I happened to pick up a book The Journey is the Destination this week, the title of which touches on my experience at Makers so far. It is an incredible collage-diary of a young photojournalist called Dan Eldon and his global explorations (sadly his life was cut short at 22 – but what a life!). There’s a lot of amazing photography and art, which is about all the culture I have time for right now.
Something that has become fully apparent to me only this week at MA is that the process of learning at Makers is itself the destination of learning. In other words, part of the challenge is to learn how to learn. But what does that really mean? They way I see it is that when you’re learning anything new there is a constant tension between what you understand and what you don’t yet understand. Being a good learner is about effectively managing this tension. If you go crashing into the unknown too recklessly, you’re going to get stuck in a myriad of things you don’t understand. This is dispiriting and the reason a lot of learners just give up.
The challenge as a student at MA is to carefully control how you advance in building with new and unfamiliar technology. Often what seems like a small step leads you into the thicket of non-understanding and you have to back out again to take even smaller steps and figure out exactly where it was that things didn’t go how you expected them to. The staff at MA are excellent at coaching students on this incremental journey, not giving up the answer but helping to clarify what’s at stake in each line of code. Eventually this process will be second nature.
Sometimes, however, a problem comes along that is completely beyond your experience and brings progress to a complete standstill. My pair partner and I had this on Thursday when, weirdly, our Cucumber tests of our Battleships game were going green (that’s a good thing) but when we loaded up our the website, we weren’t seeing what we expected to see. It turned out that it was to do with the program we were using to run the website, which was different to the program that the testing software uses. That this might make a difference hadn’t occurred to us and probably in a different context we would have given up. Fortunately we had an MA coach on hand :-).