This video features some educational philosophy from juggling teacher Craig Quat:

'(Class-1) Philosophies, Intentions, & Solutions':

About 50 minutes in, Craig shares some intriguing insights about the emotional side of learning and how to make the learning process motivating, rather than dispiriting. It occurs to me that a lot of these principles could also be applied to the teaching and learning of technical skills involving computers.

How can we teach people to do things like install and update software, maintain their own devices, or write scripts, in such a way that they experience lots of little successes that generate motivation to keep learning, rather than a series of dispiriting failures to reach a complex end goal?


@devinprater @Sandra @dredmorbius @csepp

Thanks for your ideas.

> ... like chopping onions properly. The end goal is the meal as a whole.

This is the way we've traditionally taught juggling. Get the learner to toss 1 ball, then 2, then 3. Craig's insight is that they only get the *experience* of juggling when they get step 3. Anything short of that feels like failure and demotivates the learner. Producing a pile of chopped onions doesn't give you the *experience* of cooking a meal.


Craig's solution - featured in the video - is to start with a series of 3 ball exercises simple enough for any learner to achieve competence quickly and easily. Then a series of 2 ball + 1 ring exercises that get the learner ready for the bilateral coordination required to master toss juggling. By the time they start trying to toss 1, 2, and 3 balls, they've already had a series of achievements which leave them feeling confident to keep trying.


@devinprater @Sandra @dredmorbius @csepp

So to reframe my original question a bit, what could we come up with for teaching, say, DIY server admin, that would be equivalent to those priming exercises in Craig's juggling lesson? Discrete tasks that are easy enough for a beginner to master fairly quickly, creating that sense of competence and confidence by giving the learner the *experience* of being a sysadmin. One example could be learning to run a system update using the command line.


@devinprater @Sandra @dredmorbius @csepp

@strypey @devinprater @dredmorbius @csepp

Producing a pile of chopped onions doesn’t give you the experience of cooking a meal.

Yes, that’s exactly what I was trying to say; that this experience isn’t unique to computer stuff.

When I learned to juggle I was stoked AF because it was about the community and context. Same with kitchen stuff. That’s something the tech community is never gonna have since it’s so toxic (unless that changes). I instead hello-worlded my way through it with man pages, source code, and books. Mom gave my sister and me a compiler and some printouts from work. I forget what point I was trying to make.

@strypey FWIW, a friend taught me the basics of 3-ball juggling in about 15 minutes in grade school. It's not actually all that hard, and the progression from 1 ball toss to a 2 ball chain to a 3 ball cascade seemed to go smoothly and sensibly.

I get the idea that there are skills which are both progressive and have a point of coming-togetherness. I'm not sure juggling is really all that great a case though.

Generally, any complex activity is best broken into parts. Pedagogy might focus on the final assembly and finishing, or early prep work, or a bit of both. In my experience it's not so much the learning one piece first or last so much as getting a sense of the end goal, if possible the why and how of processes (I really need to understand mechanism and have a deep and abiding dislike for training or teaching which focuses only on rote steps, I may be an outlier here).

And once you get the rudiments of "here are the pieces, here's how they go together", what's required is a lot of drilling and practice to get the mechanics down, and to understand how to adjust the process when things don't go perfectly. Problem-recongnition, troubleshooting, process management. And ultimately, artistry.

@devinprater @Sandra @csepp

@strypey Chopping onions isn't cooking a meal. But it is part of the process of cooking a meal, and knife-handling skills are one of he basic skills necessary in a kitchen ---- it's a bit like how typing isn't programming, and it's not even essential to programming, but being a competent typist will add greatly to your ability as a programmer in most cases.

Maybe you start off having kids cut onions just to get a sense of what it is to be in a kitchen with others preparing food. Or maybe you start them off with mise en place to get a sense of accomplishment in preparing a final dish. There are arguments supporting both pedagogies, and I would probably argue for both in a teaching programme.

@devinprater @Sandra @csepp

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