Teaching Scriptlets

As an example of teaching with scriptlets, let's consider musical education, which ought to begin with learning to play an instrument. After the many scriptlets relevant to an instrument have been learned, students will be better able to appreciate the work of musicians who have gone before them. By the same reasoning, if we want students to understand music theory, they should have to create some music first.

Now this may not seem like such a radical idea, since many music schools do exactly this. But such a point is often devalued as we get to higher education, where music scholars are often clearly differentiated from musicians and it is the former who teach the courses. Further, high school courses, and even elementary school courses, often perpetuate the biases of university level music professors, thus creating non- learn-by-doing courses in a subject area where the set of scriptlets is as easily definable as is ever possible.

Many elementary schools are smarter than this and teach kids to play instruments anyway. The same is not true, unfortunately, in subjects considered more central to a child's education. We don't let children just do physics. In fact, we hardly even know what that means. We allow students to do math, because we know what that means, but we lose track of why we are doing it. One reason, I suspect, is that schools really like to teach scriptlets when they can identify them. They are easy to measure and can fit well into our test-oriented society.

But what happens when a scriptlet is hard to identify? We know we want students to be able to read and to understand, but it isn't all that easy to tell when students actually have the requisite scriptlets to do that, especially when the material they are reading doesn't interest them. But it is easy to tell if a student can solve a quadratic equation (a cognitive scriptlet). So schools emphasize mathematics. The point is that while identifying relevant scriptlets is indeed difficult, one should be wary of teaching any scriptlet just because it is in fact something easy to teach. We need to teach scriptlets, but they must be relevant, which means knowing the answer to what one can do with that scriptlet. For instance, the things one can do with algebra are far too limited for anyone to justify teaching it for practical reasons, so it is usually justified as a way to teach reasoning. Of course, there might be better means available for teaching reasoning. It is a good idea, therefore, to know what scriptlets one needs for what real purpose before one goes about designing a curriculum.

In summary, scriptlets are testable in simple ways, are not biased towards the teacher's point of view, remain with students for a very long time, and provide a framework into which the work of great masters of that skill can be best appreciated. Further, mastery of scriptlets builds confidence, is much more easily motivated in school, and the process tends to get students to think about what they are doing.

Outline Take me to the outline for the book

Give Me An Example

What Is Next?

What Should Be Avoided

What Can Be Done?

Give Me Details

Give Me Background

Start Over Who Built Engines? Contact EFE Team ILS