Involve me and I learn

Earlier this year, we were driving by Los Gatos, when my then-grade-school-going daughter remarked, “Look at all those mountains. How tall are the peaks?”

Few seconds pass. And then, she asks, “What is the meaning of prominence?”

Prominence was one of the words she had to learn the previous week, from the vocabulary list of her school.

It was probably no coincidence that she would ask about prominence soon after the mountains.

In my “lecturing mode” the previous week, I likely gave her more than one meaning for prominence. And, to borrow the words of my daughter, when I get into that mode, this is how she apparently hears me:

Blah de blah de blah de blah, blah de blah PROMINENCE blah de blah de blah de blah .. blah blah .. MOUNTAIN PEAKS blah de blah.

So I tried to answer her question again.

Daughter has a good understanding of the simpler meaning of the word. The one that relates to being famous or important. She however did not understand the other meaning, when I explained it like how a Google search shows its meaning: “the fact or condition of standing out from something by physically projecting or being particularly noticeable.”

So I tried one more time. Using her friends from school as example. Here is how I explained it:

Instead of using mountain peaks, let me use your classroom as example.

Say there are only 5 girls in your class:

Ana, Cathy, Maya, Sima, and Vissy.

Ana is 4ft tall, Cathy is 4ft6in, Maya is 4ft10, Sima is 5ft, and Vissy is 5ft1in.

On Monday, only Ana, Cathy and Vissy attend school. The prominence of Vissy on Monday is the difference in her height with the next tallest person (Cathy) in class. And, so her prominence is 5ft1in less 4ft6in, which is 7 inches.

On Tuesday, however, lets say all the five girls were in attendance. Then on Tuesday, Vissy’s prominence is only 1 inch. That is because the next tallest girl in class that day was Sima, who is 5ft tall compared to Vissy, who is 5ft1in.

This same logic is what is used to calculate prominence of mountain peaks.

That worked. Daughter understood this explanation.

Third time lucky, I could say. But it was more a case of me speaking my daughter’s “language” to make myself be understood.

It reminded me of a quote attributed to former German Chancellor Willie Brandt, something like:

If I am selling to you, I must speak English. But if you are selling to me, dann mussen Sie sprechen Deutsch.” (then you must speak German).

Now, bringing this to the context of the digital generation in a hyper-connected world, what “language” are coaches using to teach kids new skills? And, how do they engage these kids, who are more likely to be familiar with WhatsApp than an abacus? And, kids, who may understand things better when explained with 😀 and behaviors reinforced with a 👍 💯 ?

Another quote comes to mind. This one, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States:

Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I learn.

How do coaches and parents involve kids in a pursuit (music, sports, arts, ..) beyond their scheduled coaching sessions? How do they continue their coaching conversations, speaking the “language” the digital generation relates to and understands?

These are the questions that are driving us in our Wiztr product development. And, what we are striving to arrive at answers for – as best as we can – as we progress in our Wiztr journey.

PS: I had blogged about this several months back here.

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