On good days, I knew Z could finish his work very fast. On bad days, it would take forever.
What mattered was his concentration and if he was tuned into what he was doing.
One evening, after a particular good run of clearing several complex, heuristic math problems, I praised him for a job well done. It was a far cry from the previous week.
I decided to introduce the metaphoric example of online and offline.
“Z, do you know we need Internet connection to go online for the ipad?”
Z nodded. “When we are connected to the Internet, that’s being online. When we are not connected to the Internet, that’s being offline. When we are online, we can retrieve what we want from the Internet very fast, right? However, when we are offline, we cannot load any videos from YouTube or retrieve any information.”
Z continued to nod in agreement and started telling about the times when network was bad and he could not load any YouTube videos.
“Z, do you know that you are also online and offline at times? When you are “online”, you do your work very fast. When you are “offline”, you take so long and cannot even finish one page. Do you realise the difference?”
Z paused for a moment and broke into a smile.
Since then, I would use “Online/offline” to describe his level of concentration and commitment to what he was doing. I managed to put something abstract into tangible definition for him.