Tuesday, January 29, 2013

complexity ...

Simple key holder, requires complex skill
I received a bit of a correction to the blog from Hans Thorbjörnsson, as I'd asked him if I had "hit the nail on the head," in my discussion two days ago concerning Models and Growth. It seems I did not, or at least not quite. Salomon's "Columbus egg" was not his discovery of the use of the model series, but rather the arrangement of exercises that provided the order in which models would be arranged and introduced.

Each model required a range of skills and understanding in the use of various tools, and to learn and acquire those skills and understanding through the performance of exercises in an orderly manner related to the model series was the foundation of self-directed learning... Salomon's Columbus egg.

When I was a beginning woodworker, I knew that if I could successfully cut a few good joints, I was well on my way to being able to make anything I wanted. But of course, cutting the simplest of mortise and tenon joints was not as simple as it might appear. Cutting the mortise alone required handling of the chisel in a variety of distinct motions. It required the use of a mallet. It required close scrutiny and understanding of the material. But before one even started, it required understanding of measuring and marking tools, including a rule or tape measure, square and marking gauge.

Salomon said "An exercise is the working (tooling?) of a material of a certain quality with a certain tool for a certain purpose." He divided working of wood into 68 distinct operations, or exercises (övingar) that would be used in the making of models, and these exercises presented to the students in sequence was the foundation of the process, not the models themselves. Understanding the exercises would be required for teachers and educators in other countries and cultures to be able to develop new models as substitutes to meet the interests of their children, and the requirements of the Educational Sloyd method. What results is a complex matrix of skills, exercises and model series. And so while Salomon suggested that model series be adjusted in each country and community to meet the interests of each child, understanding enough of the underlying exercises to develop new models and to know where they fit into the model series was not as easy thing.

For instance, I have been dancing at the edges of Educational Sloyd for years now, and in making a new model shown above, I find it challenging to figure out exactly where it would fit in. The complexity should explain a few things. Many of those who attended summer classes at Nääs returned to their home countries determined to teach Sloyd. But the challenges of adapting model series to their own students led many of them to slavishly adhere to what they had learned to make in Sweden. As a result, Educational Sloyd was viewed by some as uncreative, and unAmerican.

Even a thing as simple as the key holder shown above, the complexity of exercises and what must be learned are huge. For instance, in order for the tenon to be cut to fit, the wood must first be cut square on the end. Cutting square with a hand saw is not particularly easy. It requires learning about the square, the saw, about the material and about oneself. In my new model shown above, my next challenge would be to find where it would fits into a Nääs model series. I can list the exercises used in its making and compare with the 68 exercises used in making the original model series in Sweden, and perhaps learn where it might fit in. This for me illustrated the difficulty of creating a model series. As to how the key holder fits into my classes? Ozric said, "I want to make that!" Thus answering the first point of Educational Sloyd... Start with the interests of the child.

Make, fix and create...

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