Sitting in lectures must be boring. It was boring when I was a student, and likely it hasn’t changed much in the intervening 30 years. Yes, we have tried to make lectures more interesting, increased active learning, tried to make learning a more engaging experience, but let’s face it, there is a limit to how innovative they can be. The best solution is to turn the lecture into more of a discussion seminar, and that is sometimes only possible in upper years (and even then in a class of 60-70 that’s a stretch).
So should we spend more time building things, and less time looking at books? Likely. There may be a distinct connection between innovative thought and building things. We have likely concentrated too much on the just using our brains at the expense of manual tasks. High schools use to have mandatory manual training or “shop” classes. In some places they are now under the guise of “Technological Education” classes. That’s a bit of a crock considering how little technology is involved in woodworking. In 8th grade I took a woodworking and metalworking course, and four years of technical drafting hereafter. It provided a basic set of skills to use tools, something which is clearly lacking today. How many people wanting to become a mechanical engineer have ever built anything? Yeah, sure mechanical engineers aren’t going to spend their lives machining parts, but they should have an inkling of how things are built, and be able to build things. You don’t need advanced mathematics or physics to machine something… and you don’t even need to machine using metal – you can machine wood on a lathe too. What about some drafting? Yeah CAD is great, but you have to be able to sketch things in the field – it’s a LOT faster that drawing something on an iPad.
How does this relate to computer science? Well, computer scientists build things too. Some of it is software sure, but a growing portion of these systems involve some form of hardware, or external, physical device that involves some sort of iterative process to design and develop. We would have better products if people understood more about how humans use “things” (i.e. tools, appliances), ergonomics etc. Building things also leads to better problem solving skills.