Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The importance of circles (or, joining the dots)

There is something about a circle that is...hmmm...captivating? Hypnotic? Comforting?


The seasons in cycle, turning circles from birth to death to birth, round table discussions, learning circles, weaving circles, even broken circles.

Humans are pattern-seekers, ... we try to create meaningful narratives out of the universe's vast array of material [Shermer on crop circles in Wolff, 2005].

Our learning is never entirely new as we cycle through life. Some circles we leave unfinished. Others we circle without knowing why (or sometimes not wanting to know why) - a well-troden path. I look at this blog and others and see I often return to ideas, thoughts and commentary from previous posts or discussions. In doing so I build on previuos understanding and refine my position on matters important to me.

We often develop and process information and activity through cyclical development. In educational design terms I often use the phrase 'iterative development'. There is a definitive element of time in this. Iterations occur over time and as such cannot be rushed or pushed beyond one's level of acceptance or progress of understanding.

Understanding cannot be rushed.

Yet we cram as much as we can into a semester for our students (increasing our own workload pressures as well), partly because our time with them is limited to something like 13 to 18 weeks. We go from week 1 to week 18 which seems a linear process; but for us as teachers, there is a cyclical nature to the development of curricula and delivery that means we do it all again semester after semester.

How do we design learning with spaces and pauses? Time for contemplation and reflection in our increasingly busy lives? It is difficult to determine or measure these silences, especially as there seems always a pressure to fill them.

Joining the dots of what we do in our daily practice is really bringing small circles together to form a bigger picture. We often get lost in the myriad of smaller dots or equally inside the bigger picture.

That's when I like to take a brisk walk in the crisp Canberra morning, see the flocks of galahs and parrots on the lawns having their breakfast, and keeping my eyes peeled for the first buds signifying that spring has finally sprung!

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