MAET Makers: Learning Through Frustration

If I was being evaluated on how successful I was using the Raspberry Pi, I would fail miserably because it has yet to work; however, just because we haven’t gotten the Raspberry Pi to be operational does not mean I have not learned anything. I might not have learned what I expected to when I began this project, but there has still been learning that has occurred.

Credit: Rob Breedlove

Credit: Rob Breedlove

Throughout the process of getting the Rapsberry Pi to work, I was glad to have a partner so I knew it wasn’t just me who was unable to follow directions that seemed fairly well explained. After many attempts to get the Raspberry Pi working including crawling under desks, hooking up HDMI cables up directly to projectors, borrowing wired mice and keyboards from the local university, and multiple USB cards, we only have a red light showing on the Raspberry Pi, and I am okay with that. Now typically, I am not the type of person that is happy when things are not completed properly, but I know that the reason the Raspberry Pi isn’t working is not for lack of trying. I think that having a partner working through the same frustrations helped us to both stick with the project longer than if we were working at it alone, because there was also some investment at the social level.

So what have I learned:

– There are lots of resources out on the internet to learn how to do new things – some resources are good, some not so good, but in general if you want to learn how to do something, you can generally find it on the internet. One of the frustrations of using resources on the internet is that even though they are fairly recent, they can still be out of date in comparison to the version of the software or tool you are trying to utilize.

– People are generally out there to help you. There are lots of message boards where you can ask for assistance and help if you are trying to do something. In general, people want to help you.

– Having the availability of an expert who you can interact with at a face-to-face level when you run into challenges cannot be completely replaced by technology.

When I think about how I can apply this experience to teaching, it is a wonderful reminder of a number of important lessons:

1. Technology can get in the way if you don’t know how to use the tool – As we did not know how to get the Raspberry Pi going, we were not able to use it for anything constructive. In the classroom, if enough time is not spent learning the basic skills to utilize the technology tool, the tool will serve as a barrier to learning, instead of complementing or enhancing the learning.

2. Learning from someone where you can ask questions and receive immediate feedback cannot be replicated identically online – There are many wonderful places to get assistance for using the Raspberry Pi, but in this case I feel like having access to someone where I could talk to them and show them the problem and the trouble shooting we had tried, might have been useful in getting us to the next step. We were obviously missing a step or doing something incorrectly that we were not able to get the SD card formatted properly, and someone with expert knowledge might have been able to recognize our error and assist us in correcting it.

3. Frustration in the learning process is good, to a point – When you struggle through something, you develop perseverance and grit, and when you accomplish something that you have worked very hard at it is a wonderful feeling, but if you never get past the frustration stage, you are still left frustrated and I am not sure that the next time I had a Raspberry Pi with no access to an expert I would be as willing to work as hard to figure it out.

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