Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rubik's Cube

Rubik's CubeImage via WikipediaThis weekend my roommate got a Rubik's Cube. Though this could easily become a post about possible destroyers of productivity, it's not (I was actually very productive this weekend). No, today I want to talk about how I learned to solve a Rubik's Cube and how that reflects upon methods and types of learning.

First of all, I just messed around with the cube, I figured out how to drop cubes out and how to get at least the first layer put together.

Then, I had my roommmate show me how he gets the second layer consistently and how he even holds the cube. See, he holds the cube at an angle and turns the cube as if the mostly right side is the front. Though I'm sure it works for him, I kept my holding method that I developed during my initial “play” phase.

Finally, I decided to look online for more complex and complete thoughts on solving the Rubik's Cube. Online I found lists of algorithmic move sets that would allow me to solve any cubes. These lists would move only part of the cube without the rest. After a little bit of time I learned many of these algorithms and was soon almost solving a cube in minutes.

However the catch was I memorized the lists of moves but I stopped paying attention. I was no longer thinking “I need to move white around and down” but was instead thinking “ok after two right turns I have to....”. Now this was not all that bad ounce I realized what was going on. Once I started self checking, once I started learning why the algorithms worked at the same time I learned the algorithms. As with most things, a balance was necessary. A balance between play and knowledge.

So what does this have to do with education? Well hopefully that's self evident, but just in case not: a balance between play and knowledge is key to education. Not just teaching or classroom education, but also self-education. When I'm preparing a lesson plan for someone else, or researching a topic myself. And the balance found during my time with the Rubik's Cube was not the only part relevant. I needed to play, I needed to memorize things that experts had figured out, but I also needed to connect what I memorized to what I had learned during play.

Also, a friend was very key to the experience. Without my roommate I won't have gotten my hands on the cube in the first place, and I also won't have obtained a social aspect to my learning, which was also very key. I learned from him, but I also connected the cube to my relationship. After the relationship was there I wanted to solve the cube not just for myself, but so I could show him and show him what I had learned.

To summarize:


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