Post 4: Progress Report for Personal Learning Plan

I realized that I had to purchase the book to learn my chosen skill. I didn’t find much in the way of free online learning resources for coin magic. A free skill sharing medium would be great. Something like like a free SkillShare website would be perfect. Except, at first glance I didn’t notice anything as powerful or widely used as the paid version of SkillShare. This is where encouragement of FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) would come in handy. The advantage of FLOSS is that we do not have to trade our personal information in exchange for using software. I actually very much support the FLOSS movement. Open Source software is excellent. I am a frequent user of Linux, an open source operating system. Linux comes with many free tools such as Libre Office, an open source suite of office tools like word processors, spreadsheets, and presentations. This kind of software must be available in order to keep information free, and not solely to benefit a select few which just widens the gap between high class and lower-middle class people. If money wasn’t a thing (I’m thinking the universe of Star Trek), but rather personal achievement and the betterment of human-kind was the driving force, I wonder what kinds of FLOSS systems would be available. While I don’t support elite money making strategies of evil big box corporations in Silicon Valley, I do support some of their efforts to make premium software available to the average user (as I use Google Docs to write the draft for this post). However, one way to interpret their strategy might be that they’re trying to corner the marketplace. Let’s make everyone so dependent on this super great software, then we’ll add a subscription fee. That’s is one concern that I have. So I think the only way to go is to super promote the development and use of FLOSS systems.

The reading assignment this week, Chapters 6 and 7 got me thinking about how I could possibly improve the learning experience in teaching somebody else my chosen topic of the Interactive Learning Resource (Computer Science concepts), and the importance of focusing more on the content, rather than the technology afforded to me. Given that the six key building blocks of media are face-to-face teaching, text, graphics, audio, video, and computing (simulation, animation, virtual reality) what are some of the ways that I could improve my own Learning Resource?

In addition, I found that there aren’t many great learning resources aside from books, or poorly made videos to teach people coin magic. Actually, I think a great learning resource might also be a magic skills website. Not just for coin magic, but maybe one for magic in general. This kind of website would need to be staffed all the time in order to maintain that face-to-face aspect of the six key building blocks, but the other building blocks could be easily integrated (maybe).

A site like this is possible, but the content would have to populated by single expert in all domains of magic tricks, or by a team of contributors all with varying skill sets. Another possibility is almost like an open source skill contribution system similar to the SkillShare model. According to Wikipedia: Skillshare is an online learning community for people who want to learn from educational videos. The courses, which are not accredited, are available through subscription. The majority of courses focus on interaction rather than lecturing, with the primary goal of learning by completing a project.

It’s interesting to think about the pedagogical differences between content that one could present on a learning resource, or how that content is delivered by a site that you’re learning from. I never really considered that one might be better than the other for different types of information. For example, text is better for abstract information, but video animation with narration would be great for presenting concrete examples of abstract concepts. Learning coin magic is very much built on concrete examples. Describing the step by step methods for even simple tricks in text can be hard to consume. I find myself straining to visualize the steps as I read the text, and even slowly manipulating the coin in my hand, or moving my hand without a coin as if I was actually doing the trick. Effectively, what I’m doing is showing myself a concrete example by reading the more abstract descriptions in the text. Granted, the descriptions of the manipulations aren’t themselves abstract, but the letters and words that represent the individual actions are abstract representations of the ideas therein. I think a much better method to deliver such content would be animations with narration, or an instructor with narration. However, when the book was originally published, easily accessible video and audio media did not exist! It was published in 1952. Yes there were televisions and movies, but home video systems weren’t available until the 1970s with the invention of the U-Matic, VHS, and Betamax systems.

If one wants to learn magic at home these days, of course books are available, including older ones like J.B. Bobo’s Modern Coin Magic, but in addition there are many more resources afforded to us by the advent of FLOSS based resources, which of course is prevalent because of high speed internet and the evolution of interconnected resource sharing in general. This actually is quite amazing; to have these kinds learning resources available to us at our fingertips shouldn’t be taken for granted. Now all we need is the discipline to go ahead and learn these things! It’s easy to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole and never get anything done. I suppose that’s why gamification in learning resources comes in handy. If we’re like rats in a cage, and scientists are testing our dopamine response to consume food pellets or addictive narcotics by hitting buttons for delivery of either (and to see what we choose more), instead of food pellets or narcotics we’re hitting buttons for junk-food media (YouTube, Reddit, etc) or something educationally useful that we should be doing instead. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle.

My current learning plan progress hasn’t been progressing as well as I would hope. I feel that I’m starting to plateau in my level of skill. There are mental roadblocks to both motivation to practice a lot, and when I do practice I feel that I’m not making any progress. It’s actually quite frustrating. However, I know that this is the difference between an amateur and a master practitioner of any skill. So instead of motivation, I need to push harder in the face of frustration. I need to exercise discipline. The reality is that I’m definitely making progress, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s just that the kind of progress I’m making now is is less noticeable than it was in the first few days. Kind of a logarithmic graph of progress. Now I’m fine turning the movements, or developing more of an instinctual feel for the manipulations of the coins and the nuances of the tricks that I never realized before.

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