Gear Sticks

sticksI’m participating in MIT Media Lab’s experimental MOOC: Learn Creative Learning  which is an exciting opportunity for more reasons than I can list ‘ .  Opportunity to ‘Learn by making’ changed my life; it’s why I  find Webmaker and the Maker movement so beautiful and worth championing.

For whatever reason this week –  I  experienced a a major case of ‘fraud’ syndrome while participating in education-focused community threads.  Just because I want to teach, does that mean I can contribute something meaningful through teaching?  Because I learned this way, does that mean I can explain to others why it matters?


Thanks to the first exercise in Learn Creative Learning, I was able to shake that feeling off (mostly)

Activity: Write about an object from your childhood, in the spirit of Papert’s gears

Without a doubt, my the gears of my childhood(and young-adulthood) were drumsticks, as a snare/tenor  drummer in highland bagpipe bands.

first, I remember that no one told me to learn about differential gears

I was mesmerized by the drummers in my brother’s bagpipe band (he played pipes).  I  tried to decode what I was hearing, break it down into small pieces, and replicate.  I would play recordings over and over again – recognizing patterns in sets.  I would  eventually just *sing*  and hum patterns in place of those recordings.
When I finally had my own drumsticks, and lessons I played  constantly.  On my lap while watching TV, in the car on my practice pad – everywhere in between;  time signatures , beats, double time, para-diddle, para-diddle, mama dada, mama, dada,  patience and love.  I carried them with me everywhere.  I started writing my own sets, adding in variations of others until finally I was part of a drum core, composing, competing and playing together for a perfect sound.  Although usually with the pipes, we also competed in a drummers only set – spinning sticks between beats.  Eventually, at 18 I started teaching younger kids which was an opportunity to share the love, at least that’s how I saw it.

I can see (thanks to this exercise) how drumming was my gear, and that so much of that experienced provided me with learning I’ve built on ever since.

Math/Logic/Problem Solving

Writing music, learning and decoding drumbeats taught me so much about numbers: odd even, division (how many beats in  a 4/4 bar) and logic of writing a score to fit a specific tune.  I still sometimes count by ‘thinking’ in bars.

Remix and Reuse

Drum scores I loved, mixed in to make something new – changed a little.  Reliable pieces for all occasions  – I learned this through music first.


Drumming was an outlet for happiness, sadness and  a good one for anger, but playing as part of a band removes the ‘me factor’.  Working as part of a group  towards a share outcome is something I learned in drumming. Definitely an early learning for Open Source participation.

Responsibility & Accountability

Competing as a drum corp, or with a band means if you screw up everyone else is affected.  Focus.


I’m not sure I was very good at it , but sharing a love and passion with new learners is definitely learning I have built on – most recently with web literacy.