Monday, August 13, 2007

Pesky Pre-conceived notions

James Paul Gee refers to the necessity of discerning the world through preconceived notions. It is our ability to relinquish those preconceptions when inappropriate that is to be emphasized. Daniel Pink also referred to this when he said it is those who can unlearn and relearn information that will best survive. This requires learners who are operating in their Zone of Proximal Development, which Gee describes as " operating at the edge of their regime of competence" (Gee, 2003).
I had not considered the possibility that preconceived notions would be necessary, but they are. Our preconceived notion that a red burner on a stove is not something to lay our hand upon is quite useful. The preconceived notion that someone with a gun pointed at you may be dangerous may save your life.
It is when we covet those preconceived notions, refusing to relinquish them, that we are unable to adapt. If you were to covet your preconceived notion that people who speak as I do and walk as I do are also challenged intellectually, you may find yourself quickly exposed when you attempt to use a forbidden computer application at school. Many an unsuspecting student has fallen into the trap that way!
Or if you cannot quickly relinquish your preconceived notions that all people in wheelchairs are not able to do physics, Mr. Hawkings' discovery of black holes may flow right over your head.
Don't forget that holding onto the preconceived notion that those with rare diseases will not prosper or be creative will rob you of the pleasure of listening to a world class flautist.
So I was hasty it appears. Preconceived notions are necessary. It is our capacity to relinquish and learn something new that is vital.
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Gee, J.P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pink, D.H. (2005). A Whole New Mind. New York, N.Y.: Riverhead Books.

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