Response paper #2: Be your own theorist
Before I play “Devil’s Advocate,” MIT is an inventive, well-researched way for kids to practically conceptualize knowledge on their own. It’s amazing to think that any child could be an Einstein with a little nudge. From my personal experiences of figuring things out on my own, I agree that constructing one’s own knowledge leaves a residual effect that can be used again and again each time one tries to learn something independently. While the initial tinkering may be “naïve”, troubleshooting different methods and testing patterns eventually does get one to the final answer. Most importantly, that person will not forget what did not work, a.k.a. learning from one’s mistakes.
Secondly, MIT is definitely an interactive tool I can see children having fun with. While the MIT1 prototype conveyed the same concepts on proportionality, the MIT remote controls also allowed for two dimensions of movement along the x and y axis, whereas the ropes and pulleys of MIT1 could only be moved along the y axis. Using the Wii-like laser technology was a smart move, as the Wii is incredibly popular right now. I could even see this education tool for the classroom even being an education game for the home where kids can learn about proportionality in front of their own television. The next step, testing it with two children so that they can learn how to operate the MIT collaboratively, will be useful in determining if this should a game, with aspects of competition, teamwork, etc. (as opposed to just a learning tool).
Now for playing “Devil’s Advocate.” The utility of this device just seems very limited. It only has one function – learning about proportionality. But from what I recall, we only spent perhaps a couple weeks on the material before we mastered it, were tested on it, and moved on. I am probably biased, since I performed consistently well in primary/middle school and never struggled with math. But nonetheless, this MIT project is a lot of effort to put into a single mathematic topic that will be mastered and moved on from within a few weeks. Is this really economical for the typical public school classroom? Would a teacher really invest in an infra-red device, which I assume will be fairly expensive, just to teach a single topic in math for a few weeks? I would like to see the utility of MIT expanded to cover more concepts in math, i.e. trigonometry (ratios in triangles, Pythagorean’s theorem), more algebra, etc.