About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A new way of thinking

I had a discussion with a colleague yesterday about the new way of thinking that new technologies require. I have always been very good at making connections (some might say they really weren't connections except in my own mind) between ideas. Using the tree/forest metaphor, I have always been a person to look at the forest, try to see the patterns, go to the trees, identify the features, and then go back to the forest to put the trees in context. In the past, as this metaphor implies, you are either a holistic or a detail person. However, there are many of us who connect the dots to look at details within the whole, going back and forth between detail and whole.

I have written previously about spatial thinking. I think the forest for the trees is a linear thinking concept. Visualization and looking at ideas in connection with other ideas is more spatial. I find, for example, that George Sieman's posts in elearnspace are very spatial, which might be why he is such an advocate for connectivism. On the other hand, I find Tony Karrer's blog, eLearning Technology, as very linear. What is important is that both are excellent blogs, just two different thought processes. Isn't it important that we begin to accept both ways of thinking? And what is the implication for our language and culture? Are we becoming a more polycronic culture because of the technology we use? Shouldn't cultures be allowed to evolve? This might not happen if we don't allow for new communication patterns, recognition of new ways to think, and acceptance of old methods within their own context.


Anonymous said...

I've never thought of it as "spacial thinking", (possibly because I can get lost in a 10 store mall;->) but I do understand the idea of seeing the connections within the forest and then dipping down into the details of the trees. That's how my mind works. I remember, in my 40ies in a philosophy course, seeing the teacher and the best student work their way step-by-step to a conclusion I had as soon as the question was asked. I had to learn to 'fake' the step-by-step process, just like in math classes where you have to show the process not just the answer. And that was a good thing to learn how to do, but what happens to those who know the answer but not how to demonstrate the process?

V Yonkers said...

Just as my son "fakes" writing up an outline as he really doesn't need it. Sometimes I think I had trouble understanding outlines as the teachers who taught outlines were traditional writers, thinking linearly, and thus not really needing an outline themselves.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia.

This is a fascinating topic, for it relies on a perception to understand it. My own hunch is that linear/spatial perception and its associated developmental elements have (in fact) a lot to do with how one views an environment/situation/scene. I stress the word developmental. And there is no hierarchical placement of linear against spatial. They are simply different perspectives.

I also believe that both abilities to read each of those perspectives can be acquired by the same person, though the order in which they are acquired can possibly affect the way these abilities operate within the same person.

Like de Bonos' hats, especially the blue hat, I think that judging when linear perception (or when spatial perception) is needed is an acquired skill.

Likewise, the creative thinker who thinks spatially and can switch to thinking linearly and know that their thinking linearly, is a skilful thinker.

The problems that arise (that I've encountered) is when spatial communication from one person is not recognised by another who can only think linearly. This arises prevalently this way round. It is less prevalent to encounter similar problems the other way - at least, that's my experience.

In a naive sort of analogy, the Necker Cube can divine the two rudimentary aspects of linear perception and spatial perception. It takes a developmental stage to recognise the 3D aspect of the diagram, yet the same person who has this may still be able to appreciate the linearity of the diagram.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

I actually presented this to a research group that I belong to. Our hypothesis is that the educational system for English language emphasizes the linearity of communication in our language. Writing is taught in a very linear manner. Those that are "natural" writers have a tendency towards thinking linearly (think of the student in your class who always had a perfect copy the first time out).

However, those that think spatially were the "poor writers". I think there's a reason why engineers and scientests are considered "poor writers" as their ideas would be considered all over the place because they are thinking spatially.

My colleagues had suggested that we should recognize this in the lower grades. In other words, those that are "natural writers" should be exposed to hypertext so they can develop the spatial thinking skills needed for today and as we communicate with cultures which think spatially or cyclically.