I think that there is a place where I would like to start the story of my current learning progress, and that rightful beginning is in my mind, before the Loon Lake trip.
I think that I hadn’t put enough effort into my work before Loon Lake as a consequence of me not seeing the greatest meaning in my learning and school in general. I thought of learning in school not as a way to actually learn about the world around me but rather as doing what would get me the best product to ensure a good grade from my teachers from which I could go to a good university and then get a good job. I was more or less using the end, a higher likelihood of attaining financial and physical wealth to justify the means which were school. Although I didn’t dislike school, I found I had a dissatisfaction with it.
This was until we went on the Loon Lake trip. I feel there was something to how and what we learned on the Loon Lake trip that made me internally realize what the goal of our teachers is. Throughout school, the goal is not to create the products that go on the test or the final product by which we are graded, it is to learn. The products of our projects, our blog posts, and our projects themselves are not only there so that the teachers may see how much we have learned, but also for us, the students to look back, reflect, and remember or literally look into our blogs and see what we have learned about. In this respect I think reflection of the project and the acknowledgment of failure is imperative. If I do not acknowledge I did something wrong, then I am bound to repeat my action, or in other words, not learn from it.
I think that this is why even though I’d say I failed the Project Podcast, I still think that it was one of the projects that I have learned from the most. It was also a project in which I learned about how I learn and how I act in general. The projects in between the Loon Lake trip and the Summer break were ones where I think I worked my hardest, spending hours doing research and learning the most about the topics I had selected. After the summer break, I went back to learning, refreshed by a summer full of travel and delight. I really did enjoy our trip this summer.
Going back into school, I knew I needed to do the tasks I need to do much more efficiently with a plan, but I often go about my business without enacting any structure. On one hand this allows me to be flexible but as Mr. Hughes says, “flexibility is a tortoise trait”. I find it applies differently on an individual level though, as opposed to the collective level to which Mr. Hughes refers. In this part I will write about how I have changed my actions to be more efficient, or to procrastinate less.
Planning and efficiency
On many days, I have things that I must do in the mornings. Maybe I have an activity planned in the morning or maybe it’s school. In order to get to these activities on time, I have to do all the things in the morning in a timely manner. The thing is, when I do not have a plan for what I want to do, I get caught up in the details, I end up using much more time deciding what to do next and because of that, I become inefficient. The same thing happens in my projects. When I do not plan out how I use my free time, I end up misusing it, feeling at the end of the day that I have wasted my time. I think that the most effective way of combating this problem would be to bring more order to myself. Not order where I change myself to be more orderly, that would be bound to fall apart, but rather an order through planning.
Even as I sat down to write this blog post, I struggled to start. This is because I thought of what I would do as my next move, what I would write about first instead of thinking of the blog post in the big picture. I think this is why the planning is so important. When I do not plan, I think of my next steps as individual items rather than steps which all have a relationship with the main goal. This, combined with the unfamiliarity of not knowing or seeing my main goal, makes me very ineffective. The lack of a plan makes me procrastinate in places where I shouldn’t.
There is a way to combat this and it’s quite simple. I must plan out what I want to do. The thing is, I’m quite bad at planning my future actions out and when I think I want to start planning I often procrastinate because I do not know what I want to do. So, I thought it would be wise to see what you have to say about planning, with all of the variables which one must account for and the irrational ways in which they mind works.
The action of learning how to do an action – How do you answer open ended questions without draining all your time?
In PLP, the idea of creating the product is quite similar to that of physics and math, in that how you do things is more important than the things you do. In math and physics it is more simple than in PLP because the answer to mathematical equations is always correct whereas in a humanities course, there are often no clear answers to questions.
In math and physics, the method by which someone gets the answer to a question always uses the same fundamental mathematic principles. In humanities, the method by which you get an answer is also mostly uniform, you do research and then you lay out your answer in a way which shows the person your answer is intended for, your answer. The thing is, researching some things is more difficult than researching others and not all answers are the same. In many scenarios there is not a correct and an incorrect answer but rather an array of ideas. For example, “How should we structure our society?” has many solutions and most are bad, so to create a solution for this problem would you have to either carry out or find massive studies. You would have to spend years upon years researching only to have an outdated result.
Some questions do not have simple answers and to find the most accurate answer would take too long for me to find it within school. So how do I face the fact that my answer to many questions raised will not be true and how true do I want my answers to be?
Even when I do not have answers to my questions, I can still take and go through my notes to see what information I might have about the questions and their possible solutions.
This is something that PLP teaches it’s students quite well although not too intentionally. In making us able to choose the themes for a lot of our projects, we were forced to do a lot of our learning individually and to look online for articles on the topics we wanted to pursue. We also learned to create a Zettelkasten using Craft which I would describe as an archive of the notes and ideas of an individual. I write all my notes on it and I’d say that it is very good to refer back to, especially when I am doing a project on something that I have already written about. The Zettelkasten also allowed me to achieve a greater depth in my knowledge of the topics we learned about. Instead of taking one very long note which I would have to format, I could take many smaller notes and web them together using tags. Although I was at first critical of the idea, the lack of compartmentalization in it’s traditional sense within a Zettelkasten allows for a greater ease when taking notes, seeing as you don’t have to leave out certain things which would belong in another compartment. I think that these notes are quite helpful but I fear they will be inadequate in the future, when my note taking skills have improved.
For the last few projects, I did not take as many notes as I otherwise would have. I think there are two reasons for it. The reason for why I didn’t take notes on the Manhattan Project is because I think most of the information about the manhattan project isn’t really relevant in most scenarios. That, as well as the small scale of the project and the amount of secrecy around it, meant that the amount of notes I had to write about it was minute. In Macbeth the reason for why I didn’t take many notes was also quite simple, we only really studied Macbeth. By the time we had finished researching Macbeth itself, we were more or less starting our final project so I didn’t make the time afterwards to find studies or articles about what the affects of the elements of Macbeth (such as unbridled ambition) may have on our contemporary societies and literature.
I think for the next few projects, seeing as they’re about much more open topics, I will take more notes which for one means I will spend more time doing schoolwork per unit of product than before. It also means I will be more informed about the themes/subjects.
A look at my last two projects
I found the last two projects were a little smaller (in the magnitude of their products) than the two projects we had done before. They also seemed to go by a lot faster. I think this is because we did very much of the research in class with the quality of the learning we were doing much higher in class than online.
For the Manhattan Project Project, our primary source was the novel, Hiroshima bu John Hersey. It was about the interesting part of the Manhattan project, the societal impacts of nuclear bombing. A large chunk of the project were the way nukes work and the workings within the Manhattan Project which I will not control, therefore making the information just something to think about to me (it has no real use to me). Although the theoretical consequences of nuclear war, the ways in which the threat of nuclear war change the way people think, and the consequences of the manhattan project (as well as the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) are interesting, we didn’t really write about those aspects of the Manhattan project as much and because of that, I didn’t do much research outside of the project. It’s not that I didn’t have the oppertunity to research the things that I found interesting, I was just content with doing the project as instructed because it would give me a lesser workload with all my new classes and the Swarm which I had joined at the start of this year.
The Macbeth project was also somewhat like that, although I think it was a little different. Because we read through the book in class, and we had such a good teacher for it, I found that the questions Ms Willemse raised were answered by her within the lecture. I could also ask my teacher and did research online when I had questions of my own. The big question that Ms Willemse raised and then proceeded with answering was “What do the timeless themes of “Macbeth” reveal about our society today?” With the answer being both (in my eyes) quite obvious and also being more or less answered by the teacher who did the hard part of answering the question for us defining the themes she found important while leaving us with the easy part of letting us connect these timeless themes to real life which (if you’re not a psychopath (someone who does not have empathy)) can be identified quite easily.
I do think that I had a step up as opposed to the other kids because I have been reading “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt. This book, written about moral psychology gave many insights about contemporary ideology as well as the ways in which people function at the most basic psychological and moral levels. Timeless themes found in literature and society are just one step up of the morals that can be found throughout every religion and society, especially the ones that are more sociocentric.
The only part of the last project which I messed up, which is in line with all my other projects but was also influenced by bad luck was that I did not create the great final product I had hoped for. In it, I continued my pattern of doing more of the research and thinking (the interesting part) than the creation and rehearsal in this instance of the final product. If I had put more effort into making my script perfect and then rehearsing it until I could recite every line without mistake every time, I would have created a better final product, but I would not have learned the same things as I did.
Outlook into the Future
I hope that I can continue this year in a good spirit and a drive to learn. I think that I must use techniques to increase my efficiency, especially in crunches where I need to get the work done. Hopefully, I will match if not exceed the way in which I have learned for the past part of the year and find some interesting topics which I can spend all my time reading all about.