On not knowing

flowersI was going to say, “On being stupid” but it’s never about being stupid.  That would be a fixed mindset, and I don’t have one of those.  Thursday afternoon, I started working on a circuit project–without absolutely no planning cuz that’s how I roll.  It failed.  I tried some things. Still nothing.  So I hit up Twitter, because that’s what I do when stuff doesn’t work and I’ve already Googled the crap out of it.  Andrew responded and attempted to help me.  I had some idea what my problem was, but I knew he was better at electronics than I am.  He can even read a circuit diagram.  And then he blogged the whole episode.  Because that’s what we #makered people do.

This is what I ask my students to do all the time.  Come up with a project.  Neither of us may know what we’re doing, but . . . go!  And then sometimes things fail.  Because things are messy.  I struggle all the time with presenting neat and clean lessons vs. inquiry/project-based processes.  Do this and then this will happen vs. just try something along these parameters.  There are multiple problems with the latter approach, but they’re all manageable, I think.  Andrew questions in his blog post whether we need to provide an underlying foundation of electronics before tackling my crazy light-up origami flower garden.  I think he comes down on the side of “it doesn’t matter because you’ll do something outside the norm anyway.”  What Andrew addresses and what I think #makered is at its best is going beyond the text and the tutorial.

What’s problematic is that students sometimes struggle with going beyond the text, especially if they’ve never experienced the text in the first place.  To me, what we are aiming for is getting people waaaaay beyond their comfort zone, of going from having no knowledge to seeking knowledge and doing so to achieve some goal.  So if you’re going to do electronics work, there is some fundamental stuff people need to know. Positive, negative, what makes a circuit and yeah, voltage, etc.  But what you really learn from is when you wire up 10 LEDs and realize, oh, yeah, those need more power than a 3V watch battery.  And then you go about fixing the problem.

No, I still haven’t gotten my problem fixed (haven’t had time), but I’ve learned something in a visceral way.  When I figure this out, I will remember that. I will pass that knowledge on, but many of my students will need to learn it the same way I did–by failing–and then succeeding.

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