Process or outcome. What’s more important?

It was a good week.  A positive way to ease back into the routine after a leisurely spring break.

The DIY/Maker kids wrapped up their independent projects and presented their process/projects this week.  The projects included a puppet show, a matchbox pinhole camera, a board game, a couple of video projects combining spring break footage with music, baskets made from found cardboard and yarn, and a photography project that involved taking photos of students’ and creating collages from those portraits like this image by this Mike Marrero (I think).

pinhole came

We spent some time talking about process versus product/outcome, a point of conversation inspired by Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

I asked if Mau’s statement was true.  Is process really more important than outcome?  The opinions were mixed, and to be honest I’m really undecided.  No, maybe it’s less about being undecided and more about responding to the question with, “It depends.”

In my efforts to learn Scratch, something I’ve been doing as part of MIT’s Learning Creative Learning MOOC, process matters a lot.  I’ve been paying close attention to what works for me as a learner, especially as a learner of something completely new.  What causes friction?  The process has been insightful and has maybe provided some “data” I can use the next time I take on something new.  However, the more I roll it over in my head, the more I think that reflecting on the process IS the product or desired outcome.  The point isn’t to necessarily master Scratch, but to consider how I learn and what it means to be a student and/or self-directed learner.

But here’s the thing… if someone is paying me to create a product or get something done, a bunch of navel gazing and half-baked blogging about “process” isn’t going to make many people happy.

It’s the process where we learn from mistakes and where we learn what works well.  It’s the process that teaches us how to create that awesome product.  It’s the process that toughens the mental and physical resolve to get after it…  to get things done.

Or maybe that’s all hippie BS.

The class consensus was that it was indeed the product/outcome that was most important.  However, one student–a puppeteer–boldly admitted that he could’ve cared less about the final product.  It was the process–the making of the puppet show–that was the most fun… the place where the memories were made.

Truth.  The process lends itself to memory making.  Maybe those memories involve laughs with friends, but those memories are also, “X works for me.” and “I suck at Y.”  All useful insights to have when moving on to the next product or outcome.



The rare stillness

Wednesday morning was a rare morning.  There were no panicked requests in the email inbox.  The before-school flurry of activity from Minecrafters was dampened by whatever virus is currently making its way through the middle school.  It was quiet in the library trailers.  Still.  There was just me and two seniors who sat at a table together, each with an earbud in one ear, laptops out.  Their work was interrupted periodically by questions or comments for each other and sometimes for me.

O: “Ms. Barker, have you heard of the ‘Harlem Shake?'”


Me: “Only through my Twitter stream.”

O proceeds to introduce me to the “Harlem Shake” meme through a series of videos.  She and T then explain that the Harlem Shake is on its way out.  They show me a series of “Harlem Shake” backlash videos.

T: “Ms. Barker, why did you become a librarian?”


Me:  “Well, I used to hang out in the library a lot during high school….”


T & O look at each other and start laughing.  “You are both doomed,” I say.

O then excitedly tells me about MIT and the legendary prank culture that exists at the school.  She read about it, she says.  I tell her about Aaron Swartz.

Our exchanges took maybe all of 10 or 15 minutes, but it was probably my favorite school moment in almost 10 years of school moments.