Guided Tour and Prerequisites of Learning LO20546

Leo Minnigh (
Tue, 2 Feb 1999 15:09:14 +0100 (MET)

Replying to LO20522 --

Dear LO'ers, dear Doug,

Perhaps I have triggered your speleological experiences, so that we could
enjoy from it. But you triggered something with me too:

On Fri, 29 Jan 1999, Douglas Max wrote:

> Another metaphor along the lines of Leo's 'Allegory of the Cave.'
> Since I've explored many wild caves, it was really a self-guiding
> exploration. But, before I went in, I studied caving, talked with cavers,
> and went with friends I trusted with my life. I was guided to make sure I
> carried three light sources and other emergency the
> exploration was sure to net a safe outcome...namely, my coming out of the
> cave!

We can learn from someone with experiences from praxis!
Keywords: selfguidence, emergency supplies and friends. In harsh
circumstances, friends (a team) are vital.

> Applying this to learning (Leo allowed abstractions thankfully), perhaps
> another method of guiding people to learn is simply to make sure they know
> enough to not get into trouble. I work hard to create that environment in
> my classes, I suspect you do also.

Well, maybe this is a too simple definition of the role of a guide: not to
get in trouble, how to survive. But in the context it is for 90% true. It
has to do with the safety equipment and its use. However, for discovering
and exploring new paths something else is necessary: curiosity. Is
curiosity something which is included in the 90%?
My first thoughts on the safety equipment were:

Tacit knowledge, the collected experience

But has Doug also other things in mind?

I don't like so much the survival attitude. It reminds me of the survival
of the fittest, living on behalf of the goods of others without feed back,
the hard laws of life in the Brazilian favelas or in the South African
townships. It is staying without progress. However, I am sure that Doug
had other things in mind. For a survival the following might be handy:
food & drinks, first-aid kit (with medicine, plasters, bandages); some
others are naturally pachydermal (thick skinned), others need helmets,
special cloths, or even a suit of armour (harness).

> I'm not sure how this all falls into place, but I'm thinking that on top
> of thinking of the guide outside us, pushing or pulling, that we should be
> sure to equip our learning 'charges' with enough 'safety equipment' so
> that they can guide themselves from within. By failing to provide that
> dependence on a guide, learners will be forced to call on all their senses
> while they explore. Perhaps an incomplete allegory (I'm not Plato,
> afterall!), but certainly another thought about where another, most
> valuable guide, might be positioned.

Doug too, is not sure. But Doug proposes another topic: selfguidence. No
other guide is required, and no pushing or pulling. The guide is in your
But Doug, is this not what learning is? On this list we had an earlier
discussion related to Problem solving and Systems thinking: LO20274 (At de
Lange) and LO20331 (in which I referred to science maps). For the sake of
memory, I copied a small part of At's message:

> To avoid this stagnation, we must open
> ourselves up to more and more topics. But we have to do it along a web
> and not haphazardously. Thus we need a web which encompass all of
> reality. "Entropy production" affords us one possible way to trace
> this entire web.

At described nicely how the guide in our selves should work.
It is mapping. A very systematic way of exploration and memorising the
results on a piece of paper. Great discoveries have been made. Think of
the first microscopes and the discovery of the bloodcells.

Doug continues:
> If you'd care to chime in on this theme, perhaps you can help translate
> redundant light sources, rope, first-aid kit...into the safety equipment
> for learners.
> Cordially,
> Doug

Maybe it was your last word, Doug: "cordially" that stimulated my
thinking. I am not sure if you have used this word with some intention.
But I took it literary, as if you guided me along a cord through a dark
cave. It has the feeling of umbilical cord.

It brought me to the different types of guides (which could be inside
yourself, as well as someone else). Some of these guides need special

* Guide for the escape route
If someone is looking for the way to return to the base, one needs
sometimes special equipment. Tom Thumb used bread crums, Ariadne a cord.
When we surf on the Internet, we will now and then use the "GO"-button, or
the bookmarks. Sometimes, when we explore in a known area, we could make
use of a map.

* Wandering around, without a purpose
The guide involved in this way of exploration is probably not a good one.
Especially if he was not aware of the importance of the former guide (the
escape route). However, sometimes great discoveries could be made. It is
the ultimate serendipity of finding the Rosetta Stone. Of course the guide
must keep his eyes and mind open, to recognise such finding as a
descovery. In August of this year it is exactly 200 years ago that this
precious piece of basalt was found by the Frenchman Bouchard. A couple of
years later it was the Frenchman Champollion who discovered (based on
previous work of the Englishman Young) that the hieroglyphs are based on
three principles: alphabetic, syllabic, and determinative.

* The guide in search for the paradise (a predetermined goal)
Maybe Columbo is a good example. He was in search for a proof of a
spherical Earth. It was a great risk he made. Travelling constantly
towards the west (using a compass and a sextant), he should return at his
base. Again, by accident he discovered something unexpected: the Americas.
Because he made maps, he was able to find his way back.
When Armstrong set foot on the moon, it was a great day. But have you seen
the equipment for survival?

* Following a track with unknown destination
Livingstone in search for the source of the Nile, followed some tracks. He
discovered by accident the Victoria falls.

Every type of guide, every way of exploration has resulted in discoveries.
New areas of knowledge.
But the essential is an open mind, open senses, and thus curiosity.
We could learn by going in greater detail, or we could learn by covering a
larger area. This is the eternal dilemma: the scientist who knows more and
more of less and less, untill he knows everything of nothing; or the
philosopher who knows less and less of more and more, intill he knows
nothing of everything (by heart cited from John Ziman). We could discover
Europe by a trip of two weeks, visiting all the historical cities,
consuming hundreds of kilometres, or we could stay for two weeks on 10
square metres on a beach of Saint Tropez consuming hundreds of sand
grains. In both cases there is still a lot to discover.

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>