[Edu-sig] Getting it going

Stephen R. Figgins fig@oreilly.com
Fri, 04 Feb 2000 07:54:25 -0800

The managing editor of the O'Reilly Network introduced me to CP4E.  A
discussion of it broke out on our editorial mailing list.  At the time
I was just beginning my studies with the Wilderness Awareness School
(http://www.natureoutlet.com).  As a parent intending to homeschool my
children, I was also doing a lot of reading on education and how
children learn.  My reading on homeschooling and education issues led
me to the conclusion that the problems are not so much in what we
teach, or the tools/materials we use to teach, but in how we teach.
How to teach has also been the focus of the Wilderness Awareness
School, but their focus is on how to teach tracking for everybody.  As
I read CP4E, I was struck by how similar the task was to what WAS was
doing.  I wrote the editors list about it, and alse wrote Guido.

I couldn't stop there.  I convinced the O'Reilly Network to give me a
column to write about similarities between Hackers and Trackers.

I am currently taking a correspondence course with WAS.  I don't know
how many of you may have tried to learn plant identification, forest
ecology, or how to read little markings on the ground, but these are
not simple things.  They are tough skills to learn.  Lots of people buy
field guides, learn a few things, but never really master the skills.
They often give up in frustration.  I have been dabbling with it for
years, I got my first bird field guide when I was about 11.  But I
never made any headway until I started this course.  

The WAS approach comes from studying the teaching techniques of the
most successful tracking cultures.  Story telling, awareness games,
teaching with questions and misdirection, and a sense of mentoring has
been brought together in their written materials used for the
correspondence course providing inspiration and guidance in how to
tackle this monstrous subject.

I am convinced that these same techniques can be applied to teaching
other arts, both to create masters and raise general literacy.  And I
am happy to find somewhere that the passion I feel for nature, the
great pleasure I get from computing, and the joy I feel in teaching
all come together.

I hope to provide insight where I can.  I haven't really mastered any
of these things, but having my hands in all these things, I think I
can help weave them together a bit.

Stephen R. Figgins