"That's an... unusual Works Cited you got there."
November 17, 2008 11:23 AM   Subscribe

What are some unusual sources of wisdom or pedogogical tactics for learning new ideas or skills?

I'm not sure the best way to phrase this question, but...

I find that information learned through unusual means sticks better. I've occasionally come across books and websites that, while they're definitely about topic A, they are also a wonderful resource on topic B.

For example, the book Impro has a chapter on narrative that has helped me improve on my creative writing. The book The Rapper's Handbook has a clear description of rhyme--in all its forms--that helped me study the meter and rhyme of classical poetry. The website Mei Wah teaches Chinese hanzi through restaurant menus.

What are some resources that you've found helpful? I don't care what your Topic As and Topic Bs are--the more obscure the connection, the better.

I'm also interested in odd pedogogical techniques. I need something to kickstart my brain during the brainnumb of finals.
posted by ElectricBlue to Education (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Internet drama communities --> child development and attachment parenting
posted by sondrialiac at 11:39 AM on November 17, 2008

Cooking has definitely improved my in-the-head arithmetic skills. This is particularly true when I'm cutting a recipe in half or 1/3, or baking (because there tends to be a lot of measuring involved). For instance, I might convert in my head that 1/4 cup of butter = 1/2 stick = 4 Tbsp. Or I might need to figure out how many teaspoons of baking powder I need to halve a recipe that calls for 1.5 tablespoons. It's little stuff, but it keeps my brain more nimble so I'm not reaching for a calculator all the time in other areas of my life.
posted by vytae at 11:57 AM on November 17, 2008

Starting a garden has provided a beautiful, comfortable setting, and a never ending variety of still-life scenes, unexpectedly improving my photography skills. It's also forced me to think about a long list of things differently, including nutrition, climate, seasons, water, bugs, philosophy, labor, cooking, energy, self-reliance ... And, you get the freshest, best-tasting food possible.
posted by swift at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2008

No ideas about resources here, but I have a few thoughts on learning:

There is a movement in academic writing pedagogy which maintains that learning comes through doing things "we're not yet ready for" (i.e. things which we find difficult at first), according to David Bartholomae. I find this adage to be true with a lot of skills.

Also, through teaching, I've found that learning is often ahistorical. By that, I mean once you've learned something, it's difficult to remember when you didn't have that skill.

One last thing: I've found that the easiest skills to practice are the ones to which you are naturally drawn. What do you find yourself naturally doing? Do you often write lyrics and rap them all the time alone or with friends? Pretty soon, you'll find that your facility with this skill has improved.
posted by hpliferaft at 2:22 PM on November 17, 2008

Not really extensive, but: "All I ever needed to know about unit conversion, I learned from drugs."
posted by eritain at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2008

Two books that will help you write fiction: "A Practical Handbook for the Actor" and "Games People Play." Both books present simplistic (but compelling) models of human psychology.
posted by grumblebee at 3:43 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might also enjoy "The Little Schemer."

On the surface, it's a computer-programming book. In my view, it's the only book on that subject that is a work of art. It taught me how to organize a topic by starting with a tiny atomic unit and ever-so-gradually work up to great complexity.

You can get a good feel for it by going to the Amazon link, clicking "look inside" and reading the first few pages.
posted by grumblebee at 3:47 PM on November 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

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