Schank, Roger, Dynamic Memory Revisited (1999), Preface, Pg. viii. Schank says that “someone has to get a computer to know what a human knows about using a toaster or playing baseball”.
Children understand things at just the right level – not absolutely shallow, as in rote memory, and obviously not too deep. How do children know how to do things? Take this example. A child knows how to call up someone on a cellphone. How? First go to the phone icon. Then dial the number of the person you want to connect to. Then press Connect/Dial. They don’t have structures of these steps in their minds which require analysis for those structures to emerge, or have abstract generalisations of the steps. For example, they cannot “(analytically)classify-cum-(abstractedly)generalise” these 3 steps into steps like : Access – Identify – Execute/Instruct. This is a product of an adult mind. But they know things like if you want to call someone you should go in ‘Phone’, and not in ‘Messages’ or ‘Email’ icons on the screen. The number you dial should be of the person you want to connect to; if even a single digit goes wrong, it will connect to the person whose number that erroneously dialed number is etc. So they know things at just the right level.
I think whatever kids cognize as steps in doing things, or as components of anything they grasp, meets/satisfies certain “kid-centric properties”. Otherwise it cannot enter their heads. Here, lets see these properties of the 3 steps of calling up someone, that they understand :
Step 1 – Go to ‘Phone’. Property : SAMENESS – want to phone, so go in ‘Phone’!
Step 2 – Dial the number of the person you want to connect to. Property : One of the elementary questions that would arise in anyone’s mind as to the process of “calling” (in general – in any sense or context), which is – whom do I want to call? / who is this person calling/talking to?
Step 3 – Press Dial. Property : Children are used to one-step ‘Action->Result’ (Do this -> you get that) or ‘Goal -> Action’ (Want that -> do that) pairs. E.g. – Kill -> shoot. Send the ball -> kick. Want the door to open -> Ring the bell. The ‘press (the Dial button) and the cell-phone will connect you (to the person)’ format fits into this structure. This step is like the “punch” of instruction/signal for them, to get what they want.
So, I think we need to identify these kid-centric properties of procedures, to understand and represent how they know how to do what they do.