The Evils of Kits and Step-by-step Instructions?

I like things to be ideal.  In fact, my most dreaded fear in the universe is a set missing one item.
 
Ok, I admit it.
 
I’m a little OCD.
 
Elmyra DuffBut some things in life suffer from too much attention.  Take for instance, Elmyra Duff, from the old Warner Bros. cartoons who loves her animals to the point of escaping in terror.
 
Her yard is littered with abandoned dog houses, bird cages, and food bowls of animals who escaped because–with the best of intentions–she drove them absolutely crazy.
 
Every now and then I myself get struck by a fit and grab my cat Roger, pick him up, hug him a little too close, and croon, “I’ll love you and hug you and call you George!”  I then fall over in fits of laughter while he escapes to the back of the couch to scorn my foolishness with such contempt as only a cat can conjure.
 
How is this related to Kits and Step-by-step instructions?
 
In our eager desire to prepare our kids for a successful future, we usually run down to the local mart and buy a LEGO® kit with step-by-step instructions.  Then we give this “box of creativity” to our kids and sagely pronounce, “I grew up with LEGOs®.  They will help you be creative.”
 
But today’s kits with step-by-step instructions for building the latest Starship Tardis Galactica is exactly the opposite of inspiring creativity.  When we were kids, LEGOs® were all some variation of a rectangle, and to make anything “cool” required us to experiment with the shapes until some reasonable approximation of a truck, plane, or house emerged–with NO instructions.
 
What is the difference?
 
In the case of step-by-step instructions, little creative thinking is required, and creativity is actually somewhat discouraged, because if the Indiana Clones kit gets mixed with the Desert Hover Board kit noone will ever be able to reconstruct the original from either set.
 
Joanie Connell - Table Top Inventing podcastSo our kids today aren’t ever bored…
 
But they aren’t ever really excited either…
 
The solution?
 
Let them be bored.
 
WHAT?!
 
Yeah, you read correctly.  Letting kids be bored drives them to find creative solutions for becoming “un-bored”.  If you don’t believe me, listen to this week’s podcast with engineer turned PhD psychologist, Joanie Connell.  Together we barbeque just about every sacred cow in the helicoptering parenting pasture.
 
It’s funny.  It’s sad.  It’s real…
 
And a little too close to home…
 
But totally worth it:  http://InventingPodcast.com
Carpe Diem,
Steve
 
PS – I still like LEGO kits, though, because they have all sorts of cool parts–even if they do get hopelessly mixed up with other kits in one grand mele of LEGO® goodness.

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About The Mad Scientist

Muahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! Ok, now that I have that out... I can get to work. For as long as I can remember, I have been making things. This habit used to be called "Inventing" but has lately been repurposed by the Maker community with the term "Maker". While there are some subtle differences between Inventing and Making, I have discovered my passion for both by inspiring a new generation of Makers. In this quest to spark creative thinking and problem solving through practical and exciting projects, I draw on my background in biomedical research, high energy fiber laser development, and 15 years of building laboratory devices. As an experimental physicist with a PhD from Case Western Reserve University, I have seen research and development from many angles and am now bringing that experience to middle school and high school students who want to make everything from catapults to cybernetic augmentations. Through the medium of Making and Inventing, students are transformed from passive observers of education to active learners. This powerful shift fosters deep insights, creative expression, collaborative thinking and a host of other skills that are difficult to learn in traditional settings. Along with my wife Debby, an accomplished constructivist educator, I am on a quest to transform education and am looking for like-minded collaborators to bring hands-on learning to future generations.

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