(The Motley Man)
I watched my daughter making a paper automata, yesterday. Taking a handful of flat, printed sheets and turning them into a moving statue. I saw how much patience, determination and focus it took. The ability to follow the instructions too. The dedication to see the project right through to the end.
It might seem like a simple project. Cut it out and stick it together. Yes, I can see how this can be seen as simple. After all, we are used to seeing the walls of playgroups and primary schools walls plastered with cut out paper stuck to other paper.
In a world where children are growing up using programs that design and build an image on screen, that are manipulated to perform movement, it is easy to see this as a simple, basic project. Imagine what our great, great grandparents would have made of the digital images. How far we have come. Paper, scissors and glue replaced by pixels.
The thing is I don’t see one replacing the other. I see them both as skills complementing each other. Building on each other. I love to see my children creating new worlds on the computer. Their creativity is power boosted, as they storm through turning the image in their heads into a pixel representation, in next to no time. It’s good.
It is restricted though. Creativity cannot go beyond the confines of the program. A limit is eventually hit, however good the software. Yes, it might inspire them to create/program a new or add-on online experience that will allow them to follow their idea, but that takes time. Very few will take up the challenge and push the boundaries as it doesn’t give the instant reward they are used to.
(Crafting before breakfast)
So back to the paper automata. As she worked on this project, I saw the care she took to cut it out. It had to be precise, otherwise the different elements wouldn’t fit together. Movement would be inhibited by jagged edges. The glued edges sometimes held and other times flicked apart. It was frustrating, but she was inventive using pegs, weights, folds and eventually my glue gun. She improved the original design to make the arms move in the way she wanted.
It took hours. We ate lunch around her project. No instant reward with this project. It was frustrating, but she kept going. There was not going to be an abandoned, half-finished project.
This is the 14 year old who produces the most amazing drawings on her tablet. She can spend hours drawing on the computer, but can also focus on a glue-on-fingers project too. I’d actually go as far to say the patience she has gained drawing on her computer has boosted her ability to focus longer on other projects. Paper projects included, but also to concentrate on her studies. Almost like patience, concentration and determination are muscles that can be trained to perform and take on any marathon. Whatever form it takes.
And the icing on the cake. As I was chatting to her, she talked about a science test she took that week. She said she was aware that she was able to concentrate fully on it. Didn’t daydream half way through, as she is apt to do. Completed it to her satisfaction. Be interesting to see how she does.
So what do I take away from all this. Maybe I shouldn’t worry that the children are spending too long on the computer (Unless Fortnite is concerned. Don’t get me started.). Maybe instead of passively lugging home the junk modelling from preschool, that was
helpfully lovingly described as a robot, I should have revelled in her achievement. It’s not so much about what they do, but how they do it.
(not an ad, but is an affiliated link: If you are interested the Motley Man came out of the book Paper Automata by Rob Ives)