Divergent Thinking

@pmcash is a very bright man.  I had the pleasure of taking additional qualification courses with him a couple of years ago.  Well, more than a couple but who’s counting?  Peter, John, and I kind of got away with murder at the course.  Since our initial degrees were in Computer Science, the assignments that were given to the class were child’s play.  So, we had the old teacher trick thrown on us.  “Why don’t you guys create your own advanced project?”

We did and had a great time with it.  It was also a foreshadowing of life as a Computer Science teachers – there really isn’t the perfect textbook.  As a Computer Science teacher, you gather ideas and projects from all over the place to interest, motivate and inspire your students.  If you’ve ever taught Computer Science, you know what I mean.  If you’re not a Computer Science teacher, you really need to drop in to a Computer Science classroom to see some of the brightest students in action.  It’s the one subject area where you can see collaboration taken to the extreme and you can literally see students think.  If you want to see a “thinkaloud” in action for real purposes, watch a Computer Science student work on and try to solve a problem with their group.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about getting text from your computer into an eBook format and then ultimately onto your iPod.  I can’t test it myself but I’m sure that the same technique would work with an iPad.  Peter was the sole respondent and his words “I think us “old guys” (that includes you) are good at this sort of divergent thinking related to computers because we’ve been at it for so long!” really hit a chord.  As Peter notes, we cut our teeth on computers where there wasn’t always an “app for that”.  If there wasn’t, we just wrote one.  It’s something that lingers to this date.  Every computer I own has a programming language on it just in case I need to do something.  As I proofread yesterday’s post, I noted that it was a little more technical than I usually write.  I’m still trying to shake this nerdy personna I got from hanging around with Peter!  As an aside, Peter showed up in my session at last summer’s CEMC Summer Institute for Computer Studies Teachers and it was like we had been teaching together all along.  After all this time, we still had the passion for the subject and its discipline.

Within the past week, I’ve had to help out a couple of good friends who had the unfortunate situation of a virus landing on their computer.  In one case, it was a quite nasty one and took a while to clean it up.  I just hope that I got it all.  It reinforced in my mind some of the computing habits that are so prevalent these days.  Click on something and get instant gratification and you really don’t need to know how it all works, do you?  After all, I can drive a car  but I don’t need to know how to change the engine.

I’ve always found that statement interesting.   When things do go wrong with computers and they have to take it in for repair, patience is not a real virtue.  “I don’t have all day; can’t you just do something and make it all better?”  It reminds me of this clip.

For a long time now, we’ve hung onto the notion that the kids know it all and so there’s no role for the teacher.  Just let a kid do it.

But, where do they get their skills?  Where do they get the problems to solve?  Where can they think outside the curriculum for unique and new solutions?

I was so hopeful that, with the release of the new Computer Studies Curriculum in Ontario, that there would be a compulsory course in Computer Studies.  Sure, there are computer skills that are taught in some classes, but there’s more to computer use than “doing a Powerpoint”.  The whole idea of divergent thinking and problem solving are so crucial.  Where else but in a computer studies class can we provide all of the good things that we want in education, use in many subject areas, but can place them consistently in a computer context?

Word is that there is planning at the Ministry about understanding how ICT fits into an already full curriculum.  We have leaders like Dr. Spence from TDSB onside as reported in the current issue of the MindShareLearning Report out front leading a system.

And we have cutting edge thinkers like Peter.  Let’s hold him to his promise.  “I’ll give the student publishing concept a try in my IDC3O class next year.”

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Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

4 thoughts on “Divergent Thinking”

  1. Wow! I wish I remembered more of the AQ course so many summers ago (if anyone wants to know how long, look up Doug or I at OCT). My university degree was Honours Geography! I guess I had you fooled even then that I knew what I was talking about.

  2. Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, we’re on the slate part of the OCT. Do you remember Rutledge coming into the theatre and demoing the Commodore 64 and how you could program sprites to pass in front or or behind each other?

  3. Enjoyed the article and I have always felt that a computer course with programming be part of a high school student’s core courses. We may get a few more students to consider taking CS after high school but it is one of my past students who brought this home to me. He became an architect and I heard his programming background gave him a strong handle on the software as he could create macros with ease. The understanding of the simplist programming structures gives application users an opportunity to exploit a powerful feature of the application. And yes the CS classroom was colaboration and thinking out side of the box – I was a facilitaor once I demonstarted the programming concept – loved where the student’s went with it.

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