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Forget the Spoon, Just Tinker with It!

March 13, 2009

I was reading Chris Betcher’s recent blog post about The Myth of the Digital Native and I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with him on this.  The premise that our students are somehow all technologically proficient because they have grown up with technology is a flawed assumption at best.

I am currently teaching a Grade 9 Introduction to Information Technology course and it amazes me how little faith these students have in themselves as far as problem solving goes.  Most of them continually ask for help rather than figure out a particular concept for themselves via tinkering.  This need to be “spoon fed” is creating a generation of young people who struggle with any situation that involves critical thought.

When I was in high school in the early 1980’s, we did not have access to computers until the 11th grade.  So, grade 9 and 10 computer classes focused on developing our “tinkering skills” so to speak.  We were using flowcharts to plan things out for writing simple programs in Fortran and Basic.  We would then spend hours de-bugging our programs to make them work or to streamline the code.

I never really pursued programming after high school (something I regret to this day) but I have retained my “tinkering skills.”  When I want (or need) to learn a new application I just plug away at it until I figure it out.  This has proved to be a useful life skill for me.

Some of my students must feel like I am abandoning them when I say, “try to figure it out on your own.” Little do they know that I am, in my own way, trying to get them to develop their “tinkering skills.”

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