Give the kids the power tools…
How do we trade off giving students ridiculously powerful applications to play with, guarding against the “dangers” of doing so and the requirement to spend time teaching the tool rather than the concepts, versus just teaching them the concepts and hoping they’ll be able to see how to wield those concepts as they are manifest in and by the power tools?
“I … cannot disagree strongly enough with statements about the dangers of putting powerful tools in the hands of novices. Computer algebra, statistics, and graphics systems provide plenty of rope for novices to hang themselves and may even help to inhibit the learning of essential skills needed by researchers. The obvious problems caused by this situation do not justify blunting our tools, however. They require better education in the imaginative and disciplined use of these tools. And they call for more attention to the way powerful and sophisticated tools are presented to novice users.”
Leland Wilkinson, The Grammar of Graphics, Springer-Verlag, 1999, ISBN 0-387-98774-6, p15-16.
+1, as they say; +1.