Content as refinement

In our education system, content is often a prerequisite. You need to learn computer science 101 before you can go to the advanced class where build a website. This makes sense in many regards. There are definitely some fields where you should have a lot of knowledge before you start building.

But there are two problems with this method:

1. There are many fields where you can build on day one and add the content in later. It would be more engaging and create better learning.

2. What if you never get to the pay off? What if the students who have been absorbing content for 12 years in hopes to finally use it somewhere don’t make it to that somewhere. Now they’ve just absorbed content and don’t know how it applies to anything.

As I teach more, I am trying to not use content as a prerequisite, but as a tool for refinement. Challenge students to design a t-shirt. Then teach them how photo emulsion, screenprinting and color theory works. Challenge students to build a rocket, then talk about aerodynamics, chemical reactions and material science once they’ve seen their first attempt fail.

The work is to come up with your first challenge, then to layer on the content in a way that will make the second challenge more fun.