Watch the demolition (unbuilding) of the Grace and Pearman Bridges (old Cooper River Bridges)

The Bridge Blog
A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages

Overview. Schools and universities are all about learning - and learning is mostlly brain training. Learning is expedited by repetition and forgetting is expedited by infrequent use of learned skills or information. Tracking the building of the Ravenel Bridge and now tracking the demolition of the Grace and Pearman Bridges bring many questions to me and help me better understand the role Google and the Internet play in just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity chasing and learning.

Many young learners do not understand the importance of repetition. More important, while experienced learners understand the learning process they often do not realize the destructive effects of the forgetting process. Over the course of the bridge project, I have access to only a few experts. Rather than a liability, this has become an asset and pushed me to improve my search skills with Google. Soon, I realized that answers to questions encountered during my photo adventures were often only a Google-search away. Gene Stead, my first boss and I put these ideas together in a small essay: (see Restoring the Joy in Learning).

Google + Internet have become dependable extensions of my memory. Insights I gain from you and this project will find their way into the learning centers in our schools and universities.

Thu, 15 Dec 2005

December 15, 2005: Something to think about.

A holiday message from Ellen and myself to all of y'all.

Many folks do not have the possibility to see something that is often somewhat off limits. For me, the opportunity to look over the shoulders, initially of Wade, Peo and Marvin with PBC and now the Cashmen guys, the Testa guys and their subcontractors, specifically Mickey Rogers and his ABS team has been unique. It is appropriate during this holiday season to share with you something that is deeply personal for me. Yesterday, my wife found Unbuilding at Ground Zero and Rebuilding in Iraq and I found it so relevant to the unbuilding story that is unfolding here in Charleston, that I want to share it with you. The essay is an interesting assessment of William Langewiesche’s American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center. The focus of these works is on problem solving - and more important, spontaneous problem solving within the unbuilding trades.

I have been impressed, which is an understatement, at the problem solving skills of all the team members that are working on the Charleston Project whether excavator operator, iron worker, burners, supervisors, drivers (whether truck or crew boat) and the engineering staff. Mickey, Pio, John, Neil, Paul, Ken, Joe, Ponch and many many others have provided me with a small look at their world and the daily challenges they face. From time to time, I have pointed out their innovative approaches to a number of problems - at least as seen from my perspective (remember, I am trained as an electrical engineer, so all of this is new to me).

When unbuilding something, one does not know what is hiding under the roadbed until it is revealed. I believe successful unbuilders self select themselves because they are really good problem solvers. From my vantage point as a university faculty member, conveying to junior learners the problem solving and critical thinking skills we have acquired over our career is evident in the building and unbuiding trades but, I feel, is often overlooked within our primary, secondary and university educational systems.

These guys pass their insights, seemingly effortlessly, from generation to generation. Apprenticeship education and learning by example at its best. As we enter a new era of learning where the Internet flattens our world, makes impossible friendships possible and provides a way for like-minded folks to interact with each other, it seems to me that we need to also take lessons from serious card-carrying unbuilders and develop an understanding of how they transfer their skills to junior learners. It is time for our formal educational system to look critically at how the informal educational system that I have observed within the building and unbuilding community works - and explore ways to strengthen our interactions with our new friends and colleagues.

A special thanks from Ellen and myself to Michael, Tina, Richie, Kathy, Jack, Pio, John, Neil, Mickey, Joe, Ken and Ponch for opening my eyes! (And apologies to all the others that I did not name.)

posted at: 13:59 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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