There’s so much hidden skill in working with online tools for school. My kids and my mom show me this each day when they work on school:
And then the basics of project management: when is something due, what even is the something, what must be done, how do you attach your assignment or a get a link to the Google Slides and click that “Turn In” button?
They get video conferencing just fine. And writing with paper and pencil works well.
My son is making a presentation. Making a presentation is harder than just writing a memo. Rather, done poorly, as presentations are usually done, the presentation just ends up being a document accidentally printed in landscape. And it’s not even a good document, it’s just an outline with pictures.
You can’t tell a nine year old, though, that they should do a TED talk or learn The Presentation Secrets is Steve Jobs. It’s like they first need to learn wrong way to do a presentation just so they have something to unlearn later in life. And then when they try to do a TED talk for the quarterly regional sales report, they have to go back and re-re-learn how presentations actually work in enterprises.
I don’t know, complaining about kids doing presentations in school is like complaining about airline food. (What’s the deal with that?!)
In contrast, my son and I did a “no slides” presentation. We did a video of my son presenting on eating in space. He wrote a paper first, we rehearsed the talk, and then he sat down, and I interviewed him. He often referred to his papers, even reading them out loud. We, rather, I edited the video down, taking out his goofs and redos - and, I admit some dumb asides from me like Princes Leia unfreezing her self in space (I mean: really?)
(The most instructive, big picture, turns out part of this project was when I asked him what he’d eat in space. “I wouldn’t eat anything. I don’t like space. I want to go the still unexplored deep ocean.” I mean, no wonder he struggled so much on the eating in space project: he doesn’t care. This is another skill you have to learn that they don’t really teach: doing work you don’t like. Yay…?)
What’s going on in a lot of his work is the tension between knowing how to use the tools (slides, video editing, looking up stuff on Google, knowing how to lightly hold a pencil when you’re sketching the bones or a drawing) and learning (and retaining?) the actual knowledge.
Cormac, my son, keeps getting frustrated when he doesn’t get it right the first time, esp. in writing and drawing. I try to tell him that you need drafts, to practice drawing that face over and over, maybe even just the nose. Leonardo could paint so well because he had decades of practice and practiced all the time.
He doesn’t realize that everyone gets it wrong at first, at one hundredth. You just keep going over and over, and if you’re really good, you finally give up and just decide that it’s done, not because it’s perfect, or right, or even good, but just because you need to be done.
One lesson from drawing that I wish I knew earlier: artists don’t “studies” for their paintings. They’ll practice a hand over and over, and then use that practicing for the final painting. Michelangelo sat for weeks (month?) studying how muscles look, sketching them down…and then start on sculptures. And, you know, also he was Michelangelo.
Writers are the same, of course:
COWEN: Not finishing books you have started, underrated or overrated?
ST. JOHN MANDEL: Underrated. That’s never happened to me, which is something I’m really grateful for. But I have friends whose “first novel” was actually their fourth or fifth book. Writers tend to see that as an awful thing, like, “God, I wasted two years of my life writing this novel, and now it lives in a drawer.” But that was how you were learning how to write a novel, so I would see that as a valuable experience.
And science and engineering? I think you know the answer.
I struggle with homeschooling because, well, it’s so basic. I want to write a newsletter (hello!), work on a new book, make a video. I want “more important” work.
That’s the distraction I have to battle. Those things can wait, or aren’t even important. What needs to be done now is to show my son how to draw a head, my daughter how to write “take care of your pets” on her drawing.
It’s hard though. I know these schooling tasks are valuable, but I just can’t find that satisfaction inside me to motivate myself.
I think of a recent interview with Naomi Klein. She was asked if she was working in a book about all this pandemic stuff. No, she said, my kid is at home all day now.
Notice all the above-the-line actors have mental models of what is below the line. These models vary depending on people’s roles and experience, as well as on their individual perspectives and knowledge. Notice that the actors’ mental models are different. This is because there are general limits on the fidelity of models of complex, highly interconnected systems.11 This is true of modern software systems and is demonstrated by studies of incident response; a common statement heard during incidents or in the postmortem meetings afterward is, “I didn’t know it worked that way.”
Humans fill in the messy gaps they have yet to be automated:
The adaptive capacity of complex systems resides in people. It is people who adapt to meet the inevitable challenges, pressures, trade-offs, resource scarcity, and surprises that occur. A slang term from World War II captures both the state of the system and the acceptance of the people who made things work: SNAFU (situation normal, all fouled up). With this term, soldiers were acknowledging that this is the usual status and their jobs were to make the flawed and balky parts work. If SNAFU is normal, then SNAFU catching is essential—resilient performance depends on the ability to adapt outside of standard plans, which inevitably break down.
Original source: Revealing the Critical Role of Human Performance in Software
We don’t see such a choice specimen often. A chair for a small person on a bike. Clearly, the bike isn’t this small, so it’s attached to a bike that larger human is peddling. This is the chair of a child. You can imagine that if the chair is here, the child has grown. Or the chair broke, and the child remains the same size. But think of the former: at one point, an adult put a small chair on their bike with the idea that they would bike with their kids. Not once, not twice, but so many times that it would be worth it to buy this chair and attach it to their bike: daily, likely.
That’s what bikes are to Amsterdamers. Of course you would attach a small chair to your bike if you had a child. When I ride my bike, it feels like part of my body, like my legs.
Think then, the bittersweet feeling when you finally (years after it’s remained empty on each ride as the child cycles beside you) pull it off your bike. It probably sits next to the door for a few days, until the weekend at least. You have some bullshit Dutch breakfast like cheese on bread, and then walk up the narrow stairs to the living room and spot it. You stop and think: I need to take that to the garbage.
(And more, someone set it atop the garbage bin, perfectly aligned and balanced. It wasn’t just cast to the side like most garbage that can’t fit into the revolving garbage door. They took time to balance it, even face it forward. They needed to - wanted to - throw it away, but there was care put to even that task. As if to say: “thanks, tiny chair. And, the rest of you, witness how precious my life has been.”)