[Edu-sig] Learning and Doing

Stephen R. Figgins fig@oreilly.com
Thu, 23 Mar 2000 10:04:04 -0800

I ran into this quote this morning:

  A common and mistaken idea hidden in the word "learning" is that
  learning and doing are different kinds of acts.  Thus, not many
  years ago I began to play the cello.  I love the instrument, spend
  many hours a day playing it, work hard at it, and mean someday to
  play it well.  Most people would say that what I am doing is
  "learning to play the cello."  Our language gives us no other words
  to say it.  But these words carry into our minds the strange idea
  that there exist two wvery different processes: (1) learning to play
  the chello; and (2) playing the cello.  They imply that I will do
  the first until I have completed it, at which point I will stop the
  first process and begin the second; in short, that I will go on
  "Learning to paly" until I "have learned to play," and that then I
  will begin to "to play."

  Of course, this is nonsense.  There are not two processes, but one.
  We learn to do something by doing it.  There is no other way.  When
  we first do something, we probably will not do it well.  But if we
  keep on doing it, have good models to follow and helpful advice if
  and when we feel we need it, and always do it as well as we can, we
  will do it better.  In time, we may do it very well.  This process
  never ends.

  John Holt
  Instead of Education 

While not specifically about CP4E, it reminded me of my own direction
in education and python which is providing new programmers
opportunities to do programmming, find good models, and people to
provide helpful advice when needed.  I want to weave together
something like the pattern "Network of Learning" as described by
Christopher Alexander in A Pattern Language.

  Instead of the lock-step of compulsory schooling in a fixed place,
  work in piecemeal ways to decentralize the process of learning and
  enrich it through contact with many places and people all over the
  city: workshops, teachers at home or walking through the city,
  professionals willing to take on the young as helpers, older
  children teaching younger children, museoums, youth groups
  travelling, scholarly seminars, industrial workshops, old people,
  and so on.  Conceive of all these situations as forming the backbone
  of the learning process; survey all these situations, describe them,
  and publish them as the city's "curriculum"; then let students,
  children, their families and neighborhoods weave together for
  themselves the situations that comprise their "school" paying as
  they go with standard vouchers, raised by community tax.  Build new
  educational facilities in a way which extends and enriches this

To this end, I am sketching out some ideas for a database of
information on opportunities to program, good models, and people to
provide helpful advice or act as masters to apprentices.  I hope to
have enough things together to launch the database in mid April.

For the opportunities to program, I am thinking of something like
classifieds, people looking for assistance and willing to act as the
master on a certain project.  

For good models I am thinking of something like Amazon's review of
books, but applied to code, tools, libraries, tutorials, etc.. 

I will post some more specifics next week.  I still need to flesh it
out a bit more.