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"We Fixed It!"; A Practical Application of Modern Learning

People who know me have experienced my affinity for the latest technology gadgets. This doesn't apply to my transportation; older is better. I have a bicycle that's 30 years old, I have a car, originally purchased by my parents, that's nearly fifty years old, and my daily transportation is a truck that's twelve years old. A few weeks ago, my old truck had a loping idle, and fluctuating RPMs with the cruise control set during highway driving. 

How would a modern learner, a parent with two college-age children, and two more in high school, solve this problem, inexpensively?

Identify the Problem:  I heard the strange pulse of the 4.7-liter engine and observed the fluctuating tachometer while driving. My observations and experiences helped me identify a problem. 

Inquiry:  What is causing the fluctuating engine speed? Am I able to fix it? Not only did I need to gain some knowledge about the truck, I needed to assess my mechanical repair abilities.

Investigation:  Like most people would, I started my research with a Google search. I conducted an advanced search using quotation marks, "What causes fluctuating engine idle on a 2004 Dodge Dakota with a 4.7 L engine?"  This strategy led me to a discussion board on an auto repair site. I filtered by make, model, and recent activity. Another person had previously posted the same question, and a certified mechanic specializing in Dodge trucks recommended replacing the TPS (Throttle Position Sensor).

I had a guess of where to find the TPS, but my Dakota isn't carbureted, it's fuel injected. I had more research to do. My next stop was YouTube. A quick, thirty-second, search netted me this two-minute video which validated the diagnosis, showed the location of the TPS, as well as, how to replace it. I determined the video resource helpful, and I determined I had enough skill to make the repair. I can do this!

Contribution:  The new TPS cost $59 at the local parts counter. I was coming out about $125 ahead by replacing it myself. Luckily, I already had a #25 Torx bit in my tool box. It took an entire five minutes to complete the repair, and that's only because I reviewed the YouTube video one more time before starting the truck. I went online to thank the mechanic on the discussion board. I also went back to YouTube to "like" the video and leave a positive comment for Robert, the creator of the helpful tutorial.

Reflection: Information is readily, and inexpensively available in a digitally connected world. Using my iPhone, I felt like I had a mechanic right beside me as I performed the TPS replacement. It was a collaborative, team effort to complete the repair, even though I was doing the physical work myself. I had virtual collaborators! 

In addition to viewing the repair video, I also used my iPhone to shop for the best price at the nearest location for the new TPS. I also used the camera app to take a picture of the old part to make sure it matched the new part. I used a magna-lite app to illuminate and magnify the working area. I also used the phone to text my wife letting her know I would be arriving home a few minutes late, but I was bringing dinner! Updated net savings, $100.

The old truck started immediately and purred like a kitten. I sat behind the wheel appreciating the sound of the engine, the results of "our" work, and the money I saved. Vintage is cool in my world, but in this case, it took modern technology, and modern learning techniques, to effectively solve this mechanical problem. My story is not unique. My dad recently fixed the transmission on his old Saturn with a part costing less than five dollars. My wife saved $60 by researching and replacing the water filter for our refrigerator. My son, instead of paying a technician, is researching how to update the hardware and operating system on an old, donated laptop computer. Everyday problems are being solved by learners using modern learning techniques.

Making decisions and solving problems are daily occurrences in the "real world". How can we help students, and our children, become better decision makers and problem solvers? It's not an overstatement to suggest that their happiness, along with the survival of our planet, relies on their collaboration and problem-solving skills. 

What have you fixed lately? How are you learning? We're interested in reading your modern learning stories.

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Network Era Competencies - Harold Jarche


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