Encounter at the Void of Problem Based Learning

The academic part of High School bored me nearly to death. I had excellent teachers. They could teach and they connected well with their students, including me. The problem for me was the pace of learning and the simplicity of the content. For example, in World History, we were tested on the content presented in the textbook. I really did not need to sit there and be lectured to about the same stuff I read at home the previous evening. I got it!

Every class followed the same pattern, except, of course, the biology labs. I had to be there to do the experiments with my lab partner. She was really good and did all the “heavy lifting” such as the dissections. She insisted on doing everything. So, I just stood there and supervised: “Cut it; don’t tear it apart. Weigh it; don’t throw it up at the ceiling.” Labs were great. My lab partner was smart, ambitious, and very cute. We got along fine as long as I let her do all the work. At the end of the semester, when friends asked me what I learned in lab, I always told them that I learned how to work well with a motivated female who likes what she is doing. I also told them that I enjoyed partnering with attractive females on interesting projects much more than sitting in class lectures about stuff I could read at home in a few minutes. One other thing high school taught me: There had to be a better way to get an education so you can actually learn and retain something interesting without boring yourself to death while unnecessarily sitting in a classroom.

I had these insights during my sophomore year. As a result, I quit attending class and showed up only for the exams. I managed to do more than good enough to graduate. I remember my Geometry teacher asking me after one test: “Ray, how do you miss all the classes and only show up for the exams and then do so well?” I simply told him the truth: “Mr. Bowers, I can read and follow the solutions in the book. The same ones you demonstrate in class. If I need your help, I would come and ask for help.”

This was my pattern back then. I was a self-directed, independent, adult learner. I just did not know it. Everyone else thought I was a truant. Thankfully my mother negotiated with the powers-that-be back then to let me receive my diploma if I passed all of my senior year finals. I did and then moved on. I got my diploma and kissed the high school goodbye. I never wanted to see the halls of a school again. College was not for me, so I thought. I could not imagine putting myself through four more years of boredom. No thank you. There had to be a better way to get an education. I had places to go and things to do. School only got in the way.

Unfortunately, the lack of college really got in the way. Ever since high school, I worked diligently to discover more responsive approaches to learning. I actually enjoyed the insights that sprang into my mind, and learning new stuff was a wonderful bonus. Eventually learning to say “yes” to college with wisdom, I dedicated my life to the pursuit of rapid learning. Using the emerging technologies of that time, I designed simple ways of assisting people with problem solving as a consultant, friend, mentor, coach and human being. Strangely, though, I had to work very hard to make things seem so simple. You can quote me: “Simple is hard.”

In college, I excelled in ignorance. Every class reminded me of that. No matter how much I learned, what I did not know was always more than what I did know. I was forward living but backward thinking. I knew only the past but my life was always looking towards the future. There are no facts about the future. There are only educated imaginings. All I knew came down to one idea: I wanted to change the future of problem solving and leverage this change to improve the speed and quality of learning.

In college, before registering for a course, I interviewed my professors so I could select compatible people to guide me through this part of my life. Not wishing to repeat my high school experience, I took a direct approach by delivering personal proposals. I proposed my own learning plans to complete the required coursework early, take oral exams, and if I passed, I could spend the remaining months on projects of my choice with the professor’s assistance. Many agreed; some did not. I avoided those people.

“The game was afoot.” My name is Raymond Newkirk. Like SherIock Holmes, I had realized that: “It is my business to know what other people do not know.” I also realized that human wisdom is finite and human ignorance is infinite. I really had a lot to learn. I had already learned that overcoming ignorance is an endless process. It is called life. Human beings spend their lives solving problems. Life throws it at us and we spend our lives throwing it back, be it in a much different form than when we got it. Problems and solutions, this is the territory of human life. So I set about doing something about it. I now wanted to close the gap between problems and their solutions and leverage this new process to improve the speed, quality, and retention of learning.I wanted to build the first ever Applied Intuitive Solutions™ Platform to change how the world solves problems. I had encountered the void of Problem Based Learning and had not yet realized it.

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Copyright © June 26, 2019 Raymond L. Newkirk 

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