Some ideas just rattle around the grey matter until something triggers a reminder.

Bud Hunt wrote yesterday with a fine metaphor On Constraints, Road Maps, and Driving Directions as he thinks about how to balance the structure vs looseness in curriculum design:

One way that’s productive in thinking about constraints that are helpful and still provide for choice is the metaphor of road maps. The decisions we make that constrain possibilities are those that create the universe, or the map, where a project or learning experience can occur. We might choose a single town, or a county. Maybe a state or an ocean. And anything outside the boundary of that particular map is, well, out of bounds. When we constrain a learning experience, we hand students a map, and help them see where, at least for the moment, the boundaries are.

The territory left open on the map is available for exploration. Students can pick a path or feature or two (or three or four) and venture off to explore in more depth.

But we don’t help our students if, after providing the map, we also give them the turn by turn directions to get them from point A to point B. If we do that, then why provide a map at all?

(This may leave open the Korzybski question of the map not being the territory but that’s not where I’m going).

I did write a longish comment on Bud’s blog that leaves room more as a post here (also so I can at least have it my own memory castle).

Think how in many parts of our lives we are relying now on automated technological solutions, some for time saving. The one people reach for is hoe people no longer use map skills and put their trust in wayfinding into GPS directions or what our mobile map apps can tell us. As someone who studied Geology, I resisted the GPS for year… until I had to drive through downtown LA. It did help a lot. And was better than me trying to look at maps while driving.

Yet I find with a GPS I also have to have enough intuition to know when to override its suggestions, or at least pull over and consult another source. When driving through cities I do not know, in the interest of paying attention, I put a lot of faith in the directions the device tells me

On my road trips, I turn it on even when I know where I am going as a way of estimating my time of arrival. So last summer, on a long road trip Colorado (where I finally got to meet Bud in person for the first time)

I typically wait to turn on the GPS until I need it, and the route I tool was pretty much the most direct show (north to I-40, all the way east to Albuquerque. I use the GPS w/ volume muted just to help me keep a ballpark estimate on arrival time (especially when dealing with time zone crossings).

When I approached Payson, the nearest town I visit for shopping, I was rather surprised at how the GPS gave me directions that I know were longer or took me through more traffic congested areas. If I did not have some experience, I would have taken the automatic advice.

Blue is GPS recommended route; red is Alan's experience on what route is better

Blue is GPS recommended route; red is Alan’s experience on what route is better

The blue route is along the main streets in town, south on Highway 87 then east 260, and passes through about 7 lights and nearly always traffic congestion.

But from knowing the area, I took the bypass on Tyler parkway (shown in red), that has zero lights and almost no traffic. It’s also more scenic.

Or when I drive north the Flagstaff mobile apps or GPS always want to send me up on the interstate, I-17 when I know from experience that the drive up Forest Road 2 is not only more scenic, there’s almost no traffic on it.

I found this was an interesting experience to see what the suggestions from map devices offered for places I know well. Now that said, when I think about it, the algorithms for picking the best route from one part to another, especially across state lines or way across the country, is a large feat.

But still it has me consider the benefits of automation, and how much trust you want to put into it. It’s not about always trusting the GPS or always trusting my map ability, the territory seems to be somewhere in between.

Top / Featured Image credits: flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

If this kind of stuff has any value, please support me monthly on Patreon or a one time PayPal kibble toss
Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *