In Life is Learning: Learning Design - Natural vs. Machine Robert Paterson dovetails Christopher Alexander's ideas about natural design with learning...
Natural and Mechanized Approaches to Learning: In a mechanized approach to learning, and therefore life itself, our experiences are segregated into discrete parts (i.e. - topics, subjects, expertise) by what seems to be a constant urge to classify and rationalize our experiences. People become the object of design by virtue of the fact that they do not participate in the creation of these systems of classification but are merely the intended recipients of it. Both education (by way of curriculum) and work (by way of a job description) treat people as objects of design, often in spite of the language used to describe these processes.
In a natural approach to learning, our experiences, situations and circumstances become the source of design. In other words, the authentic experiences that each individual brings to learning are a source of design. This is a more inclusive perspective in which the confluence of each person's individual life experiences are acknowledged and welcomed. From this emanates the idea the each person is a source of design, or the real designer. In this context, we hear about ideas like authentic learning and learning how to learn.
Learning as Interaction Design: Robert keys on what I think is one of the more important elements of design, and that is interaction. But this is not merely interaction design related to computer interface. It is a design perspective on the intersection of interaction and learning that is focused on how our relationships with the people, places and things in our lives can become more vibrant. He speaks about four kinds of interaction:
Interaction with parents and the home.
Interaction with the immediate community.
Interaction with our life's work.
Interaction with the underlying mystery that life is.
And this orientation to interaction is closely aligned with the idea of interdependence and referenced against the natural forms of interdependence that nature provides.
From this learning as interaction design perspective we arrive at:
Any design for a learning tool that continues the idea of separation will fail. The design that will work will the design that brings the individual back into the communities that we need to be human. - Robert Paterson
We are surrounded by numerous examples of inspiring and deeply hopeful perspectives on design interaction in the confluence of everyday life. There is no need to invent a model or theory - these are living examples.
Much of what we need to embrace a more human-centered approach to design and interactivity are already staring at us. The question is, are we really seeing it? Or do we want to?
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