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The Warsaw Education Triptych
Perfecting the mind
Knowledge is a competence of the mind, which from sensual experiences creates the subjective world of abstract notions and sensations. These are to a lesser or greater degree related to the real world and verified in contacts with the surroundings. A test of the credibility of the model of reality created is the possibility of the functioning of an organism in a given environment.
The relations between the fitness of the mind that processes information flowing from the outside and the physical environment determined the evolutionary success of species and the lives of individuals, and in the case of humans also the success of civilization. The significance of connections between the mind and its capacities for abstract thinking and space has determined the line of development at all stages of biological evolution up to the level of man. The human mind, thanks to developed abilities for abstract perception of reality, has biologically conquered not only the barrier of the gravitation pull of the Earth and the vacuum of outer space, but also the barriers of scale, creating through intellectual cognition models of the quantum and intergalactic worlds. This way it settled new spaces.
The mind, as an activity of the brain, is determined by evolution and encoded genetically, but develops in each and every one of us as a result of stimulation by environmental stimuli. The shaping and effective activity of our minds depends on conscious caring about their development and fitness – both biological and intellectual. Learning is one of the significant elements that develop our mental fitness. How can one effectively educate and become educated without knowledge of the principles of the basic mechanisms of the functioning of our brain and not utilizing their potential in practice?
In the beginning there is an idea
The idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych – being part of the package Project Warsaw – is a model of a project that is at the same time scientific, educational and social, which connects the fitness of the mind, including knowledge, with the real space closest to the body, that is on the human scale. For pupils of Warsaw schools such a space, in the human dimension, is broadly understood Warsaw.
The project is being drawn up for schools from the primary level to universities. Although this is about schools, one should be aware that in a few years their graduates, as adults, will be running Warsaw. The program, and its consequences that reach into the future, go far beyond the stage of being a pupil.
The project is based on the assumption that learning, that is activating the network of neurons and developing synaptic connections in the brain, the creation of connections in the form of simple relations, should not be limited to passive consumption and passive remembering of information, followed by building pyramids of knowledge in separation from reality. Such remembered information in most cases resembles collections stored in archives, logically but statically arranged in bookcases, on shelves, packed into drawers. More pieces of information supplementing the data sets accumulated so far can be introduced. A set of information does not mean, however, that we are able to understand it and make use of its contents in practice. With static, well-ordered sets it is even more difficult to spontaneously form a network of mutual relations and connections creating new, hitherto not yet existing values. Knowledge in fit minds, exercised from the first years of life, should dynamically create, together with new pieces of information, increasingly new relations, not as much as by demolishing routine orderliness, but by searching for new ones, leading to the formulation of creative associations. When acquiring new skills and knowledge we should not allow the losing of earlier ones – acquired knowledge should not cause the disappearance of inborn natural perceptiveness, which, without being consciously and actively exercised fades with age and years of… education. Continuous confrontation with reality, amongst others, should be a factor activating our knowledge and making our memory fitter. Earning should thus not be limited to the accumulation of knowledge, but consist in exercising the mobility of the mind, active building of creative associations and utilizing the information acquired.
In school and academic teaching there is too frequently and too heavy focus on remembering definitions as such, unconnected with real space and experience. The human mind is capable of directly remembering abstractions, but should not lose connections with the real world.
The essence of processing, remembering, imparting contents, verifying the meaning of information and the creating of awareness is one of the more interesting phenomena taking place in the space of the brain that is sectioned off from the environment .One of the processes of learning and remembering is the formation of various kinds of associations. These can be generated in the mind simple, multi-sensoric associations, with additional pieces of information: remembered image, sound, smell or some independent event or logical cause-effect continuums accompanying a given piece of information. Attempting to link acquired knowledge to real space not only increases the fitness of the mind as such and its store of knowledge but also allows the organism as a whole to intellectually and physically conquer and settle space. The space of Warsaw, or of any other given environment in which we live, has to be conquered is only through getting to know it. Passive living in it is not sufficient.
Cerebral associations with space
The project Warsaw Education Triptych and the program for its execution are addressed not only to pupils of Warsaw schools. It can be a universal teaching in combination with any given space. The universal nature of the idea of the project enables theoretical and abstract information z lessons and textbooks to be activated in the mind by connecting them directly to the real space of our own town or region – it teaches the skill of correlating textbook knowledge with the real world. This is not a means for verifying our knowledge but also a way for remembering and associating the contents of information with the real objects they relate to. The objective of the project becomes not only increasing the effectiveness of teaching but at the same time pointing out the practical dimension of knowledge acquired. As a result the pupil should from the first grades be conscious of the value of his or her work, both intellectual and emotional. This allows determining the goals of activity and giving one’s work sense. This is accompanied by increased self-reliance of the pupils, the building of relations with one’s place of living and in effect, the formation of local societies.
Confrontation of acquired knowledge and the model of reality formed by the mind with the real world is the more effective, the more diverse the data sets and the procedures used for their processing. We can then talk about the role of the multidimensionality of information. That is why in the project Warsaw Education Triptych focus is also on the creation of multidisciplinary connections. The atomization and specialization of knowledge, which is what the teaching of subjects boils down to, is proposed to be replaced by an interdisciplinary task model. Such a model of education does not disturb or restrict the binding program basics in effect in schools, to which teachers are used to. It is, however, a more effective way of teaching.
The connection of information to space through the building of a network of interdisciplinary connections, analogous to the structure of the functioning of neuron networks, because this is the way the proposals of lessons outlined in the teaching guides and course notes, guarantees much more efficient and more complete assimilation of not only knowledge, but also access to it and the building of competence for its utilization.
The premises of the Warsaw Education Triptych refer not only to intelligence at the level of consciousness that arose in the course of evolution just several score thousand years ago. They also take advantage of the reserves of the deeper, most primary intuitive and emotional intelligence, hidden below the threshold of consciousness but playing an extremely important cognitive role. This is of great importance. Rational connections develop knowledge and form a model of reality in the mind; emotional connections with space on the other hand, shape local patriotism.
The essence of the project and its relations to the immediate surroundings of man – the processes and phenomena that occur in it, are a factor that shape modern-day civilization that is developing in connection with global space. The realization of the idea of the project pays off not only in the creative attitude of the students but also in the awareness that space should not only be cognized, moved in freely, but also responsibly shaped. Space is represented by both real material environment, cultural and social values, as well as by different intellectual modes of its presentation, i.e. in aerial and satellite images. Aerial images, as understood by the author of the project, are not only a technical creation and are not limited to photogrammetric visualization but are above all a way of thinking about space. The higher we rise, the broader the horizons of cognition ahead of us.
In the presentation of the idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych there are multiple references to space, which is understood above all, but not only, as physical space – space-time. This carries over also to the concept of conducting lessons. Classes, according to the assumptions of the Warsaw Education Triptych, should take place literally everywhere, but be continuous – also in time. They are not limited in time or in subject matter only to lessons in a class but can practically take place in any given space: both on the way to school and back, during a Sunday walk and also when surfing the web in a computer network. In a thus prepared intellectual interdisciplinary scenography, a lesson lasts all day long.
It is important to be aware in the project that the effects of class and home tasks are an important and self-reliant and, above all, practical introduction of students to cognition of the local and global environment. A pupil should not memorize information – a pupil should mold his knowledge in relation with the real world through processes of its cognition. A teacher should above all be a guide and not a source of encyclopedic knowledge.
Image information as the strategy of evolution
The idea of the teaching and learning model proposed in the project of the Warsaw Education Triptych was formed on the one hand by the concept of image information as a natural phenomenon, which co-participating in the process of biological evolution contributed to a considerable measure to molding the present state of the human mind . On the other, the achievements of the biological and computer science revolutions initiated at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries have been considered. This idea developed in stages over a number of years, gradually acquiring the form of the education program presented in this elaboration.
The first stage of the introduction of the project Warsaw Education Triptych was initiated in the last decade of the 20th century, when the Atlas of Satellite Images of Poland reached Polish schools, and in particular, those in Warsaw. Including the satellite atlas in school programs was thanks to the support of the authorities of the former administrative district Warsaw Centrum and the National In-Service Teacher Training Center. Meetings with methodologists, teachers and pupils took place all over Poland, and even beyond its borders, in the course of several hundred meetings, courses and classes conducted by the author of the project. They confirmed the enormous cognitive potential of pupils, greed for knowledge garnered in the course of lessons taught in a modern way, skill in utilizing the language of images, incredible perceptiveness. This was particularly evident among pupils in lower grades of primary schools. Unfortunately, these abilities, instead of being developed in schools at consecutive levels of education, wane away with consecutive stages and years of education. The satellite atlas mentioned above and the concept of using for didactic purposes the, in part abstract, aerial and satellite images as a model reproducing space, had its world-wide impact. Experience gained from this time as well as practical conclusions and observation from academic work – the final stage of the education of young individuals, have become yet another pillar of the current project, the Warsaw Education Triptych.
Technological breakthroughs, supported at the same time by creative intellectual concepts, bring about social changes. Project Warsaw, including the Warsaw Education Triptych, may be a portent of such, as it seems, unavoidable social changes. It is important that they be followed – in a reasonably short time – by the restructuring of the mentality of teachers, parents, administrators and animators of public life.
Such changes will not be introduced by a generation that had little or nothing to do with this kind of thought. That is why the idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych, as a vision of the future direction of the development of teaching, knowledge and social behavior and in consequence, existence, is targeted directly at the youngest generation, to mold from patterns of its consciousness and mentality from the very foundations. A thus prepared generation will find it easier to introduce further stages that it will create on its own. Prediction is the effect of observations of multidirectional phenomena related to the biological and computer science revolution that occurred in the past decades and the forecasting of changes in education programs and methods. Technological and social development, as a result of which, probably for the first time in the development of civilization, a change in the direction of transmitting knowledge has occurred with children teaching their parents, demands such acceleration. We should consciously educate not as much the current generation but already now, immediately, the next one.
Education in creative projects ceases to be a responsibility – it can also become a pleasure and a showpiece of modernity and at the same time, like in this case, in connection with knowledge about one’s town, feeling of identity and awareness of having an impact on its development. Knowledge garnered at school does not have to be theoretical and based on memorization, suspended in the abstract space of knowledge. All facts, tasks, tests to be solved and exercises to be done can and even should be combined with a specific real space – not only with physical or ephemeral events but also with their localization. This will help pupils on the one hand with building memory associations and remembering them and on the other with more complete understanding of the contents of the lessons. Modern-day achievements of civilization - satellite and aerial imaging of space, information linked to it through increasingly available global positioning systems (GPS, GIS) are already at present not only a widely used tool for acquiring, utilizing and preserving of knowledge but above all a way of life and functioning in a modern society. Around the world, for several years now, there has been an explosive utilization of digital raster and vector maps as well as GIS technology. Do pupils of Warsaw schools have to lag behind? Schools should equip pupils not only with a basic set of knowledge but also with the skill of acquiring it and making use of its potential, combined with the possibilities that modern technologies afford. Otherwise, knowledge gained at school becomes a beautiful but little useful competence that does not allow active use of and participation in the development of civilization, results in backwardness. Taking advantage of the possibilities, afforded by image information, aerial and satellite images can be treated not only as a source of data, as mentioned above, but also as game boards symbolically reproducing real space, on which can be conducted. Lessons in such cases do not „take place”, but are played – in the lesson programs new elements of strategy appear. In the presented project and teaching guides examples of the creative conducting of lessons based on aerial and satellite images, representing actual space, in this specific case – that of the Warsaw metropolis, have been outlined. Proposals for such lessons relate to tasks from the dozen or so subjects taught in schools: biology, nature, chemistry, physics, geography and history, computer sciences, Polish language, foreign languages, mathematics, arts, knowledge about society, knowledge of culture, ecological education. In order to be able to actively use aerial and satellite images, the basic source of information about space – today, in modern societies – it is necessary to understand the principles of reading the contents of such images. The knowledge of reading images – that is the ability to distinguish markers and build larger image units from them, and then lend them content – is currently just as indispensable as the universal knowledge of English or the ability to drive a vehicle and should be one of the conditions for completing successive degrees of education. The Warsaw Education Triptych ensures achieving the skill of reading images.
Objectives and effects
The objectives of the project Warsaw Education Triptych, relate to the following problems:
- mechanisms of cognition (the ability of perceiving and formulating questions)
- cognitive strategies (including creativity, inspiration, creative activities)
- linking knowledge directly to the space of Warsaw (or the space of a given region for other schools interested in introducing the project in their area)
- expanding the space in which a pupil acquires and preserves knowledge, beyond school or home, to the whole area of the town
- building new relations between pupils, teachers and parents and the locality they are attached to.
Within the framework of the mentioned problems, many detailed issues can be distinguished, including:
- the elaboration and introduction of new mechanisms for creative learning
- introducing into the teaching process of the newest world technologies, including computer technologies and modern knowledge of not only a specific subject but also the knowing of what knowledge, stemming from the most recent achievements of neurobiology and psychology: what it is, how it can be effectively manages and utilized, meeting the basic criterion of the evolution of mankind in cognition and effective – both physical and intellectual –settling of new areas
- raising awareness and teaching what is and what the value is of knowledge acquired at school
- understanding the importance of knowledge acquired unassisted
- creating factors integrating pupils with the town
- exercising the skill of accumulating, sorting, organizing, evaluating, verifying and selecting information (knowledge)
- introducing innovative teaching methods of teaching, learning and the remembering of information by linking it to the physical space of Warsaw
- creating innovative, partner teams in frequently novel relations: pupil – pupil, pupil – group, pupil – teacher, teacher – teacher, pupil – parents, pupil – society of Warsaw, pupil - physical space of the town.
The nature of these relations is multidisciplinary, multicultural, unrestricted by temporal and generational relations
- teaching independence of thought, action and responsibility for one’s deeds
- expanding education processes beyond the area of the school and home directly into the physical space of the town (region)
- creating new forms of organization of teaching in connection with real space
- active preservation of knowledge even in the course of random contacts with selected markers in space (every passing by a marker in space, e.g. object, statue, building, square, bridge, institution recalls and again preserves values they were linked to earlier)
- the building of local patriotism as an element of global culture.
The above goals, briefly and declaratively outlined, cannot be fully clear at this stage. It is important to understand what lies behind them, the mode and effectiveness of their introduction. They become more defined and more understandable after getting acquainted with the content of both the teaching guides for lessons, and the less formal but more inspiring course notes, collected in both volumes of methodological materials. However, in fact, it is only the pupils and teachers who are capable of giving them a real value.
It seems important that in the project the Warsaw Education Triptych a teacher changes from a typical lecturer to a discrete partner and mentor, or else, as mentioned earlier, a guide supporting a pupil in his or her self-reliant work. A pupil should from the very beginning learn unassisted, just like each of us learns to walk unassisted, using aid only in the very beginning. The burden of teaching should be transferred from the teacher to the pupil. The teacher is responsible for the gaining of knowledge by the pupils. A pupil will be capable of learning unassisted when he or she will be taught the value of his or her knowledge and its utilization. At a certain stage of teaching a teacher should also be a coach teaching the strategy of achieving success. The premises of the project assume a pupil will also include parents in his work, thus building stronger family and intergenerational ties.
It is also worth drawing attention in the project to team teacher – teacher relations, basically to relations between individual subjects/lessons. This is one of many essential forms of co-operation, on which the idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych is based.
The knowledge a pupil has should not be divided in an archaic manner into subjects such as: biology, physics, mathematics, chemistry or knowledge of a foreign language, etc., and his or her brain should not preserve the segregation of knowledge into notions related to disciplines, frequently without mutual connections. Conversely: biology, physics or mathematics should only be different routes to the same common goal, which is the material, intellectual, economic and spiritual cohesion between knowledge (a subjective model of reality) and the real world. Individual subjects should only be gates through which appropriate knowledge with specific and frequently diverse way of thinking, depending on the discipline, enters the brain. Knowledge introduced by different routes should be transformed in the mind into a cohesive entity.
In the presented teaching guides, in view of their methodological formalism, a single subject approach still dominates, though it requires the cooperation of teachers, teaching many different subjects, that is presenting a problem from the point of view of various specialties. However, in the course notes (which will appear in a subsequent volume) the issue-based approach dominates over the subject-based one – it is the problem and the search for creative solutions that is important, and not a single subject.
However, this is only part of the idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych. It is important for a school to teach not only skills and hone the ability to accumulate knowledge, but above all to mold the ability to make use of the resources of knowledge and, as mentioned, give them value - also in action. These are problems that are practically not dealt with in school programs. In effect pupils do not build emotional or rational ties to real space, which down the road is manifested by lack of responsibility for the broadly understood global environment: natural, cultural and social.
The Warsaw Education Triptych is intended for pupils with varied predispositions, abilities and intellectual-emotional levels. However, for everyone the base of knowledge about the world lies in universal image information processing phenomena. An image is not a simple sensual perception of space, but its intellectual notion. This is why such importance is attached in the project is to:
- exercising the skill of acquiring information from the environment via an image (including the ability and effectiveness of looking)
- knowledge about the processing of information in the brain up to the level of creating notions
- the skill of expressing oneself (artistic, verbal or in the form of activities in space).
Two Warsaw Triptychs: album and educational
At the base of the teaching guides and course notes lie aerial images: both photomaps as well as aerial images collected in three volumes of the Warsaw Triptych as well as a photomap of Warsaw that is accessible at: www.samper.pl (orthophotomap 2001 – Image Database Varsovia.pl).
Aerial images and an image map elaborated on their bases represent the real space of a given town. They are not only a direct source of information about Warsaw, but also a tool allowing to perceive the difference between subconscious (emotional, intuitive) and conscious (rational) perception of information and information regarding the possibilities of the interpretation and building of a subjective model of knowledge. It is worth pointing out that the albums of the Warsaw Triptych, to which the project refers to, belong to a different category of publications than the Warsaw Education Triptych.
The albums are a unique collection of several hundred aerial photos of Warsaw selected from several score thousand in the author’s archives. Besides contemporary photos, the albums also contain examples of photos of Warsaw that no longer exists: from 1926, 1935 and 1945. This is a vast source material of knowledge about Warsaw, which in dexterous minds can be put to use in many ways.
Selecting photos for a specific volume was not based on simple geographic or temporal division. The albums of the Warsaw Triptych, the aerial images and comments in them, refer to two basic categories of cognizing space via:
- deductive reasoning (information analysis). When taking in the entirety of space „at a glance” we attempt to perceive and understand the functioning of the individual components. This mode of analysis is represented by Wars’s Gaze;
- inductive reasoning (information synthesis). When walking around the town, stowing details in our memory, we attempt to create the image of the entirety of space, which, if not for aerial and satellite images, would not be accessible as a whole for the human mind in any case. This mode of synthesis and building a model of the space in which we live, is represented by Sawa’s Visage.
The third volume, The Generation Varsovia.pl does not deal with drawing conclusions or with analysis of the image of space formed in our minds, but draws attention above all to the creativity of minds, creative activities and the ability to practically achieve goals. It focuses on the value of active, full of passion and realization of own ideas and dreams. It shows what the value of knowledge is. It is dedicated to young minds regardless of age.
The albums of the Warsaw Triptych, which serve as the base for the education program, are thus not only a collection of aerial photos that serve as a based on facts source material for lessons. At the same time they are to effectively stimulate the formation of emotional and intellectual ties to the space of our town – build a generation of citizens with ties to Warsaw. This is why they are worth being used in the course of lessons at Warsaw schools.
The project Warsaw Education Triptych is in turn above all an education idea. But not only. It is simultaneously a cognitive procedure based on the triad: I see – I analyze (think) – I do, that is on three stages of sensual acquisition of information about the environment and its intellectual processing.
The juxtaposition of these two different Triptychs and mechanisms of information processing they represent, leads to better understanding of the principles of the cognition of reality and conscious building of its image.
The cognitive triad: I SEE – I ANALYZE (I THINK) – I DO
The process of transformations of image information, being the basis of the Warsaw Education Triptych, described by a continuum of stages: I perceive sensorily – I analyze – I interpret – I draw conclusions – I make a decision – and I do, is deeply rooted and repeated at all stages and levels of evolution. It is these processes that have determined the development of species and led in consequence to the formation of consciousness and the building of a world of ideas. In the course of biological development our mind, self-awareness and the product of human activity – the civilization in which we live, took shape. Image information basically determines, even though we are frequently not aware of it, not only the possibilities of the perception of space, ale also what the world created in our brains looks like.
The continuum: I see – I analyze – I do, simply determines our idea and, consequently – the perception of reality.
The introduction of the Warsaw Education Triptych into the didactic process helps not only acquire and remember information, ale at the same time lays a foundation for broadening our knowledge about the world and building a more conscious and rational image if it. It can even be assumed that in the Warsaw Education Triptych the transfer of information and the garnering of knowledge is preceded by the formation of new competences: how to acquire knowledge and how to manage it. A consequence of the process taking place in our brains: I see – I analyze – I do, is a set of traits imparted to matter and its forms, expressed by the continuum: form – content – value. This is a very inspiring dependence.
The Warsaw Education Triptych, by linking abstract and theoretical textbook knowledge with a specific, and what is important, real object explicitly localized in space, allows easier remembering of knowledge garnered in the course of lessons. Associative memory is one of the important and frequently underestimated elements of learning and the preservation of knowledge acquired. Moreover, in many instances it deepens the sense of acquiring knowledge, finding a direct application for it. Education based on conventional, memory-based learning is to a large extent fruitless. It teaches facts but does not teach the basic elements that are indispensable in the molding of intelligence: the skill of perception, the ability to analyze and draw conclusions. The outcome should be effective action, which on the one hand is verification of knowledge, and on the other, participation in social life. The Warsaw Education Triptych stimulates the intellectual and social activity of the pupils, taking advantage of the image platform of aerial and satellite image representing real space. In this project work involves not only developing the ability to deduce, but at the same time teaching perceptiveness and creates greater possibilities for the integration of theoretical knowledge and the physical environment.
Although knowledge as such (both unit and social) is a subjective and abstract notion, it allows, however, contact and practical functioning in physical reality. This is one of the more interesting interactions, but it is more important to mold in pupils the ability to distinguish between both existences and at the same time hone the skill of building mutual relations between knowledge and real time-space.
The program of the Warsaw Education Triptych allows making pupils aware of the mechanisms of conscious distinguishing between what I see spontaneously and naturally (inherent perceptiveness) from what I know and can name (acquired knowledge). Frequently seeing, subjected to the strong pressure of our mind and the knowledge we have, is deficient or even false. In many cases the store of our knowledge is inscribed in the content of an analyzed sensory image, which most individuals are not even aware of. We then see not what really exists but with conviction that, what we want to see, or know we will see. Including rational seeing in the education program is yet another of its values.
The continuum of activities: I see – I analyze – I interpret, being consistently a basis for the elaborated teaching guides and course notes, elicits many new heuristic processes that take place in our brain at different information processing levels. It thus allows analyzing not only the contents of an image, but at the same time conscious studying of the cognitive tool, that is the involvement and functioning of our brain in the process of the perception of information and the consecutive transformations thereof.
The Warsaw Education Triptych, based on aerial and satellite images of space, is a ticket to the civil society of modern technologies, built thanks to the Internet from a local scale to the global one, at the same time having strong emotional ties to his or her small local fatherland. Schools and education processes should not remain behind, because consecutive generations of pupils lose out. In searching for different innovative forms we should not only keep abreast but maybe, wherever possible, if only partially, outdistance world tendencies, becoming a standard for others. It is worth keeping in mind that in many respects pupils will soon begin to surpass and overtake teachers. By using the tool of image information, the Warsaw Education Triptych stands the chance of becoming one of those education models in which a pupil becomes the teacher’s partner and learns – thanks to experimenting on a local scale on a local scale – responsibility for his or her activities on a global scale.
The presentation of the idea of the Warsaw Education Triptych has so been dominated by a single point of view – that of the fitness of a pupil’s mind in acquiring, remembering and utilizing acquired knowledge. It is also worth taking a look at the project from a different point of view – from that of space; that is benefits for Warsaw and the society that forms the community of a given region. The project Warsaw Education Triptych educates a generation of active citizens, who build ties to their town not only at home or yard, but also in a conscious manner at school. Thanks to working (learning) right in the space of the town a pupil gets to comprehensively know Warsaw, becoming not only a sensitive and perceptive observer but also a conscious builder of the town and its image.
Use of teaching guides and course notes of the
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