Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tell Kids They are Smart Enough

When kids come to me and say their computer is broken, and I ask them to tell me more I think of a person going to a doctor and saying "Something hurts, somewhere....can you fix it?"

I told some kids today that very smart people make it their jobs to write out error messages describing a complex problem in a language that non-engineers can understand. I demonstrated an error by creating a bad file name, and then trying to upload it to our classroom website's "editing room" (an online folder where kids share work). We read the error message, and not surprisingly we figured out what was wrong with the file name.

In an informal poll, more than half of my students feel they are smarter than their parents when it comes to operating a computer. Therefore I have concluded that they have been told by the adults who have taught them about computers thus far that they are not smart enough to figure out what an error message means, and that they as students are not to be trusted to read this message and attempt to troubleshoot the problem themselves?

What's the worst that could happen? They lose their work? Possibly, but not learning about computers and not learning how to troubleshoot problems would be a greater loss than a few paragraphs of typing.

Empower kids to troubleshoot. Initially they feel nervous or a bit overwhelmed, but we don't let them keep their training wheels on their bikes forever. Why should computer use be different?

1 comment:

Dave Truss said...

Learn to trouble shoot... wise words indeed my friend.
Just had to share this with you: http://xkcd.com/627/
Cheers ;-)