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Today’s overstressed children look in that mirror and see themselves as lacking. Their own work isn’t good enough and never could be.

If the computer is functioning as a mirror, then the solution is not to get different software, nor to get rid of computers. Rather, the solution is to put less pressure on our kids. To give them time just to hang out. To encourage their interests, but not expect them to be perfect. To let them get less-than-perfect grades without being labeled “learning disabled.”

For children having difficulty learning to write, the computer’s perfection can be a great relief. Many kids look at their own handwritten letters and grimace-“I can’t do this!” Typed on a computer, their writing looks more real. This helps some kids to relax and decide to give it a try. If they can make letters that look neat and adult-like on the computer, then they’re willing to begin to learn to write. Their handwriting may never improve, but that matters less and less; even elementary school students now often type assignments. Indeed, while the computer tends to cramp students’ ability to draw, it gives many of them a tremendous boost in their ability to express themselves in words.

Computers don’t just make us do things faster. They change what we do, how we do it, what we want to do, and how we feel about what we’re doing. Ultimately, they change who we are.

Class ends. Myracle and Kim throw away their dolphin. Despite their attempts to mold the pre-made digital image into something suitable for their storybook, the result still just doesn’t look right. Keith still hasn’t found the perfect Bart Simpson. They’ll all have to start over next week.

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