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Pedagogy: Learning – and failing to learn – about Electronics

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I always like this quote from major league baseball player and manager Yogi Berra –

“You can see a lot just by observing.”

Many people say the world isn’t  interesting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The world is full of interesting things – if you just take the time to look.

For some, electronics is a hobby.  For these folks, they are not professionals; they do not have four-year college degrees in electronics or electrical engineering.  They just want to learn about electronics as a hobby.  Over the years I’ve watched individuals (including myself) learn about electronics as a hobby.  Generally, they try to do it on their own, outside a classroom setting – flying by the seat of their pants.

How do the variety of individual go about learning about electronics?  Here is where I appeal to Yogi Berra – “You can see a lot just by observing.”

By careful unscientific and ad hoc observation, this is what I’ve observed over the years regarding people trying to learn about electronics outside a traditional classroom setting.

1. Lost-in-time Thomas Edison approach.  Thomas Edison said, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”  For this set of individuals, learning about electronics is more about doing rather than thinking.  They have the “lets see what happens” approach.  They try one thing then another thing and observe the results.  This is what Thomas Edison did when he was trying to find what would work as a filament in a light bulb.  From Edison, “Before I got through, I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material.”

I call this approach by those trying to learn electronics as the “Lost-in-time” Thomas Edison approach because, 100+ years later, electronics is a mature disciple.  At the level of pedagogy, there is no real need to “experiment” at a very basic level,  For example, if you want to learn how to bias a transistor for a simple class A audio amplifier do you really want to just try combinations of resistors until it works?  How many combinations will you try?  “Before I got through, I tested no fewer than 6,000…”

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Written by frrl

September 4, 2011 at 5:22 pm

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