Last night, as I was wrapping up a family birthday dinner I began my journey into a new semiotic domain!! (How’s that for a big confusing term? I am currently reading a fascinating book by James Paul Gee on what video games can teach us about learning. He uses this term often.)
A simple question sparked it all. My brother asked me what year my Camry was. I said it was a 2006 but also mentioned that the noise in the cabin had become so loud that it was almost unbearable to drive on the freeway. He immediately looked at the front passenger tire, rubbed his hand over it, and instantly told me what my problem was. My tires were slightly angled and were wearing unevenly. I wanted to understand what he knew and so I had him point out to me how he could identify the uneven wear on the tires.
He mentioned a term I was not familiar with (at least in this context), feathering. Rubbing the tire one way was smooth but reversing the direction produced a rough, segmented feel. It took a few tries and some specific pointers before I really clued in to what he labeled the feathering of the tread. I was grateful he took the time to answer my follow up questions.
There was a progression to the level of proficiency I gained. I started with the mainfestation of the problem, the feathering of the tread on the front tires, and moved to the conclusion that my alignment was off and causing the feathering. Had I learned this information outside of this context I doubt I would have paid much attention. I now had embodied, actionable experience and knowledge. I believe I reached the active learning level but had not breached the critical learning level.