[Edu-sig] socratic methods

Michal Wallace sabren@manifestation.com
Tue, 17 Oct 2000 21:55:20 -0400 (EDT)

On Tue, 17 Oct 2000, Stephen R. Figgins wrote:

> Michal Wallace wrote:
> ...
> > I think it would be really cool if a computer could be programmed
> > with a tree like this to teach people using the socratic method.
> I have been thinking about this, while playing around with a palm
> program called CyberTracker.  It is used for data entry.  This
> particular database interface was designed for illiterate bushmen
> trackers.  Equiped with palms, the bushmen have been producing lots of
> data on Rhinos in South Africa and other animals as well.  More data
> than we had collected on the animals in the last hundred years was
> gathered in the first few weeks of this program. 

I found http://www.cybertracker.co.za/ and a neat article
at  http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/computing/1998/981106124.asp 
but couldn't find anywhere to download it.. do you have a link?

> Switch to North America, a group of trackers here are using a modified
> version of the program, not only to collect data, but to hone their
> skills.  As they enter data, they learn the taxonomic system of the
> master tracker that tailored the interface, they also train their minds
> to look for things in a particular sequence, and with great detail.  One
> learning tracker claimed it was like have a master tracker right there
> looking over his shoulder, pointing out what he should look at next. 
> This starts to flow into the notion that learning is all about
> patterning the brain.  Working with this entry program with its words
> and icons does just that, running the mind through learning sequences,
> like a martial artist practicing their kata.  

I bet there's all kinds of applications for this idea, and having
access to this kind of expert system/mentor system on a palm pilot
could make it even more powerful. You could use a palm mentoring
system for:

- sales
- interviewing potential employees
- troubleshooting all kinds of things
- first aid
- conflict resolution
- one-on-one tutoring
- lots of other stuff :)

.. basically, anything where you want normal people to be able to use
a certain skillset out in the field.. plus all the other thing that
you could use a system like this for on the desktop.

Also.. and this is kind of out there.. But if you've ever read any of
those Mega-Memory books, they talk about ways to remember just about
anything.. You could have a little program that taught people to
remember decision-tree structures in general, and then walk them
through memorizing an individual tree, so people could carry around
this codified knowledge without necessarily fully understanding why or
how it works..

> What is the socratic method, but a set of questions that focus the mind
> on the topic at hand?  It is a kind of taxonomy for mental inquiry. 
> This isn't entirely new, we have used decision trees and flow charts in
> all kinds of diagnostics....  

Sure. If I recall, there's an old debate as to whether or not socrates
knows the answers to the questions he asks.. If he does, there's
definitely a decision tree process going on there. Even if he doesn't,
you could draw one in.

On the other hand, when I think of a decision tree, I think of all the
possibile things that an actor could do, and the decisions that lead
to those outcomes.

With a planned socratic dialog, you've already got the final
destination in mind. The only decisions are about how to get

> I am not sure exactly where to go with this yet, but I am intrigued by
> the overlap here between data collection, decision trees, socratic
> (maietic) teaching and the patterning of the mind.   I am happy to
> discuss it further with you, Michal. 


I think I'll map out my hypothetical recusion/fibonacci lesson 
as a graph and post a link to the edu-sig for comments.. 


- Michal
www.manifestation.com  www.sabren.com  www.linkwatcher.com  www.zike.net