Monthly Archives: December 2012

Explore, Experience, Express

These are the three key activities of learning. And you repeat the process over and over again.

Explore: learning is a process of exploration. When you are faced with complex situation, how to you explore the field, get related knowledge, and find the solution? This is what the future production needs in the age of self-organized production of social product.

Experience: this is what knowledge is based on, the source of knowledge. Significant Experiences are experiences that are constructive to your life, or can increase your understanding of the world.

Express: express has three meanings:

1. As Bruce Lee said, Kung Fu is human body expressing oneself. It is difficult to express yourself genuinely. So as a person of knowledge, how do you express yourself?

2. Knowledge has to be applied, otherwise it is not knowledge.

3. Sharing and publication of individual knowledge.

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Teaching based on Significant Experiences

As the article Knowledge Engine says, Significant Experiences are the source of our knowledge. All our knowledge comes from our Significant Experiences. Significant Experiences are experiences that are constructive to your life, they can make your different from the past, can increase your understanding of the world. Knowledge engine based on Significant Experiences will also bring revolutionary changes to teaching. Recently I experimented with a new way of course teaching: open courses based on Significant Experiences. Although this is the first time effort, I feel that this way of course teaching has many advantages, and it reaches the core of learning and teaching.

This is an online course for Xiamen Wuqi School. The format of the class is to discuss a knowledge frame “My growth in the middle school”. We discuss each note in the frame one by one, not spending more than 10 mins on each note. Because the students in Wuqi School are those so called “peasant workers”, most of them only have middle school diplomas, and they are from the countryside. They came to the city to work in the factories. They are very eager to change their lives so that they don’t have to work their whole lives on the production line doing repetitive mechanical work. So I feel it is suitable to choose my growth in my middle school for them. (Of course, we can teach growth in college later)

Because the first few notes in the frame are about mountain climbing, so most of the discussions at the beginning are about experiences in mountain climbing. Because there were so many of them in one class, each of them expressed some of his/her true experiences, and we can get the various aspects of mountain climbing experiences out. So we get a quite full collection of mountain climbing experiences. They even helped me to recollect some of my past experiences. Below are the experiences shared by the students in their own words (original in Chinese, translated by me):

  • in mountains, I think very clearly
  • I like to read, think, and plan things in the crispy fresh air
  • I like to go into the mountains. There is smell of earth and nature there
  • the air in the mountain is the best, so is my mood
  • I feel very relieved and trouble free, feel like flying
  • I like mountain climbing very much. I like the beautiful view when looking down from the very top of the mountain. It opens up your heart and your mind.
  • it is really a different feeling when I first climbed to the mountain top
  • although the mountain climbing is tiring, seeing all the beautiful scenery that you cannot see make you really feel worthwhile
  • I have a feeling that all other mountains are in my view and become smaller
  • I remember when climbing Beichen mountain, it was really tiring, making you want to give up. But when you got to the mountain top, all your exhaustiveness went away
  •  I felt exhausted when climbing to the highest point of the mountain. But when I look down  feeling that all mountains are at my foot, I felt very happy
  • I can see the most beautiful scenery at the mountain top
  • I feel the process of mountain climbing is just like making efforts in our study and work. Although it is tiring, but once you get to the mountain top, you feel very happy, feeling all your efforts got payback
  • I can enjoy quietly all by myself
  • I feel lonely and afraid when climbing alone. I like to go with friends so we can talk along the way
  • life is in the movement. The more friends to go together, the better I feel
  • When I feel down, I like to go climbing alone
  • It is different feelings. Sometimes I want to go alone. Sometimes I go with friends. When you climb alone, you feel purely of yourself. When with friends, we can play together and encourage each other
  • I will try to find lower mountains to preserve my energy because when climbing mountains the thoughts can fly around and it is very good to adjust your mood there

They have so many rich experiences. This really makes my feel happy for them. But when they are facing human life and society, they are not that clear in their minds. There are a lot of confusion. If the students can bring their experiences when climbing the mountains into their thinking of their life and society, reflect and analyze, identify their important experiences, and find their real interests, it will really help them to establish their value system when facing society. (This actually should be a natural process when a person grows up. But school occupies too much of their time, and makes them unable to focus on their growth when they are transitioning from the childhood time to adult life. If they can focus on what they are really growing on, I think most of them can draw their childhood experiences in nature to think of how they should face adult life and human society. But after a long time of school study, they kind of got used to live an adult life without really thinking of anything, and their memory of those great childhood fun when playing in the nature and with friends becomes vague.)

This is the summary of this class. In the attachment is the class discussion. (It is all in Chinese now.)

This is the very first teaching of open course based on Significant Experiences. From this first class, my feelings on this format are:

  • teaching based on Significant Experiences is easy to operate, and it is also easy to conduct online
  • open courses based on Significant Experiences make the teachers have to return to what really means to be a teacher, e.g. the teacher has to have rich experience in the subject s/he teaches
  • the kind of class requires the teacher to dig the students’ experiences from various angles. For example, I ask students to compare which is more fun, to go by yourself, or to go with friends. The teacher should be those that have rich experience in this field, so s/he can easily help the students dig their experiences from many different angles and depth levels, and make the students’ experiences collide together. Without rich experience in the domain, if the teacher only has textbook knowledge, it will be very difficult for the teacher to teach courses based on Significant Experiences.
  • going back to experiences makes discussion having a better foundation. Discussion based on experiences recognizes the equality of each participant, and acknowledge that everyone is equal in his/her experiences of life. If we can fully appreciate the experiences behind the other person’s views, there won’t be so many quarrels and fights. Maybe the other person expressed his view in an extremely exaggerating way, but he must have some experiences behind his arguments. The root of many quarrels and fights is that people ignore others’ experiences and why they say so, or that they draw a conclusion too quickly, forgetting where  their knowledge comes from and wanting to force other people to accept their opinions.
  • the discussion is open instead of conclusive. It is inspiring and exploratory. Learning is a cycle of “explore, experience, and express”. Knowledge Frame is also a format of knowledge. It is more open and closer to the source of knowledge. This is quite different from document-centered knowledge format such as blog and wiki. Blog is more conclusive expression of knowledge. Knowledge Frame is more open and closer to the source representation of knowledge. So Knowledge Frame based on Significant Experiences is more suited to teach this kind of class.
  • by recollecting your own experiences and knowing other people experiences in a relatively focused domain such as mountain climbing, students get the chance to practice on self-reflection. When students learned the skills and formed the habit of self-reflection, it will help them dealing with problems that come up in their real lives and find their own value system
  • the current mainstream class teaches things that are just textbook knowledge, which you pretty much can read by yourself. And such mainstream classes are not able to teach things that are deeper. Open courses based on Significant Experiences can teach things that are hard to teach in the traditional classroom, the kind of knowledge that doesn’t exist in the books. This is the core area of learning and it is not covered by modern education.

The open courses based on Significant Experiences is still in experimentation. We need to do more experiments. And we welcome you to join this experiment.

Knowledge Frames included in this blog:

  • My growth in the middle school
  • Teaching in Wuqi school class 1 (in Chinese)
  • The advantages of Open courses based on Significant Experiences (in Chinese)

p.s. It takes too much time writing an article. If all knowledge can only be shared when they are published as blogs or books, we don’t know how long we can have all the knowledge expressed, not to mention that knowledge itself is under constantly restructuring. Making it into blogs or books, you don’t see the process in the middle. Knowledge sharing by the Knowledge Frame, can share knowledge earlier and easier, and we can have many discussions from time to time on this Knowledge Frame (through online courses, or salons). It is a little like writing books online by cooperation, such as the book Thinking in Java. What Knowledge Frame lacks is that it is abstract and personal. But by attaching course/salon discussion, related frames and external links behind each frame, we can make abstract knowledge vivid and fun again.

This way knowledge can be abstracted out from real life, and go back to to its concrete and vivid form again.

This is all online courses I taught at Wuqi. (in Chinese)

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