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Lessons From Lockdown: An Opportunity to Learn Something New

By Andre Engelbrecht |


With lockdown winding down in most of the world and laws becoming a little more lenient as time goes by, it's only just reached its peak in South Africa. Many of us have spent our free time sitting around for months stuck in our homes, just watching the days pass. As a result, we have found ways of entertaining ourselves, whether watching movies, reading books, or doing other things that prove to be more relaxing than proactive. During the lockdown, I’ve utilized my time wisely (yes, I’m tooting my own horn.) I’ve been spending it learning various things, things I wouldn't have imagined I’d be capable of doing.


So, why is this, though? Before lockdown, I would prefer a night at home with my family over going out into the world and doing something different. Familiarity feels more comfortable to me, and like many others, I enjoy the feeling of security I get from being in my own space. After four months of lockdown, something has changed in me. I have had a creative spark go off, and lately, I have been trying to figure out the cause of this.


“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

It has something to do with the right and left sides of our brains.


The brain is quite an interesting organ. On the one hand, each of our brains is unique and wired differently, and on the other hand, there are enough similarities to group certain aspects of brain functionality together. Scientists have studied our brains for decades and still haven’t gotten a full understanding of how it all works. One thing we do know is that the left side of the brain controls your logic receptors and the right side controls your ability to be creative.

However, could it be that my newfound ability to be creative was a change in my brain chemicals over the lockdown period? While I’m not certain what I know, I am a very left-brained orientated person by nature. My life decisions usually are always followed by a pros and cons list, and there are only a handful of times I have based my decisions on where my heart wants to take me. Lately, since the lockdown, it feels like every decision I make is a spur of the moment one. To give you an idea of how impulsive I have become, I present to you the list of some of the things I have done during lockdown for reasons I can't explain:

  • built a kitchen table

  • created a Team-Move logo for my Learning Technologists

  • built a loft bed for my son

  • created a game for Construct to play in our Zoom lunches

  • reverse-engineered an executable file to find the key

  • learned how to use Unity Engine

  • soft-modded a console, adding a Linux operating system to it

  • created a VR headset

  • fixed a broken controller and a few other electronics

  • edited a lightsaber into my son's hand in a home movie on Sony Vegas

  • learned Storyline Articulate

  • learned how to edit MP3 and audio files using Audacity

As you can see, a lot of what I have been up to these last few months may seem quite random. All have felt like logical endeavors at the time, but thinking back on it, it could have just been because I was bored and thirsting for some outlet to learn something new. So was it the boredom that drove me? Or was it something different?



An unconventional way of learning.


Growing up, I was always a great student at school. My grades were good, and I never had a problem learning new things. What I did find difficult, which I am sure is true of many people, was the ability to sit still and study for long periods. I remember that preparations for my final-year exams were more difficult than the exams themselves. I would procrastinate for hours at a time and have a panic-induced cramming session the day before the exam. This method of studying woke my brain up and did not allow me to slack off. This forced me to pay attention to the task at hand. Long story short, I passed with flying colors (not-so-humble-brag), and I didn't exactly use the most conventional methods to study. Could this be linked to my current situation of this sudden idea explosion to try something new and learn more? I’m not sure carpentry has ever been an interest of mine, yet I have built a table and bed just because I wanted to. Perhaps the imminent end of lockdown is my new exam deadline? If that's the case, I want to use this time to learn all I can and be as creative as possible.



Logic is the mechanism that validates our creativity.


A creative idea is where this all starts. Usually, the best creative ideas come from people who have a specific need to fill. They have a problem, and their creativity provides the solution. This concept is true with the sudden creative boom I have been experiencing, but with some cases, it's more than that. My needs and wants are very closely aligned as they are with all logical thinkers. I want something only because I think I need it. Everything I have done during lockdown started with an issue I needed to solve. The loft bed allows more space in my son's room, the reverse engineering of the EXE file to use the software. I can't help but feel this is happening across the board. I am almost sure everyone went through this stage during lockdown at some point. Maybe a few people got over it and fell back into their old habits, maybe some people took it to the next level.



Creativity is a difficult compulsion to control when we can’t go outside.


One thing is for sure, though, being forced into a situation where you can’t leave your home for months on-end only leaves that little spark of creativity. The spark gets validated through logic only once you sit down and think about how you are going to get your little personal project off the ground. It's almost as if we have indirectly created an incubation chamber for our ideas. This type of creativity should be celebrated. I have a feeling once this is all over; the world is going to see a wave of new ideas and technologies across the board. New innovations will have a positive impact on most industries, especially online learning and education technology. More and more people realize how the old ways of teaching are quite inferior to learning online. In general, education has not changed for thousands of years until the dawn of the internet, where information was so freely available. I wouldn't have imagined I could be a carpenter until I watched a few video tutorials on the subject (all hail YouTube). I like my new self brought about by this lockdown, and I would encourage all who read this to scratch that compulsive itch to be creative. It only starts with an idea.


Using lockdown to learn rather than procrastinate.


So through my personal experience dealing with lockdown, I have used my left-brain dominance to decipher why I had a sudden urge for creativity. Was it because I am still prone to procrastination like when I was a teenager where I get that specific sense of urgency? Or was it because my brain decided it's time for a new set of skills to pursue out of sheer boredom? Still, not many questions answered here because I don't know.


What I do know, however, is that I have learned a lot during this Covid-19 pandemic. It all starts with an idea and the determination to implement it and see it through to the end. Locking us all up in our homes for a few months will do that to anyone, which gets me very excited for 2021. The end of the lockdown will only bring about innovation, fresh ideas, and the freedom to explore the creativity we have been incubating in our homes for months. I can't wait to see what’s next.

AUTHOR

Andre Engelbrecht

Learning Technologist Lead at Construct