I can’t

Over my life as a technology “guru” of various stripes, I’ve heard some form of “I can’t.” 

“Oh, I’m not tech savvy.”

“Oh, I don’t know much about computers.”

“Oh, I’m not smart enough to do that [technology x].”*

Didn’t we just have a whole election campaign around the words, “Yes, we can?”  Sadly, I understand where these words come from.  I’ve said them myself.  I said them about Computer Science when I first encountered it.  I said it about Calculus when I first encountered it.  I’ve said it about numerous other things.  I don’t like this negative talk, from myself, from my students, or from my faculty.   And I want to overcome them.

This negative self talk comes from many places.  Sometimes it means, “I’m uncomfortable trying something new and failing.”  Sometimes it means, “I don’t want to fail because then people will think I’m not as smart as I seem.”  Sometimes it means, “This is not a priority for me.”  That last one is actually okay with me; I just would prefer that people said that instead of suggesting that their abilities are limited.  Sometimes I want to channel Yoda:

But then I don’t want to suggest that trying and failing is a bad thing. What Yoda says before is famous line is “It’s only different in your mind.” Learning math or CS or a new technology only seems different in your mind. It’s like learning anything. Yes, it can be hard. Yes, it can be frustrating. But it can also open a whole new world.

*Actual quotes

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