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Learning By Doing: The Tool is the Curriculum

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Mon Aug 29 2005

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I had to brush up on project management skills over the weekend. Did I read a book on it? No. Did I find someone who was an expert to help me? Nope.

I downloaded Open Workbench (for me, a random open-source project management tool) and played around with it. I mapped a few of my projects into it. I looked through all of the fields and capabilities. And I learned quite a bit, including what I needed to know, plus a lot more that I am very happy to know.

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For those home schoolers looking at math curricula, I would suggest Microsoft Excel. Whatever math you need to know, you can learn by getting deeper and deeper into Excel functionality, including calculus, logic, probability, graphing, and more.

And you can learn by trial and error, by playing, by experimenting. You discover the material; you own the material.

There are plenty of dangers, I suppose, with having the tool be the curriculum. I am sure academics will be happy to tell me what they are. But increasingly mature software tools represent philosophies, approaches, domain knowledge that is much more sophisticated than the more trivial linear experts. And you can learn by doing.

My grandparents learned to read by picking up the classics out on the farm. Bach learned music, I am told, by copying over the sheets of the great composers before him. I wonder if today's tools will be considered tomorrow's classics?

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