Conditional Statements

I came to the conclusion some years ago that I wasn't really teaching computer science. I thought I was
teaching computer science, but it was really just computer applications. My students were learning how to be
power users and consumers, but not programmers and creators.

Thanks to a summer workshop from the CS Department at Washington University in St. Louis, these days I've become more intentional about being a true computer science teacher. My Math Application Fridays activities have started engaging students in more open ended projects which force them to work through solutions to problems. Using tools like Scratch from MIT, students are subtly learning about the logic behind programming instructions. Even our 1st grade teachers are getting into the CS mode, by having students work through Kodable on the iPad.

One particularly important programming concept I introduce to students is the conditional statement. Now for the most part, students get the idea of how if/then statements work. For those who struggle, I've had success connecting cause and effect to if/then logic statements and they tend to eventually "get it." Conditional statements are an important logic concept regardless of the syntax you are programming in.

Conditional statements are also a great conversation starter with students about the faithfulness of God! While if/then statements drive the logic of just about every program, it does not drive the logic of God's love for us in Christ Jesus!

How often do our students feel like they area loved or valued based on their behavior or some other metric? Unfortunately, I fear there have been times I've left students wondering IF they are truly loved based on their classroom behavior or their ability to successfully complete a task. I have also had students who seem to set their entire identity on a grade book percentage. Don't get me wrong, it is awesome to see students set goals which can be measure by a letter grade, but it's not healthy for them to tie their self efficacy to their success or failure. God's love for us in Christ is NOT conditional. There is no eternal if/then statement when it comes to earning salvation; there are no "ifs"... just a "because." Because Jesus lived a life I could not live, and because he died as a sacrifice in my place, I am forgiven, redeemed and set free from the guilt and shame of my sin. My eternity is secure and my today is renewed because of the unconditional love and sacrifice of Jesus.

Being able to remind students that about who they are in Christ is a powerful thing. Knowing that God doesn't tie their failure to an eternal destiny is crucial to helping students attain a strong faith foundation. That is one way of looking at it, but there is also another conversation to be had!

It is also important to remind students that God does indeed care about the choices they make now. God has given us tools like the Ten Commandments as a way for us to find peace together and provide a guide for living in community, both with Him, and our neighbors. If we want to get along with our neighbor, then we should protect his reputation, marriage, property, life, etc.

The reality is that many of our life choices on earth do follow the if/then model. but those choices need to be grounded in the unconditional truth of God's love for us in Jesus. Loving your neighbor and serving your community make complete sense once you understand how much Jesus loves and serves you!

Who would have thought that something as simple as a conditional programming statement could provide such deep conversation with our students! They not only build Computer Science fluency, but the serve to strengthen and grow students along their faith journey?


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