This morning my son Jack was trying to use a mouse to open a web link we have on our iMac desktop. He's 5 and is fully capable of working any iPhone, iPod touch and iPad in our home. I saw him struggle a bit to move the mouse around. It wasn't easy for him, but eventually he was able to navigate to where he needed to click.
What struck me about this event was that with touch interfaces coming to so many devices, the connections between physical and digital things are become very seamless in our daily lives. This is not a new revelation by any means, but I'm concerned about the chance that people will lose the understanding of how things are made. I fully admit that I've spent most of my life existing and haven't given a second thought to how the milk jug is created, how coffee is made or how furniture is crafted. I've just reached a point now where I do want to know. I'm enjoying the show "How It's Made" even more now.
People who know me would say that I use technology. A lot. But one thing that they wouldn't say about me is that I work well with my hands to make physical things. People don't refer to me as a 'handyman' or seek me out when they want to do drywall or crown moulding.
On a personal question to improve my skills I've been looking for way to change that by using technology to create physical things. To take things out of virtual spaces into the physical realm. The purchase last semester of Makerbots was my first foray into this area. These machines are amazing. I built them with my hands, which was extremely satisfying. Last week I even made a cup from a design at Thingiverse to hold pushpins on my desk.
What I love about the Makerbots are that they give the designer that satisfaction of taking something that is abstract and virtual and turn it into a tangible, touchable product. School deals with so many theoretical and hypotheticals to encourage students to think at a higher level, but I think that critical thinking and problem solving can be achieved just as well through the iterative process. I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone and have spent a few days in the shop this semester learning from students. Last week a student and I created a hamster rig in about 30 minutes to film a movie with our life skills class. It was primitive but worked perfectly!
As a teacher have you seen a disconnect among your students between the physical and digital worlds? How can we best utilize these two different spaces in combination to benefit student learning? A big question, I know.