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Intellectual Metabolism

Posted by kevinwolz on October 23, 2010

This semester, I am very involved with education reform, particularly in engineering with iFoundry. Problems in this arena can be very complex and dynamic, and I have looked at them from every perspective…at least that’s what I though until I realized that I was missing the most important one! HOW WOULD NATURE DO IT?

I firmly believe that nature holds the answers to all of our problems, both technical and not, and I have begun to apply this approach in everything from my academic plan to my life’s goals. If you haven’t seen it already, check out this lecture I gave that explains my philosophy and how I got there.

I have no idea how I managed to overlook application of this approach to one of my main activities for the semester! So, now I am. A central question in education reform is: How do students learn/create, and how can we optimize conditions for them to thrive? Below is a metaphor for this intellectual process as biological metabolism:

Colored words, along with the shapes and arrows, represent a broad view of the most basic metabolic pathway. Black words indicate the metaphorically parallel intellectual processes.

For example, the green object is a chloroplast, the center of photosynthesis in plants. The chloroplast represents a student, and photosynthesis represents learning. Elsewhere, the sugar cube shows sugar as a byproduct of photosynthesis and an input for respiration. This represents “knowledge”, which, in my metaphor, is a result of the learning process and is necessary for innovation/creation.

The biological processes are concrete, although very simplified for this initial scheme. The metaphor, however, is my own subjective view. I really want to develop this further… it would be awesome if we could create metaphor for everything, down to individual enzymes.

Anyone interested in developing a more detailed view of this? I’d love to hear feedback from everyone! Biologists, what other metabolic processes can easily be brought in? Teachers/students, what relationships aren’t quite right? Everyone, how do you learn/teach?

Coming soon: The Educational Ecosystem

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6 Responses to “Intellectual Metabolism”

  1. Roger said

    Kevin, I like this a lot. I don’t understand it completely but I see some of Leonardo’s thinking in this process. I think it has potential for opening a new line of thought about the learning process. Keep adapting and inputing, and don’t be discouraged by traditional education thinking, change is always resisted, your on to something here. Rog

  2. Bruce said

    Kevin, This is thoughtful, and I like the direction you are taking. An aspect to think about: I believe that learning causes change, in fact learning has not occurred unless there is change. In most (all?) cases that means a permanent change in he learner. So does photosynthesis adequately capture that dimension of learning? Also, is there a way to represent the pivotal role of motivation in learning? Maybe the light/sun serves as motivation in the form of passion? And what about contextual shift – ie, applying something you have learned in a new setting (a shift in context)? Keep up the great work! – Bruce

  3. Karen said

    Interesting perspective Kevin. I will really have to think about this to further understand! Biologist – scientist…. I am not, but the similarities that you have drawn are quite thought provoking!

  4. April said

    Kevin Wolz!

    I’m so very overly interested in this especially because it has to do with my area of study and profession. But you’re gonna have to explain some of your theory to me. We must talk soon… Maybe I’ll see you this weekend.

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