Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pre-assessment, "How People Learn"

"Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives...most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity...[and] when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life."

“… flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
When and where in your life have you experienced learning experiences or activities like this, where you were so absorbed in what you were doing, you needed no extrinsic motivation to continue? When do you feel the most alive and interested in what you are doing?

I've always been driven by activities that engage my imagination, my sense of wonder, or both:

When I was a child I would play with my brother and my cousin with our stuffed animals, crafting elaborate stories of adventure and epic battles between good and evil. I have spent much of my time in the ensuing years as a storyteller; even now, I devote a large amount of my free time to creating a biweekly podcast for my fiction. It makes no money for me, but it is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I enjoy acting and cooking, both of which give me chances to create something new and interesting out of "raw" components. And I enjoy playing guitar, which gives me a chance to use my hands to make something beautiful.

My sense of wonder has always been well-developed. I remember going to aquariums and staring for hours at those creatures from another world; when we went to EPCOT Center, I was so entranced by "The Living Seas" that I didn't want to leave. Planetariums and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX evoked a similar feeling of awe. As I got older, I felt the same way about visiting museums, watching plays, walking through redwood forests, and reading novels, especially science fiction and fantasy. If someone can give me a glimpse of another world and populate it with interesting people (with interesting problems), I get sucked in really easily. I don't get to read as often as I would like, but there are some authors who I make appointments for: Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, J. K. Rowling, Orson Scott Card, George R. R. Martin. When one of their books comes out, I drop everything else and devour it, sinking myself back into the world of those characters I've come to love so much.

Those are the two big requirements for "flow" for me: the chance to be creative, or the chance to encounter something new, awesome (in the older sense of the word), or wondrous.

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