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3 July 2009

FW: TED's Facebook fans asked Gever Tulley absolutely anything -- and he answered

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TED's Facebook fans asked Gever Tulley absolutely anything -- and he answered


Today, Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School and the man behind today's TEDTalk, agreed to answer any question that our TED Facebook fans proposed. Here are his answers, accompanied by a personal note:

I thank you all for your excellent and thought-provoking questions. Since Tinkering School is itself being tinkered with, it is always interesting to share ideas and see what people think. I tried to answer as if you were sitting at the kitchen table with me now, except that I am able to ramble on unchecked.

I hope that you will all follow along on the blog as we update nightly during Tinkering School starting on July 12th.

As a father myself, I find that parents are overly cautious with their children. How do you respond to critics who claim that children can't handle power tools which will in turn lead to death/dismemberment/lawsuits? -- Nick Wilson

Firstly, I try never to think of the person asking this question as a "critic". I recognize that I am more comfortable with the notion of children being capable than most modern parents, but there is a valid concern at the heart of the emotionally charged issue of putting potentially life-threatening tools in kids hands. I put it in the context of all of the dangerous activities we participate in as toddlers -- like toddling (or is that toddlering?). There is no question that a child can seriously injure themselves by falling flat on their face, but we learn, through a series of very minor bumps and knocks (some worthy of yelling about, some we don't even notice), to put our hands out and catch ourselves before our noses meet the floor.

In their wonderful book The Body Has a Mind of It's Own Sandra and Matthew Blakeslee describe some of the amazing science behind how, when we pick up a stick or a tool, our minds extend our sense of "self" out to the end of that stick. We can "touch" things with the stick and get a very accurate "feel" for the object we are "touching". So, it stands to reason that a power tool is just a very dangerous stick and we can learn feel through it as well -- we just need the safe context in which to learn how to mitigate the risks the power tool presents. These risks are both real and imagined in many cases and part of the learning process includes dispelling the imaginary risks by developing skill through practice.

It is often easier to teach the child to use th...

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