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Creativity is a great motivator (tomrothe.de)
162 points by motine on May 9, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

Creativity but also productivity. The problem with a lot of school work is that it produces nothing. Class notes, homework assignments, and marked exams all are trash because no one wants to look at those things again and the content has no unique value. But building things and pouring our hearts into things and having a vision for something we could possibly create... these are the activities that we really need to be practicing, and that have value in the real world. It's not surprising they're also highly motivating as well. Most of the work I kept from my school years is from art class.

I couldn't agree more. This is the thing I wish USAs lower education system understood. So much childhood is wasted sitting in a boring classroom doing busywork for hours on end. That kind of environment doesn't exactly motivate people to pursue their interests early on in life, and can actively turn people away from academic careers by association.

I understood this beginning in my fifth-grade math class, when I started bringing in books to hold in my lap and read while the rest of the class did busy work. The teacher had created 'packets' of repetitive worksheets and students were supposed to collect them and fill them out, then she would sit at her desk the entire period and grade them. You got a star by your name on a wall chart for each packet you completed. I got the first packet to sit on my desk as a prop, but never wrote on it. That was the whole class, even as a child I recognized this had to be the dullest and laziest teacher ever. I tuned out and read some great books instead. The math wasn't that hard and I did okay on my tests.

The fun part was several months later when the students began to notice that while everyone had dozens of stars by their names, one student had none at all. One of the other students raised their hand and asked her about it in front of everyone else (I was amazed the teacher had never noticed). She was upset and berated me about it in front of the class, then sent me to the Principal's office. I knew instinctively that she was totally fucked for being so clueless, and I happily explained exactly what I did to the Principal and later to my parents. I wasn't in trouble and I knew it. About a week later a new teacher was brought in and she was great, she interacted with the class and I started participating because class was once again more interesting. I don't know how a teacher that bad ever got hired, but at least the school did the right thing later.

To me this was a real sunshine story. All too often you hear the story about the teacher who was NOT replaced...

>I wasn't in trouble and I knew it.

A great feeling to have. I remember a similar teacher who could probably account for the death of ten trees every class with the reams of worksheets she'd hand out. Asked to speak to her before class to see if I could be moved as our 'teaching/learning' styles didn't link up. She refused to speak in private and insisted I spoke in front of another teacher she was chatting with at the time. Thanks, you've just given me an audience I thought. Was cheeky in the way I spoke, was sent to principal who was very straightforward in saying that this teacher was on her way out and his hands are tied to do anything about her. Asked me to apologize for the cheekiness (insincere apologies from teenagers? par for the course really) and then was happily moved to another class. But anyways, enjoyed that feeling of 'I know I'm not in trouble here'.

That's too rational. You need to have all the notes and stuff as well. You need to learn and expand your knowledge before you can go into practicing something. Even though I agree that I'll never look at my old university-notes again, they did serve a very real and important purpose in the proces towards teaching me how to build something. Reflecting upon what you're going to build, holding meetings and taking notes are important processes in mastering something. Even though it might seem a bit dull or not worthwhile compared to building stuff.

I agree with you. But I think what needs to be emphasised is that the teaching should be geared towards creating something throughout the semester or at the end of semester, instead of just culminating in an exam that in the end that nobody wants to see. I know some subjects still needs the exam approach, but it would be nice if more classes are designed in a way to build something.

Ah, university notes. By the time we get to university, we're usually in good hands and you're smart enough to make it regardless of what you think about your education.

The issue is more about public education policy and the millions who don't make it to higher education, or who waste it. And all the lower level classes that don't amount to anything.

For someone to amount to something, they need to be productive. If you have a job, you know this by heart. Your production is the amount to measure, just as an artist is measured by their paintings. And to say mathematics or programming is about learning before building is total BS. Most self taught programmers do so building things. Engineering requires understanding, so if you've engineered it, you've acquired the knowledge.

If something has no productive value, then it would have no value (beyond academia). So the key is simply this: Make sure to arrive at productive value before the end of each course, and let students experience the production of it.

Of course there are better schools, better classes, and better teachers who practice this. There are students who get it, and already do it without being told. It's just that the whole paradigm is still backwards.

Yes, and it holds true in the adult world as well. For example, extremely few people get to work on the most important problems their minds can imagine. Like these people discuss: http://thebaffler.com/videos/graeber-thiel

yes yes yes. I feel like you have described what I have felt for the last few months. Of course CS is interesting (why am i sticking around HN if it's not?), but it feels so numb in classes. It does not feel useful at all.

Great article. You really are a great teacher - not content just to teach facts and techniques - but wanting your students to really develop a passion for programming.

I liked the example where you said the student painted pixel by pixel. If it was a forced assignment it would have been intellectual torture, but because it was something the student came up with as an outlet to their creativity, something tedious became enjoyable.

thank you very much!

For me also, the moment when I saw my student creating something so cool was breathtaking. It also proves so many of my fellow colleagues wrong, who keep going on that today's students don't have the motivation as they used to in the past.

Some of my earliest motivation to learn programming was to build games. That proved too challenging to learn very quickly, but I had great fun drawing things on the screen and making the PC speaker play music (simulating polyphonic sound by switching between notes very quickly).

Seeing the results pop up on the screen was certainly a highly-motivating factor (and satisfaction with text results from algorithms came later ;-) )

Reminds me of how to design programms second edition and their world programms

Working with shapes to learn programming makes a lot of sense to me.

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