Monday, January 31, 2005

People use the tools that work for them

This is a brilliant essay. He talks sensibly about many things, and explains why my intuition has been telling me all this time that things like SOAP and their ilk are just wrong, somehow.

For some reason, partway through reading it, I had a sense of remorse for wasted college years. I had an Asian roommate once who had a study group. At the time I thought it was "an Asian thing," and perhaps it was, something brought from a culture that can live so closely together (although Confucious, I think, had a lot to do with that). But when I saw "The Paper Chase," I gained another data point about study groups, and attending a meeting of the Silicon Valley Patterns Group I saw a lot of value in working together. Jeremy Meyer came out to Crested Butte and helped me put together the Annotations chapter for Thinking in Java 4e, and I'm sure we got much more done together than we could have separately. Synergy exists, and I want more of it.

Perhaps it's because I'm trying now to schedule a couple of Open Space conferences (this Summer in Crested Butte) to produce this kind of synergy that I think back on what I might have accomplished in college if I had taken the step of forming study groups. Instead of working in isolation, we could have at least discussed and struggled with the ideas presented in class. Learning could have been collaborative. But are we guided away from collaboration by the idea that we must "do our own work?" And for that matter, do most college study groups devolve into test-preparation sessions?

I still think it would have been beneficial. Hey, why isn't this something that professors try to help the students do? At least ask if people want to form study groups, and give them time and chalkboard space to do so? That would be free for the university, but I think it could greatly benefit the experience (yes, I know there are the TA-led sessions, but that's not the same. The study group puts the responsibility on the individuals, and is thus a much better learning experience).

If you're still a student, try forming a study group, and tell me how it works out.

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