30 May 2011

On living in a different world

  1. A little while ago I was helping my son to do some basic DIY involving screws. He's coming up for 30, and I was amazed to find him muttering to himself the the mantra; "Righty-tighty, lefty-loosy" to ensure he screwed them in correctly.
  2. Last year, at a study day for our in-service vocational teaching students about threshold concepts, the engineering special interest group suggested that "Righty-tighty, lefty-loosy" was an important threshold concept for their students to acquire. 
  3. Just now, confronted with a rather odd mixer tap (faucet) in the bathroom where I am staying, and trying to balance the flows, I found myself having to use it, too. (There were two tap heads mounted horizontally opposing each other at the base of a common outlet pipe.)
But where has it come from? Why do students of 16+ years have to be taught it? Isn't it just more complicated than the metaphor we have "always" used--clockwise and anti-clockwise? Yes it is, but I've just realised that these students grew up in a digital era. I read somewhere in the last few days the claim that 60% of people check the time on their mobiles, even after they have just looked at their watches. That struck me as rubbish, but it does suggest that the analogue clock face is no longer the universal trope it once was. (Hey! I finally used that word! Probably never again.)

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:52 am

    I'm not sure this is s threshold concept, and in any case it's an heuristic, in that it has specific and limited applicability - we still use left-hand threads as well as the more common right-hand ones to which the rule applies.

    We still teach kids to tell time on analogue clocks, so might the strong link between "anticlockwise" and "left" this mnemonic supposes be to do with a familiarity with driving?

    For engineers(who will presumably have a familiarity with physics)rather than the general public, a right-hand rule as commonly used in physics to remember 3-dimensional notation conventions may be a better and more familiar mnemonic.

    Of course most professional engineers don't use a tool-kit at work, but in the UK technicians, tradesmen and grease-monkeys can call themselves engineers if they like - I doubt however that even grease-monkeys need this mnemonic.

    I think therefore that it's really only useful for people unfamiliar with screws and bolts who need to tighten or loosen the most common type, like yourselves and unfortunately many engineering educators.


Comments welcome, but I am afraid I have had to turn moderation back on, because of inappropriate use. Even so, I shall process them as soon as I can.