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When I was, I suppose, about eight, I very briefly had a bike. It was kept in my grandparent’s garage (there was no room for it at home, and not really anywhere to ride it), and I tried to ride it a maximum of twice, always with my grandparents hovering nearby. I never spent very long trying, because when a small girl falls off and cries her grandmother is wont to take her back indoors to play with craft materials.

To this day, I cannot ride a bicycle (I haven’t found a way to try again since I was eight). This fact is used to support other claims about me: my balance is not very good, my coordination is poor, and so forth.

In the last week, I have made two, very brief, attempts at joining in when other people are playing Rock Band. Rock Band does not belong to me, and I am unfamiliar with most of the mechanisms involved in making the game work (for example, I cannot off hand name the console on which it is played, though I am aware that there are two and Guitar Hero is for The Other One). In the course of those attempts, I have tried singing four songs (very variable; it depends a lot on how well I know the song, in turn affected by the failure of Rock Band Marketplace to reflect my actual musical tastes), and playing guitar on one. My fingers seemed like jelly; I could not hit the notes at the right time; obviously, I failed, and failed hard.

Something similar happens when I try and play most other video games. I usually abandon all attempts quickly, as looking stupid in front of people isn’t my favourite activity. (The occasional stand-up comic aside, does anyone enjoy it?)

My failures in this area are frequently taken to be evidence that I have a poor coordination, that my spacial awareness is bad, that my reactions are slow, etc.

Added to my history of failure on the bicycle, this is usually taken to conclude that I will find it difficult, or impossible, to learn to drive, something I have recently decided to attempt. (Any Green readers who are crying because this will prevent me from reducing my carbon emissions 10% in 2010, you are quite right, but consider these points: a) experience of previous attempts to get a job and consideration of the kinds of jobs I might want, and might get, have lead me to conclude that a driving license is a worthwhile investment; and b) that I live in Leeds and am repeatedly invited to visit Cornwall. By refusing to go, thereby avoiding the flights from Leeds/Bradford to Newquay and back, I have probably cut my potential carbon emissions by at least 10% – it all depends how you calculate it. Back to my main point.)

However, I suspect some selection bias in the evidence presented here. OK, so I can’t ride a bike. I can walk and swim perfectly well, though, and when I had the chance, I could ride a horse without physical difficulty (the problems came when teachers pushed me too far, too fast, with anger but without rewards). Similarly, I can’t pick up a computer game and play well at first attempt; on the other hand, I can sew, plait, make lace, and have in the last year learnt to knit. (If you’re sensing a gendering of activities, in the latter list in particular, I do not think you are wrong.) These things demand a high level of coordination and muscle-memory, and don’t present me any problems.

Therefore, I’m turning my attention to my learning style and the situations of my learning, and trying to draw out some things to remember when choosing how, where, and with whom to learn to drive.

Not conductive to learning:
– not being able to see when I’m doing (source: Rock Band; occasional people trying to teach me to type ‘correctly’)
– being rushed into situations in which I am not confident (source: learning to swim; learning horse riding)
– being told that a method which suits me and achieves the desired effect is ‘wrong’ for arcane reasons (source: my methods of typing and making lace patterns)
– not having any motive to learn
– public humiliation following a mistake

Conducive to learning:
– being in control of the pace of my learning
– being extremely clear about the aims and expected outcomes of an exercise
– having a motive to learn
– being supported in trying again rather than punished for failure (where ‘punishment’ includes the disappointment of others and claims that it would be easy if I’d just try)

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