Thursday, September 23, 2010

Look Around You

This is our school’s motto.  I like it.  All good learning has a root in observation; and as the quote says, “Even a fool can learn from his own mistakes, but it takes a wise man to learn from other people’s.”  That’s not to say that we are not all foolish enough that we’ve had to, or will have to again, learn from our own mistakes, but a measure of wisdom is present in everyone who can see what they did wrong, and that should give us hope.  Even so, some people still do not seem to observe well enough to learn from their own mistakes.  Humanity as a whole doesn’t seem to in some areas; especially when it comes to things like war.

Back to the motto, and we can see that there are many things to learn from through observation.  In social situations we can see who is the most comfortable dealing with the types of people we want to be able to deal with.  We then look at the factors that build this in the person and can go away and practice or build ourselves in the same way.

Physically, we can watch successful athletes and try to copy their methods.  We can see their technique for performing their movements and we can try to pick out what they do that is different from our efforts at the same activity.

Listening to advice is another way to observe carefully.  

Being aware of the needs of others can help an entire community develop in a positive way.  This is an example of communal learning.

The limits of observation as a learning tool are only the limits of your ability to notice details.  The better you can notice details, the more refined your learning experience.

Taking all of the collective details that you notice, and drawing comparisons, or extrapolating with imagination, these will increase your learning.

If you are learning a new language, you might struggle to pronounce words correctly because you are ignorant of the details of inflexion or emphasis on particular syllables.

If you are learning to walk silently like a ninja, you would struggle to see just what they are doing if you weren’t able to look beyond their feet to observe the seemingly unrelated detail of a strong core and well trained sense of balance.  The effects of slight changes in angles of foot placement might also go unnoticed if you were not able to observe precise detail.

Observation takes time
It takes time and practice to get good at observing and learning from what you detect.  In order to learn something big and important, you might need to sit still for hours contemplating an event.  This can be a positive use of our time when we feel that we are bored.  Just think about something interesting and try to break it down into interesting details.

Occasionally I reflect on my life by reading an old journal entry.  This brings the memories back and I can re-reflect on events to learn even more from the situation.  

The learning potential of observation is endless and I do hope that you will make a conscious habit of looking around you and noticing details in your daily life.  Even if you don’t feel like you are learning anything, your brain will be stimulated from counting the number of pieces of litter between here and there, or analysing the twisted look that the customer gave in the supermarket checkout next to you the other day.

Happy observing!