Odyssey - Dynamic Learning System: An Innovative Approach to Inspirational Learning Experiences

Odyssey - Dynamic Learning System: An Innovative Approach to Inspirational Learning Experiences

by Leon Conrad, David Pinto


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Odyssey - Dynamic Learning System: An Innovative Approach to Inspirational Learning Experiences by Leon Conrad, David Pinto

Imagine you’re in a room, looking at a colourful grid of many different shapes spread out on a wall. There’s something intriguing about it – something almost magical. There are triangles, circles, squares, stars. Each has something on it – a word or diagram. There’s one shape of each colour … placed in a strange formation … what could the underlying pattern be? It's as if each shape is a door or window to another world; the whole display a chocolate box for the mind – a magical carriage to take you on a journey through your imagination. Get ready to embark on your very own Odyssey journey – a unique journey unlike any you’ve ever gone on before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781782792963
Publisher: Liberalis
Publication date: 01/30/2015
Pages: 213
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Leon Conrad is co-founder and lead trainer at The Academy of Oratory and teaches communication skills for negotiators for The Negotiation Lab. He lives in London, UK. David Pinto is a mathematician and social-anthropologist by training, and teacher and entrepreneur by practice, bringing inspirational insights to children and adults alike. He lives in Berkshire, UK.

Read an Excerpt


Dynamic Learning System A treasure Trove Book

By David Pinto, Leon Conrad

John Hunt Publishing Ltd.

Copyright © 2014 David Pinto and Leon Conrad
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78279-296-3


Practical versions

Leon's version

A treasure revealed

Picture this ...

Imagine you're in a room, looking at a colourful grid of many different shapes spread out on a wall. There's something intriguing about it – something almost magical. There are triangles, circles, squares, stars. Each has something on it – a word or diagram. There's one shape of each colour ... placed in a strange formation ... what could the underlying pattern be? It's as if each shape is a door or a window to another world. It looks like a chocolate box for the mind, or a magical carriage to take you on a journey through your imagination.

Get ready to embark on your very own Odyssey.

It won't be like any journey you've ever gone on before.

Want to find out more? Read on!

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Odyssey Grid. My version has three distinct sections: a top row with black shapes, a multicoloured grid in the middle, and a bottom row with white shapes.

Look at the top row:


This row contains one example of each shape used in the grid. All the shapes in this row are black. Each shape has a heading word in it. I call it the 'Heading Row'. It provides a key that tells you which category relates to each shape.

In the next section, the shapes in the Heading Row reappear in different colours, arranged randomly across a grid of six rows and seven columns. If you look closely, you'll see they're arranged rather like a Sudoku puzzle, with as little similarity in shape and colour between neighbouring pieces as possible.

In my version, colours are used simply as navigation devices. They don't relate directly to the content of the grid pieces.

Each piece has an intriguing word or diagram on it. Look at this one, for example:


Take a look at the star in the Header Row. This happens to have 'Story' written on it. A story about 'Juice'? What's that about?

And what about this?

Take a look at the teardrop in the Header Row. This happens to have Wisdom written on it. Best wisdom? What's that?

And what's that row of shapes at the bottom?

I call it the Destination Row. It contains the same shapes as in the top row, but they're blank, and in a different order. Why?

The only way to find out is to embark on an Odyssey journey – right now. Once you've tried it on your own, try going on an Odyssey journey with a friend, or in a group. Once you've done that, you'll be ready to facilitate an Odyssey journey for others.

Go on an Odyssey with Leon

Take a look at this Odyssey Grid:


The black Heading Row indicates what each shape stands for, and is used for reference only.

The aim of this journey is to work through the grid, and end up on one of the blank shapes at the bottom in a set number of moves (in this case, you decide how many), to reach a jewel of discovery, as yet unknown. The unknown quality of this goal is what makes an Odyssey journey so exciting. We'll reach it by ultimately linking the experiences of the entire journey back to the category to which the chosen destination shape belongs.

How does it work?

Always start at the top left corner of the grid. (In this example, the blue circle marked Opportunity.)

You can move to an adjacent grid piece vertically, or horizontally, but not diagonally; or you can move to a piece of the same colour anywhere on the grid, or to a piece of the same shape anywhere on the grid.

So, in this grid, from Opportunity at the top left, you can go to any of these pieces:


by moving vertically, or horizontally, one shape at a time, or by jumping to a piece of the same shape anywhere on the grid, or by jumping to a piece of the same colour anywhere on the grid.

Choose the number of stops you want to make on this particular Odyssey. I suggest you choose a number between four and eight stops before you reach your final destination. Make a note of the number of stops you want to take here:

I've decided to take an Odyssey journey using the following number of moves:


Start at the top left piece:


This is an opportunity for you to take an Odyssey journey into uncharted waters. The grid is a map of the territory you'll be journeying through. Each piece on the grid is a potential stopping-off point on the journey, a key to a specially-chosen activity that has personal significance to me, and that I'd like to share with you. I don't know which grid pieces you'll choose, so this journey is something you'll be creating for yourself. It's unlikely that anyone will have ever chosen the same sequence of grid pieces you've chosen before, and improbable that anyone has or will ever go on the same journey – for, in the unlikely event the steps someone else takes through the grid mimic yours, the individual insights each of you takes away will be totally different.

Take a look at the grid. Explore the links between the categories in the Heading Row, and the shapes in the grid; then decide where you want to stop off, and list the grid pieces in the table below.

From here (Opportunity), my stops will be:


Now look up each activity in your list in the alphabetical Activities Section at the back of the book, tackling them in order. Complete an activity, and reflect on what you've learned. As you progress, note the connections you discover for yourself between the activities.

Use the following boxes to make notes as you go:

1. What I learned was:

2. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning point.

3. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

4. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

5. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

6. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

7. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

8. What I learned was:

How it connected to my previous learning points.

Using the rules of navigation (jump to a piece directly below, or of the same shape as the one you're on), you now get to choose your destination:


Look up your chosen destination point in the Activities Section at the back. Note the culmination of your learning here:

What's the thinking behind it?

There are four essential components to this Odyssey Grid:

• a Header Row of shapes at the top;

• a Destination Row of shapes at the bottom;

• a grid of coloured shapes between these rows;

• a starting point, always to be found below the top left header shape. Each serves a particular purpose.

The Header Row

This is the key to this version of the Odyssey Grid. Each shape in this row denotes a category. Every piece in the Odyssey Grid that matches one of these shapes will fit into the category shown in the Header Row. In this row, the shapes are different, but the colour's constant. The Header Row colour isn't repeated anywhere else in the grid.

It provides a constant point of reference for the categories that the different shapes generically fit under.

The Destination Row

The goal of this version of the Odyssey journey is always to end up on one of the shapes in this row. These match the shapes that appear in the Header Row, but there's a difference. The shapes in the Destination Row are blank.

The Destination Row provides an array of possible destinations, each relating to one of the categories featured in the Header Row. The shapes in the Destination Row are blank because the content of the destination is as yet unknown. The undefined quality of the destination adds to the intrigue and excitement of the journey, as the mysterious jewel at the heart of the final destination only emerges from the act of synthesising the connections made as a result of journeying through the grid.

The grid

The grid's made up of a number of different coloured shapes. There are as many shapes as there are columns, and as many multiples of each shape as there are rows.

Within the basic framework of the fixed elements of Header Row, grid, Destination Row and starting point, Odyssey Grids are extremely — almost infinitely — adaptable structures. You can adapt:

• size,

• shapes,

• colours,

• content.

You can also explore many variations in terms of interaction, structure, construction, timing, and much more – see the Variations Section (this page).

The starting point

In both David's version of the Odyssey Grid and mine, the starting piece is consistently the top left piece of the grid. We recommend keeping this a constant feature. After all, you have to start somewhere. We chose top rather than bottom to fit with the analogy of 'drilling down' to find a rich core of knowledge. It also seemed more fun to start at the top, rather than the bottom. If you feel very strongly about doing it differently, go right ahead – change the pattern to suit your temperament when you design your own!

How does it work at a meta level? The display

Traditional static educational displays (as opposed to displays of students' work) tend to be content-rich, colourful visual renditions of topics or information that students are required to learn, presented beautifully, but at face value. Factual interactive whiteboard displays are often no different. Both typically present the visual equivalent of statements, rather than questions. Both are the visual instructional equivalent of the old-fashioned 'jug-mug' approach to teaching. Neither is structured to invite students to make new connections. I don't know of a single teacher who's ever asked students to connect the content of one display to another.

Having an Odyssey Grid up on a wall transforms a classroom into an alchemical alembic for interactive, cooperative education. Like the walls and floors of medieval cathedrals such as that of Chartres in France, richly decorated with symbolic forms such as rose windows or labyrinths, the history of which reaches back thousands of years — or like the 'vaulted books' of buildings such as that of the so-called Spanish Chapel adjoining the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence — Odyssey Grids invite participants to go on a structured journey that takes them way past the two-dimensional network on display. Just as programmatic images and geometric windows once served as icons that acted as boundaries between symbol and symbolic, content-sparse Odyssey Grids entice participants to go beyond the initial prompt given on each grid piece, inviting deep-level interaction. While neither a maze, nor a labyrinth, the open-ended choice of pathway that an Odyssey journey offers encourages participants to enter a similar experience to that which they'd get if navigating a maze or a labyrinth. At each step, a new vista opens, and new horizons appear. The arrival at the destination provides an opportunity to reflect on the path taken, and retrace it to make sense of the connections, and see the starting position in a new light – the light of revelation.

The display itself; the riddle-like quality of the pieces, with their enigmatic one-word or sketched-out invitations; the open-ended, riddle-like structure I recommend the content behind them having are all ideally suited to developing deep thinking. The visual shorthand used here acts like visual acupuncture on the mind. The display encourages journeyers to enter into the essence of a symbol; rather than remain on the surface of the grid, simply studying the symbols themselves.

The open-ended, riddle-like qualities of each piece in both the grid and Destination Row are designed to awaken curiosity and encourage a search for meaning. This is a powerful way to encourage learning – particularly if this search results in a quantum leap in understanding. An Odyssey journey is ideally suited to making this happen.

Research has shown that recognising similarities and differences, and using metaphors and analogies, are some of the best ways to encourage deep thought and understanding. The unstated connection between grid pieces and Header Row categories invites journeyers to actively explore the possible connections. Working collaboratively, with personal accountability, they typically come up with several possible solutions. When this creative approach to flexible thinking is allowed to flourish by the facilitator, it can have a profound effect.

In addition, every Odyssey journey, every piece that makes up an Odyssey Grid has maieutic potential. The maieutic potential of an Odyssey journey can be brought to the fore by facilitators who use questions to bring forth responses from participators. The word maieutic is associated with Socratic dialogue, and is related to the Greek word for midwifery. It describes a method for the awakening of participants to insights related to experiences that may be latent within them, but that they may not have brought into their conscious thinking, or to create links between existing knowledge, values, and new information. For more information on maieutic questioning, see this page.

Random connections force participants to interrogate unusual or unconventional relationships. Particular types of interactions — such as the Unending Line of Questioning variation (see this page) — bring this type of thinking to the fore.

The journey

American storyteller Kendall Haven was once challenged by senior stakeholders at NASA. He claimed they'd be more effective in getting people to understand important information by using stories than if they tried to use a more formal style in their outreach programmes. The then director said, "Prove it." Haven subsequently trawled through over 350 research studies in 15 fields, and concluded in his book, Story Proof, that any curriculum information will be learned better and more effectively if presented within the context of story structure.

Odyssey journeys share the same structure as many traditional stories. When you go on an Odyssey journey, you're intrinsically following a traditional 6-part story structure, which is hard-wired in us. It's a structure we use to solve problems, to make sense of our experiences.

Let's compare Red Riding Hood's journey to an Odyssey journey:


The structure given here is an individual variation on Mooli Lahad's 6-part story structure. This choice deliberately acknowledges the fact that components do not always come — or need to come — in the order Lahad gives (stages 4 and 5 are reversed here, compared to Lahad's model). Within a complex story, there can be many iterations of stages 3–6 before the final outcome that leads to the conclusion. Jack and the Beanstalk is an example, where Jack climbs the beanstalk three times before the final outcome and conclusion are reached. This feature maps precisely the flexibility of the Odyssey journey, where every turn taken within the grid is a new iteration of these stages.

The individual variation on Lahad's 6-part story structure used above also acknowledges the importance of framing a story – the ritualistic 'once upon a time' and 'they lived happily ever after' statements that invoke and delineate thresholds for entry into and return from the story world. The qualitative difference of entering the story world often manifests as a state of being transported into a state of 'flow'. We observed that students show the same traits when engaging with an Odyssey journey as when engaged in a storytelling performance. Because the content is open-ended, there's a good match between skill level and challenge. The riddle quality of the grid pieces makes engagement interesting, without being too challenging. We've noted that journeyers really enjoy the experience of having a problem 'get under their skin', sometimes living with it for the span of a few days, trying to work it out. When a facilitator allows this state to continue — while supporting and encouraging journeyers to find their own solutions, in order to bring them back to the group, and share them together — then deep transformational learning can happen.

An Odyssey journey's also similar to a structure used in gamestorming – a problem-solving approach devised by a team at XPLANE, a graphic design company in Portland, Oregon, USA, founded by Dave Gray. Their innovative, highly visual techniques allow groups to work together to arrive at a commonly devised solution or goal. While timescales for gamestorming activities and Odyssey journeys may differ, both share features of the story structure variation outlined above. Like a gamestorming session, an Odyssey journey highlights opening (divergent), exploring (emergent) and closing (convergent) stages. It also shares all ten elements of a successful gamestorming session:

• Opening and Closing: the binary form that breathes life into a process.

* An Odyssey journey has clearly defined opening and closing points, on both whole-grid and individual-piece levels. At the whole-grid level, the fixed 'Opportunity' piece as starting point, and the final Destination Row piece as landing point for the Odyssey journey are clear opening and closing elements. At the individual-piece level, while the grid will have been surveyed, and the intriguing prompts wondered about, there is always an initial act of choice that results in journeyers landing on a piece. This opens up the possibility for an exploratory encounter. Once the content's resolved, there's a sense of closure before the process is repeated once more with a new grid piece, until the journey's finally resolved when the final destination's reached.


Excerpted from Odyssey by David Pinto, Leon Conrad. Copyright © 2014 David Pinto and Leon Conrad. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Two introductions 1

A basic overview of the Odyssey Dynamic Learning System, and an invitation 7

Practical versions

Leon's version 14

David's version 34

Create your own Odyssey Grid 50

Facilitate an Odyssey journey 55

Using Kagan Structures with groups 64

Variations 70

Activities 84

Bibliography 176

Resources 181

Forthcoming titles in the Treasure Trove series of Cultural Riddles 186

Notes 195

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