How do I learn?
By Devin Dillon
At Iridescent, I spend large amounts of my day creating and thinking about learning experiences. Questions like, “how can we teach people to do this better?” and “how can I structure this experience to improve learning?” buzz around in my head at all times. I’m tuned into the relevant research, I can engage in conversation with my peers–education is an area of personal fluency. However, this summer, I had an uncomfortable realization… I hadn’t tested my own learning in a while.
How long since I set out to learn and do something completely new to me? Longer than I’d like to admit.
So, armed with an interest in studying my own learning process, sort of a “getting back in touch with the basics” attitude, I set off for NYU’s ITP Make Camp.
Beginning to Learn
I decided quickly that I wanted to learn how to make a wood automaton. As you can see from the photos above, at Iridescent, students are able to make many types of automata. However, I’ve always been sort of intimidated by the gears and getting the parts to move. Best to just jump in, right?
When I started my automaton project, here is what I thought I was going to learn (spoiler: I ended up learning a whole lot more!):
- how to use a laser cutter
- how to use the engineering design process for my own project
Using the Engineering Design Process to Learn
At Iridescent, we use the Engineering Design Process to help children learn. I used the framework while I was learning and creating my automaton–here’s how!
What I really learned (or was reminded of) while I made my automaton
- How to use a laser cutter, the engineering design process and Adobe Illustrator (an unexpected surprise!)
- I am constantly reminded that spoon-feeding information to people doesn’t engage their curiosity. My drive to complete this project was wholly based in curiosity–all the skills I practiced during the process… patience, persistence, humor at failing.. none of that would have happened if I wasn’t so driven by my curiosity to figure out how to make my automaton work. I am reminded again and again that I need to leave room for failure and not give people all the answers when I create learning experiences (but at the same time give enough information to avoid total frustration. It’s a very tricky balance!)
- At Iridescent, we are trying to build skills like persistence and curiosity through our Curiosity Machine and Technovation programs, but these are habits that take a lot of practice to build. We’ve chosen a hard task here, but an important one!