Because my wife and kids are at day camp all week, I’ve been pitching in on cooking, and it’s reminded me of one of my favorite ‘challenges’. I prefer dealing with whatever’s left over in the fridge (make a meal out of what’s sitting around) to actually going out and shopping. Even when I have to go shopping, I prefer to pick up some things I want to figure out how to make go together rather than knowing how they’ll go together. Not always, but, in general, I don’t like measurements, and I like taking more than one recipe and picking the best parts out of each (which, BTW, did not work for Hot and Sour Soup, and is why I do not bake).
Cooking is my creative outlet, aside from my passion/work/vocation/avocation, which is learning technology. Using principles of flavor combination (as a graduate student, someone turned me on to Elisabeth Rozin’s Flavor Principle cookbook), I feel pretty comfortable taking ingredients and turning them into various cuisines such as Mexican, Cajun, Thai, etc (ok, I have a predilection for spicy food).
There’s a learning principle here, however. It’s about having models, frameworks, that you can use to guide your solution seeking. I do it in cooking, and I do it in solving interesting learning technology problems (and I enjoy both). Having a suite of useful models makes it easier to deal with uncertain situations. Which is why, I think, that I love challenges where someone says “we have this really tough problem that we can’t solve”. I’ve had a recent spate of fun challenges where I’ve come in and been able to provide useful feedback by integrating models to provide tailored solutions. Following existing processes wouldn’t work, but by taking principled approaches and adapting them to pragmatic contexts, unique and successful solutions could be found.
This drives at least one of my beliefs about curriculum goals for the new era: systems-thinking. You need to be able to reason in terms of models. And experience with more models, and deliberately trying to map them across domains, can build the sort of flexible thinking that drives innovation. When I looked at design a number of years ago, what I found were models that talked about exploring outside the normal design solution space, and ones that talked about melding two different approaches together. You do that by having a quiver of approaches to hand, and being systematically creative. And that’s not an oxymoron.
So, do, please, think in terms of models, promote model-based thinking, and have fun with thinking outside of the box.