Shishi Odoshi, or Emergence vs. Threshold

I admire Jenny Mackness’ work on emergent learning. At the same time, I have problems with the focus on thresholds in her recent summary of a talk at Lancaster U.

Imagine a Shishi Odoshi (video on YouTube, image by hoffheins):

The emergent learning is like the ongoing flow which is typical for the largest part of time, before the tipping point of the seesaw is reached. By contrast, the threshold, or “Ah-ha” moment, is only the short point in time where the spectacular, loud, recognizeable event happens.

Isn’t the focus on the spectacular measurable moment a distraction on the wrong part of the emergence process? Isn’t the focus on Ah-ha moments also, in a way, restricting itself to a certain kind of knowledge: Knowledge that must be (and can be) understood in a predefined, unambiguous way, like a jig-saw puzzle piece that snaps in?

Expressed in connectivist terms, the focus on thresholds and liminal points, or portals, is looking at given points on a graph rather than at slowly strengthening connections, at places on a map rather than roads, or at nodes rather than edges. Of course, edges and nodes are inseparable. But I am uncomfortable with the emphasis, and with the idea that learning could so directly be recognized, measured, caused. I would merely hope to indirectly induce its gradual strengthening, growing, emerging.

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2 Responses to Shishi Odoshi, or Emergence vs. Threshold

  1. Hi Matthias – thanks so much for taking an interest in my post. I need to stress though that in that post, I was acting as a ‘reporter’ of Glynis Cousin’s session, rather than an interpreter, although of course, what I wrote down in my notes during the session was obviously an interpretation, by the very nature of what I selected to record and what I left out (although another point is that physically I could only note down what I was able to keep up with!)

    That said I appreciate your post and particularly love the video, a combination of art and music in the natural environment 🙂

    For me the point is not that Ah-ha moments don’t happen – they do – but can only happen when the learner is ready – based on all their past experience over many years. Sometimes the Ah-ha moment is recognisable by learner. Something does literally appear to click into place, like the jigsaw piece. The more reflective/astute learner will maybe remember the path that led to this Ah-ha moment, but for some it will simply come as a surprise.

    I don’t think this is necessarily a focus on a ‘spectacular measurable moment’, but more a fact of life/learning.

    The most recent Ah-ha moment for me was when I realised in the middle of the Academic Betreat that all my own personal learning is about my identity, trying to understand who I am. It has probably always been like this, and all my past learning experiences were probably leading me to that point – but I wasn’t so acutely aware of it until the Academic BEtreat.

    So I don’t think Ah-ha moments and emergent learning are opposed to each other.

    Do hope I haven’t missed the point here and that what I have written makes sense.


  2. x28 says:

    Yes, Jenny, it makes a lot of sense; thanks for sharing your own Ah-ha moment. As you also appreciate the “path that led to” it, we are not opposed.

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