Friday, September 17, 2010

Abundance, the mother of purchase orders

Good friend of the Advisory Bored blog, Paul over at Last Great Road Trip, is at it again. He's been busy playing around with the technology. When Paul isn't giving some one's data center an extreme makeover, he's either roaming the trails in a Toyota FJ or blogging about roaming the trails in a Toyota FJ.

In a recent post, Paul decided to build himself a good old fashion mobile GPS command center out of inexpensive or free parts.  A second-hand laptop, some open source software and an inexpensive GPS receiver makeup his system (I'm guessing the nice vehicle mount for the laptop described in a subsequent post cost more than the rest of the system put together).

All of which reminds me that resource constraints aren't always a bad thing. Sometimes we forget that a little tinkering, some kludging, a roll of duct tape and a bit of ingenuity can lead to some pretty interesting outcomes and some really powerful learning (which is, after all, the only outcome of any real importance). More money doesn't necessarily improve learning.

Certainly you can plop 30 students down in a lab, each with a copy of "Google Maps for Dummies", but does that really make for more compelling resume entry than the experience of "building a mobile GPS command center, including configuration of the hardware, operating system, mapping software and integration with freely available online map information for under $75.00"? Do you really think the former learned more than the latter?

Remember, necessity is the mother of invention. Abundance is the mother of purchase orders.


Kevin said...

Implied in your post is that essential difference: learning -vs- being taught. The former requires a different expectation on the part of both faculty and students, but it is achievable and allows for the kind of unstructured exploration that often produces the greatest learning. Creating learning opportunities of that sort also have the fringe benefit of being less costly and which reward this kind of creative supply gathering.

Corey Smith said...

I implied that? Wow. And I thought I was just a cheapskate.