With the number of students we work with on a weekly basis, we are able to get a good sense of the challenges students face when learning technology.
At the highest level, learning to build with technology is often a new experience for students. While they may have been around technology their entire lives, building a project can be very different. In fact, as we’ve previously discussed, lots of technology that students interface with just works.
So we wanted to share a few key strategies that both students and parents should keep in mind to help overcome the challenge of learning technology.
Get comfortable with experimenting
The projects that we work on with our students are designed to have a progressive sets of milestones leading up to the ultimate win of completing a project. Whether, it is building a robot, a video game or a Minecraft Mod, we want to show students that they have everything they need to be successful when building with technology.
To make this real, we also encourage experimentation or modifications at the end of each project. For example, during a robotics project they could have learned how to use an optical sensor with a conditional statement. We often find that additional learning can come when they ask, “what about if we changed the conditional to something else?”.
With an instructor knowledgeable about a wide range of technology platforms, they can often help quickly structure an experiment to test the student’s hypothesis. Through this process, not only did the student learn how the initial project worked but they also were able to gain additional insights into how the project changed when they tried something new.
Lean into failure
Many times when students are building with technology, they want the outcome to be perfect. This is fine when skills are being developed. However, eventually, they need to move beyond prescriptive boundaries and into increasingly complex solutions to create the groundbreaking innovations that will make the world a better place.
We often say that beginners need structure while to develop expertise, students need freedom. Within the learning environment, this means that we are constantly providing opportunities for students to gain comfort with failure.
This could be as simple as suggesting a number for a variable that may create an unanticipated outcome. However, we believe that this is the only way to have students feel what failure is like and then how even when something happens that was not expected that there are ways to overcome things.
Become a good collaborator
Due to the complexities of building with technology, many companies utilize a paired programming structure. In paired programming, 2 developers work together to build a feature, product or service. This does not mean that there is a deficiency with a single developer structure. Instead, it is a recognition that 2 is better than 1 when it comes to building technology that solves a customer need.
Often, we find that students are hesitant to collaborate with each other. Either because they believe that the instructors is the only one that has the answer or they don’t want their classmates to know that they are not quite understanding a difficult concept.
What we encourage in our learning environments is that students should first check with their neighbor, then with their row and finally with the instructor. This creates the collaborative community that we believe is necessary for their ultimate success.
Not only does collaboration improve their ability to communicate the challenge they are facing but it also empowers students to play both the role of teacher and student which solidifies the learning.
While learning with technology has elements of both journey and destination, it is important to realize that there are ways to structure interactions with students to ensure that their learning is maximized.
By getting comfortable with experimenting, leaning into to failure and becoming a good collaborator with others; students are well prepared with a foundation to learn the wide variety of hardware and software platforms that will enable them to succeed in the future.