Monday, November 4, 2013

Is Failure Really a Failure?

School is a place where students learn. They walk through the front doors needing a few more skills and a bit more information, and we go about our day finding ways to impart these things to them. Regardless of our philosophy of education and the models and methods we use, I think we can all agree to this.

I find it amazing that I expect my students to figure things out so quickly and easily.  I'm OK with them being befuddled for a while.  Confusion means learning will take place. I'm just afraid I expect students to pick it up faster than they may be ready and retain it longer than is feasible.

I read this article about the US government's Obamacare* web site debacle, and it made sense. When techies build a new tech tool, we expect there to be bugs in the system. How many people waited a few days to update to iOS7 for that reason? It would be nice if everything worked seamlessly when a new site goes live, but is that a reasonable request? I suppose we could argue that these are professionals, paid lots of money to build something, so it should work.  But is it safe to say that it takes many live users to see a new tools real capabilities?

Part of learning is making mistakes. Sometimes you have to try something to see if it works.  When it doesn't, you learn from that mistake, tweak things and try again.  Schools don't always give students that opportunity. We are constantly moving from one objective to the next at breakneck speed to cover the book/standards/goals for the year.  And that makes it hard for students to acquire skills they missed along the way.

When I learned how to play basketball, I had to miss a lot of shots before I learned how to put the ball in the hoop.  I had to let a lot of guys score on me before I learned how to play defense. Certainly, no one would expect a third grader to get out there and play on an NBA skill level**.

That's why I love my Innovation Projects and Genius Hour in general.  Students have time try new things. It's OK to fail, if only to learn from that mistake and move on.  The goal is growth, not perfection. I just love this post about a high school student who is trying to learn guitar genres; this guy got the idea.

Sadly, school isn't always Genius Hour and Innovation Day. As teachers, the trick is finding ways for students to explore and experience failure on the way to learning.

The more I think about my school's foray into Accelerated Math, I'm thrilled with the prospects.This may not be "teaching above the line" of the SAMR model, but students will have a real chance of reviewing mastered skills and relearning missed skills.  As students' math skills improve we hope to see an increase in the success levels of higher math and better logical thinking.

The question every teacher needs to ask is how do we help students recover from failure to turn it into a success? I'd love to hear your stories.

*Rare Political Aside: I don't normally engage in political conversations, but I do feel the need to mention that I am completely against Obamacare. As a person who has spent much too much time in hospitals lately, health care is too expensive. I just don't see how the new plan is going to help my bank account. However, that's not the point of this post.

**Not So Rare Self-Slam: The only way I was ever even close to consideration to play in the NBA was in my dreams... and such sweet dreams they were. 

No comments:

Post a Comment