OODA(L)s of Fun: Maneuver Warfare, Innovation, and the EFL Classroom Pt1

A complex OODA loop

Inspiration from strange places

I am a wannabe guitarist. To be fair to myself, I am getting better, but I am no Django Rheinhardt, Eddie Van Halen or even”Skunk” Baxter. Skunk was probably not on your list (or mine) of famous guitarists, but he has won Grammys for his skills while playing for the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan. As a wannabe better guitarist, I do a lot of reading about music, guitars and musicians. So when I was looking through my Flipboard app, a short article appeared about the apparently unbelievable career “Skunk” Baxter had as a guitarist and later as a consultant for the Pentagon. Missile Defense…of all things. So, naturally, being a military vet, guitar player, AND innovator, I had to find out more.

As luck would have it, I was also searching for new ideas and thoughts on a new type of class I want to design and pilot at a local school. I wanted to approach teaching EFL through the context of problem building and problem-solving. So, a search of YouTube brought up this:

Jeff is a remarkable guy, a talented musician, and a reasonably good speaker. I recommend the video, not so much because it’s a speech by a Grammy winning guitarist who happens to be a defense authority (an interesting chain of events, that), but because he talks about the brilliance of somebody else, namely John Boyd.

The OODA Loop

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, and it was a process perfected through application in aerial combat by US Air Force pilot John Boyd. Without getting into the long story of Boyd’s life, (here’s a link to his bio) it’s enough for us to know that Boyd was insatiably curious, extremely daring, and lived to innovate. Much of the Marine Corps fighting philosophy stems from Boyd and his OODA process, as well as his understanding of warfare.

Here’s a graphic that explains the simple OODA loop:

retrieved 19/11/21 from: https://expertprogrammanagement.com/2020/10/the-ooda-loop/

Like all good things for innovators, there really is no such thing as “simple”, only simple explanations for others to digest. Here’s the full OODA loop:

retrieved 19/11/21 from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/John-Boyds-OODA-Loop-Concept-based-on-Boyd-1996-http-wwwbelisariuscom_fig2_228225573

The first diagram was Boyd’s conceptual model at the beginning of his career, the latter image, from the end of his career.

And this got me thinking…

What if I could use the OODA loop as a context for language teaching? Similar things have already been done, I am sure, so there might be just enough information readily available so that I could adapt these concepts. More interestingly, what if I used this context to teach the OODA loop to students in this context? In other words, they would begin by learning from using OODA loops, until at some point they could use it in their own thinking and apply it to whatever problems or concepts they might need it for…even in other languages. Now there’s a thought.

Part II. Designing a class based on OODA loops.

In the next part, I will share a design I have for using an OODA loop as the basis for how a class might work. See you next time.

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