Around this time of year, everyone is excited about getting started with the new school year. With my kids, things are no different. Recently, my kids started back school. For my son, this marks a switch from elementary into middle school. My daughter is now in her 2nd year of middle school. One thing that I talk a lot about with my kids is making things easier for whoever comes after you. So, as I prepared them for the year ahead, I told her it was her responsibility to make the big middle school smaller for her brother. She immediately told me, it’s not that bad, he will be fine. So, I reiterated, she needed to make the big scary middle school smaller for her brother.
When we make things smaller, they become more digestible and more understandable. When we make things smaller, they become simpler and the complexity is removed. When we make things smaller, they become less scary. At middle school, there are many different things that my son will have to think about. How do I get to all my different classes? What time do I go to lunch? Will I get along with my teachers? What new friends will I make? However, with his sister there to distill down exactly what is important, the scope of what he has to think about is much more manageable. She can let him know that he doesn’t have to think about certain things while there are other things that he definitely can and should focus on. During the ride to school for their 1st day, she was dropping all kinds of wisdom to him about what he needed to do in order to be successful. Beyond being proud that she embraced this leadership role, it also got me to thinking about the applicability to technology.
Fundamentally, I believe that there is a similar dynamic that exists within technology. While there are amazing inventions and innovations, we need to make the universe of technology smaller to those who are just getting started. If we make things too big, it becomes overwhelming and scary. However, if we start with the basics of how do we build a video game and happen to use conditional statements and loops to create controls for the character then things start to make sense. Or, if we begin with just re-skinning a familiar tool in Minecraft then modding becomes much less intimidating.
Often those who know more want to prove their knowledge by making things bigger than they need to be. They talk about the complexity of their most amazing project. They spend time discussions the hours that went into building a desirable, new feature. But, they often forget that in order to create breathtaking new products and services, you often have to start small and build up confidence and skills. Once you have developed a fundamental understanding of the building blocks of technology, the sky is the limit. From there, you can zoom out and the opportunities are only limited by your imagination. But, remember, you will never get there with new students if you start big. So, if you’re in the space as either a practitioner or an educator, start small and watch how high those you work with will ultimately soar.