Knowledge of Place as a Metaphor for Proficiency in Learning
About a week ago, as I navigated through Norman on my way to an event, I realized that I could move back to Norman after 5 or even 10 years of being away, and I would still be able to get around pretty decently. I might forget some of the smaller roads and stores, but I'd have the structure of the city in my mind.
I'd still remember the major highways, arteries, intersections and landmarks, as well as how all of these components relate to one another to form the skeleton of what we call Norman, Oklahoma. The soccer fields off of Robinson, Highway 9 and 77, Interstate 35, Lake Thunderbird, Lindsay and Flood. I can see them all in my mind's eye, and when I want to get around Norman, I refer to this mental map. This is especially when I'm going somewhere I haven't been to often- frequent haunts wear grooves in our mind and soon we simply show up, having forgotten the act of actually getting there.
By breaking down this example further we can draw some interesting conclusions.
On the other hand, there are plenty of skills and fields that I remember very little of. Like my physics education at OU, or how to play a harmonica. Perhaps, like with the harmonica, I didn't stick with it long enough to build the internal model. Or, like with physics, I struggled to find a meaningful structure and order in the concepts I was learning.
Now the question I'm asking myself is, how can I reduce a new field, skill, or concept to its highest level structure to facilitate a lasting memory and knowledge of it, such that I can return to it years later and still feel like I "know" it? It's like reaching the point where you speak a foreign language well enough that you no longer need your native tongue. Your knowledge and fluency with the language self-perpetuates itself, you can use a mono-lingual dictionary, and even if you came back to the language 2 or 3 years later you'd probably pick it back up relatively quickly. I know reaching this level requires conscious effort, as I wrote in the third bullet point, but if we're learning and leading lives of constant learning and growth then we may as well learn and grow well.
Besides, who are we without our memory? My 5 years in Norman, Oklahoma are enriched by being able to place the motes of experiences, people, and places in the greater geographical weave of the city and the state.
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much