Freedom and Constraints
It is a paradox: freedom needs constraints.
I believe it is necessary to allow for total freedom for students to learn what they want to learn. But, they also need constraints to guide that open learning.
No constraints in many cases, is a hindrance for finding depth. Teenagers need help in developing themselves and their learning: an infrastructure to ensure they are first getting the fundamentals, and then further ensuring that they are going deep into an inquiry.
I have this brilliant 15 year old kid who is a phenomenal coder. Last year, he easily kept up with this other genius coder at the school who was two years older and they collectively wrote over 16,000 lines of code in an attempt to build an art sharing platform.
This year, he is taking a stab at building the cheapest cloud storage service. Stiff competition. The code he is writing is fantastic, as is his UI and UX. Now come the constraints. I am getting him to develop a business model canvas. We have started with initial costs, value proposition, customer acquisition, and advertising. That is only the start. His ideas need to be corralled and guided. He cannot find his way on his own — he does not have the experience. I am not telling him what to learn, everything is of his own choosing, but I am definitely constraining him by taking him deeper into the WHAT, HOW and most importantly WHY of this little venture (See Simon Sinek). His WHY is strong, which is great, but he needs way more HOW.
He needs deadlines. He needs to learn self-discipline. He needs to have other commitments to attend to for practice in responsibility. He is in school after all. He needs to write, read, do science — not just code. He needs to be building other fundamental skills. I believe this will help him in his coding as he gains more critical and creative thinking abilities and understand the importance of following through on commitments.
Human nature, like water, follows the path of least resistance (we are 70% water). If a 15 year old kid has too many choices, he is going to have difficulty choosing. It is odd, it is a paradox, but I have seen it play out too many times now. He needs to choose within a set of constraints as this will provide a structure and accountability to get s**t done.