Welcome to the bloggy home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Percolate and general internet tinkerer. This site is about media, culture, technology, and randomness. It's been around since 2004 (I'm pretty sure). Feel free to get in touch. Get in touch.

You can subscribe to this site via RSS (the humanity!) or .

Pearls of Creativity

Since I taught myself PHP/MySQL last year, I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to teach kids to make stuff on the web. The idea has been sort of brewing in my head and I’ve written a few things/shared it with a few folks. Basically I want to create a curriculum not around teaching code, which is done and is boring, but around the interdisciplinary process of making stuff.

Anyway, the process would begin with teaching kids about where ideas come from. Basically I think that early on you can explain to children that rather than treating an irritant or inconvenience as something that annoys them, you can show them it’s an opportunity to make something new: To fix a problem. That to me describes the entrepreneurial spirit. There, I Fixed It is more than just the ability to continue on with what you were doing, it is invention. (I’m certainly not the first person to make this point, Thoughtless Acts illustrates it nicely.)

Or, take this definition from the very long Atlantic article on happiness. (It’s about the longest running longitudinal studies that has looked at the overall health and well-being of a select group of Harvard males over the last 70 years.) The quote is about one of the studies participants who had overcome lots of hardships:

In several vignettes in the book, Vaillant presents Merton [a participant] as an exemplar of how mature adaptations are a real-life alchemy, a way of turning the dross of emotional crises, pain, and deprivation into the gold of human connection, accomplishment, and creativity. “Such mechanisms are analogous to the involuntary grace by which an oyster, coping with an irritating grain of sand, creates a pearl,” he writes. ‘Humans, too, when confronted with irritants, engage in unconscious but often creative behavior.”

It makes me smile to think of human ingenuity as comparable to an oyster making a pearl. And I think it’s a pretty good recipe.

August 2, 2009

Comments

  • Eugene Lin says:

    hey noah. interesting ideas. a tangential observation…i’ve been increasingly irked by the ease and pride with which people box themselves off as either creative or logical, indignant that anyone would suggest these were anything but mutually exclusive. (e.g. “i’m not a numbers person.”) always seemed like an extremely low bar to strive toward.

  • Eugene Lin says:

    btw, have you seen the demo for Kodu, Microsoft’s new programming game for kids??
    http://xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/14310459/kodu/videos/ces2009sync_kodu_dem_010909.html

  • Ash [Bettr@] says:

    Hi Noah. Sweet post, a friend just forwarded me this article and thought you might be interested in what we’re workin’ on. I’m working on a consumer internet startup to help just about anyone get better any anything they are passionate about, including PHP/MYSql. It might be something your kids are interested in.

    If you’re interested, feel free to sign up for the beta.

    We’re getting bugs and stuff ironed out right now, but we should be releasing by the very latest on September 14/15th.

    Take care, and happy learning to you and your loved ones.

    Bettr@

    ash – Hi Noah. Sweet post, a friend just forwarded me this article and thought you might be interested in what we’re workin’ on. I’m working on a consumer internet startup to help just about anyone get better any anything they are passionate about, including PHP/MYSql. It might be something your kids are interested in.

    If you’re interested, feel free to sign up for the beta.

    We’re getting bugs and stuff ironed out right now, but we should be releasing by the very latest on September 14/15th.

    Take care, and happy learning to you and your loved ones.

    Bettr@

    ash – Bettr@

  • harris says:

    This type of teaching is already done. It is called kindergarten. Unfortunately, it isn’t really taught (or even encouraged) past that point.

  • Robin says:

    Love this notion. Take one part LOGO, one part IDEO, one part Y Combinator, and make a fifth-grade class out of it.

    For what it’s worth, I actually think the technology angle is important. I could imagine some sort of problem-solving/design-thinking curriculum built around physical materials, or even simple hardware hacking or whatever, but pixels on the screen have two advantages:

    1. Super gratifying. There’s no set of tools anywhere that lets you get something working faster.

    2. Easy to share. One of my beefs w/ school is that so much the work is intended for a tiny audience (too often an audience of one) and then never seen or heard from again.

    So instead, imagine a website brimming over w/ all the little projects made by these kids — a showcase of problems solved (or at least valiantly attempted).

    826 Valencia for design, code & problem-solving!

    ytmnd.com for good, not evil! (OK, maybe that’s a stretch.)

  • Benton says:

    When it comes to building things online there is a great program I read about a while ago during the hype surrounding the last lecture called ALICE which teaches 3d programming/javascript for the kids and hack it together with the Human Centered Design Process Guide form IDEO (best freesource for NGO’s). They give a surprising amount of information on their research process and influencing social change. Specifically on discovering that potential pearl.

  • Jeff Stern says:

    Having taught entrepreneurship to middle and high school students, I completely agree with the cross-disciplinary approach. It’s about getting into a problem-solving orientation. There’s a relatively famous study that shows that when kids are shown a picture of a person in a wheelchair (or something similar) and asked “Can this person drive a car?”, most say no. However, when asked “How can this person drive a car?” there are a multitude of creative answers. The trick is attaining that “how” orientation when faced with life’s many little irritants.

  • Programming vs Making Stuff | Noah Brier dot Com says:

    […] thought lots about the topic of teaching code since I taught myself a few years ago. My thesis, which still stands, is that the best way to teach people who want to make things to […]

  • Leave a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Don't sweat it.