Microwave versus slow cooked technologists

Microwave versus slow cooked technologists

Categorized under: technology education for kids

For as long as most of us can remember, we’ve had a microwave in our homes. Given the immense time pressures that most of us have to juggle to keep our lives on track, heating a meal up in a microwave versus cooking on a stove or in the oven is not a luxury most of us can afford. However, we intuitively understand that a microwave meal is not going to be as good for us even though it fills the very real need of saving us time while satisfying our hunger.

With education, there can be a similar trade off. Do we go for the quick win by getting our kids to cram the night  before an upcoming test? Or, do we work with them throughout the unit to make sure they understand the material they will be tested on? Do we help them complete their homework? Or, do we have them go back and review the material and treat homework like the individual practice it is supposed to be? In essence, do we have the patience to play the long game with our kids education? 

In the long game, we may have to try several different ways of explaining a difficult concept until it clicks. In the long game, we may have to drop them off early at school so they can get extra help from their teacher. In the long game, we may have to say no to a social event so that we can spend the time with our kids reviewing a challenging problem.

Let’s face it. The long game can be difficult. Sometimes it just feels better to have them do simple math on a calculator versus having them do it in their heads. But when we do this, we inhibit their ability to develop true number sense for when they actually need it in their lives. And, isn't that really the point of education?

In a similar way, if you ask most people would they prefer slow cooked BBQ or a microwave dinner, the choice would be clear as long as they don’t have to prepare the BBQ themselves.

Unfortunately, with our kids, we don’t have the luxury of having someone else prepare the meal. We have to take our kids to extracurricular and enrichment activities. And when they get home, we have to ask them how things went. When the answers or unsatisfying or unclear, we have to schedule time with their instructors or coaches to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses.

In education technology, the dynamic is no different. There are microwave approaches and there are slow cooked BBQ approaches. The main difference is that we’ve had several examples of food that we’ve consumed over the years. However, in technology learning for kids the data set is not yet as robust. So, it’s hard for parents to know what approaches are more like fast food and which are more similar to slow cooked BBQ.

As a result, there is often a search for reliable proxies. Can you show me what progress my child has made over the last 2 weeks? Or, when will my child be ready for real text-based programming?

These conversations can be challenging because the reality is that building creative problem solving skills takes time. And, in some ways, the path to true independence can be relatively inefficient.

For example, if we wanted to simply show output, we could have students simply copy and paste lines of code that our staff developed so they could show their parents a nice mobile app by the end of an hour long session. However, that would not allow us to remain true to our mission - We teach kids to build with technology so they can grow up to change the world.

This North Star requires us to take a slow, methodical approach to student development. This path is not always linear. However, our digital sandbox is modeled after the great technologists early experiences. Our goal is to replicate that proven model in a scalable way for a larger number of learners. 

Ultimately, we think this will result in some amazing creative problem solvers that think independently and want to bring their own unique ideas to life while having fun. It’s difficult and it’s challenging. But, so is that slow cooked BBQ brisket that everyone enjoys.

About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.