Active versus Passive

I’m not sure what to make of yesterday’s interaction between my learning behavior and my son’s learning behavior.

He’s taking an online computer game design class using the FANG Java engine. Overall its proving to be a good experience but he had run into a stumbling block yesterday. He entered a program and found a more cryptic error instead of the common syntax errors. He tried a few things but was obviously frustrated. We talked about the error which seemed to help but at one point he stated that he wanted to just post a question in the class’s online forum to ask if anyone else had run into that error and, if so, how had they solved it.

I found myself completely opposed to this idea. In many respects its a good idea; don’t waste time reinventing the wheel, use the communities knowledge, ask for help so that when the problem comes up again you’ll know what to do. Its even, as he quickly informed me, exactly what I told him was the best method of solving his earlier problem with the class (issues with the Wimba tool that the class uses). He went ahead and wrote the post but didn’t post it until after he tried some of the things that I and my wife suggested (comparing his code to another student’s code, Googling the error message, rechecking some things in the book and the online docs). He found the problem and never posted the message.

Is it just me and my old school thinking that just posting a question and waiting for someone else to answer is too passive? Sometimes it is the best strategy but in this case he succeeded on his own with just some encouragement and direction even if, in many respects, what he ended up doing was asking the “local web” of knowledge in the form of me and my wife. We were a little less direct then a classmate would have been since we mostly provided methods of resolving the problem not specific solutions but its unclear that the distinction (or the general usefulness of the methods) sunk in.

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