Sunday, September 2, 2012

The "Aha! moment"

In 7th grade I had a math teacher who said that rather than teach for the standardized tests, she teaches for the "Aha! moment". She was a good teacher, and we all learned a lot from her, about geometry and algebra, but the teaching philosophy most importantly. The "Aha! moment" is the moment when a person realizes they know what they are doing. In other words, the teacher may give us information, and we (lifelong students) may possess that information, but what is important is that we know that we know it.

And what signifies (to the teacher) that we have this knowledge? Some people exclaim "Aha!", but the surest sign is when the student corrects a teacher's mistake. It takes a good teacher to realize that being corrected by students is a good thing.

Some recent field days with farmers at Mziza have driven this point home.

What is causing the low water flow out of this pump?

AWP hypothesis: low rpm caused by bad gearing
Farmer's hypothesis: broken or bent washers caused by slack in the rope
Answer: improperly sized washers used to replace broken washers

One to the student... Of course, if we teachers had followed our own method, we should have come to the same hypothesis as the farmer.

What is causing low germination rate in this maize field?

AWP hypothesis: insufficient water
Farmer's hypothesis: mice
Answer: probably mice, as the problem ceased after burning out the mice holes.

Two lessons the teacher should take away from this:
1) follow your own method, and start with the simplest analysis.
2) local wisdom is exceptionally wise in its own locale; heed its advice.

Farmers are getting irrigation now. There is an intuitive understanding of how to use the water pumps, how to design and cultivate the garden, and how to plan their farming activities.

The next step, we hope, is that those who have excelled may start teaching others, first time irrigators and those who are struggling at some point in the process.