Tie And Jeans

Seriously, try the soup

There’s an traditional cycle for how students expect to learn things in school. First, teachers announce what everyone is going to learn. Then those same teachers present a basic framework for how this new skill or thing emerges from what we’ve all learned in the past. For some number of days or weeks after that, teachers provide instruction and examples that demonstrate exactly how everyone needs to demonstrate this new skill/knowledge. Ultimately there’s a project, a quiz or a test where everyone has to prove that they followed all the steps and know the same amount about phytoplankton or the Sedition Act.

Makers doesn’t work like that.

Rule 126

When you walked in today, you got your first glimpse at two strange patterns from a large and fascinating set of patterns. Everyone jostled for markers and started to fill in squares, while proclamations of “I’m so confused” and “I don’t get this at all” drowned out any discussion of the patterns and rules at hand.

In the learning cycle you’re used to, those words are powerful. Those are the words you use to send a lesson back to the teacher for adjustment: for more explanation, for more examples, for clarity about what’s going to be on the test.

The cycle we’re all used to treats confusion as an aberration, a bowl soup that arrives too spicy or too cold. Not only does the soup need to be replaced, but the experience makes the whole kitchen seem less trustworthy.

Makers doesn’t work like that. Here, confusion and frustration are cultivated as an essential part of learning anything genuinely new. Here we serve stuffed bowls of Bún bò Huế or silken gazpacho. If you’ve been trained to expect Cambell’s Chicken Noodle, you might feel out of place. You can take your time trying out these new flavors, but have some faith in the kitchen.

Recipe and photo from Ravenous Couple

Recipe and photo from Ravenous Couple

Single Post Navigation

4 thoughts on “Seriously, try the soup

  1. I’m curious what you’re up to with those patterns. It reminds me of the figures in Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science. See the Amazon peek-inside.

  2. tieandjeans on said:

    That’s exactly what they are. Rule 60 and Rule 126, to be specific. :) I don’t name them in the post or on the whiteboard because I don’t want to push kids towards googling/Alpha-ing the complete picture. (I syndicate posts about the class to a school hosted blog that kids can see)

    That class self-identifies as the “robots” group, and I know that I’m going to have to push on them to recognize that programing and representing information are more essential skills than LEGO assembly.

    Small CA are just wonderful and beautiful on their own, but in this context I’m trying to use them as a path into minimal data representation and the idea of striving for the smallest sufficient instruction set. Like, that’s a lot of whiteboard to fill up from just one strip of making tape!

    Having provided the “early CS” exposure for many of these students, I know that they’re going to need more than just a simple ladder to climb out of the “explicitly define every behavior” well.

    Fighting against that “line for every step” imperative programing frame is one of the reasons we’re skipping First Lego League. The competitive, time-limited, points driven environment favors calibrated explicit instructions over sensing or abstracted routines.

    Exploring CA patterns like this is one starting point, I hope, for a programming mindset that looks for big structural patterns. Who knows? In a few weeks, maybe one of them will think to write a Scratch program that generates 50 lines of a CA? Maybe by the end of the semester, someone will write a generalized one that builds any CA.

    • That’s it. I just bought Wolfram’s book to catch up. What’s CA?

      Do you mean that this activity serves as a warm-up to programming? If so, awesome! All I’ve tried so far is Light Bot and having students mimic some procedural steps until it seemed they were ready for OOP. (I’m pitching a programming course to my administrators for next year.)

  3. “… confusion and frustration are cultivated as an essential part of learning anything genuinely new.” Bravo, Andrew!!

    I’ve tried the soup! Many times. One of my favorites. :) Although I skip the pork blood cubes there.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: