Friday, February 3, 2017

Confronting Failure

As a technology coach, I treasure the opportunities I have to work with teachers and students by injecting the power of technology into teaching and learning. When a teacher comes to me with a project idea and I have a chance to discuss the implementation of technology in a meaningful way that will increase student learning, I run with the opportunity. I am a firm believer that technology presents opportunity for our students to learn, create, and share ideas like never before. We live in an exciting time when our thoughts and creations can be shared with a global audience with just a single click!

Along with these opportunities, however, comes the threat of failure. Anybody who has ever worked with technology realizes that it will fail - it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when! Sometimes things just don't work the way we expect them to work and we have to find an alternate method to achieve our goals. I believe, however, that what we do in the face of such adversity will teach our students just as much, if not more, than the projects themselves! What better lesson to learn than how to effectively confront and deal with failure?

I've recently had the opportunity to assist a teacher with a project in the elementary schools. The project involves researching a specific country and then preparing a commercial that advertises the perks that would come with visiting that country. This is a cool project that will provide the students the opportunity to creatively show what they've learned in their research. The commercial is set to be recorded on an iPad utilizing Touchcast software. I was asked today by the teacher if students would be able to use animated backgrounds in their videos - we will be utilizing the chroma key features of Tochcast - to show something such as snow falling. I immediately went to work trying to find a way to make this happen and kept running into errors and failures with every method I tried. Part of me wanted to just throw in the towel and tell the teacher it couldn't be done. It wasn't until the fourth or fifth attempt at bringing in this animated background that I found success. What if I had stopped at the third attempt? I'd have some disappointed students who wouldn't be able to bring their vision for this commercial to life!

I know as teachers we feel the need to be the experts in the room. We feel that everything has to be so carefully scripted that it cuts out any chance for failure. By cutting out the chance for failure, however, are we not also cutting out the thought of doing something new and exciting and, dare I say, innovative? We all know that perfection is impossible to achieve no matter how hard we try. By conducting our classes in a way that minimizes the chance of failure, are we truly preparing our students for the future? Should we not provide our students the opportunity to observe and learn how accomplished professionals take risks and adapt to failure?

Sadly, and I have been guilty of this, failure is often viewed as an unacceptable result. When something new doesn't work perfectly the first time, the temptation to abandon ship and go back to our traditional methods of doing things becomes very enticing. Rather than adapt and change our methods, we completely blow up the process and return to our comfort zones, saying "See, I knew it wouldn't work." To me, this reaction is a disservice to ourselves and to our students.

Again, technology has brought us to the point where we can share our ideas and our creations with the world with a single click. Writing blog posts, recording podcasts, uploading original videos to YouTube, and similar projects are just a starting point, but they allow us and our students to share our creations with an authentic global audience. While it seems intimidating, I would encourage all of us to find some way to harness the power of technology in the classroom to allow students - and ourselves - the opportunity to share with this global audience. We all have something to say, so let's say it!

If you would like to brainstorm ideas on bringing technology into the classroom, please schedule a coaching session with me by clicking the link on the left.