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December 1, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Teaching Students with Intentional Gaps for Curiosity & Mystery

Joe Bower points out:

Knowledge gaps create interest. But to prove that the knowledge gaps exist, it may be necessary to highlight some knowledge first. “Here’s what you know. Now here’s what you’re missing.” Alternatively, you can set context so people care what comes next. It’s no accident that mystery novels and crossword puzzle writers give us clues. When we feel that we’re close to the solution of a puzzle, curiosity takes over and propels us to the finish.

Treasure maps, as shown in the movies, are vague. They show a few key landmarks and a big X where the treasure is. Usually the adventurer knows just enough to find the first landmark, which becomes the first step in a long journey touward the treasure. If treasure maps were produced on MapQuest.com, with door-to-door directions, it would kill the adventure-movie genre. There is value in sequencing information – not dumping a stack of information on someone at once but dropping a clue, then another clue, then another. This method of communication resembles flirting more than lecturing.

Unexpected ideas, by opening a knowledge gap, tease and flirt. They mark a big red X on something that needs to be discovered but don’t necessarily tell you how to get there. And, as we’ll see, a red X of spectacular size can end up driving the actions of thousands of people for many years.

(link)

This same principle has been echoed in two TED talks, both on storytelling

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