Friday, November 29, 2013

All Kinds of Thinkers Needed

As I talked with students about creating a Hacker club at my school, I asked them what hacking meant to them and what they would do in that club. Techie kids wanted to solve problems through technology, create apps and explore programming problems. I asked, how will you use technology to solve problems and what problems will you solve? They know how to use technology, but in the words of one techie kid: "I just don't know how to identify problems that need to be solved. Once I have a problem, I can solve it and that's the part I like." The part that interests most of these kids is the solving-not the identification of the problem. Here's the good news: there are many kids out there who know how to find the problems and identify them, but don't know the technology with which to solve them! These sets of kids have different interests and skill sets. The techie kids are great at figuring out how to solve the problems. The big thinker kids are great at figuring out what problems to solve. Solution: put the two sets of kids together and let them work on projects.

There are all kinds of thinkers in the world: big picture people, detail people, techie people, and many many other types. If they work in isolation, they only get so far. If they get put together in one place, they can help one another. Problem identified, brainstorming done, solutions found and presented! Now, how can schools get all these types of kids together? Well, look at your average classroom. We don't take all the aural learners or visual learners and put them in one section of science. Every class is mixed in terms of learning styles. If we asked students to solve real world problems that exist in their own communities, then we could take this mixed population of different thinkers and help them solve these problems. The big thinker kids would help identify the problems. The empathetic kids would help the others understand the problem. The creative thinking kids could brainstorm solutions. The crafty kids, or makers, could make prototypes out of real materials. And the techie kids could create technological solutions. And in the process, they would all learn by observing the other types of thinkers in the group, while maintaining their own individual strengths. Seems like a great solution to preparing our students for the real world and solving real world problems.