own complexities; even a simple activity provides many opportunities for learning.
One member of the group excelled at the activity. In addition to meticulously guiding the robotic visitor to the right building, the correct entrance, the appropriate elevator, and the fifth floor elevator button, her instructions said, "Turn right after getting off the elevator." Notice: after getting off the elevator-No smacking into the elevator wall for this robot.
Traveling on New Roads
In debriefing the simulation, I explained that they'd just written their first program and helped each other debug the programs. I asked what they'd learned from the experience, and their comments included:
- There's more to this programming thing than I thought.
- It sure does take a lot of instructions to solve a simple problem.
- Sometimes, things that sound easy turn out to be a lot harder when you try it yourself.
- It's easy to make a mistake and not even realize it.
- I'm so used to driving the route that I never noticed the street sign was missing.
- I suddenly realize how risky it is to give someone important instructions without having someone else check them first.
- It's a good thing I never had to tell someone how to get here!
Granted, these people barely scratched the surface of software development. But they got an inkling not only of the challenge of developing systems, but of developing systems that work correctly. They also gained some appreciation for their own responsibility as customers, particularly-as the fellow who had given me the misleading directions put it-when "our own information is wrong to begin with." Progress made!
I gave them each a miniature robot to keep as a reminder of what they'd learned.
Experiential training doesn't produce miracles, but it's a powerful technique that helps people gain insights they're likely to believe more fully, retain longer, and understand at a deeper level than when information is flung at them by others.
If you'd like to use this Visiting Robot exercise, go right ahead. I'd enjoy hearing how it turns out. Just remember to select a destination familiar to those who are trying it-and unfamiliar to the robots in your vicinity!