for the learner to keep shifting place while learning.

There is a need for learners to provide this variety for themselves, to try things new. Even if it’s only a bit removed from what was done before, the difference is important. Sooner or later, the learner will see opportunities to put what’s learnt or observed into practice.

Always keep moving
Move to the open space
Be ready for the open pass Lino Di Lullo

Trying something completely new with technology is sometimes traumatic for me. This is part of how I am, and it takes a lot of effort on my part to make the leap. I don’t think this idiosyncrasy I have is entirely my own genius, for I’m sure many others have the same or similar hang-ups.

But often I find that by trying something new, I’m taken down pathways that can be so intriguing, and worth exploring, that I inevitably find many new things to learn.

There is a bevy of questions that I ask myself, always to do with relevance, as I take stock of what I'm learning, and it’s sometimes difficult to avoid the old cognitive overload that Andrea refers to in her post. It just takes time when there’s a lot to look at and learn, and I have to counsel myself to remember this.

One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. – André Gide

Andrea mentions the need for her to share and to trust in this sharing – with her students, with her work mates, with her colleagues in the blogosphere. Through these developments, the individual can discover new learning pastures and help others to do the same.

It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone. But the goal thus reached is not worth reaching. – Theodore Roosevelt

Having read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers twice now, I have twice confirmed my suspicions about the attributes of purpose, resolve and perseverance being so important to gaining expertise.

Andrea has made a decision to push herself to improve in the way she shares her development and learning with others. Her words are resolute. They define exactly what it is she has chosen to do.

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful (people) with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Calvin Coolidge

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Andrea said...

wow. My post sounds so much loftier when you write about it!
Thanks for continuing and deepening the reflection. That is one of the best things about blogging, isn't it. (and what can sometimes, for me, be nerve-wracking --will my words be misinterpreted? will they be perceived in the spirit in which they were written? Will I leave out something really important?)
I have Outliers on my "to read" list, too!
It is the connections and positive energy I receivve from people such as you that do make blogging a valuable activity for me.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea!

I do hope I did not misinterpret your words. I found them inspiring!

Outliers is a worthy read. But check out the interviews if you haven't already done so (there are two) on my earlier post - one's in a comment.


Paul C said...

Your vivid description of how you learned to hang a door reminds me of one of my favourite recipes I learned while I was a grad student. My fellow roommate taught me how to make a delicious layered casserole of potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, rice, hamburger, tomato soup, and spices. I vividly remember spending the hour making it with him - practice through observation. I am learning a lot about blogging by watching what other bloggers such as yourself are posting. Keep it up!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Paul
I think that, through some of the misguided pedagogy at the end of 20th century, the usefulness of observation (alone) as a learning avenue has been pushed into the background - almost despised.

I think balance is what's needed with that. Sure, listening to a lecture isn't the best way to learn some things. That's not to say the lecture per se isn't useful.

When it all comes down to dust, it's what's happening inside the head of the would-be-learner that's important.

Catchya later