Debugging our Students

When we encounter issues as educators we often work to solve the problem in the most efficient way. Most of the time this is effective and the right thing to do. In the world of tech education and teaching our students authentic skills it may not always be the right way. Our students need to be debugged and taught the best tech practices to be positive digital citizens.

I’ve had that student at age 16 who after a weekend or a school break doesn’t remember their password. It was past the winter break and deep into class projects. My attention is being pull to facilitate and support students all over the room. Students have a signup for scheduled meetings with me tacked to the board. The period is packed with activity digging deep into student developed questions. And there is one student who raises their hand and sheepishly says, “I forgot my password”. And no, they can’t reset it themselves.

So what do I do? The demands of the whole are often greater. I go for the easy fix. “Your new password is 'password', all lowercase. Don’t change it.” And I have now added to the digital downfall of society. This student may be the head of ballot counting one day and I’ve just given him the most common password in the world and possibly a way for Russia to easily hack our elections. 

Guilt set in and that ethic compass pinged me to fix the damage I just caused. I asked the student to meet me during their free period that day. We worked out a somewhat secure password we both would remember for the sake of the class. It was a sentence I could say from which they used the vowels as their password. It also helped to alleviate the fear over asking. We used a sentence I often said and could apply in and class situation. They would raise their hand and wink and I’d say, “Focus on your work please” - 'ouoouoeae' 

While not the most secure it gave me some hope that this student at least wouldn't use 'asdfghjkl' as a password or 'Welcome1'. Taking the time to look at the problem the student was having with the technology and working through creating an authentic solution together provides skills they can use later. We can quick fix a lot of tech problems. But are we doing our students a disservice? 

When I think of the tech problems I've encountered I think about what I can do as an educator to give my students the skills they need to fix the problems themselves.
  • Take the time to stop and identify what they need to know to do the task independently. 
  • Develop resources to support those that are struggling. What would they benefit from? A video tutorial, cheatsheet, poster, private practice, further modeling, in classroom teacher supports or prompts. 
  • Work with students to develop a capacity to do the fix themselves. Teach them how to diagnose a problem. Lookup solutions. Try things that might work based on the problem.  

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