Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Hows and Whys

(Happy New Years to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful healthy and happy year!)

In At some point it’s about the technology from The Thinking Stick, Jeff says,
“Why we use these tools is just as important to support is how we use these tools. Some teachers need/want to know WHY we use them before HOW to use them. Others want to know HOW to use them before figuring out WHY they use them…At some point it’s about the technology and it should be. We live in a technical world, and the HOW is just as important as the WHY.”

This brings me back to thinking that as teachers, we need to see what direction our students are coming from. I remember years ago I tutored my husband and his friends in Algebra. Apparently the professor kept going over the How (just plug these numbers in the formula and it will work) but these guys couldn’t grasp it until they had the Why. They wanted to know why it worked and once we went over the why, they actually understood the concept. Of course I am a How person so I could understand the professor’s point of view. Jeff makes a good point about how we need to do the How and the Why but how do we do it so that we don’t overwhelm or intimidate one side or the other? If we do too much of the Why, we lose the How people and vice versa. I am the type of person that would rather know how to do something and then I will see how it fits into what I want to do (the Why). I know many others who need to know the Why before they can even think about the How. I think we need to have a happy medium. (Okay, now I have to rework some of my presentations that I’m doing in January so I don’t have too much How or too much Why!) Are you a How person or a Why person? How does this affect your teaching?

Original image: 'IMG_5141' http://www.flickr.com/photos/15513233@N00/450782675by: David Boyle


Kobus van Wyk said...

I can definitely relate to this. The how is often the easiest part to address. Many suppliers of hardware and software offer some training, but most of them focus on the how - which buttons to press, how to navigate, how to ...

The why is a much greater challenge. This requires a mindset change, and if the why question is not sufficiently answered, the tool will not be used.

Answering the why question is far more labour intensive than addressing the how question.

loonyhiker said...

Kobus: You are so right. That may be why tools are not being used. And if it is going to take more work, maybe that is why some people don't address the why question.

Math Mentor said...

I find that people switch from the how to the why and back many times in the pursuit of mastery. Often the why doesn't make sense until you have some experience with the how. And a complicated how becomes simple with a little why.

Example: Learning to multiply. We can teach kids cross-multiplication to multiply large numbers fairly easily. They know in general what multiplication means, but they cannot know why cross-multiplication works until they learn the higher concepts of number-systems and powers. This is even true of addition algorithms with carrying.

loonyhiker said...

Math mentor: You are right. Sometimes I may be either one depending on the situation.