Ask Eddie: Great Education Expectations

Dec 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Eddie Ciletti

WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST ASK

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Because each student’s mind is wired differently, it may take several perspectives before the dots start connecting. After sharing a few sample links, I love it when students get the fever and reciprocate, sharing that “light bulb” (now LED) explanation. Here, for the much broader Mix audience, are some of the resources I point my students to:

10000cows.com
I have always been impressed with Dale Ulan at 10,000cows in Alberta. In addition to his many diverse interests, he always seems to be able to find—or build—the necessary equipment to turn his ideas into a tangible reality, whether microphone capsules (from scratch) or electric cars. He attributes much of his curiosity and drive to a reverse-engineering obsession that began, for him, at about age 3. It’s an Asperger’s trait, he says, and it gives him the ability to concentrate on a goal like a dog with a bone. The flip side, he continues, is that his Asperger removes “probably 30 percent of my emotional wiring” in exchange for what is often called “the engineer’s disease.”

youtube.com/watch?v=cvtjHhtxmpI
Not only D.I.Y. peeps like Dale share their lair, even Neumann divulges a few of its U87 factory secrets in this how-to video.

store.curiousinventor.com/guides/Surface_Mount_Soldering/101
The size and simplicity of vacuum tube and vintage solid-state circuitry qualify them as easy-to-learn, entry-level technology. From parts recognition to soldering and eventually the ability to parse the schematic, it’s no wonder the retro-resurgence is still going strong 20-plus years later. Eventually, we must all submit to the surface-mount technology mistress. My fave video shows how to remove and replace with conventional soldering equipment.

afrotechmods.com
The “new geek on the block” is AfroTechMods.com. Many concepts are explored in an informative yet humorous manner. Thanks to John Kargol, my current assistant and former student, who forwarded this link.

In fact, I’m continually learning from students, which in turn makes me a better teacher. I asked John to comment on the flip side, on what it’s like to be a student who has questions. He says: “Electronics class was more than a challenge for me. Sure, I’d taken things apart before, but only with a vague mechanical understanding, nothing more. Entry-level fluency, like the terminology and the relating of schematics to hardware—especially when the two don’t match—was quite a bit of work. And the math, while not terribly difficult at this level, still requires that you train yourself to think in that language.

“The most difficult and the most unsettling part of having a single 10-week electronics class is that I had to accept the idea that something happens without really knowing how or why. The problem, in the beginning, is that it can be difficult to know which questions to ask. In a multi-disciplinary art, even the starting point assumes a basic knowledge in the fundamentals, like physics and chemistry.

“Utilizing multiple resources outside of class should be a mandatory exercise, if only to force students to see how advantageous it is to hear something twice, in a slightly different way, and in a pause-able and replayable medium. I often found myself, or still find myself, reviewing the fundamentals when a source, with any decent amount of ethos, wants to share. In the same way that we may miss a less-than-obvious element in a music arrangement, we can certainly miss a detail in this field. The power of reiteration could turn on a lot of lights, or just one, but as long as it’s an active pursuit, there is always more to learn.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. It would be great if education were as simple as cut-and-paste, or the Vulcan Mind Meld. Lectures work well, especially when telling a story like history! That said, there is a chicken-and-egg relationship wedged in between hands-on experience and the math that explains the physical sciences. Students from kindergarten to college come to life with hands-on labs—their motivation, passion and determination transcend any mathematical shortcomings. The satisfaction of making stuff work is the foundation of the learning process; it builds confidence.






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