Engineering the Future
By Bill Holden, Development Specialist
In today’s vernacular, everything is
condensed to an “app,” which for
old geezers like me, is short for
an application. But not everything
can be funneled into an app –
some manual tasks that need to be done
are not applicable (pun intended) to a
By its nature, hands on has a building
connotation – constructing complex things
from simple materials. And not just drag
and drop on a computer screen; we at
Pitsco Education mean real construction.
Simulations are fine and have their place,
but at some point, it comes down to doing
the real thing.
Please allow me to illustrate the point.
Diabetics simulate an insulin injection by
giving an orange a shot. Even though this is
a hands-on simulation (you really are giving
an injection, it is just an injection into a
poor, unsuspecting orange), it eventually
comes down to having to inject yourself.
Believe me, it is different.
Nurses giving shots, doctors doing
surgery (and yes, I know that there
are now robotic surgeons that operate
from hundreds of miles away via tele-op
connections), mechanics working on jet
engines, carpenters swinging hammers,
woodsmen sawing firewood, engineers
constructing bridges – all are hands-on
activities, not simulations.
For example, bridge-building
simulations are great and can help
students learn about bridge design.
However, they are not a substitute for
the hands-on experience of cutting balsa
sticks at exact lengths and angles and
gluing them together to make a physical
model bridge. And the same can be said
for just about anything in the realm of
hands on – the simulation of dissecting
a frog pales in comparison to actually
using a scalpel and forceps to tear into
it. Folding a paper airplane on-screen and
doing a simulated launch is a far cry from
the physical experience of folding and
flying paper airplanes.
So, while the education community
and many curriculum/product providers
are salivating at the prospect of funneling
everything educational into a 7” x 9” hunk
of silicon, I believe we need to keep in
mind that these grand new tablets (quite a
step up from the Big Chief tablets of old)
are just tools, like many other tools that
we need to incorporate into the education
of our young people. And yes, there are
many new apps that can be great tools
for education, but we just need to use the
right tool for the right job, particularly the
real hands-on projects.