Observation as a Powerful Learning Tool

Teaching 3D Modeling to Street Children

Observation can be a very powerful method for learning. I remember that I was once teaching a young girl how to use SketchUp, a 3D modeling software program. This was part of a support program for street children. I had been teaching her how to use the program for several days by then. During that day, another new street girl was with us in the same room. She did not appear as deeply focused on what we were doing on the computer but I discovered later on that she was observing us keenly.

After a short while, this new street girl told me that she as well wanted to use that 3D modeling program. I told her OK but after I am finished with the first girl. I then asked the first girl to leave her seat from in front of the computer and invited the other new girl, who had been observing us, to take her place.

Power of Observation

I was just about to explain to the new girl the very basics of using the 3D modeling program when I was surprised by her reaction: she asked me not to tell her anything and said that she will be able to use the program on her own! I tried to convince her that she will need some help at the beginning so that she can learn how to use the program. She insisted that she is just fine and can use it on her own without any help from me. Failing to convince her, I left her alone to use the program and I was sure she would soon be asking for my help.

I was wrong, for I was in for another surprise. This new girl was able to use the software to create 3D models which were way better than the ones the first girl had been creating. She was able to do so without any help on my side. She had only been observing the first girl for a short while while the first girl had been receiving one on one instruction from me for several sessions!

I admit that this new girl was talented, for she was also good at drawing, yet the progress she made in learning how to use that 3D modeling program was outstanding.

Learning Styles

Observation on its own can be a very powerful source of learning. It should be noted here though that people have different learning styles. A girl that has been spending most of her time roaming the streets, rather than getting any formal education, would be developing the skill of learning by observation out of necessity. In contrast, a girl being taught at school using direct instruction might find it difficult to learn something new without direct help from a teacher.

Is there something you first learned solely through observation? What was it? Tell us the story.

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