The problem with SatNavs, or why feedback prevents learning


I’m not an especially good driver, but I’m a terrible navigator. This used to mean that I would get lost a lot. When I first moved to Bristol in 2001 I bought an A-Z of the city and when driving somewhere new I would have to stop the car periodically and try to align the map to the streets around me. Needless to say, I found this pretty stressful. Luckily, I’m a lot better at recognising landmarks than I am at reading maps. Slowly, through a process of trial and error, I started to learn how to find my way around. I’ve got to the point where I know the city fairly well.

Then, a few years ago I bought a SatNav. It was a boon. For the first time in my life I could set out on a journey with a fair degree of confidence that I would be able to make it to a new destination without getting horribly lost. I felt so happy following my arrow-shaped avatar along the purple path unfolding before me.

As you know, SatNavs are not perfect. Sometimes they suggest bizarre routes and sometimes they seem to freeze just when you need them most. I hate those moments of uncertainty; that helplessness as I flounder without the feedback I have become so accustomed to. The relief when the arrow pops back is palpable. Even when I make a mistake I can stay calm; the SatNav simply reroutes or points me back the way I came. I can safely say that my experience of driving has been revolutionised.

Read more on The Learning Spy

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