Dark Room Metaphor

From Weekly I/O#60

Dark Room Metaphor: Learning is a process of reconstruction (Constructionism), not transmission(Instructionism). Creating our mental 3D model of a room by exploring it in the dark is a slower but more effective learning method than being shown a picture of the room.

Article: Constructionism and the Future of Learning

In education, a common approach to teaching is called "Instructionism", which assumes students are like blank papers to be filled with knowledge through proper instruction by teachers. This metaphor is widely-accepted because, culturally, we see knowledge as being transmitted from one to another and passed down through the generations.

However, this approach fails to acknowledge that learning can be a process of reconstruction rather than transmission. "Constructionism" is a newer approach to education that focuses on letting students actively build their own understanding of the world. This approach is based on the metaphor of knowledge as a map, which students create by exploring their environment and making sense of what they find.

A better way to understand learning is through the "Dark Room" metaphor. Learning is like exploring a dark room, where you slowly build up a mental map of the room through fumbling and exploring. This process of constructionism allows students to create their own 3D model of knowledge in their minds, which they can manipulate freely later. On the other hand, instructionism is more like being shown a picture of the room. While it might provide faster understanding, this knowledge is more fragile and less likely to enable the Transfer of Learning (#54.2).

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