So, tangential learning. Tangential Learning is is process in which a individual will self educate themselves on a topic they enjoy, often times without really knowing it. I found out about Tangential Learning rather ironically. I heard it being mentioned in a weekly video blog I really enjoy (Extra Credits) and I searched the internet for more information about it. Thus I learned about tangential learning through tangential learning. (Somewhere there is an English teacher cringing)
One example of this type of learning is the movie 300. In it's own right it is in no way educational, but after people watched the movie how many were interested enough that they looked up who the real 300 were? Even if it was a very small percentage of the population that's still thousands of people who now know about an important part of history that was never taught in school.
So why isn't it used more? Well from what I've found it is very hard method to implement because it relies on the individual being interested on the subject. We're not all the same so we aren't always going to enjoy the same stuff. It is also very difficult to fit into a ridged curriculum since it is free form in nature. If you try and guide it then it turns into a research project. A normal research project in a class is strait forward, “learn about X”. Where Tangential Learning doesn’t push the individual in any particular direction. Instead one individual may learn something completely different then another.
A good example of this is that a few days ago a started to look up a substitute for chocolate since my older sister has decided that she can't eat it (among other things.). What I found was the carob seed, a middle eastern plant that tastes like chocolate but doesn’t have the caffeine or theobromine that chocolate does. I have no idea if she can have carob still but one thing I did learn is that back in late Roman times the solid gold coin known as the solidus weighed 24 carob seeds (4.5 grams) and as a result it became a measure of purity of gold. Translating now into 24 carat gold. So through looking for a chocolate substitute I learned why gold is weighed in carats, even though it was not my original research goal.
So how could we use this in a class room? Well first I think it would work best in an English class. I would have the students write a 10 page essay on one topic the choose and everything the learn about that topic. The reason why a chose an English class is that is allows for the marking of the paper in a traditional form while leaving the students to learn something not in the curriculum. The essay should be long and not a short one this assignment is not designed for the student to research a topic, but what they learned about a topic. I would not write an essay on the carob plant but what I learned about it. That it spawned a unit of measurement, that it can be used instead of chocolate, that it is not toxic to animals and why. (Yes I did mention that above, just not with those words)
The other way to use tangential learning is to plant a name or a symbol in a movie, book or game. Such as in a movie if one character has a sword named Excalibur (we all know that one) and the other has a sword named Dojigiri Yasutsuna, logic would dictate that the other sword has some real world presence as well. The viewer might then go look this up and learn something they didn't know before. It's very difficult to do this without being too blunt and heavy handed but with a little practice this is a learning method that can be greater utilized in and out of the classroom to great effect.
That's all for now, I'll get to interactive video modeling next week.
And now for a question,which are the additive primary colors and which are the subtractive primary colors? (Look this one up)