This may sound odd, but I love calling for help when my computer decides to go rogue, not following the plan that I so carefully and naively laid out before class. I fumble a bit with the cursor and click the same icon a few times because, much like an elevator button, repeating the same action is somehow bound to jumpstart what refused to work instants before. After a final sigh, I end up regaining some sanity and call out “I need tech support!” Inevitably, two or three bodies rush to my table, quickly assess the situation, confer briefly, and take control of my keyboard. Generally, within a few minutes, the problem is resolved.
Did I mention the tech support crew was made up of 12-year-olds? I always ask for help from my students. They almost always know more than I do. They find their way around a computer (an app, a piece of equipment, so many things) better than I can.
My wife Charlotte can tell the same story several times over. She teaches third-graders, 8-year-olds.
Expertise knows no age. Experience yes, but not age. Interest doesn’t know age either. Curiosity shouldn’t, but it often does.
The difference between a novice and an expert is that a novice has to use thinking skills when tackling a problem, but an expert uses long-term memory (knowledge, in terms of skillful application of content) to solve problems that are (roughly) similar to countless others they’ve encountered in the past. Visualize something you consider yourself very good at. How much “thinking” do you need to do to carry it out? Or do you find that you go through the steps fairly quickly and can let your mind wander? Have you ever seen an IKEA employee put together a dresser? Let’s just say the last time I tried, I wasn’t quite as smooth following the process. The great thing is, even if they don’t need to “think,” experts need to hone skills continuously, perfect their craft.
In a world where content is free or commoditized, we have to re-think what it means to be educated. It used to be that you were considered educated when you had to read the canon of Western civilization or could recite passages of texts or work through an algorithm faster and more accurately than others. In the nineteenth century, if you wanted to become a lawyer, you…