How many times have you heard a kid say, “when am I going to use this in the real world”? How many times have you said it?
My niece is taking some programming courses in college and she told me she was having difficulty with one of the classes. When I asked, she said she just didn’t understand how what she was learning would be applied. The professor had forgotten to tell the class the why of what they were learning.
This happens throughout our learning lifetime. I wrote a post a while ago (Searching for the why) where I talked about making sure to include the why when talking about processes as well as coding techniques. Knowing the why helps us to apply the how better.
Does knowing the why help us learn too?
I think understanding why we are learning a new skill helps motivate us to learn it. Let’s take for example, learning a new language. I have tried many times to learn a new language, and I have only been partially successful. I was most successful learning some Spanish when I was planning on going to a Spanish speaking country. Since then, it has been on and off.
I don’t know anyone who speaks Spanish. I live in the midwest and we don’t have a lot of native speakers in the area. I have little to no reason to learn it, other than I have this fantasy in my head of me being able to speak multiple languages fluently.
Sometimes the skill that we are learning is simply a stepping stone to something more complex, and having a concrete why for that may be difficult at best. This happens a lot throughout our school years. But, that is the why right there. Because it is crucial to understanding something greater.
I encourage our teachers, our mentors and our parents to help the learners of the world to understand the whys of what they are learning as well as the whats and the hows. I encourage our learners to ask the teachers they whys as well.