“the web is making us more literate – better readers, better writers” writes Elise Bauer (Not Always On). I agree wholeheartedly. I have found that keeping a blog has made me a better writer. I still find it challenging sometimes to publish even one or two paragraphs, as evidenced by the vast number of “draft” entries lurking in my movable type personal publishing system. Nevertheless, I have written dozens of blog entries while I struggle over the draft of a single full-length article that I’ve been working on for about nine-months. Without the practice of regular blogging, it would probably take even longer.
Bauer also writes about how the web makes us more literate by providing easy access to definitions of words, as well as pronunciation. I discovered the same thing recently when I was preparing to talk to a group of first graders about the exploration of Titam. I kept reading about Huygens probe which landed on Titan, named after the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. I know a Dutch phrase or two but had no idea how to pronounce this name. The internet to the rescue! A kindly soul had wondered the same thing and after doing some research, he posted his findings. I am consistently delighted with how I can indulge my idle curiosity, as well as semi-serious scientific inquiry, with a quick search of the web.
“Brains love play. Find a way to bring more play (or at least a sense of playfulness) into someone’s life, and you might just end up with a fan. (…) Brains evolved to play, and apparently the bigger the brain, the more likely it is to play. Play turns the brain on.” Creating Passionate Users (via InfoDesign) suggests a number of ways to make work more playful: games, festivities, and diversions.
I keep thinking that there are more ways we can take a playful approach to work. That we do, in fact, learn better and are more productive when we are having fun.
“It’s when we do this foolish, time-consuming, romantic, quixotic, childlike thing called play that we are most practical, most useful, and most firmly grounded in reality, because the world itself is the most unlikely of places, and it works in the oddest of ways, and we won’t make any sense of it by doing what everybody else has done before us. It’s when we fool about with the stuff the world is made of that we make the most valuable discoveries, we create the most lasting beauty, we discover the most profound truths. The youngest children can do it, and the greatest artists, the greatest scientists do it all the time.”
— Common sense has much to learn from moonshine: less grammar, more play
The above is quoted from an article about teaching children to write. I found it relevant to my own pursuits of teaching science and writing software. User interface design is education. The study of chemistry can be boring, but mixing baking soda and vinegar is inherently fun, especially the first time you do it. I think software can be fun too, even if there are no games, puzzles or cartoon characters.
“True education flowers at the point when delight falls in love with responsibility.”