Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why do it by hand?

I posted the following in an online discussion with some of my peers at other schools. I was questioning whether new technologies were making a significant enough of a difference to justify the cost and students could still do neat projects without computers; there was a response about how animated students get using technology, and yes, projects can be done on poster board, but why should they? Which got me to thinking, and this is how I responded:

Some reasons I can think of:

1. Doing projects by hand develops eye-hand coordination. Hand-work is critical to brain development.

2. It develops measurement skills. I see low scores fairly consistently on the Measurement standard (ILS #7), which I suspect is due to the fact that kids never measure things. More cooking, sewing, woodwork!

3. It develops an appreciation for materials and how they work together. Also textures, and what the tools of visual arts are: crayons vs markers vs watercolor vs tempera vs etc. Photoshop effects make a lot more sense if you know their real-world analogs

4. Overall design: the computer screen can be quite limiting when you want to see the overall effect, at 100%.

5. Designing without the computer screen can be relaxing and less stressful I think -- not sure if that is universal, but at least a personal observation.

I do not disagree with the excitement re: computers, but I also think of it like a sugar rush. And I am not saying that I would want to go back to doing layouts with press type and rubber cement, but I am glad I did that once because it makes what the computers do more understandable.

I am wondering if maybe technology education should recapitulate technology evolution -- learn the old way before you learn the new way.


Rebecca said...

These are really interesting points! I personally find it is harder to get into a "flow state" (relaxed concentration) in front of the computer. And even when I'm just doing stuff like writing a blog post, I love to write notes and underline what I'm reading and then spread my notes and outlines and drafts all over my floor, which is not possible to do on a computer screen!

I feel like I've reached a threshold where I would prefer to minimize my screen time. Perhaps this will also happen with kids? At some point, maybe working with real paints, wood, fabric will be more novel than doing something on a screen? It seems important for kids to be both digitally literate citizens and also tactile-y literate citizens, able to hammer nails, sew buttons, and make art!

There is also some interesting research about how learning things using handwriting instead of typing (while solving algebra equations in particular) helps students learn more efficiently. In this case students were using a pen tablet to do handwriting on a computer -- maybe one way to bring the "by hand" ethos into the computer world.

If you are interested, here is the blog post I wrote about this research:

jd said...

Thanks very much for the link! (Here it is as a live link: I like the part of about solving problems twice as fast by hand.