I just found this toy

Thompson shared something from Slack that he found:

steveropa [1:43 PM] It reminds me of an offhand comment i heard once, I think from Kent. "More innovations in software haven't come from a white paper or study, but from Ward saying 'hey wanna see something cool?'"

That "hey wanna see something cool" reminded me of one of my favorite moments in the classroom. My "I just found this toy" moment.

A few years ago I ditched my lesson plans and showed my freshman something I had discovered online (gapminder.org) the day before. I thought this resource was amazing and fit perfectly into the larger objectives of the course. I started class by pulling it up on the screen and just exuding excitement about it and how I had just found it and knew very little about it. We soon found [a video explaining it](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo) and watched it together. Together we played with graphs and charts and looked at specific scenarios and interesting outliers. We learned about AIDS in sub-saharan Africa and Mao in China and murder in Guatemala. It was awesome. They were all hooked. I was hooked. I scheduled some computer lab time (because that's what you had to do back then) and let them have at it. They amazed me with what they learned.

Part of my motivation for spontaneously exploring Gapminder came from reading [this summary of a study](http://www.slate.com/id/2288402/):

"In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on.

"For one group of children, the experimenter said: "I just found this toy!" As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised ("Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!") and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time.

With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said, "I'm going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!" and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy.

All of the children pulled the first tube to make it squeak. The question was whether they would also learn about the other things the toy could do.

The children from the first group played with the toy longer and discovered more of its "hidden" features than those in the second group. In other words, direct instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information.

I love this. For me, showing the students Gapminder was my “I just found this toy” moment. We were learning and exploring something together. We were all students in that moment. My students dove into Gapminder in a way that they wouldn’t have if they knew that I already knew everything about it. By presenting it to them as something that I still knew relatively little about, they were excited to discover its hidden features and strange outliers and show them to me. They found the most interesting features and data points – and I think they did this because they were exploring something undiscovered, something unknown.

I want more “I just found this toy” moments. I want more classes where I get to be a student with my students.