I’m a week in to learning to play the guitar. My index and middle finger hurt and I can safely say that I pretty much suck. But, I’m a week in. I know I shouldn’t expect to be playing like Taylor Swift by now. And that, in itself, is something to recognize, for both students and teachers.
I’ve observed a couple of things so far in my practice. First, I recognize that it would probably be easier/better if I had a teacher, preferably someone who’s an expert at both playing the guitar and teaching. I’m not getting the same kind of feedback from the app that I would get from a person. I get no tips for finger placement or holding the guitar. I’m getting no, “That was good. Try to keep doing it that way.” So I’m probably a) learning slower and b) creating some not so great habits.
Second, I’ve noticed how foreign all of this is. Music is not foreign to me. I can actually read music. I sang in my church choir. I played piano a little, and at one point I tried to learn to play the harmonica. But I’ve never played a stringed instrument. I’ve never had to tune my own instrument. I don’t have a feel for how to move from one chord to another or even sometimes how to strum.
Someone posted to the SIGCSE mailing list reminding people of how much students have to learn in order to start learning to program. So much of the inner workings of the computer are hidden now and we have to expose them and teach them. Plus they’re learning a new language, new software, a new way of thinking. It’s like approaching learning an instrument. You have to learn how it works and its language (musical notes). Try learning something entirely new sometime, and feel the discomfort and utter foreignness of that. Then you’ll have a sense of how your students feel.