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What we should learn at school and artificial intelligence


Informal teaching
Richard Gregory Scientist
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There is a movement towards informal teaching and, in fact, science centres have informal teaching from the Exploratorium in San Francisco, where people are simply in an environment where they can play about, much as the scientist does actually with gadgets, with books, with ideas, and learn for themselves, but we have to be a little bit careful about this. I mean it would be ridiculous to expect anybody to recover the history of science in their own lifetime by their own endeavour, that in actual practice to do any sort of simple learning or science by self experimenting you need to have background knowledge, you need to know how to interpret the results of the phenomena that you see, and in my view phenomena do not speak for themselves. You can have, let’s say, a flash of lightening, it’s a wonderful phenomenon we can all agree it happens, you can then get the thunder a few seconds later, okay, why is it delayed, what is the thunder, how is it related to the flash? Now, unless you’ve got some sort of conceptual model, no way can you see how thunder is related to lightening. I mean is it the gods attacking us, which people used to think, or something naughty going on in a village and the village steeple gets struck by lightening in the middle of the night, or is it charges like an electric-static generator moving up through the air and stuff, you know, a completely different story? In other words, you need guidance for individual thinking, at the same time the individual thinking ultimately feeds into the system and changes the- what’s called the paradigm and the general way of thinking about the subject but the point I’m making is this, that the individual can do very little alone. You need the paradigm, the general way of thinking, the kind of phenomenon that this might be, you need to have understanding of how to test the ideas, it’s really a cooperative business, I think, learning. At the same time, it’s nice to provide a situation where people can do their own thing and I believe there’s a whole bunch of issues here that need much more thinking out than we’ve ever done and I think this is one reason why education is a mess. This relationship, you know, between individual endeavour in discovery and learning and then how far is it a shared activity, I think is something we need to think much more about in my view, really, for schools, universities, for living one’s life.

The late British psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, Richard Gregory (1923-2010), is well known for his work on perception, the psychology of seeing and his love of puns. In 1978 he founded The Exploratory, an applied science centre in Bristol – the first of its kind in the UK. He also designed and directed the Special Senses Laboratory at Cambridge which worked on the perceptual problems of astronauts, and published many books including 'The Oxford Companion to the Mind', 'Eye and Brain' and 'Mind in Science'.

Listeners: Sally Duensing Adam Hart-Davis

Sally Duensing currently is involved in perception exhibition work and research on science and society dialogue programmes and is working with informal learning research graduate students and post-docs at King's College, London. In 2000 she held the Collier Chair, a one-year invited professorship in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Bristol, England. Prior to this, for over 20 years she was at the Exploratorium, a highly interactive museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco where she directed a variety of exhibition projects primarily in fields of perception and cognition including a large exhibition on biological, cognitive and cultural aspects of human memory.

Born on 4 July 1943, Adam Hart-Davis is a freelance photographer, writer, and broadcaster. He has won various awards for both television and radio. Before presenting, Adam spent 5 years in publishing and 17 years at Yorkshire Television, as researcher and then producer of such series as Scientific Eye and Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers. He has read several books, and written about 25. His latest books are Why does a ball bounce?, Taking the piss, Just another day, and The cosmos: a beginner's guide. He has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He is a keen supporter of the charities WaterAid, Practical Action, Sustrans, and the Joliba Trust. A Companion of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, an Honorary Member of the British Toilet Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Dyers and Colourists, and Merton College Oxford, and patron of a dozen charitable organizations, Adam has collected thirteen honorary doctorates, The Horace Hockley Award from the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, a Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Medal from the Institute of Incorporated Engineers, and the 1999 Gerald Frewer memorial trophy of the Council of Engineering Designers. He has no car, but three cycles, which he rides slowly but with enthusiasm.

Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2006

Date story went live: 02 June 2008