Rock This Plan: Week 1

Hello everyone and welcome to week one of my personal learning challenge! Here I will introduce you to what I am planning to teach myself in the coming week of EDCI 335.

I have always tried to keep my mind and body busy either reading or working out. I quickly found out that traditional working out wasn’t quite immersive enough for me – no offense to those who love the gym! This caused me to get more involved in team sports when I was younger. Having the camaraderie and some aspect of strategy made it less of a work out and more of a problem to solve – and oh boy do I love solving problems! Once I got a bit older it got harder to gather my friends at the same time, this lead to me going back to the gym and waiting until the next Eureka! moment to hit me. And it did, well I can’t take the credit for my newfound hobby, the credit belongs to a couple friends of mine. They are avid rock climbers and they introduced me to the wonderful world of bouldering. Which is rock climbing without a harness or being strapped in, you don’t even need climbing shoes to boulder, although they do help when trying to stay on the wall! Yeah I know, it sounds intimidating but it’s not that bad; there are nice soft, thick, pillowy mats to fall onto, and you’re only ever climbing maybe 15 feet (this is a complete estimate, don’t quote me!).

I was terrified at first, my friends had calluses all over their hands and told me horror stories about how much it hurts when they accidentally rip off a callus while climbing or jam their fingers into the wall. They told me how sore I would be for the first couple weeks, but they also told me about the triumph of getting to the last hold on a climb and how good it felt to finally finish a “problem” they were working on. The climbs you try are referred to as problems, and when you are working on one you’re “projecting” it. Watching my friends send it up a climb astounded me, the way they moved so effortlessly inspired me to give it a try. And try I did – failure came promptly afterward. But I am grateful for my failures as they have taught me a lot. But I think this plan might help me learn even more!

I have been rock climbing for about three months, albeit not consistently and in the next five weeks I aim to learn to effectively use one new rock climbing technique every week to improve my climbing. For me this may be a bit of a struggle as I can get a little excited and just try and hurry my way to the top of the routes. I am still very new to rock climbing so it will take a bit of digging to actually discover what techniques I need to be learning. And while learning these techniques I will be implementing the basic learning theories presented in the EDCI 335 course and other teaching resources on what I find through my own research.

There are three main processes our brain must go through to wholly learn something: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval (1). These are outlined by Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh on her blog post; “Learning – The Neuroscience and the Neuromyths”, while I was reading her post I realized how often I do these things without realizing it. Through my time in post secondary I have been writing and rewriting notes, consolidating those notes into summaries and flashcards, practicing the flashcards until I can answer them with ease. This is an example of semantic memory: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval (1). These three principles are applied to bouldering in a much more tangible way. Instead of using a visual approach by reading and writing notes I will use a tactual way of maneuvering my body and feeling each different hold on the way. While I do this I will learn what is comfortable, where each of my limbs should be, and how exactly the weight of my body will feel when I navigate the climbing wall. Once I have encoded each of the techniques I should be able to consolidate them and use them in tandem with one another (1). As I learn more and climb more throughout the years I will call on my retrieval of these skills to further enjoy rock climbing. Even though I can apply the same semantic encoding to rock climbing as I do to my studies in biology, I will also end up learning a lot through experience and failure as it is a fairly physical sport. When I bring both my semantic and my episodic memories of climbing together I believe it will allow me to progress farther!

Now that I have outlined what types of encoding and consolidation I will use I have done a bit of research to find out what techniques I should try. I have a list (see below) that I will pick one every week to work on and incorporate into my climbing. I won’t get through them all but a couple of them may be too advanced for me to do at my level, but I wanted an opportunity to challenge myself!

  1. Flagging (2)
  2. Backstepping (2)
  3. At home gym routine
  4. Dyno-ing (3)
  5. Route Reading (4)
  6. Heel hooking (5)

Assessment of my success or failure should be relatively simple and very immediate. I will either succeed in using the technique to finish the route or I will fall off the wall and try again! However there are ways I can use to better the use of the technique and to see if I am using them properly, this will most likely be done with the help of a friend taking a video of me or asking a peer to tell me if I am preforming the skill properly (6). This will implement the idea of immediate feedback as also shown by B.F. Skinner’s learning machine (6). Along with the immediate feedback of B.F. Skinner’s programmed learning I will be using the behaviourism theory of teaching in particular I will be using operant conditioning (although loosely applied). In this application of behaviourism falling off the wall would act as the “punishment” of improperly executing the technique and reaching the top of the route will reinforce the proper usage of the techniques as it is very personally satisfying to complete a route (6).

Bye for now!


The following are links to the resources I used to complete my blog post:
(1) Clarissa Sorensen-Unruh Blog Post
(2) Back stepping vs Flagging Video – Youtube
(3) Dyno Video – Youtube
(4) Route Reading Video – Youtube


One thought on “Rock This Plan: Week 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s