Metaphors be with you

The other day my sister called me to complain about a Photoshop class that she is taking. She said that the instructor catered to a few students, went too fast and used a lot of jargon and geek-speak. Now, I know that my sister is no slouch and that she should be able to succeed in this class. I began to ask her what and how he is teaching, which got me reflecting on the use of metaphors in learning. Howard Gardner writes about learning and multiple intelligences and how each type of intelligence has its’ own nomenclature and dialect, such as the dialect of art, the dialect of music, or the dialect of science. Metaphors can act as translation devices for translating and interpreting an idea from one type of intelligence to another. Photoshop for example is a complex and powerful application with tools and processes that may seem familiar but are unique to this application and can be confusing to the novice user and learner. The use of metaphors from other disciplines can help build bridges for understanding the icons, tools and processes of the application.Perhaps this is like inserting poetry into the science of technology. I began to review the class material with my sister using metaphors and descriptors that were fairly jargon-free (or at least jargon-lite), such as comparing the layers palette as overlaying layers of glass, each with a portion of a complete image. She got it. It made me think of how the instructor was working. There may be good intentions, but he may be more in love with his words rather then the learners grasp of the material. But to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may also be so enthusiastic with the material that he overlooks the primary goal, which is to empower the learner to learn.

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