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Unread 02-17-2005, 04:14 PM
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Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Interesting "mentor" question...
Where does one cross the line between being "helpful" and doing someone a disservice?

I have provided young... ummm... "Gopher" with the answer to his question. I was trying to be helpful, and I had the answer on hand.

However... i just keep thinking of the phrase...

"When you give a man a fish you feed him once, when you teach a man to fish you feed him forever."

Instead of providing people who come to these forums the answers they seek, should we instead refrain and teach them how to find the answers on their own?

Any thoughts on this?

John
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Last edited by Brandon Martus : 02-17-2005 at 04:18 PM.
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Unread 02-17-2005, 04:45 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by JVN
Interesting "mentor" question...
Where does one cross the line between being "helpful" and doing someone a disservice?

I have provided young... ummm... "Gopher" with the answer to his question. I was trying to be helpful, and I had the answer on hand.

However... i just keep thinking of the phrase...

"When you give a man a fish you feed him once, when you teach a man to fish you feed him forever."

Instead of providing people who come to these forums the answers they seek, should we instead refrain and teach them how to find the answers on their own?

Any thoughts on this?

John
I'm not sure if we're seeing this increasingly or if, simply, by the larger number of teams and larger number of participants on Chief Delphi it's more prevalent, but I've noticed a lot of folks requesting (I almost put demanding but that's just a subset of the posts) things be done for them (a lot of this is happening on the programming forum). Now, I have no problem with people asking questions. I have no problem with people turning to Chief Delphi for help with a problem. I think we've just gotten to a point where people will ask on here before they try to solve the problem themselves.

Certainly, someone will learn more if they've worked through it themselves as opposed to just coming here for an answer. However, it's definitely easier just to have someone else do it for you. In many ways, it's also easier for the person doing the help to just give the answer as opposed to actually teach someone how to do it.

So what's the answer? There really isn't one. It's obviously better for everyone in the long run if the questioner learns how to do it. However, there frequently isn't time to do so. So you do what you can and, perhaps, over time he or she will learn how to find things on their own.

Matt
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Unread 02-17-2005, 04:45 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

as one that asks many questions on this forum, but answers many on http://forums.spudtech.com this is my opinion:

I believe that one that knows the answer to another's question, should tell him the answer, while encouraging the person asking the question to search next time if the answer is eas to find.

just my 0.02NIS (New Israeli Shekel)
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Unread 02-17-2005, 05:13 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

I'll do the usual Canadian thing and say a bit of both.

Considering the following situation. A young student comes on these forums and says "We're planning on direct driving the Fisher Price gearbox to a 5 foot arm, will this be able to lift a tetra?".

The "teaching one to fish" answer would be, "Here are the FP motor specs, and here are the appropriate equations, you should be able to answer your question from here". Now here's my problem with that answer. Say the student can't navigate their way through the equations. Even worse, say they do it incorrectly. There's a very good chance the team will now show up at a competition with a non function arms. How inspiring is that?

On the other hand, it would be very easy to answer "No, it won't lift a tetra. Add in an 8:1 reduction, and you'll be fine." From here the team will have a functional arm, but how much did the student learn?

We've had many debates on the forum and elsewhere about which approach is right. My answer lies in between. "Here are the motor specs, let's work together on these calculations... <<calculations>>, as you can see from the above results, your arm will not be able to lift a tetra".

This way the student learns something in the process, but in the end they do have the right answer. This isn't a science fair, sometimes it's okay to give away the answer, especially if they learned something on the way there.
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Unread 02-17-2005, 05:19 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

A mentor, by definition, provides a nuturing environment and, over time, makes themselves progressively unnecessary. Teach the man to fish, always. You may also need to teach about the importance of the fishing expedition to begin with. That being said, feeding an answer or two along the way is OK, so long as that person understands it's a "pay it forward" scenario with gracious professionalim and they will be expected to do the same, in time.

It has to be this way. You can't simply bring another 100 teams into FIRST and have them all asking Andy Baker questions. I'm all for helping people through something the first time, but, as I have told lots of students, "I expect you to make mistakes and need help constantly. Just be sure each time you come to me, it's a new mistake and a different kind of help you need. This way I know you're growing."
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Unread 02-17-2005, 07:32 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Complete hand-holding doesn't work for me.

On the flip side, FIRST did put out a heck of a lot of manuals and guides and helpers and rulebooks this year. Some are on the FIRST site, some are at IFI, others are at Kevin Watson's site.

I'm yet to find a problem that can't be solved by pointing them to the URL for the answer, perhaps with a bit of a hint on where to find it within the file.
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Unread 02-17-2005, 08:04 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Teach them to fish by catching the first fish for them.
(Give them the answer, but also give them how you came to that conclusion)
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Unread 02-17-2005, 08:34 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by David V
Teach them to fish by catching the first fish for them.
(Give them the answer, but also give them how you came to that conclusion)
That sounds like a good answer maybe twist it by having them do the calcs. then checking there answer go back to the problem and point out errors if it's wrong. And btw my name is david V. A.
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Unread 02-17-2005, 09:03 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karthik
I'll do the usual Canadian thing and say a bit of both?

Considering the following situation. A young student comes on these forums and says "We're planning on direct driving the Fisher Price gearbox to a 5 foot arm, will this be able to lift a tetra?".

The "teaching one to fish" answer would be, "Here are the FP motor specs, and here are the appropriate equations, you should be able to answer your question from here". Now here's my problem with that answer. Say the student can't navigate their way through the equations. Even worse, say they do it incorrectly. There's a very good chance the team will now show up at a competition with a non function arms. How inspiring is that?

You give them the right stuff, and then you check the answers. Or have another student check the answers. I'd worry for any team that didn't check the math. At that point, if they don't understand, then you walk them through it step by step.

The problem is that these days the questions don't prompt learning. Asking "Will it do this" is different from asking "How can I tell if it will do this," which prompts knowledge rather than answers. The wrong questions prompt the wrong answers and don't encourage self-sufficiency. Like Woody said, it isn't about the robots, it's about the learning.

Sam
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Unread 02-17-2005, 10:07 PM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

Given a choice between giving a man a fish and teaching him to fish, you always want to teach them to fish. But sometimes that involves showing him how to put the worm on the hook first.

In cases like the one cited above, if there is any information or knowledge about the education and experience level of the person asking the question you can make a guess at their capabilities and the level of instruction they need. Based on that, you can determine how much information to just outright provide, vs showing them how to determine the answer, vs. just giving them to the tools to do it themselves. Then adjust as appropriate based on the need and urgency (ie. adjust towards just giving them the info if the question is "my house is on fire, and I need to know how to use a fire extinguisher RIGHT NOW!," and adjust the other way if the question is "I was too lazy to read the manual myself, so can you explain the entire game to me?").

But a lot of times, you can combine providing the answer with an introduction to the tools. For example, in this thread, the direct answer was not provided in the reponse, but Ashley was directed straight to a web page that gave the answer. That provided a quick response, but also served as an introduction to navigating through the FIRST web site, where a lot of other answers are located.

The particular question cited by JVN is an interesting one. The initial question about the drive shaft diameter could source from anyone, with any level of experience, just in search of a quick answer. But then I would have all sorts of alarm bells going off as soon as I saw the response from the team "engineer" asking how to convert from millimeters to inches [please insert your own old NASA metric/English conversion joke here]. If they are going to have this role on their team, but they don't even know how to do this type of conversion, then this is a person in serious need of fishing education - fast! Point them to a units conversion web site, and let them learn to do it on their own.

-dave
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Unread 02-18-2005, 01:10 AM
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I really should be a teacher...

I've run into this recently when helping my sister with her physics (what she calls physucks) homework. There is a balance needed. Just giving her the answer leads to crappy test grades and not understanding it. To much on how it works, and she gets cranky, frustrated and gives up.

That is where the phone/AIM is nice, there can be a lot of give and take to figure out where the balance point is. Here on the forum, it is not so easy with newer posters to figure out their skill level. We know Paul Copioli has a very high technical skill level because he has been around and has a track record of such. The impersonal nature of the internet has a negative effect here.

John, you did well with your response to Gopher was well done. He asked for the size quick, and you give it to him after a few different ways of finding the answer for himself.

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Unread 02-18-2005, 06:30 AM
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Re: I really should be a teacher...

I believe that it also depends on the fishing conditions and whether they've ever fished before. Sometimes the new fishing accessories can fill buckets. I have more patience with schools of fish with large numbers, and less with those very small schools of fish who have been swimming around and around in circles for a while. Of course, the fishing questions I can sometimes help with are for NEMOfish and Momfish.
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Unread 02-18-2005, 06:59 AM
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Re: Mentoring Question: Teaching to Fish

For the past few years my self and other MOE students go in to the community and do demo's at schools for recruitment and also fund raising etc..
On of the most popular questions that we get asked is the interaction between the mentors and students, how it works.
My favorite answer is about a situation that many of the MOE kids have gone through. Our mentors will show us how to use the drill but not where to drill on the part we are working on. When we show the people at the demo all the holes in the parts I always joke about how the holes are there for weight reduction but the reason they are there is from a student having to try to mount something in different parts. They tell us we are going to be fishing and help us get the worm on the hook and then it is up to us to learn how to fish with it. The robot being built on time is an important part of what we do on the team but the learning experience is much more important part of FIRST. A good mentor will show a kid how to use the tools, safely, then watch the student learn from mistakes and gain a better understanding of the mechanical, or any other, process.

Sorry about the kinda randomness of my ideas, this subject is something I could talk for hours about ( the people that know me know that i can do it to ) With out my mentors leadership and understanding of how kids learn I still would have trouble finding what end of the hammer to use.

just my 2 cents worth
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