Phenomena

By Ashraf Al Shafaki

Chain of Interest

A child may be interested in playing. The playing may result in lots of exploration and discoveries. The child becomes interested in exploration for its own sake. A chain of interest is started from playing to exploring.

A person interested in discovering and learning may become interested in physics. The more he explores and learn about physics the closer he gets to and uses mathematics. His interest might then 'chain' ahead towards mathematics and he might become deeply fascinated with mathematics for its own sake regardless of its use in physics and even regardless of any practical use it might have in any other field.

The chain of interest is a powerful principle and can be used to lead others into loving things they initially had no interest in. Let us take an example of how the chain of interest principle may work in a settings of learning programming.

There are two popular paths that lead to great computer programmers who have deep love for programming. The first path is when a person is interested in achieving some specific result such as playing a game, seeing an animation or any other thing and finds the code that accomplishes such result and types it in to achieve what he wishes. This interest in the initial result and the satisfaction one gets from accomplishing it through typing in the ready code may lead later to an interest in programming itself.

Another more popular path is for someone using a program waning to modify such program in order to better suit his or her needs. This might lead the person to start entering the then tough world of programming. The strong interest in achieving the customization desired or the idea that person has in mind would let him or her manage to go through the difficulties of first learning how to program. The satisfaction such person would get from accomplishing what was in his or her mind might lead him or her to start loving programming in its own sake. Programming to such person might become addictive and the love for it would be deep.

Conversely, suppose some programming teacher tries to shove programming concepts down the brain of children who have no previous knowledge of programming nor interest for it. In such case, the result would be high resistance for the programming concepts and a long term, yet recoverable, damage to the ability of such children to love programming one day. Without chaining the love for programming to those children through something else they already love, such as computer games, it is not possible make great programmers out of them.

The role of a computer instructor is to galvanize the interest of students towards what they are learning and make them pull out the information themselves rather than the instructor attempting to push the information into their brains. This can best be done through heightening the interest of students on what they are learning through various means all along the training course. This should be the primary role of any computer instructor during a training course.

Performance Collapse

When a high performer, who believes he or she is a high performer, goes through the experience of observing an experience level that is much higher then his or her own, he or she suddenly looses interest in what he used to perform well at and his or her performance drops dramatically in it.

For instance let's say some computer programmer who was spending much of his time making 3D animations. Let's say this programmer has reached an edge and is, according to his belief, making superb 3D animations. Imagine that programmer experiencing for the first time a 3D animated movie done by a competent 3D animation company and discovering that 3D movie to be way beyond his 3D animation skills. This programmer will suddenly loose interest in his 3D animation programming and may leave it all together. Yet if he is obliged to continue his work may show a drop in performance due to loosing interest and motivation which he had previously gotten from being, according to his own belief, on the edge of 3D animation.

Deadlocks

Ever experienced the state wherein students brains come to a deadlock as you are explaining something to them? Turbo mode is what I call this state of student’s minds, wherein their brains race so fast in a narrow corner and is effectively brought to a deadlock, unable to get out of it to be able to comprehend what is being explained to them. I will proceed by explaining first what turbo mode is and then provide methods for how to avoid it.

Turbo Mode

You ask a student a difficult question in a way that suggests the student should know the answer, the student switches to ‘turbo’ mode trying to compensation for his lack of knowledge of the answer and feeling he/she should be able to know the answer and is supposed to. He/she then feels dumb and inadequate or at least not competent in this subject.

The above turbo mode situation to which students often shift can also be reached not when asking them questions but just during normal (or abnormal) instructing. You explain a concept to the students, they do not get the concept, you act as if they should be able to grasp it and that it’s their dumbness and incompetence that led them to not understand. This again lets them shift to the turbo mode state in which they try to speed up their thinking dramatically and their brain starts to spin wildly trying to find any path to comprehending the concept. The result is that their mind gets trapped in a narrow corner in which their mind speeds up like crazy. This is the turbo state mode.

Even if you try to explain the concept further their minds have just become stuck and will not break free as long as you are explaining to them while giving them the sensation that their lack of understanding belongs to them, their shortcomings and their incompetence.

Avoiding Deadlocks

The key to avoiding the deadlock situation in which students’ minds race speedily in a narrow corner unable to get out of it to reach comprehension or to make use of their full mental potential is to always give students the feeling that they are bright. Never give a student the feeling that he/she is slow. This will automatically lead to him/her switching instantly to the dreaded turbo mode.

Suppose while explaining a new concept, you realized that students were unable to grasp it and did not comprehend. Do not give them the feeling that they should have comprehended. Instead, just go on as if you have not finished explanation that concept yet and that by no means they should have comprehended it at this ‘early’ point in your explanation.

Whenever you get the sensation of “hey, those students are dumb,” just rethink the non-verbal communication (as well as the verbal of course) you are about to impart to them and hold yourself from ‘accidentally’ making them feel they are slow. Give them the feeling they are okay, they are bright. They will then never fall into the trap of overspeeding and comprehension levels will be brought to a record high.

Letting students think on their own pace gives their minds the freedom to explore more thinking paths and make use of their full mental abilities. Failing to maintain this state of free minds in students will lead to nothing but difficult comprehension, deadlocks and a lot of frustration on both sides.

Note: When students reach a deadlock state, they feel so bad about their ‘dumbness’ and often do not tell you they are unable to understand. They even blame their own ‘incompetence’ for this and put not blame on you. But the result is that they still do not comprehend the subject at hand.

Admiration Based Learning

  1. The learner observes another person who is highly competent at a particular skill.
  2. The learner goes through a stage of great admiration of the skill level of that other person.
  3. The learner highly wishes to acquire that skill with such skill level yet does have doubts about the ability to actually achieve that.
  4. Time passes and an admiration based learning process takes place.
  5. The learner acquires the skill initially admired with the skill level sought after.
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