Analogies are powerful tools to explain complex or new ideas in a way that we already understand. Many of us remember learning about the parts of a cell and that the “mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell”. I don’t remember much more than that, but the comparison of the organelle to a power plant had always stuck with me. Decades later, I still know that ATP is produced through the krebs cycle in cellular respiration (without using Google). That’s the power of an analogy.
When discussing our Maker Learning Matrix, I like using an analogy of American football:
Discovery: Football runs deep here in Green Bay. We started young in backyard games – the rules were pretty lax. In the winter we played “snow-bank football” on the cul-de-sac. It was two-hand-touch on the road, but if we were close enough to the side of the road we could tackle into the snow bank. Lack of judgement was often on display. But we were exploring. We were tinkering with the pieces and parts of the game that appealed to us. All the while, our interest and excitement for the game was building.
Apprenticeship: Building on the analogy – we watched star players closely. We’d try to do what they do. As we grew we learned from coaches and other players. We worked out and conditioned. We drilled to learn to pass, catch, tackle and block. There really wasn’t room for creativity here – we were building skills from directive exercises. And we brought those skills into our practices and games.
Personal Development: I wasn’t a graceful kid. Some of my friends could catch the ball over their shoulder so gracefully without breaking stride. I tried hard, but I could never do it well. But when I ran the ball, no one could tackle me. I’d have other kids hanging all over me trying to bring me to the ground, but I just kept moving forward. I realized that I had my own specialty. And I started to focus on that. I built my strength, my speed and my ability to hold tight to the ball. I became the go-to fullback when we absolutely needed that 2 yard gain for a first down.
Collaboration: So I had something that I could offer to the team. Not only could I get needed short yardage, but I could block well and clear a pretty good path for our speedy halfback or our quarterback to throw the ball. They made the glorious big plays – in part to me contributing my strengths along with everyone else using theirs. We collaborated to solve the problem lined up in front of us play-by-play. Throughout the game we’d run plays, revise on them and built on what was working. You couldn’t have told us then – but we were using design thinking full on!
Scrimmaging: The analogy gets pretty literal here as I borrowed the term right from the sport. Scrimmaging is the actual act of playing the game in a practice situation. We are “prototyping” plays and testing in realistic situations for areas of improvement, and iterating. We could stop the action at any time and discuss what happened, make quick adjustments and try again. Rapid prototyping brings rapid innovation.
Can you create an analogy of the Maker Learning Matrix in your area of focus? I’m willing to bet you can. And the very act of trying may point out some areas in which you might consider spending a little more time.