July 13, 2009

How "Learning Patterns" can support learning design

Let me demonstrate how to use Learning Patterns.

Take, for example, the pattern of Acceleration to Next (36). This pattern is supposed to be needed under the context like "When you are researching" or "When you are studying". The problem frequently occurred is "It not seldom happens that people slack off their efforts subconsciously just before the goal", and the solution is "Set next goal and pass through the current goal without slow down"(See more details about this pattern in this post).

A student who read this pattern may find new idea to design his / her learning activities, because pattern languages can become "concept" to comprehend the reality and amplify the ability of recognition. Thus, the method of pattern language provide the way to understand the existence of problem and the clue of the solution.

Moreover, by virtue of the name of each pattern, it is getting easier to mention some aspect of learning. With using the example above, the teacher can advice the student with using the pattern name; "Don't forget Acceleration to Next!" Otherwise, student can ask the teacher "Do you think I should increase Acceleration to Next?" Like this, pattern language contribute to increase the vocabulary about learning among teachers and students. These are the reason why pattern language is called "language" of patterns.

An Example of Learning Patterns: Acceleration to Next (36)

Final example of Learning Patterns is Acceleration to Next (36).


Acceleration to Next

Just before the goal,
people tend to press the brake pedal subconsciously.
Now is the time to set next goal
and press down on the accelerator.

  • When you are making research
  • When you are writing a paper
  • When you are creating something
  • When your activity is in the final stage
  • When you are at a dead end

It not seldom happens that people slack off their efforts subconsciously just before the goal.

  • Just before achieving the goal, people tend to lose their motivation, unconsciously.
  • End work just before achieving the goal is tough.
  • We can work hard in active, just in the process of pursuing our goal.

Set next goal and pass through the current goal without slow down.

  • Think of the meaning of your activity, and imagine what you should do after achieving its goal.
  • Set the next goal on the extension of your activity temporarily, and consider the immediate goal as a passing point. With an image of bigger goal, you can avoid losing the end work.

Even if you work on your activity with the mind of Passion for Research (6) and Firm Determination (38), it seems tough to achieve the project before its goal. if you are in the situation like this, it is important to put Acceleration to Next. Work on your activity with Bird's eye, Bug's eye (23) for taking the immediate goal as a part of next big goal. With "Bird's eye" for looking down a whole of your project, think of what you can do now, and take next goals. In this way, if you keep on progressing while you take your goals as passing points, you will be Be Extreme! (39).

An Example of Learning Patterns: Community of Learning (28)

Next example of Learning Patterns is Community of Learning (28).


Community of Learning

It is not necessary to study alone.

  • When you begin to research
  • When you begin to study
  • When you are bored with study
  • When you want to learn a new skill
  • When you want to improve your skill

Individual’s capacity is limited.

  • The time we can spend is limited.
  • Everyone has their own knowledge and viewpoints.
  • By getting various viewpoints, people can deepen their understandings.
  • People can work harder with partners together than do alone.

Find people with common objectives and build a ‘community of learning’ to stimulate each other.

  • First of all, plan for making "community of learning". For example, you plan that what kind of workshop or research project you can do.
  • Gather some members of your surroundings who are interested in your plan. Then, you launch your project and make some concept and rough schedule with them.
  • Decide how you show your efforts of your learning. For example, you can make a paper, and publish it on the web site or have a conference. This makes you keep your motivation.
  • People can work harder with partners together than do alone.
  • On the basis of this plan, accept applications for your "community of learning", preferably on a large scale beyond your acquaintances. It may be that you can gather more members who have similar interest than those of your acquaintances. Moreover, with the member of people who you don’t know, you can avoid loose meeting and keep focusing on.
  • To keep the member's motivation, confirm what you have done with each other regularly. If is necessary, you should reset your goal.

There are no rolls such as teachers or students in a Community of Learning. So, they not only always has a chance of Release of Thoughts (29) and Learning by Teaching (31) as well as learn things with each other. Then, you can have Good Rival (30). In a community of learning, your Tornado of Learning (4) which consists of your interests grows together with the other member’s, and grows bigger. As a result, you can have more chances of encounter Academic Excitement! (5).

An Example of Learning Patterns: Brain Switch (22)

Here is another example of Learning Patterns; Brain Switch (22).


Brain Switch

Logic and Intuition ------ Both are absolutely essential.

  • When you are making research
  • When you are creating something
  • When you are writing a paper
  • When you need to get a new view or idea
  • When you are at a dead end

Neither logic or intuition is not enough to achieve a breakthrough.

  • Logical thinking (left brain) inspires acute analysis and inference and has persuasion.
  • Intuitive thinking (right brain) inspires good ideas and expressions and gives impression.
  • It is difficult to use both brains at the same time.

Think, switching two modes of logic and intuition.

  • When you begin to think with the left brain, you think logically as deep as possible. When you begin to think with the right brain, you think intuitively as deep as possible.
  • Switch your brains when you are at a dead end or think sufficiently. If you have thought with the left brain by then, try to think about beauty and wealth of expression. In contrast, if you have thought with the right brain, try to think about coherence and depth of logic. By switching brains, you can find new phases of a matter.

When you are writing something, draw pictures of that.what you express by words. When you are drawing a picture, you think about the logic of the picture. In this way, Brain Switch means switching "ways of thinking" which are logical and intuitive. In contrast, Bird's Eye, Bug's Eye (23) means switching "viewpoints". If you are used to switching ways of thinking and viewpoints, you can acquire Attractive Expression (34).

An Example of Learning Patterns: Learning Design (0)

I would like to show some examples from 40 patterns of Learning Patterns. First, I would like to start the most fundamental pattern; Learning Design (0).


Learning Design

Design your learning.

  • Always when you want to learn

In complex and liquid society, it is inevitable to think how to learn.

  • Human is not able to learn everything because the time is limited.
  • There are several ways to study.
  • People who learn effectively have a knack for good learning, which is independent on their fields or themes.

Learn the `knack' of learning from the experienced learners, and design your way of learning based on them.

  • You can work on your activity with "learning patterns" which tells you the knack of effective learning.
  • First, read roughly whole patterns to understand what "learning patterns" is like, especially the first half of each pattern; pattern name, introduction, illustration, and context. It is better to remember the pattern name and the illustration.
  • Read the detail of patterns in which you are interested. In the last half of each pattern, there are description of "problem", difficulties why the problem is a hard to solve as "forces", "solution", and "actions" which are for solving the problem.
  • You can find a learning pattern according to your situation with using the list of "context".
  • Use "pattern name" of learning pattern as a common language, when you talk about learning with other students or teachers.

Design of learning is important to understand the situation you are in. This means Grasp of Community's Mind (1). Especially, understand and follow Project-Centered Learning (2), if you want to learn with excitement. As a consequence, that helps you recognize Community as "Becoming" (3). You can see the connection between your learning community and you in this way.

Practical Application of Learning Patterns

As an practical application of Learning Patterns, we have handed out the catalog of learning patterns to undergraduate students of our university. The catalog is A5 sized booklet, and the part of pattern description is designed as a double-page spread. We put some thought into designing the booklet, especially for readability and attractiveness.

The catalog was handed out to approximately 3,600 students of two faculties of Keio University, Japan. They are Faculty of Policy Management and Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, which are in Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC). These faculties have implemented an unique curriculum which is interdisciplinary and non-graded. It means all undergraduate students can study any kind of academic areas, for example social innovation, public policy, global strategy, environment, life sciences, and information studies, without reference to their grades and experience.

In addition, these faculties are aimed and designed to provide a inter-disciplinary / trans-disciplinary education for undergraduate students, beyond the conventional disciplines like economics, management, politics, literature, computer science, media art, architecture, and so on. Although the students have a wide variety of interests, we think that the shared competency in the abstract level is to create something on the frontier. A new curriculum which focus on the creativity has implemented from academic year 2007.

Therefore, the students belonging to these faculties should design their own learning, and that is why we made the learning patterns for supporting learning design.

We also open the web site for sharing Learning Patterns at http://learningpatterns.sfc.keio.ac.jp/. The site, unfortunately, is currently available only in Japanease. So I will show some examples of Learning Patterns in following posts.

July 11, 2009

Summary of Learning Patterns

Here I would like to show the summary of "Learning Patterns". Currently, learning patterns consist of 40 patterns and are organized in three layers according to the abstract level. In the top layer, there is a root pattern; Learning Design (0). In the second layer, there are three patterns; Grasp of Cimmunity's Mind (1), Project-Centered Learning (2) and Community as "Becoming" (3). In the third layer, there are thirty-six patterns as concrete `knack' of learning; Tornado of Learning (4), Academic Excitement! (5), and so on.

All 40 patterns together form a language for creative learning. We begin with the part of the language which define learning design itself. This is the fundamental and premise to use this pattern language;

0. Learning Design

Next, we shall go through the part of the language which gives you comprehensive attitude for learning;

1. Grasp of Community's Mind
2. Project-Centered Learning
3. Community as "Becoming"

Now we start the part of the language which tells how you can achieve to learn more creatively in detail. This part can be roughly divided into twelve groups of patterns, where each group consists of three patterns respectively.

First group of patterns is related to motivation and fundamental aspect of learning;

4. Tornado of Learning
5. Academic Excitement!
6. Passion for Research

Second group of patterns shows the key to start your learning;

7. First Steep
8. Mimic Learning
9. Good Learner

Third group of patterns treats how to acquire and improve your skill;

10. Embodied Learning
11. Discovery of Growth
12. Shower of Language

Forth group of patterns tells how to make your learning more interesting;

13. Output-Driven Learning
14. Prototyping
15. Learning for Fun

Fifth group of patterns reminds the significance of active effort;

16. Thinking in Action
17. Field Dive
18. Weak-Linked Encounter

Sixth group of patterns is related to the scope of learning;

19. Frontier Antenna
20. T-Shape Learning
21. Hidden Connections

Seventh group of patterns give key ideas for innovative thinking;

22. Brain Switch
23. Bird's Eye, Bug's Eye
24. Quality from Quantity

Eighth group of patterns is related to the way of going about activity and learning;

25. Self-Thinking
26. Appropriate Approach
27. Strategic Discard

Ninth group of patterns is about social aspect of learning;

28. Community of Learning
29. Release of Thoughts
30. Good Rival

Tenth group of patterns mentions how to improve your skill or works;

31. Leaning by Teaching
32. Everyday in Foreign Language
33. Start Small, Let it Grow

Eleventh group of patterns is important idea for the final phase of activity;

34. Attractive Expression
35. Writing up is Halfway
36. Acceleration to Next

Twelfth group of patterns tells the strategy for the medium and long term;

37. Self-Producing
38. Firm Determination
39. Be Extreme!

The sequence presented here is not only one possible sequence, because "A pattern language has the structure of a network"(Alexander 1977). We can capture and trace the relation among the patterns in many way. This is related to one of Alexander's significant findings that the design of a building and a town cannot be reduced to the structure of tree, but can considered as semi-lattice, namely network.

In the catalog, there are some navigations to find the patterns. One of the navigation is based on contexts of patterns. There are five categories of contexts; "at beginning", "for goal setting", "in activity", "for output", and "at dead end". Each category consists of four contexts, which indicate to related patterns respectively. Therefore the reader can find patterns that are relevant to their situation.

Another navigation in the catalog is provided in association with the curriculum of our university. Each course indicates to related patterns, therefore the student can find the patterns that are relevant to the classes they are taking.

July 10, 2009

Format of Learning Patterns

Each of Learning Patterns is written in the format which consists of following items; "Pattern Number", "Pattern Name", "Introduction", "Illustration", "Context", "Problem", "Forces", "Solution", "Actions", "Related Patterns." Especially in the catalog of learning patterns, each pattern is printed in a double-page spread, which is handed out for university student as I will mention later.
In the first half of pattern, which is printed at the left page in the catalog, the overview of the pattern is described.

At first, Pattern Number is sequential number. Pattern Name is named as attractive and memorable phrase.

Next, Introduction and Illustration is provided in order to help for the reader to imagine the meaning of the pattern lively.

Then, there is a list of when the reader can use the pattern as Context. The reader can search his/her necessary pattern from his/her context with using the context navigation.

In the last half of pattern, which is printed at the right page in the catalog, the detail of the pattern is described. At first, Problem which is often occurred is described.

Problem is emphasized in bold type. In succession to Problem, Forces are written as laws which are not able to or difficult to be changed. The difficulty to solve the problem comes from the existence of these forces, because your solution needs to meet all of them. After the Forces, the separator is placed.

Next, Solution is written in bold type. Then, in the part of Actions, more concrete advice like examples or alternatives is introduced. After the Actions, the separator is placed again.

At the last, Related Patterns are provided. Good learning is effectively achieved by combining some patterns. The reader can understand the meaning of the pattern deeper through reading the section of Related Patterns.

July 9, 2009

Learning Patterns: A Pattern Language for Active Learners

We, Learning Pattern Project, made a pattern language for active learners, which we call "Learning Patterns", and handed out the catalog of the pattern language to university students in Japan. Here I would like to introduce our attempt for supporting learners with the pattern language.

As it is well known in the scene of education, there is a difficult problem how we can teach students how to learn. It is quite easy to show the guideline to follow, however it may shut students out of the chance for thinking the way of learning themselves. In addition, there is another difficulty to provide appropriate guideline for every students who are under various situation. So, is it possible to provide something to help the students under various situation to think their way of learning? Our study of designing a new pattern language is made in order to solve the problem.

As I mentioned before, the idea and method of pattern languages was originally proposed for architectural design. We applied this idea and method to learning design in order to share a `knack' against the way of learning. We believe that the method of pattern language is good way to help the student to design their learning, because it focuses on providing a new view for the reader so that they can think. It is quite important that the method is not easy way to get the result without thinking by themselves. It is not, however, irresponsible way to leave all up to individual ability. It is considered as the way that tolerates individual ability while making a good use of abstract rules of past experience.

The patterns are mainly for the students, but they are also for the educators. The patterns will become a good tool for sharing the way of thinking. This is very heart of pattern languages. Two main advantages to use patterns are generally known. One is that it can make beginners easier to solve problems in the most effective way, since the skill acquired by experts is described. Another is that it can provide common vocabulary on the way of solving problems, therefore it makes people to mention the problems and solutions.
Thus, pattern languages can be considered as the method for supporting thinking, action, and collaboration. Our aim is also to share the tacit knowledge for learning activities.

I should note that the method of pattern language is different from how-to guides to follow. Pattern language is focused on providing a new view for the reader so that they can think, although how-to guide leads to only one "right" result. Pattern language is not easy way to get the result, but way to aware the existence of problem and the clue of the solution. Alexander pointed out that "Each solution is stated in such a way that it gives the essential field of relationships needed to solve the problem, but in a very general and abstract way --- so that you can solve the problem for yourself, in your own way, by adapting it to your preferences, and the local conditions at the place where you are making it"(Alexander 1977).

In pattern languages, each individual is expected to design his / her own way by selecting patterns and putting them together according to his / her situation. In this sense, putting patterns together does not mean to put "modularized unfinished parts" together, which can be seen in modern production system. Borrowing Alexander's words, "It may be hard to believe that one might make a work of art by simply combining patterns. It sounds almost as though there was a box of `magic' parts, so powerful, that anyone can make a beautiful thing, simply by combining them. This is absurd, because, of course, it is not possible to make something beautiful, merely by combining fixed components"(Alexander 1979).

Pattern language is not a substitute for human creativity. Pattern language is nothing but the staff to encourage thinking, action, and communication, so that each user is expected to exert their creativity. Thus, a pattern language for active learners is intended to support learners without killing their own creativity.

Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., and Silvertein, M. (1977): A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press.
Alexander, C. (1979): The Timeless Way of Building. Oxford University Press.
Learning Pattern Project (2009): Learning Patterns: A Pattern Language for Active Learners at SFC 2009, Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), Keio University