• Adrian Cargal

You've Got to De-Bug It, People!

· When you write a computer program, you’ve got to not just list things out and sort of take an algorithm and translate it into a set of instructions, but when there’s a bug, and all programs have bugs, you’ve got to de-bug it. You’ve got to go in, change it, and then re-execute, and you iterate, and that iteration is really a very, very good approximation of learning. ~ Nicholas Negroponte, circa 1995

I wholeheartedly believe and understand this statement. Negroponte is using the writing of a computer program as an analogy for what being a lifelong learner is all about. Constant modifications are required for the improvement of one’s knowledge. For example, this concept is used in the Engineering Design Process. First, brainstorming the solution to a problem takes place, followed by the designing of the product, the creation of the product, and then the evaluation and rEfining of the product. This process is also present in the scientific method. First, a hypothesis is formulated based on a predication from an observation. Then, the actual experiment takes place using a number of trials with a tested variable. Then, the evaluation/critique of the experiment takes place and modifications that could improve the test in the future are entertained. This allows new predictions and hypotheses to appear, and new investigations to test. This process repeats over and over again until the investigation is perfected (which may never happen). All learning that takes place in life is observed as a cycle in which constant feedback and modifications improve the original thought or idea. Many times, initiatives that are enforced by my district never reach their full potential because we never “de-bug” the program. We will implement a new program that is supposed to help students learn how to read on grade-level before third grade, we will collect data through diagnostics, filter through this information, place children in groups for intervention, buy a plethora of books in different genres and levels, test, test, and do more tests, and then we will never evaluate the program and modify it to improve the practice. The most important part of a successful endeavor is the evaluation and improvement of said program! Why do we fail at this part of the cycle? Is it just my district, or is this something that is prevalent throughout the nation?

This year, I feel as if I channeled Nicholas Negroponte and I implemented something called the Digital Pineapple Chart on my campus. I felt it was very important for me to collect data and feedback since it was a new technique that had not been used by districts before. Granted, campuses had used a Pineapple Chart, but not digitally. I even wrote an article that was published by Edutopia (read article here). I designed, created, tested, and evaluated this program so that I could enhance its effectiveness for next year. I gathered feedback from all participants and used it to plan for next year’s Digital Pineapple Chart. Most of the feedback states that we should start it at the beginning of the year (I started it in April, which was probably not an ideal time), and that we should get more schools involved in the chart (sister schools that share our same demographics). So, I will use that feedback and contact other campuses to participate this upcoming year.

Negroponte’s quote resonates so well with me because I feel as if it clearly describes Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset in which people learn just to learn. They make a mistake, analyze it, and improve their technique without complaining just because it is the right thing to do (Dweck, 2006). People can receive constructive criticism, absorb it, and apply it effectively without push back. Man, wouldn't the life we live be so much easier if we all adopted this concept? My advice? Go out there and DE-BUG for crying out loud!


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing Group.

New York.

TED. (2014). A 30-year history of the future | Nicholas Negroponte [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from

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