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Month: January 2009 (page 3 of 4)

aidan’s deconstruction project #1

Well, after watching Gever Tulley’s talk on “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do,” I thought it might worth giving one of them a try. So, we dug out an old relic computer that was sitting on a shelf in the basement and we asked Aidan if he wanted to see what was inside. Of course, he did not hesitate. Armed with only a screwdriver, he set to work on the big mysterious putty-colored box.

He started by removing the outside panels. Not just the main access panel used to get inside the tower, but every one of the plastic surface panels, leaving only the cold steel box to contend with.

Next, he set to work on removing the on-board floppy drive and the DVD drive. He [singlepic=257,200,200]
disconnected each from the motherboard, disconnected them from the power supply and removed the screws that held them in place. As he set them aside, he made a special point that he would see what was inside each one of those separate components once he was done taking everything out of the tower.

He moved on to the hard drive, the memory modules, the video, modem, and network cards. All that was left now was the motherboard, so we thought, but there was a large black component protruding from the board that was blocking our access to the screws holding the board in. This is when we discovered that the Pentium II processor in this computer is actually a cartridge-like module that plugs into the motherboard. (Incidentally, a little research taught us–ok, taught me–that they don’t make processors in this format any more. An antique?) After digging out a star-head drive from the toolbox, we safely removed the cover from the processor cartridge and snapped it out. Thirty seconds later, we had the motherboard out too.

It was neat to see Aidan systematically deconstruct the computer piece by piece, examine the circuit boards, run his finger over the transistors. Every few minutes he would hypothesize about what each little soldered bump across the green and black boards was responsible for in making this machine “think.” Perhaps we’ll learn a bit more about such things tomorrow during our bi-weekly homeschool meeting. One of the families is planning something on electronic circuitry. Aidan’s excited. Although, I’m a little worried. He’s been eying our toaster. It just might be bread for breakfast. All in the spirit of demystifying the world…

dangerous lessons worth learning

A former student of mine sent me this video yesterday. It struck me as particularly relevant for one with “unschooling” inclinations. Tomorrow I am sure Aidan and I will be “deconstructing” a few appliances. I suggested the idea to him and he’s been talking about it all day–to learn how things work by taking them apart and looking inside the mysterious “black box.”

The video also sounds an alarm for all parents of Gen-Y kids who have gotten into the habit of bubble-wrapping their children and, thus, inadvertently hamstringing their ability to be self-reliant, resilient, and well adapted to cope with the challenges of life. I see many kids like this coming through my college classroom. Thinking back on my own childhood and considering what I know about my parents’ childhoods, things definitely have changed. Childhood has been extended, but not in that good, let’s-keep-them-innocent kind of way. Many young adults seem incapable nowadays of making serious decisions for themselves, handling responsibilities, and simply living the life of a mature young person. I have heard more than one college student start a sentence (and not in jest) with the phrase “when I grow up.” These are 18- and 19-year-old adults. I have news for you, kiddo, you’re all grown up now despite what your parents have told you. It’s time to pop that bubble wrap.

aidan reads 340 library books

I’ve updated Aidan’s list of books read from our local library. (The list does not include our home library of books.) He’s up to 340. I think the library may be running out of books. Check out the list: Aidan’s Reads.

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