Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Importance of Learning at Home - Even if Your Kids are in Public School

One of the downsides of the government-run education system is that it teaches kids (though not necessarily overtly) that authority, truth, and knowledge all come from public (government-run) institutions.

Children are tested on the retention of trivia such as the date of an historical event - rather than the importance of what caused the event or why.  

Creative thinking is often discouraged in favor of rote memorization and regurgitation of factoids that have little practical use in the real world.  

Arduino Uno R3 Microcontroller
This is one reason that I am very excited about the Maker Movement.  The Maker Movement encourages is to be creative, to learn by applying skills in practical projects that they design and build themselves.  With the advent of very inexpensive developer boards like the Arduino series of microcontrollers and the Raspberry Pi Linux Computer (all under $35 or so), kids are now more empowered to learn real-world practical skills by exploring, being resourceful, and the application of trial and error (rather than being taught that mistakes are wrong). 

Since everything in the Maker Movement is Open-Source, software for projects is all free of charge.  Kids and contribute to projects and have friends and other members of the Maker Community collaborate with them - thus teaching them how accomplishments are made in the real world (In contrast, most "collaboration" in public school is considered cheating).  This teaches cooperation and teamwork in the pursuit of their goals rather than isolation and competition.  
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

What's more is that these devices are so inexpensive that if they experience a catastrophic failure and they damage or destroy a device, it really isn't all that expensive of a lesson.  

The Arduino Microcontrollers are great for bringing computing into the real/physical world.  Lots of I/O pins allow software to control physical tings such as servos, motors, relays, pumps, LEDs, speakers, and more.  Before long kids will be building their own robots using these devices.  

The Raspberry Pi is more of a standard computer.  It has an HDMI output which allows your HDTV to become a computer monitor.  Four USB ports, Ethernet, an SD Card slot, Camera port, and GPIO pins, and the Linux-based OS make it extremely powerful.  The NOOBS (New Out Of the Box) software includes a hackable version of Minecraft so that kids can learn to automate a lot of their gameplay or creations that they wish to build through writing software in Python.  

There are plenty of projects that incorporate both of these development boards as well.  The Internet is full of instructions for projects they can build and modify to their liking.  

So with this in mind, I will begin a series of tutorials on these devices, starting with the Arduino boards.