Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

7 July 2011

Learning History

Clark @ 9:43 AM

Traveling with Jay Cross and Ellen Wagner in Berlin last December, we hit a great museum where they had artifacts from aa major period of German dominance. It was easy to use those concrete representations of life at the times, and the annotations (as well as Jay & Ellen’s learned commentary) as a foundation to think about the historic changes.

Thinking about the way we ,as a family, like to travel – studying up beforehand, choosing places that most concisely represent and communicate the local history and culture (and dining in ways to understand the best the culture has to offer :), and reading as we go along – it seems a great way to ground learning via experience. And experiential learning is powerful learning, connecting personal experience as context to conceptual models.  

I personally like to understand the ebb and flow of civilizations. My late friend Joe Cotter was a PhD in history, and taught me a little bit about how to think like a historian (not just to know history), thinking about causal forces. I try to apply that, as well as admittedly geeking out on weapons and castles. 

I’ve always felt that the old cliche is true, that travel broadens you. If you go with your eyes open, you can see the world from a different perspective, and even look at your own country differently. I really value the time I spent living in Australia, not only because of the fabulous friends and great experiences, but the ability to look back at the US and get a valuable extension on my understanding.  

It’s one thing to read about it, but to immerse yourself in the cuture and the artifacts with an overarching narrative really helps connect the broader context to the specifics. I hope you have the chance to have a similar experience.

1 Comment »

  1. I was an exchange student at 16 and that was the start of my learning journey. Just to put a bit of what you wrote about into educational context/theory. Research has shown that speaking a foreign language creates cognitive flexibility. One reason is that most language is developed through experience (either with text or communication). Broadening the language expectations broadens understanding of concepts, making them less rigid (or bound by culture). I believe the same is true in cultural immersion.

    Also, immersing yourself in culture and artifacts creates cognitive dissonance. The result is that we need to make meaning of the differences and in doing so, we learn (or make a conscious decision not to learn and maintain our understanding based on our own cultural interpretation).

    Friere would say that without some sort of stimulus to show us what our culture is, we will be unaware of our culture. After studying, working, and living in many parts of Europe and Latin America, I have a very different view of what makes the US great than my husband who has only been to Canada (after we were married). I can tell him my perspectives, but without the experience, it is difficult to understand.

    Comment by virginia Yonkers — 8 July 2011 @ 5:11 AM

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