Thinking is Hard. Because Thinking is Hard.

A bit of AI irony hit my feed today.

Some quick context for the non-techy. The idea behind “No Code / Drag and Drop” is a user doesn’t need to understand programming but can instead create their own workflows and outcomes via a drag and drop user interface. In K12 Google Land, the best example might be Google Forms. You:

  1. Drag (and drop) form fields into a canvas
  2. You share the form
  3. The data from the form is collected in a spreadsheet

In theory, this is easier.

In practice (and I say this as part of a K12 software company), it can be quite messy. Why?

The problem with programming was (is) never the language.


The root issue for any process or outcome is problem-solving. What Problems Are You Trying To Solve? It frequently doesn’t matter what tool you use.

We see this often when we partner with schools. The tools they’ve cobbled together are simple to use (again, see Google Forms), but they’re solving the wrong problems or, just as frequently, solving them poorly.

For example.

Schools are often concerned about the emotional state of their students. So they create a short survey in Google Forms asking their students “how are you doing?”

The problem is that this data is not tied to other student data points (i.e. are they wrestling with food insecurities) AND the data is siloed against other stakeholders who work with the student. Also, the data doesn’t really tell you what to do.

Thinking though. Thinking tells you what to do. It’s often hard. It’s hard for teachers. It’s hard for students.

I love that this response comes back to teaching.

It’s reductive but enlightening.

  1. It’s hard to learn because it’s hard to teach.
  2. It’s hard to teach because it’s hard to explain.
  3. It’s hard to explain because it’s hard to understand (some true Bloom’s taxonomy going on here).
  4. It’s hard to understand because it’s hard to visualize (a little bit of an odd curveball explanation…but I get the point)
  5. It’s hard to visualize because it’s hard to see the big picture.
  6. It’s hard to see the big picture because it’s hard to see the small picture (and it’s hard to see the small picture because it’s hard to see the details)

If you can do all the above, congratulations, you’re an expert. You should 100% be a teacher (in at least some capacity).

(We should also respect you and pay you more…at least in the United States.)

Thinking is Hard. But thinking can be a Delight.

Dr. Dan Willingham is my favorite go-to when it comes to thinking, learning, and teaching. Thinking is hard, but many things in life are hard and we still do them. Why do we do hard things? Because we find joy in the challenge.

Willingham would say we’re looking for the goldilocks zone of difficulty. To stay engaged in thinking we challenges that are not too easy and not too hard. Too easy and we grow bored. Too hard and we throw our hands up and walk away (I’m simplifying a good bit, but baby bear’s porridge is a good analogy).

This, too, is why we need good teachers. Goldilock zones vary between students. Guiding students to their zones is a skill and a gift.

Part of getting to that zone is finding the right questions to ask and identifying the challenge you’re trying to solve. The tool to get there is really your mind. Not the type of software or software function.

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