Why Higher Order Learning is Important

Many of you know that I teach 3D CAD design for Extension.  Recently I was working on developing a 3D CAD design and within the design I needed to bend plastic….and the PLA I was working with is not flexible.  Now there are several methods out there for putting a bend in the PLA of a 3D print…and I was researching all of them.  I could just design it so that the hard plastic had a bend in it.  Or I could put a hinge, ball joint, or other type of connector in the print so that it would be bendable…and perhaps even posable…but that would require very specific tolerance calculations…and well, I wasn’t that invested in the project.  And, then it occurred to me…I could use the method that woodworkers use to bend wood.  Yep…that would be perfect….I would simply create a rectangular shape, then place little relief cuts into the rectangle so that the remaining plastic layer could be bent.  Why am I telling you about this?  Well, I was applying a concept that I had learned in woodworking to another discipline…that is one of the highest levels of learning possible.

My goal in Extension is to teach…but a more refined goal is to teach at a level where conceptual understanding is achieved.  My clients won’t just be able to follow the recipe I shared with them in a workshop…but rather, understand the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts well enough that they can be applied to new projects, new disciplines, and in new contexts.

Why is that important?  Because we don’t have the resources to be there to tell them the right answer when they need it, and it’s not enough to help people understand only one solution to the problem, but rather help them understand that every problem has multiple facets and multiple solutions, and being able to analyze the problem from all facets and selecting the best solution in each instance demonstrates the highest level of understanding (learning).   The best solution in one instance may or may not be the best solution the next time you encounter similar problems.

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