Tag Archives: Teaching


Innovation and Failure Post Part 1

This week’s readings all consider elements of failure, from experiences of design failure to implementation and follow-up failure to the emotional experience of failing and the fear (or reality) of becoming “a failure,” and the ways in which the legacy of failure is written out of the record.

As a one-time perfectionist turned proud, loud, and frequent fail-er, I was excited to focus on these readings. Further, as a teacher who’s more interested in students being creative than in their being right, I was eager for tips on how to create a classroom environment in which failure is understood to be OK. I want to talk a bit about Scott Berkun’s lecture, Alison Carr’s, post, and the lecture by Brewster Kuhle (founder of the Internet Archive) that some of us saw yesterday.

Scott Berkun makes some important points. First, process is integral to understanding innovation. Sort of like how this blog post was supposed to be up on Saturday rather than Tuesday, the point is that when ideas that are mulling around in our heads, we have a much greater chance of putting them together in new and unexpected ways.This takes time, practice, patience, and guts.

Process also, I might add, requires down time with no new stimuli. Every time I have a free second, I check my phone, the news, facebook. For workers in open office plans, there’s always something exciting going on. We have a million new ideas buzzing around us all of the time, which means that we (or at least I) never give my brain the chance to do its own work in reorganizing these ideas. This is where developing good habits come in. See below.

Another of Berkun’s points is that most of this mulling time is boring, and often leads nowhere. Further, some of the most creative people are willing than most to spend longer entertaining outlandish ideas–the ones that seem most likely to fail. Good managers give their staff time to pursue those outlandish ideas.

In the end, however, failure, along with  process, failure is written out of history. We never see the crappy wooden slums of Rome; never learn about Mac’s “Newton”; only the marble buildings and MacBooks that have (so far) stood the test of time.

Here are some questions to get a conversation started:

  • Both Carr and Berkun suggest that our relationship with failure uniquely American. Do you buy this? Does anyone know about different cultures’ understandings of failure? How do they differ? Have our American notions changed over time? When how and why? (Sorry, I’m an Historian…you can’t just say this stuff.)
  • Berkun talks about the Luddites and the sociological reasons why innovations often take time to be adopted. What are the conditions necessary for adopting new technologies?  What conditions prolong how long it takes?
  • How might our phones/open office plans be used to foster innovative habits rather than inhibit them, as I suggest mine do for me?


Teaching Fail Breakouts

On Wednesday we will be talking about Failing Forward in your teaching. Please bring at least one example of a productive failure in your classroom.

To quote the guidelines on JITP, we seek a conversation about “Moments of insight from ideas that fell flat—assignments that didn’t work out, readings that none of your students understood. Tell us your story as a way of thinking through what went wrong. Help others learn to fail better.”

If it is helpful for you, you could consider this a workshop towards drafting and submitting a teaching fail to JITP

Thinking Beyond The Digital Divide

Commuter Students Using Technology was an extensive project that surveyed what types of computer equipment students used to access the internet, and how and where the equipment was being used.  The survey also discussed availability and obstacles to access students might have in using equipment, and sought to understand the scholarly habits of students.

Information Computer Technology is the central theme that surrounds the 5W/1H of the survey which was years in the making and although ICT is embedded in and throughout our lives, the survey revealed how students might experience pressure in utilizing ICT for their work if they have access for a short time only or not at all.  The survey also discussed ways in which the CUNY system attempts to solve the problem through access in labs, libraries and classrooms, but is this enough?  Some teachers would tell students if they did not have access at home then come to school to get their work done – fair enough.

The survey also discussed student preference for using Google Books over academic databases for library research, relying on whatever information they can find without confirming accuracy of facts.  Some students honestly revealed they were more comfortable using Google Books, felt frustrated using CUNY’s website and did not know how to cite correctly.  Should workshops be made available during the freshman year to ensure accuracy of research work and citations so that students produce quality work throughout their years as students?  Given the likelihood of enjoying quality immersive experiences through ICT, students should raise the bar in their own work and privilege the use of authors rather than settling for whatever writings they can find online.  As we know searching for supportive information that helps build a writing is part of what creates a sense of pride in having completed a work beyond the student’s satisfaction.  This is an easy fix.

So, what creates the digital divide?  We think of children who were born during the rapid advance in ICT as digital natives.  This study shows the shortfall that is inherent in the term especially when these digital natives do not fully utilize ICT as tools for academic growth but rather as tools for pleasure, just barely scratching the surface around what can be accomplished with ICT, rather than using these tools as assets and resources for knowledge.  Although the study indicated that students used ICT to study while commuting, is this the blended experience educators are hoping their students have?  Are students using available tools to collaborate around their work, to further research to increase their knowledge base, to gain interest in the work of others, or to use other available resources offered by the City to increase or enhance their curiosity around some subject?  Educators could ensure that students experience a fully blended experience by developing specific requirements around the use of ICT and digital tools outside the classroom.

It would be an interesting survey if teachers were to reveal the ways in which they incorporate ICT into their curriculums or for administrators to share ideas around how to increase the levels of success throughout their schools through the use of ICT.  What expectations would educators have if they taught children that more can happen beyond the scope of Microsoft’s products?  As Hsieh points out, being able to work with digital tools (as well as to think outside the box) is part of what students need to enjoy fuller “life chances”.  The student in the study who used “Bit Torrent” was thinking outside the box.  I actually said to myself “bravo” this student is figuring out how to get what he needs in the way that is most comfortable for him.  Imagine if that was a typical experience amongst Digital Natives (I am not advocating illegal activity just making the point that we need to get beyond typical usage) – now we are on the path to raising the bar as students, and with the guidance of teachers, finding new ways to experience immersive educations.  That should be part of the challenge for educators and administrators – teach students how to use digital tools to solve problems, to create, to think outside the box.

All of this requires a sea change if we are to address the digital divide.  We know that Wi-Fi will be integrated into schools within the next two years.  As the survey indicated, more students are currently using tablets, and for those who do not have their own equipment, I think it is a good idea to implement loan programs.  But what about administrators and teachers?  How ICT and digital tools are utilized will determine if we can raise the bar in education, if we can use these tools to help students become creators, makers, builders, problem solvers.  Teachers and administrators, are you up for teaching students how to realize the breadth of material available to support imaginative challenges?  Then let’s use digital tools to make education fun.  Let’s put certain rules in place though and then let’s recreate expectations – freshman year, teach the basics through workshops where students must present a working knowledge around how to research.  Sophomore year take a dive into immersive academia and don’t come back up until seniors have earned their diplomas.

We can do it.