Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why I need to Reinvent the Wheel.

Every time I've thought about improving my craft as an educator, learner, and leader, I find myself worrying that I am "reinventing the wheel". Why do we say "reinvent the wheel"? According to, it's defined as slang 

  • "To go laboriously and unnecessarily through elementary stages in some process or enterprise; waste time on tediously obvious fundamentals" 

The inspiration for this metaphor lies in the fact that the wheel must be the archetype of human ingenuity which allows it to underlie much if not all of modern technology. As I delve further into this saying, I have found that it's good to "reinvent the wheel" depending on the reasoning, purpose, and mindset of the learner. 

Maybe we should first consider the learning mindset. When it comes to learning, by re-inventing, we learn how solutions map to problems (backward design, backward mapping) and get a deeper understanding of how those solutions work (See Coding Article). Both are encouraged when learning, regardless of where the learning is done. This is good for teachers who need guidance on how to write a lesson plan or develop a curriculum that will be used multiple times (with time for insight and reflection on how it went). 

For someone like me, it's time to learn similar or redundant programs or apps thoroughly to be able to critique the programs and teach them to my staff even though there may be other similar alternatives already available. (i.e. Formative assessment apps such as Kahoot, Peardeck, Quizzizz, Plickers,, Google Forms, and GoFormative to name just a few). 

The case where re-invention is discouraged is the pragmatic mindset, one where you want to make new, more exciting, rounder, wheels. In this case, you have a problem, and you want to solve it with minimal time/effort. Pragmatic solutions will always be a composition of re-use and invention, and the preference is certainly re-using. I see this in my work when I continually go back to the basics to find more interesting and engaging activities for students to explore content in more critical, problem-solving and growth-mindset ways. I do this by going back to Google Apps and re-working how to use Slides, Drawing, Docs, and Sheets. 

Engineers are continually improving wheels, but they are also innovators who generate new types of wheels. New engineers continually are taught the basics as a foundation for the jump to eventual pragmatism. I think "reinventing the wheel" is a positive and I look at it as more of a spectrum of learners mindset to pragmatists mindset. 

By the way, we are still re-inventing the wheel. This is the Omni-directional wheel patented to improve forklifts

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