When new folks hear my accent, they nearly always ask the same question; “do I like it here?” My answer is nearly always the same; I love the ice-cream, I’ve adjusted nicely to living outside a major city, and I absolutely adore having four true seasons. Specifically, I LOVE the Fall in New England. This love unearths an innate interest in photography and painting, partially because I have a desire to capture the contrasting colors of the Fall foliage.
I never act on these feelings. I worry they will lead to another thing; making me concerned about my capacity to learn the necessary skills needed to master another tool. A paint brush is a tool. A camera is a tool. To express my feelings of the Fall foliage, I will need to master these new tools.
This introduces the topic of this blog article, a tool like camera is something that either exists or doesn’t exist in our home or in our classroom. For those familiar with this concept, you’ll know I’m beginning to play around the edges of sociocultural theory, which includes investigations into how individuals interact with tools inside their environment. This includes how a learner perceives a tool, and how a learner is influenced by other people when using the tool.
My question for readers of this article is how do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera? I thought about this question when I gave my eldest a camera and asked him to take pictures of the Fall foliage. I think this question is also something to consider as we look into gifts for Christmas!
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I’ve been amazed about his interest; he’s been snapping away, holding it like a pro, and even switching over lenses when he wants a close-up of a flower. This experience makes me think about the action of giving a young child a tool for the first time. To what extent does this experience influence their creative destiny?
There’s a whole bunch of things whirling around in my mind as I consider this question:
- What is the relationship between our first access to a new tool and sociocultural theory? Is receiving the tool enough to set a child on their way? Or do they need mentorship to use the tool purposefully? If it’s the latter, will my inadequate photography skills make this experience irrelevant? I think not!
- What about equity? I remember reading how Bill Gates was fortunate enough to gain access to a computer at a young age. Access to this tool (and environment) initiated a life-long curiosity for computers, which obviously contributed to his future success. What if he never received this experience? Would he still be as successful? Here’s another crazy thought – what if he had received the same experience, but a few years later?
- How does this relate to gifts for Christmas? Twenty years from now, will our child recall the moment they received an electric guitar for Christmas?
- Finally, what if we have too many of these experiences when young? Might we reduce our focus of exploration on one single tool? In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he uses Beethoven as an example of what is known as the 10,000-hour rule. This is considered the approximate time it takes for an individual to master a set of skills at the necessarily level to produce majors changes within a field. What if we have a child who is destined to become Beethoven with a Piano, or Gates with a computer, but we keep giving them new things to try out that they never have an opportunity to put in the hours needed to master one single tool?
Clearly, I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving week and allowing my mind to wonder on a bunch of thought experiments. To conclude, I’ll simply say that my boy has enjoyed access to my old camera and has responded well to my inadequate mentorship. I’ve suggested he stay in auto settings for now and focus on capturing “interesting” images of the Fall foliage. However, I’ve given him complete creative liberty of what he chooses to photograph.
I’ll conclude on this – if he becomes the next Beethoven of photography, we can credit me as the parent who introduced him to this tool – right?