The students in my class are discovering something this year: making things is hard.
As I’ve been tweeting and writing about, I’ve managed to secure two 3D printers for my classroom this year. I’ve also made more of a commitment to myself to push the students in my classroom into more areas of “digital creativity.” I’m promoting working with Scratch, and I’ve got two Raspberry Pi computers in my classroom that we are working with. I’ve got several older (but still perfectly good) sets of Lego Mindstorms sets. I am also pushing things like Codeacademy with kids.
But my students are running into the fact that these things are hard to do. Students who say they are “good with computers,” are finding that the skills they have gained posting things on Facebook and playing Call of Duty don’t help them much when it comes to designing 3D objects or struggling with the logic of basic programming.
These things are hard to do and they require a balance of a lot of different skills:
creativity + logic + design + hands on skills = digital creations
We are raising a generation of computer users who believe that gaming and social networking are what computers are all about. They are trained to sit, watch videos and read webpages that are served up to them and press publish on a post or an update. Don’t get me wrong, I think that social networking can lead to positive connections between people. I run a classroom community that has about 100 students signed up on it which I hope will allow kids to see each other in new ways. But I also think that we need to balance this out with other possibilities in classrooms.
So this means that we struggle.
This means that I need to push kids to be creative and to fight through learning some of the skills that they need. This means devoting precious classroom time to a set of changing priorities that includes 3D design but not a spelling program. It means including some basic programming that will take some time from a few other subjects. These are all choices.
Making is hard, but the skills are valuable. It’s worth the push to get there.