Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

Life is a Project

Writing a guidebook for Project Work is no easy feat. The aim is to distill the principles and offer general guidelines for students to get a grasp on Project Work. At present, five of nine chapters have been completed. If all goes according to plan, the entire book will be completed at the end of February. Then it is designing the layout on Adobe InDesign, print and distributed at the start of Term II. For now, here is the unedited version to the introductory section from Chapter 1: Life is a Project

For many students, Project Work is a mysterious subject. It is a relatively new component without precedence and has been the subject of many rumours, the centre of confusion and the source of agony for many. First, a distinction between a puzzle and a problem is required to help throw some light.

The average student may see life as an endless series of tests and examinations. Fortunately (or unfortunately for some) this pattern isn’t the rule but the exception, unique only to the early stages of life. A test or examination is more like a puzzle, a problem designed to test the ingenuity or knowledge. In a puzzle, there is a correct answer and it is the responsibility of the person solving the puzzle to figure that out. A correct answer means that it is possible to solve a puzzle algorithmically. That is, to follow a series of steps based on a pattern to arrive at the answer.

The strength of an algorithm is that it only requires the ability to follow a set of rules and procedures to arrive at the answer. No intellect required. That is also how animals are trained to produce a certain set of behaviours. Similarly, a computer is capable of solving complex problems because complex algorithms can be written into its programme. In the same way, humans can be taught algorithms to solve seemingly difficult puzzles. A good example is the rubix cube that has a wealth of solutions and instructional videos on the internet. Anyone capable of reading and following the instructions can solve a rubix cube within an hour without the need to understand nor grapple with the complexities of the problem.

A puzzle is a well-defined problem with a correct answer. However, many problems that people care about do not come as well-defined puzzles, much less have a correct ‘model answer’. Examples of such problems range from global warming and eradicating poverty; to declining fertility and sustaining national economic development; to choosing a career path and finding a soulmate. These problems aren’t easy to solve and solutions that might be good for one might be bad in another place and time. Yet, these are problems that people care about, problems that make up Life - your life.

e-Learning: Education & Humanity; Utopias & Dystopias

e-Fiesta 2013: Post Conference Reflections