One of my favorite movies as a child was The Karate Kid. The story centers around the main character, Daniel, and his karate teacher, Mr. Miyagi. Daniel is interested in learning karate so that he can protect himself from bullies at school and in his neighborhood. To develop his karate skills, Mr. Miyagi has Daniel embark on a series of seemingly unrelated projects like waxing cars and painting a fence.
What Daniel doesn’t realize is that Mr. Miyagi is enabling him to learn about the key foundational movements and techniques in karate so that when he needs to block a punch or land a kick, the motion is automatic.
On the other hand, the kids who bully Daniel at school go to a competing dojo called Cobra Kai. At Cobra Kai, they enable kids to jump directly into the typical karate drills - punches and kicks. They are also extremely competitive and don’t often show any mercy to their fellow classmates. If you walked into a Cobra Kai dojo, you would definitely think they were learning karate while at Mr. Miyagi’s dojo it would just look like Daniel is doing household chores.
The movie builds to a crescendo when Daniel has to fight a rival from Cobra Kai. Since Daniel has developed his skills over time in a methodical, precise manner; he is much more able to compete with the direct rote instruction of the Cobra Kai student.
There are many similarities between Karate Kid and the current approach in technology education. Students have many opportunities to quickly build video games, Minecraft Mods and Roblox enhancements using nothing more than tutorials. While this is initially satisfying, it doesn’t enable students to get to the true goal which is being able to build what they think should exist in the world.
With tutorials or guides that walk students through exactly how to build a specific video game without first building their foundational problem solving skills, you will ultimately have kids who will be lost or incapable without step-by-step instructions.
Those who learned how to scope, deconstruct and build projects will be able to utilize this prior knowledge when they are ready to branch out on their own. They will be ready for any situation even one that they have not necessarily seen. The reality is that most of the interesting problems for the coming generation of young people will require novel solutions that hadn’t previously been considered.
While their solutions may be an aggregation of different approaches utilizing the technology stack, the key is that we must prepare our students for that which is unknown. So, while it might ultimately be satisfying for your child to show off their game, you should probe a bit deeper to see if they would would be able to make something similar or better without step-by-step instructions.
The path to success in technology is developing the capability to build independently. While it takes more time and can initially be less satisfying, ultimately parents and students will value true skill development that comes from a patient educational approach.
When this approach is taken, the student becomes the teacher and attains the ultimate goal which is the ability to leverage their knowledge to bring new innovations and inventions to the world. Let’s make sure that we support the long-term approach to investing in our young people so that they truly have the capability to change the world.