A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2016 Apr 19, 17:13 -0700
Makr Coady, you wrote:
"For those on similar learning paths like myself lurking out there, I am putting in a very positive note of feedback on this weekends modern celestial navigation course at the Mystic Seaport. I promise, LOL, this is not a paid endorsement, it is one; a thank you, and two; shamelessly promoting that it might be valuable to other seekers such as myself. Personally, if I find out something really cool, I like to share it."
Thank you very much for you complimentary comments. And I also appreciate very much hearing how the class and the material settle with you --what you take away, what you enjoy, what has the biggest impact on your learning and experience. Every student is different. That is the essential principle of education. There are no perfect approaches to teaching any subject, including celestial navigation, because every student has different needs, abilities, background, interests, and expectations. So my approach to teaching is to treat the subject as spectrum of possibilities and to try to hit as many options from as many angles as possible in the brief time alloted. Of course this also serves to keep the workshop moving: we work on math for a while... then we play with sextant adjustment for a while... then we step outside and look at sundials... then we look at some visual imagery... then back to math... then shoot the Sun at noon!... and so on. A little orchestrated chaos keeps us awake. :)
You also wrote:
"One of the pitfalls of self education is you often miss little tidbits of glue that pull things together."
This is absolutely true. There's also the problem of conflicting and frequently contradictory advice. Celestial navigation at least is relatively stable, but much of the advice dates from the "tail end" of celestial as primary navigation (circa 1990-95). The subject was already in decline. Bad habits (like the "wrong way" of swinging the arc) had become standard, and calculators were still considered "spooky electronics" back then. Also self-study in any subject tends to jump to the mechanical, solution-focused elements, skipping over principles. I never fail to be amazed when someone says that they only just learned the idea that zenith distance is equal to the radius of the celestial circle of position. Or they only just realized, after years of working sights mechanically, that every point on the Earth is marked at the zenith by a unique "star" --a unique point on the celestial sphere.
Beyond celestial, self-study can become quite a nightmare when you try to learn something that's rapidly evolving, for example app and web development. The Internet is, of course, a cornucopia, an endless bounty of information but it also suffers from a surprising problem: it is getting old. As the Internet ages, sites become obsolete but they rarely die, and there is frequently no prominent clue that a source of information is old, even completely out-dated. A self-educated web developer can easily end up learning and following advice that has been obsolete for years. This happens to me at least once a month, and one of my main disciplines when I learn something new in this field is to hunt down date information on any source I use. Is it from 2005? Then it's probably useless except in very general terms. Is it from 2012? Then its "leading-edge principles" just on the horizon are either now the mainstream standard or superseded. Is it from 2015? Then maybe it's "bleeding edge" rather than "leading edge".