Thoughts on the Evolution of Learning

In a recent column I pondered about the various merits involved in learning magic from a book or by watching a DVD. I had a lot of interesting email on the piece and decided that I would return to the subject at a future date. What I hadn’t expected was that within a month of writing the column I would have received a couple of life lessons on the topic.

Like many other performers I have recently been spending a fair amount of time debating how to package some of my routines and market them within the magic world. I was reluctantly reaching the conclusion that a series of DVDs was the best solution and that in special cases I would augment the video with the written word.

I recently had the pleasure to work with the British mindreader Marc Paul on an exotic cruise run to the outer reaches of Norway. Let me immediately say what an impressive performer Marc is, his clean cut and carefully planned act was a delight. I will look forward to writing a full-scale review of this superb performer in the near future however at this point I want to concentrate on just one area that Marc introduced me too. That very twenty first century phenomena called an eBook entered my life.

I did own a couple of fairly ‘geeky’ eBooks hidden away in the documents folder of my computer’s hard drive but they certainly hadn’t prepared me for the excitement I felt when I realized the possibilities that learning magic from an eBook presented. I discovered that state of the art delivery and a perfect learning tool now existed.

Marc Paul has a series of really excellent routines available in PDF form via his website and I read them all with interest. Here are a string of first class effects that are worth their weight in gold to a pro and they are available instantly as a downloadable whim. With Marc’s routines it was the simplicity that caught my attention. There was exactly enough text and photos to teach the routines precisely as Marc performs them in his show.  No waste and no padding! I strongly suggest any other magicians with an eye for strong mental material check out Marc’s website at

Marc gave me a crash course in the various state of the art eBooks that are available. As I watched Michael Close’s newest publication ‘Closely Guarded Secrets’ I literally gasped when I observed the grace and economy with which complicated ideas and routines could be communicated. This book’s style of mixing written word, photography and video was very definitely something special. I realized that this was the learning curve of the future and have since started work on preparing a series of comedy magic routines in this format.

About two weeks after my discovery of the gigantic potential involved in downloadable PDF files, I was working in Las Vegas filling in for Mac King at Harrah’s. I received a call from Jeff McBride who along with Eugene Burger were bringing their current Mystery School class to see my show. Jeff asked if I would mind doing a short Q & A with the group after the show. I replied that I would be delighted.

On the appointed afternoon Jeff and his group were in the audience and after the show we regrouped for our discussion. During the following hour I was amazed and impressed at the amount of information that I shared with the group. It was a crash course in how live interaction can extract information that can’t exist on any written page.

Of course this didn’t just happen automatically. Jeff had made a list of questions to ask me that cut to the very heart of the performance of comedy magic. Eugene added a couple of fascinating topics to the mix and before I knew it I was able to really express some truly valuable insight to the group. This was a perfect example of how the old-fashioned ‘one on one’ school of teaching and mentoring could not be beaten as a learning tool.

It is as easy to forget the importance of the traditional styles of learning, as it is to fail to notice the new methods that technology has presented us with. One thing that remains very clear to me is that in any learning situation the most important thing you can do is to ask the right questions. In fact if you ask the wrong questions it really doesn’t matter what answers you receive. High-tech or low-tech we are now presented with a myriad of ways to learn and it is our job to balance our forms of input and then to put the resulting information into application. Nothing is really learned until it is put into application.

~ by Nick Lewin on April 12, 2010.

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