Invention Requires Not Knowing Any Better

appleiicWhenever I heard or read the innovators of the PC revolution talk about what it was like in the “old days,” when they were starting out, to a person they always begin by saying that they had no idea what they were doing when they started out. Or more to the point, they didn’t know that they couldn’t do what they were trying to do, that everyone who knew that it was impossible didn’t even try. Thus, innovation and invention sprung from the seeds of ignorance and vision.

I’ve heard Apple Founder, Steve Wozniak, talk about designing the computer that eventually became the Apple I and how he figured out how to reduce the number of chips, in part, because he didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to use one timing chip to run multiple devices. He knew the “system requirements” he just didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to be able to do it the way he did it. He was unencombered with previous design protocols. [see Robert Cringely’s excellent “Triumph of the Nerds video series for further information].

When I came to the classroom I’d been tinkering with computers for almost ten years so I didn’t think that it was anything special to be using Printshop to create posters or any visual aids that I’d need. My master teachers, however, were astonished that you could use the computer for something beyond it being a reward for “when you get your work done” or as a virtual babysiter. It wasn’t a big deal but having come from a non-teaching place I didn’t have the limitations ingrained in me about how to use technology with my students. More about this when I discuss the stereotype of how tech is expected to be used in education and why that’s one of the biggest reasons it isn’t efficiently used at all. JBB