Saturday, January 28, 2017

An Inconvenient Truth

Younger students struggle with disappointment or unmet expectations. How to handle adversity is often the computational skill students need to learn most.

At times I thought students struggled with problem solving because of their prior experience with technology. If children only ever play games on computers, then they do not see devices as high-end computational tools. It's easy to blame parents who use computer games to entertain rambunctious children.

Or perhaps students cannot comprehend high-end computations yet, so their understanding is still primitive. I've also thought it might be students' developing emotional skills that cannot differentiate between real world and digital outcomes. Or perhaps younger students have an immature problem solving skill set. I might be observing a complex combination of all these possibilities!

But now I believe the real problem that younger students are expressing is a spiritual one. Computers perform exactly as instructed, not always as expected. When the student's will is denied and they feel powerless to change the outcome, they dramatically express themselves. And it's not just children who struggle with unmet expectations.

When I am the center of the whole universe and a machine has the audacity to perform in a manner outside my will, often times this elicits strong emotions. Anger, despair and frustration are the fruits of my will being scorned by others. As adults, we often mask those emotions or express them in subtle ways while children sometimes cry and throw a tantrum.

But the heart of the matter is the heart. When I teach students problem solving and computational thinking what I am actually teaching is patience and self-control. When a coworker need assistance with a network error, I am actually demonstrating how to put the needs of another above my own.

All this is simple to say that, while I used to think I taught computer, and at times believed that parents and popular culture were sabotaging my students, my perspective has shifted. Technology is simply a vehicle that illustrates the condition of the human heart, and I do not teach computer skills. Instead, I am able to use computational problem solving as a tool to build into the spiritual lives of my students and coworkers.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. -Galatians 5:22-23