Thursday, November 1, 2012

Finding the Problem

I've been looking at more classroom modules. Thus far it's been GIMP. i.e. here's something cool we can try. However, that's simply not good enough.

When I left high school one of my biggest problems I had was trying to contextualise things. Why would I be designing a database? At what point do I lie in order to sell an I.T. solution to a business without understanding what issues they were trying to solve? etc. I credit the lack of contextualisation as my biggest factor in failure in my education.

So, if you wanted to teach something - in this case, electronics - what would the problem be?

I have a tendency to work backwards. So I brought an ultrasonic distance sensor off ebay. And then thought to myself that measuring the height of a classroom full of kids might be kind of cool (fun). So, when the program starts, figure out how high off the floor the sensor is. When the height changes, send a computer that height. Take the highest height (or the top few and average them out? Before anyone says it, we'd be looking for the smallest distance assuming the sensor was over a door) and send that figure to a computer to record the results. Perhaps chuck it into a spreadsheet and wait for someone to put that child's name in.

Hell, this could even have a practical use. At a height change you've got an event which could trigger other things to happen - such as taking a photo. In which case, you could take a height and a "description" (i.e. a photo). Something that would be handy for bars with slot machines and jewellery stores. But I digress.

So if we're recording heights, what is the problem that we're trying to solve? I finally figured it out tonight. If we're going to buy skipping/jump ropes, then we need to grab an average height of the users of said ropes. So there's science - how do ultra sonic sensors work? And math - how do we calculate an average and how do we use them? A sense of scale i.e. if we were to measure a school full of kids, how long would it take us using a measuring tape? and assuming that we need to do this year by year, how much time would this take over 2 years? 3 years? etc. How much time do we save by having an automated system?

So... what do others think? Are there teachers out there who might want to give this sort of thing a go?

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