Monthly Archives: July 2012

Some thoughts on Slow Learning

Firstly, I’m pleased that I came to the idea of slow learning by myself, or rather through a good old-fashioned conversation in which it was surmised that technology is reducing learning to short-cuts. ‘Let’s walk to the lake’ my friend said to his students. The students became focused on the lake, they ignored all the detail along the way through the woods.

With technology and institutional education we always seem to have a target outcome = the lake. And when his students get there they don’t know what to do. The journey, therefore, is the process of learning. So much for reflection if we use the fastest means to get there.

I’ve incorporated this into an essay. Recent research I undertook in schools found that kids enjoy social media in learning because “it’s quicker” or “saves time” (a sentiment echoed by the overworked teachers). It’s convenient; it reflects our culture and our media which demands expedience and meeting deadlines and efficiency at the price, often, of love and car put into something.

I was pleased to discover that there is a slow learning movement, which I align myself to as it’s taken me all my life to realise I enjoy learning. I’m further pleased to open the first website Google gives on the search term and find Ivan Illich in there with a brilliant quote (“At the moment of death I hope to be surprised.”). And I’m thrilled that this quote appears under a branch on the website called ‘Looks Like Howard’ (which is my cantankerous christian name).

That lead me to discover the Howard in questions is him, below:

“The future is an infinite succession of presents and to live now, as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself, a marvelous victory.”

Howard Zinn  1922-2010

And what another fine quote.

And what a tangled up set of networks to get from sitting in the garden discussing how social media and flat 2D screens give kids an internal physiological “fizz” that leads to the fight or flight response (also outlined on a Nicholas Carr link on the website, instead of a still-sit space of meditation that calms the body’s chemicals down and clears it of stress and acid reflexes and other such unpleasantness. Let’s all slow everything down.

I liken technology learning and our modern culture with an analogy of two films: the Matrix where Keanu is programmed to learn Kung Fu in seconds, and the Karate Kid, where little Danny spends ages washing and waxing and painting and getting frustrated only for his master to show him that he has gradually perfected Karate. This whole episode comes from an ancient Chinese story about archery, while the Matrix, I believe, is an American comic.

Hmmm, food for slow thoughts…





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Mountain Fires in the Steinernen Meer

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This was in the Steinernen Meer (Stone Sea Mountains) at Asitz/Pinzgau, in Austria. The local towns celebrate the summer solstice by walking 2,500m up their local mountains at sunset with lit torches, getting good and pissed, building fires for all neighbouring mountain communities to watch, then jumping over the fires to ward off bad spirits and bind them to their loved ones for life. Classic Alpine Austrian fun.

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