Historically, success in education has been about producing students that have the right answers. Increasingly, we want people who know how and when to ask the right questions. Now we just need to change the system to match our desired outcome.
An oversimplified version of legislating change in education:
Special interests, public, political pressure, and current events are interpreted by experts and other stakeholders to build legislation.
Legislation interpreted by State DOE for how it impacts districts.
Board interprets State DOE messaging to impact policy.
Superintendent/C Level interpret Board/DOE messaging to implement that policy.
District staff interprets leadership plan and passes messaging to Principals.
Principals interpret and pass plan to teachers.
Teachers interpret and implement with students.*
Students interpret and execute.*
Teachers hold students accountable.*
Principals hold teachers accountable.
Staff holds principals accountable.
Leadership holds staff accountable.
Board holds leadership accountable.
State DOE holds board/district leadership accountable.
Legislators hold State DOE accountable.
Public and legislators hold legislators accountable.
* – where the magic happens
Legislating change in education can be difficult and convoluted.
When the intent of legislation is to impact the classroom, it is like a game of telephone being played by people who are worlds apart and don’t speak the same language with multiple layers and filters and lenses for the information to pass through along the way. This is not a political argument or notion, just an observation based on years within the system. At every step, there is an opportunity for the message to be changed. At the end of the day, the impact is in that moment of connection between the principal or teacher and the student.
So what can you do TODAY to start driving change?
- Prioritize: Of the changes you seek, know which one will have the most positive impact for the organization. This should be your lead dog and main focus to start out. Once you get there, you will have some credits in the bank that you can cash in for other, more personal or targeted change.
- Clarify: Make sure that your vision for change is clear, concise, and easily digested.
- Plan: Any time you are seeking to drive change, spend time thinking about how you might get there. Think of as many different departments and divisions as you can and how they would have to contribute. Maybe the change you seek requires more human capital than the organization can afford for the outcome. Your supervisor or project sponsor will appreciate and consider your change much more often if you bring it forward with a well thought out plan toward the goal.
- Collaborate: Figure out what problems are already being solved (or that the organization is trying to solve) and find a way to get involved. This will allow you to see what the process looks like and build up some change experience.
- Network: Find people of influence internally that you can make connections with. When you are driving change, you need people with clout in your corner.
- Stay Positive: While this seems obvious, staying positive can be one of the more difficult aspects of driving change. Throughout the process, you may be rejected many times. Your ideas might fall on deaf ears. It’s easy to get negative. If you can maintain your focus and stay positive, your chances of success greatly improve.
What is an echo chamber?
According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, an echo chamber is, “an environment in which somebody encounters only opinions and beliefs similar to their own, and does not have to consider alternatives.” The term is most often used to describe our social media bubbles where we’ve carefully curated the people we follow and therefore only see opinions that conform to our own, further confirming our existing beliefs. It seems that ‘the whole world’ agrees with us. But that is only true because we have limited our ‘whole world’ to be those who see the world through our same lens.
This has implications beyond social media into our personal lives, the workplace, and education. Look at the people who are closest to you at home and at work- many times they have similar backgrounds, levels of education, and shared experiences. When I started teaching high school science in a large, urban school district, ~80% of the 2,700 students at our school were from minority racial or ethnic groups and over 60% were economically disadvantaged. Without doing a deep dive, I would say that 90+% of our teaching staff (including 14 of 16 science teachers) were middle-class and white. When there were discussions about what was going on in our classrooms, there was no one to push back on our lines of thinking about our students. We were in an echo chamber.
What can we do?
- When engaging on social media, seek out and follow dissenting views to help broaden your exposure.
- Read articles on the same topics from a variety of sources and political leanings (I used this chart from Pew as a guide).
- Deliberately seek out those from different backgrounds and cultures in your personal and professional life.
- When building teams or planning panel discussions, be intentional in your selection of a diverse group of voices.
- If you’re not building the team but are part of it, speak up about diversity and the echo chamber if it has been overlooked.
- Just recognizing and being cognizant of the fact you are living in an echo chamber often helps you reach out more broadly, but make no mistake- it needs to be a deliberate and intentional change.
- Read non-fiction AND fiction books from authors outside your race, ethnic background, and views.
On a personal note: Part of my learning journey as an educator that has had strong impact beyond just my world of education has been to read race-related non-fiction and fiction. Two books I highly recommend:
- For White Folks Who Teach in the ‘Hood by Chris Emdin
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
I’ve got a few more currently on the shelf that I will tackle soon:
- Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit,
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
I’ve also included some YA Fiction by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) authors that the students we serve are reading: Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo comes to mind.
If you haven’t heard anyone say they are ‘putting out fires’ this week, you probably haven’t been in a single meeting. The firefighter analogy is often used to exemplify a team or person that is reactive as opposed to proactive, and it’s generally used in a negative light. But here’s what I’ll tell you about firefighters: in a reactive role, there is no one better.
They are the gold standard of preparedness- everything they do is to maximize efficiency and minimize response time. Their equipment is sparkling clean and inspected regularly. They have specific roles planned ahead of time for them to enact during their response. They are also brave and mission-driven, which are two other traits we need in our ranks. We should strive to be so prepared and ready to serve our organizations to be lucky enough to be described as a firefighter.
Only questions today:
How do you determine your personal/professional bandwidth?
How do you attempt to balance new ideas with current work?
What type of work, personal, and family activities do you prioritize?
How do you determine what ideas/projects/work to take on? Do you have the ability or decision-making power?
How do you treat ideas and projects that are outside your area of expertise or area of responsibility?
In melding my passion for education and design, I kept coming back to the idea of User Experience (U/X), how something performs or behaves in the real world when its being used. Many times in education, we make decisions based on research or ideas that we’ve heard other districts using that sound great in theory with perfect implementation and follow-through, but we are leaving out a key aspect of the process: considering how this decision will play out in the real world with our actual students, educators, and staff. We’ll call this the Education Experience (EDU/X). After all, we’re lucky in that we’ve know exactly who we are serving. It is a known variable.
Diving into this idea, we start with one of the foremost guideposts in U/X, Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience. Widely seen as one of the most integral texts in the field of U/X, Garrett lays out a conceptual framework for addressing U/X. Without going too in depth, it’s primary organizational structure is layers organized from most abstract to most concrete: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface. If you want to dive in deeper, go to his website or even better, buy the book! The basic diagram and description is below, but let’s start analyzing how this could impact education.
Strategy: anyone who has been in a school district within the past decade is acutely familiar with the idea of putting together a strategic plan. Garrett shares that there are two aspects to consider when working on the Strategy plane.
- What do we (the leadership) want to get out of our educational system? This is pretty straightforward and generally built with leaders, by leaders, and for leaders. We can and should involve more stakeholders in this part of the process, but more importantly we need to include the second aspect of the Strategy plane.
- What do our users (the students and staff) want to get out of our educational system? This is where we need to take a page from Garrett’s model to dive deep. While we may have a representative on a strategic committee, that’s not enough. After all, EDU/X is the idea that we must be intentional in our decision-making in education to keep the full experience of our students, teachers, and staff at heart. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. They don’t happen to ‘some people’- we know exactly who we must consider in our work. How does this vision/mission frame the decisions we make for James, a homeless student who attends East West High School? How can we use this strategy to chart a course that actually works for Liv, a student at North South Middle School with a documented history of depression? Once again, intentionally repeated, education in our district or our school doesn’t just happen to ‘some people’- we know exactly who we must consider in our work and have a duty to do so. To steal a phrase from Pete Gorman, an educational leadership consultant who I have the privilege of calling a friend, to not consider these ideas in our work “is educational malpractice.”
This is the first post in a series about education experience (EDU/X) addressing the layers from Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience, a seminal work on User Experience (U/X), through the lens of an educator.
Paint the house blue.
Seems simple enough, seems clear enough. Look at the picture below. All the houses are blue. They all listened to the directions. Be clear with your words so that you don’t leave your outcomes up to chance.
This is the fourth installment in the totally random ‘The Ten Signs that Will Reshape Your Work (or Edu) Life’ series which shows how we can take a hint from signs we see out in the world to help us guide our professional life. This is a little longer than my usual posts, so if you’re in the mood for a short post, go HERE.
Okay, 3 different acts in this play: Act 1 is a personal anecdote involving my then 3-year-old daughter, Act 2 is a little background on this sign for those who don’t live near the ocean, and Act 3 is our connection to leadership, work life, and education.
Act 1: The Tiny Troublemaker
My daughter has very little fear, is easily distracted, and has little to no consideration for where her body is in space (proprioception for the nerds out there). Normally this meant she walked into a lot of walls or fell out of chairs, not the end of the world. However, we live near the ocean in Florida. Being on and around docks, jetties, and boardwalks are a part of life. One day we were walking around on a boardwalk with railings toward a lower section of docks without railings. As she started to step down toward one of the lower docks, I told her to stop and then pointed to a sign out in the water. I said, “Oh, sorry baby. We can’t go down there. That sign says No Small Children on the Dock.” She looked at me confused and then pointed to the same sign and slowly sounded out, “Slow speed, something wake”, and confidently told me that I read the sign wrong. I realized 3 things at that moment: you really want your kids to learn to read early, but it’s a blessing and a curse; I wasn’t going to be able to pull one over on this kid anymore; and minimum is a tough and funny looking word if you ponder it long enough.
Act 2: For Those Without Their Sea Legs
This sign is posted all over the water throughout Florida and indicates that the boat owner needs to make sure that the boat is totally settled in the water (as you speed up, the front of a boat lifts out of the water) so the thought process is that if your boat is totally settled in the water, you are going slow enough. At this time your boat should also not be creating any significant wake, the waves that emanate out from behind a boat as it slices through the water.
The main reasons for these signs being posted are because: 1) fast moving boats pose a big threat to manatees that frequent that area, and 2) the waves from large wakes that reach the shore cause increased erosion and can damage boats that are docked nearby by slamming them into the dock.
Act 3: The Long Awaited Connection
Your brain is already churning and working out the connections on your own and I’m sure there are a lot of ways we could go with this. Here’s where I currently stand: the ‘Slow Speed – Minimum Wake’ sign reminds us that not all policies, procedures, and processes are in place specifically for us, for right now, or for our benefit. Sometimes our impact to a system is both apparent and immediate, as it is with the manatee and the boats. Sometimes our impact to the system is both subtle and imperceptibly slow, as it is with shoreline erosion. Just because we cannot see the immediate impact of the processes or policies that govern our practice does not mean that there is not an impact to worry about or that no impact has been considered. Sometimes we do things ‘that way’ because they are better for the professional ecosystem or for a population who cannot raise their own voice.
As we think about the application of this thought process to education, remember that we are fighting for ALL students, parents, and families within our system. If you happen to be teaching or running a school in an area that does not have families in poverty or with some other socioeconomic or social hardships, please know that these places do exist. And the impact of policies and procedures which (to you) seem to hamper forward progress or seem to not impact ‘your students’; they are there to address the shoreline erosion issues caused by the slow, but destructive processes that operate to wear them down over time.
We’ve all done it- finishing some online shopping and then life gets in the way or you get bored or frustrated and you close the window without finishing the transaction and you’ve left a few items in your cart. Some time later, you’ll usually get an email from the company saying something like “You left this tie-dye double-walled tumbler in your cart. Come back and check it out!”, or something to that end. Sometimes in the user experience (U/X) world, an abandoned cart is viewed as poor website or U/X design. Sometimes we just get distracted or just weren’t committed to the purchase. Either way, the abandoned cart email is a great tool built into the digital commerce experience.
From design to education: How can we re-engage our students with something that they’ve left in their learning shopping cart the day, week, or month before? How do we know they had the idea or question and left it there in the first place and how can we ease or automate the reminder/re-engagement process?
I’m usually ‘more questions, less answers’, but I thought I’d throw a few tools into this one. Quick note: remember there are plenty of no-tech and low-tech solutions as well, like jotting down into a notebook the questions that students ask but you don’t have time to dive deeper on or keeping a running parking lot in your classroom. Here are a few more technology-driven solutions as we navigate emergency remote learning hurdles today.
- Backchannel tools (Mentimeter)
- LMS or LMS-light (Canvas, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams)
- Digital bulletin board (Flipgrid, Padlet, Wakelet, Google Keep)
After three nudges over the last few months, I dove deep back into writing after not feeling very ‘creative’.
Nudge #1: Freakonomics podcast about creativity where the discussion surrounded the basic premise that people we view as great creators and creative types generally put a LOT of failures out there into the world as well. There are scores of examples out there, but this was just nudge #1, so no movement yet.
Nudge #2: Reading the book Originals by Adam Grant where the author quotes psychologist Dean Simonton, “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea are a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.” Noted, Dr. Grant and Dr. Simonton, noted.
Nudge #3: While still reading Originals, I was also thumbing through Tribe of Mentors or Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss and the idea came at me for a third time (and second time within three days) and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. While I can’t find the original quote now, the punchline was the same as the first two.
And now, I’m back to writing. Publishing at least one post a day, but probably writing 4 or 5. Thirty or so drafts in various stages of completion and varying quality. Must… keep… writing.
Personal/Professional Growth, YouTube, and the Zone of Proximal Development
Anyone who has been through an education prep program or studied cognitive psychology has most likely heard of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), thanks to Lev Vygotsky. It is most often seen when applied to students and their education. The basic premise is that there are things you don’t know or can’t do even with guidance and support, there are things you know or can do alone, and there are things that you can’t do alone, but can do with guidance and support. The latter is your ZPD. It’s one of my favorite nuggets from cognitive psych.
Here’s the twist: it’s most often used for students in school, but this certainly applies to those of us who have long since matriculated.
When beginning a new project at the house, there are things that I already know how to do effectively (e.g., hang a picture, replace a light fixture); things that I cannot do at this time even with guidance and support (e.g., install a pool, find a leak in a pipe below the slab); and things that I cannot do alone, but can do with guidance and support (e.g., hang a fan, complete moderate woodworking projects). Those last few items are within my home repair ZPD. If you back up more than a decade, you would have needed someone there to guide you through those projects, had a repair/project manual, or at least had someone on the phone trying to walk you through. To complete the final group of examples today, I’m usually leveraging a tool that many of us have access to in our home- YouTube. In essence, we’ve been able to remove the need to have a more knowledgeable party within our social group to lean on. YouTube has become the facilitator of our ZPD activities.
For our own personal and professional growth, we regularly leverage tools like YouTube or Lynda.com or Instructables to drive our learning and bridge our knowledge gaps through our ZPD without needing to find a more knowledgeable party waiting in the wings.
Coming full circle to education: instead of only teaching students by being the ‘more knowledgeable party’ and creating a social and cognitive dependence, let’s teach our students how to effectively navigate and curate the world of resources that they have at their fingertips as well as those in the world around them.
When a student fails a required course, they are placed into credit recovery. The fact that we call it credit recovery shows what we truly value about a course. It’s not about the learning, it’s about the credit.
This was a short one, but if you want to dive deeper into assessing what’s important through the lens of accuracy and precision, hop over to THIS POST. It’s one of my favorites in the archive.
This quote by Mitch Resnick so perfectly sums up my current views on education in general.
“What we need to do is focus more on trying to assess the things we value, rather than value the things that are most easily assessed.” – Mitch Resnick (as heard on Freakonomics podcast) – MIT Media Lab
This quote by Kentaro Toyama is my go-to when kicking off a conversation about technology in the classroom.
“Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there.” – Kentaro Toyama (as read in The Atlantic) – University of Michigan
Many people talk about not having enough time to write a book, go to the gym, or complete a project…the list goes on.
It would be better phrased to say, “I don’t have the drive to prioritize [aspirational idea] right now.”
Let’s stop confusing ‘time’ with ‘priorities and drive’.
While writing, I was reminded of a great article that was a catalyst into me prioritizing reading this year. Check out this beauty in the Harvard Business Review by Neil Pasricha on having ‘enough time’ to read more.
Beyond mentorship or a strong leader, who is on your personal board of directors (PBoD)?
Just as a board of directors acts to advise a corporation, your PBoD should act as your advisory council. Since you want unbiased advice, it’s probably best to leave your mom (and other direct family members) off your board. They are too heavily invested and supportive of your path and ideas to give you the straight talk you need. This is a group designed to be advisers to you as you journey through your career, so while some of them need to have knowledge of your field, it’s not vital that they all do. Your PBoD should be available to you when you need them, so make sure you have access to the members if they are truly going to be on your board. Diversify your PBoD as well, try to make sure you have members from different companies, fields, areas of your life, and roles within their organization. Here are a few roles you may want to include as you build out your personal board of directors:
- Role Model: Someone whom you admire and leads by example. Given the opportunity, you would want to follow in their footsteps. You value the role they play and the steps they took to get there.
- The Yin to your Yang: If opposing forces counterbalance, than you need to figure out your strengths and find someone who has opposite strengths (but is still in your corner!) to help you see a side of things invisible to you.
- Accountability Partner: Here is someone who is willing (and maybe a little TOO enthusiastic) about holding you accountable for the projects and career goals you set your mind to.
- The Wise Owl: This is someone preferably from a generation above you that has had significant experiences which they can pull from to advise you.
- The Young Gun: Experience isn’t the only valuable trait on your board. Also seek someone who is newer in their career who may not have been as heavily influenced by the industry and can provide a fresh, new perspective.
- The Sponsor: When you need someone in your corner who has some clout, this is who you turn to. This may also be the most intimidating person to approach to be on your board.
This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point. Ideally you’ll have a handful of people who you can go to when you need guidance, so you’re not a burden on any one of them. Anywhere between 4 and 8 is a great ‘sweet spot’ for your board. Remember that this doesn’t need to be a formal structure and you certainly don’t need to hold board meetings, but just know who you can go to when you need specific kinds of support.
If you want to dive deeper into research about PBoDs, just search “Personal Board of Directors” and have at it, there’s plenty of reading material out there to keep you busy!
I read an interesting article this morning in The Atlantic about the two different uses for masks during the COVID-19 pandemic and it got me thinking about communication and interpretation. The two main uses of masks are to protect the wearer from particles present in the air (ingress) and to prevent particles being put into the air by the wearer (egress). Ingress protection requires medical-grade masks and are most appropriate for those in occupations and areas most heavily impacted like medical workers. Egress protection is a much smaller lift, as a simple cotton cloth mask can reduce egress by up to 99%. The masks are filters designed to operate for different uses and in different directions.
Turning this to communication: it’s much easier for us to be careful and deliberate about what we put out into the world (egress), than to control what happens when people start to interpret what we’ve shared (ingress). So you may have the ability and the right to share whatever message you’d like, but when it comes to interpretation and ingestion of your message you are at the mercy of the other person’s lived experiences and their lens of understanding. It’s much easier for us to filter our message at the source than to expect others to have the same medical-grade filters for interpretation.
This is a message for teachers, parents, and students about ‘summer slide’, ‘COVID slide’, or whatever we will call the next version of learning loss over periods of time. Let’s tell it like it is and deliver two important messages to our students:
- It’s normal for us to forget things over time while we are not using them. That is literally how the brain works, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s not a slide or a backslide.
- You’ve worked hard and need time to recharge your batteries and reset. Just because you struggle to learn or retain does not mean you have to go to school all year while others are able to connect with friends and family. We can pick it back up when you return to school. No pressure. Unless we all have a year-round school year, we have designed the system to work that way!
I was driving down the turnpike and I noticed that there were two different areas where new exits were being built, which also means that there were new on-ramps being added to get onto the turnpike. The scale of that type of project is impressive. The number of workers and the amount of heavy equipment and the length of the projects are impressive. That made me think about accessibility and schools.
When do we decide to build a new on-ramp for our students? For roads, it may be through traffic analysis and the determination. Often times in education, we build new on-ramps when we have a special case that requires some new attention to detail or a method we haven’t used before, but if we are paying close enough attention to ALL of our students, we should be able to be dynamically building on ramps in the moments our students need them. The benefit of on-ramps in education for building skills and gaining knowledge is that the costs are low and the timeframe is short.
There are three main ways to prep a piece of land before you build a house. You can try to get the property as barren and flat as possible by clearing and leveling the land- wiping out most of the natural features and beauty in the process. Think of this as that new suburban development going in where the goal is consistency, speed, and keeping costs low.
You can fully embrace the natural landscape, keeping all the trees, water, hills, and boulders where they are- incorporating all the features into the design. Think of this as one of those unreal tree houses that you’ve seen on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. The goal here is customization, so consistency, speed, and low costs are out the window.
Finally, you can work somewhere in between- keep some of the distinguishing features of the property while clearing/leveling enough to provide a strong foundation on which build the house.
In education, our students don’t come to us as a clear, flat piece of property on which to build. While that might be the most efficient place to start, we cannot strip away all that makes them unique before laying the foundation. The goal of education should not be consistency, speed, and keeping costs low. On the other hand, some teachers address 200 students per day so they can’t provide the full ‘Treehouse Masters’ experience for everyone. Instead they’ve got to take some time to assess the natural landscape, keep those important distinguishing features in place, clear out a few areas or misconceptions, and then use that knowledge to find the best location to lay the foundation before they start to build. This takes time, but is worth the effort. Let’s think of this before we push teachers to dive into content and building before they’ve had the time to assess the property.
Do people come to you as their sounding board?
Do they bring you their plan with no intent for input, just using you as their rubber stamp?
Do they come to you with a fully formed plan looking for your support because you’re their sponsor or cheerleader?
Do they bring you in at the onset of an idea because of your ability to brainstorm as their divergent thinking partner?
Do people bring you a mess with the hopes that you can be their organizer and taskmaster?
The point at which people engage you in the problem-solving, idea-generating, or general work processes should tell you a lot about how you are perceived and ‘what you are’ to those that surround you. Sometimes we are seeking feedback or input, but if we really analyze what we are being asked to do, when, and by whom, we can get a really good idea of the person we are.
Elementary Strategies, Secondary Programs
From my experience before the pandemic and the shift to distance learning; elementary level teachers tend to look for new STRATEGIES and TECHNIQUES to use as an intervention. At secondary, the first ask is for a new PROGRAM or TOOL to address shortcomings and gaps.
One thing that works at all levels and in all situations is to dive deeper into RELATIONSHIPS and HOME LIFE as an academic or behavioral intervention. When my teachers wrote repeat referrals on the same students, I asked them to tell me something about that student’s life outside of school or about their life at home. If there was no deeper knowledge, I knew that’s where we needed to put in some work before we would really find any success.
Being able to cover MORE standards and complete MORE assignments and learn MORE in class is only positive if the standards are authentic and useful, the assignments drive inquiry and spark curiosity, and the learning is meaningful to the learner. More is not always better.
What do you think we should be doing MORE of in education? Tag me on Twitter @dkonopelko.
I set a goal to read more books and do more writing in 2020.
Here is what I’ve read so far… it’s definitely been much more fiction heavy than I originally thought it would be, but I’ve really been getting lost in a good story lately. Must reads are tagged with **.
White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo
Draft No. 4 – John McPhee
Every Tool’s a Hammer – Adam Savage ** (if you’re into making stuff)
Teach Boldly – Jen Williams **
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline **
Thinking in Bets – Annie Duke
The Martian – Andy Weir
Move your Bus – Ron Clark
The Elements of User Experience – Jesse James Garrett
The Long Walk to Water – Linda Sue Park **
1984 – George Orwell
In what ways did we teach the soft skills that computer science and coding is lauded for teaching before using computer science and coding?
If learning computer programming isn’t really about the language, but about problem-solving, critical thinking, recognizing and interpreting patterns, and building algorithmic processes, then what else can we do that elicits that same skill building with a lower bar and less of a hesitation from teachers?
Paper airplanes as a child is one example that comes to mind. Building 20 different paper airplanes is a great low-stakes, low barrier for entry into this world:
1. You can start with the process for building a plane. (creativity)
2. If the plane flies well, you can still make gradual changes to the features and shapes. (iteration)
3. You may research some successful designs and see how they vary from yours and make appropriate changes. (research)
4. If your plane doesn’t fly, you check the basic folds to see if you made a mistake along the way. (debugging)
What other low- or no-tech ways can you engage in the thought processes of computer science and coding?