How “Research” helped Jobs and Woz

Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been the serial entrepreneur we knew him to be, if not for his partner in crime, Steve Wozniac

I make this point to my students, when teaching them the power of collaboration, something lost in our education system that, until now favored the individual over the group; the bubble test over the team project. Common Core standards, adopted by my school (Arizona is one of some 45 states adopting them) urge us to break out of that mindset, and get kids to discuss more, debate, confront, and work as a hive mind.

So I use this example of Woz, where he describes how he stumbled over a piece of fiction about the ‘Blue Box’, and showed it to Jobs. They wondered if this device were possible, but didn’t stop at that. They snuck into a library one Sunday, and looked it up in a stack of journals.

In other words, Steve and Steve were doing their ‘research.’  Something that sounds anathema to today’s kids who like to imagine search = research. That supporting ideas will always be within a few keystrokes or clicks.

I particularly like how the Apple co-founders got started not in a garage, but a library.

And then life threw me a lesson plan

For more than a year, I have been making a transition from corporate communications to education. I have been given an opportunity to be a computer teacher at an elementary school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It’s an amazing time to be joining a profession that’s getting lots of attention. And scrutiny. From the recent schoolteachers’ walkout in Chicago, to the just out Nations Report Card, among others, the story is not exactly cheerful.

Meanwhile, as knowledge acquisition is moving an 120 miles-per-hour, pedagogy is ambling along.  I can see this through the lens of our two children, as new engagement tools emerge, and curricula change. Analog classrooms are trying to adapt to digital natives. Britannica now has an app for the iPad and other tablets. Classrooms are being ‘flipped.’ We can’t continue to do the same old, same old.

If there’s a simple lesson plan for my career, it’s this: push students to the edges. Focusing on ‘core’ areas, but also widen the aperture. Knowledge of ‘computers’ without context of where they are used, is meaningless. Often it’s the topical things we introduce in class that make planned (not canned) lessons relevant. One study last year found that students who did “science-related activities that are not for schoolwork” performed higher.

TO KICK OFF, I re-positioned the computer class as a Technology and Computer Lab, in which students will engage in subjects from space exploration to search engines.

Being the school’s robotics coach helps. This is a program established by the FIRST Lego League. Students can step out of their comfort zone and take risks, even while engaging their math and design skills.

Each day, the lens zooms in and widens…