In high school my math teachers would yell at me that I wasn't opening the text book and staring at formulas enough. Instead I was running down to the computer room and putting the formulas to work.
While not a scientific study, the students that I know who stared at the textbooks aren't doing much math nowadays. Whereas I use it all the time and although I may not be versed in some forms that I possibly should be, I have no fear of learning new math to be applied in my programs.
My stock phrase is, "I'm not a mathematician, but I use math."
An old science fiction story had a profound effect on me and I wsh I could remember its name, but the story was about a group of spacemen who land on a planet and find inhabitants surrounded by fantastic technical hardware that is rotting away. When asked, the inhabitants could not remember how to fix them, let alone remember what they were used for. The spacemen vow to stay and help the inhabitants recover their lost capabilities, but then the inhabitants display a level of technology far beyond the spacemen's understanding. Stunned, one spaceman finally figures out how they misread the situation. He started asking the other spacemen if they knew how to make bows and arrows, or make a fire without a lighter. The point being, that as you move forward, you don't have to remember everything that got you to that point.
So I may not be able to mix paints like Leonardo, but I'm able to make "paintings" without being hobbled not knowing what minerals I have to mix to get different colors.
So I am free to create without having to worry about how to make paints.
Or to use another example, I no longer have to be a mechanic to drive a car.
Excellent post Alex. I think creativity must come first then the technology to document and display that creativity. I know people who design using AutoCAD and Solid Works and they do a great job, but for the most part, pencil and paper start the process even if it's with a "back of the napkin". Technology should support creativity rather than restrict creativity. Thousands of hours are saved during the design process using technological methodology but the "up-front" effort requiring creativity must be the genesis.
Hello Nancy--I certainly agree with you but I fear the "tide of reality" is against us. A fascinating article "appeared" in our local paper two weeks ago indicating the local school board is considering e-textbooks for the very near future. The reason given was the ability to update the books on an annual basis so they remain current relative to subject matter. It apparently was a robust debate that ended with the board feeling the idea had real merit. The overriding issue was cost, repairs and lost tablets. i.e. readers. The student would have the option of buying their tablets, with text loaded, when they graduated. Believe it or not, I opted to purchase most of my textbooks used my junior and senior years in high school. Chemistry, all of my math and trig books, physics, etc., I still have and refer to. Times are changing but I still like the feel of a conventional book.
In an interview some years ago, a student asked author Elmore Leonard what tools he wrote with when he started out in the 1950's and with all the changes in technology what he writes with currently. His response; " When I started writing I used a yellow legal pad and a 5 cent Scripto pen. Now I use a yellow legal pad and a $150 Mont Blanc."
Business word processors, like Word may not be conducive to creative writing, but a little program I found called Writer's Blocks works nicely for me. It is an electronic version of the 3x5" note card that just lets you write in a blank card space without restriction, spelling or grammar nags. Then organize the cards as you see fit. Very conducive to jotting down ideas as they come when using a PC.
I started out shooting 16mm film for TV many years ago. Moving to inferior cameras and video formats as the technology developed was quite frustrating over the years, and the expense of heavy iron post production suites limited access to creative visuals to those with hefty budgets.
Now a sub $100 program on a decent desktop workstation, or even my laptop, gives access to visual creative power that a half million dollar online suite could not equal in 1980.
With the emerging generation of modestly priced raw digital cinema cameras, we have come full circle to a digital negative format that is finally surpassing the flexibility and visual quality of film in most meaningful ways, much less conventional video formats.
Personally I'm feeling very liberated by all this in a creative artistic sense. But pen and paper are still technologically superior for unrestricted access, simplicity, and permanence.
How about books and catalogs versus tablets and CDs? While e-books are obviously more cost-effective and CDs for catalogs make it easy to find what you are looking for - how much serendipitous findings do you miss out on because you are using an electronic venue instead of thumbing through pages and accidentally finding treasures along the way? I can't tell you how many times I stumbled across something exciting or helpful that I found inadvertently while looking for something else...I find it ironic that the computer screen loses that ability with its precision but it is just that precision that makes it a great tool. I think we are in-between times but our children don't see the value of books because they are being taught technology first. This about sums it up: commercial
It's nice hear how creating without the use of technology still exists. I still use a notebook to capture ideas for embedded designs and electronic projects by writing text and hand-drawn pictures. The idea of using pencil to paper allows me to truly be connected with my thoughts and I can be as creative with these tools as well. The best creative ideas have been captured by doodling on the back of a napkin.
The truly creative people are those who come up with the programming language like C, C++, or Visual Basic in the first place. Those people are few and far between and have the ability to think out of the box at a level not within the bounds of the people actually using the software day to day.
The points about teaching actual compter programming is another concern that is quite different. Almost all computer users are not programmers and they have no concept of how programming might even be done. In fact, given the common shorthand term "apps", which probably is not understood to be short for "application programs". So the understanding ofeven the very basic functioning of individual programs under an operating system is gone.
The reality is that on smart phones there is no way to do things unless there is a program to do them installed. That is only a couple of steps away from the concepts described in that book, "1984", by Orwell, in which there was "goodthink" and "badthink", and even thogts were regulated.
This relates to programming because so few are able to do it. Just like engineering, very few are able to take ideas from a foggy concept to functional reality. Of course even within the engineering community most engineers have their skillsets limited to some specific areas, such as the design of ASIC devices.
The English mandate for computer programming is an interesting one although it has the problem that the preferred languages in industry change more quickly than the 10-12 years to complete a primary and secondary education. Example: I learned line-based FORTRAN which is nearly worthless now compared to the object-oriented C, Java, Ruby and a thousand other names I don't recognize let alone be able to use. Software writing is the job of only a few for a reason as it requires a lifelong dedication to just stay abreast of what is going on. Teaching everyone to plan tasks, flowchart, manage resources and reason a problem into a working solution is probably the best use of a programming class.
Another interesting picture of how technology fails to evolve uniformly over the populace is looking for useful technical apps on the App Store. They are FEW and far between. Most apps are simplistic little time-wasters that amuse the public not educate them or assist them with important tasks. Cracking whips, flinging birds at blocks, making bodily function noises on command, are all readily available, but try to find an app that calculates heat transfer, solves compounding interest or balances a circuit, and you'll hunt for a while.
Although plastics make up only about 11% of all US municipal solid waste, many are actually more energy-dense than coal. Converting these non-recycled plastics into energy with existing technologies could reduce US coal consumption, as well as boost domestic energy reserves, says a new study.
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