Learning from Failure: 6 Short EdTech Case Studies You Need to Read
"Failure is not an option." These immortal words from Gene Kranz, a flight director for numerous NASA missions, while not intended to comment on education, encapsulate how many of us think about learning.
In a recent article on MindShift, Claudia Wallis discusses this failure averse mindset and the science behind why making mistakes is critical to the learning process. One important proof point is that we all learn more from mistakes that we do from successes.
Think back to a time in school when you were put on the spot and got something wrong in front of the entire class. While you may have been mortified, chances are you remember the moment, the mistake, and the correct answer.
A hidden beauty of mistakes is that we can learn from each other's if we share them. So to kick off the conversation, here are six short case studies from the Schoology Ambassadors about failures that they turned into successes.
6 Short EdTech Case Studies of Learning the Hard Way from the Schoology Ambassadors
Instructional Technology Specialist
FAILING is the KEY to SUCCESS!
This has been so true for our district as we are just about to close out year one with Schoology being available to all teachers K-12 (about 1,500). We have learned SO much! The fail I am going to share with you has to do with how we approached our Schoology Professional Development for teachers.
When we first started training teachers we spent most of our time on the "how to's" of Schoology. How to create a discussion, how to create an assignment, etc. This was not a complete fail because teachers were still excited about our new LMS and many were still eager to use Schoology with their kids, but we started a new approach about mid-year.
The change came as a result of team teaching with teachers all across the district (there are 4 ITS's so I had great help). We teamed with all K-6 teachers and several secondary teachers. We co-planned for our time together and often times combined Schoology with the curriculum being taught and that is where the magic started happening. If I had a dollar for every teacher that said something like "my students are so engaged," I would be a wealthy girl :-).
What was going on in classrooms had to be shared, so two big things happened. We created Collaboration Cafes (Schoology Groups) for each grade level and teachers started sharing their Schoology lesson ideas and resources there. Second, the ITS department started collecting "real live" examples of engaged learning from our district teachers and we made it a goal to Tweet from every classroom we were in. You can see hundreds of classroom examples at #r7C2L.
Second semester we changed how we approached Schoology PD. We started each training showing Lucy's Famous Chocolate Scene and explained that we were going to rapid fire the awesome "real" Schoology classroom examples we were seeing from our district teachers. This allowed teachers to see the "what Schoology can do" and then we would show them "how to" do it.
What a difference this made! Teachers could not wait to get busy after they saw the lesson ideas and examples that they could directly connect to. They were bursting with ideas and could not wait to hear the "how" now that they knew the "what." Our collaboration cafes continue to fill with amazing resources created and shared by our teachers! We wanted teachers excited out of the gates to use Schoology and that excitement was harder to achieve with our original approach to PD. Our FAIL was the KEY to our success :-)!
7-12 Online Learning Coordinator
Fairbanks Local Schools
My FAIL just occurred! Recently I led a group of teachers in developing a framework around "Balanced" Learning (Our teachers like this over blended, it implies an evolution which includes traditional and blended approaches). I have been working on a survey to set a baseline for where we are starting in our comfort level with the elements of our framework. I am trying to determine how often we perform these tasks.
The first response to this anonymous survey talked about how terrible this teacher felt answering "never" for the significant majority of the survey. This signals a few things to me, one of which being that we don't want people trying to master EVERYTHING, we need our teachers to have focused areas for growth.
Too often I view things from the perspective that I took as a teacher, new things were great, I always wanted to try something. I never wanted to be stagnant or stale, my kids always knew when we were trying something new and were given the chances to provide feedback, but I am sure they also enjoyed their classes where there was consistency and they knew what to expect. I have to remember to view things not as I would have perceived them, but as ALL of my teachers will perceive them.
Instruction Technology Coach
Lowndes County School District
My worst fail was during student teaching and had nothing to do with tech at all (because it was a long long time ago hahaha). It was one of those moments where you leave the room in tears kind of fail, luckily it made me work harder and smarter. More recently would be last year during our first year of roll out of the 1:1 initiative K-12 and launch of Schoology. I feel like I spent a lot of my time spinning in circles.
We spent our time showing so many new sparkling tools. We were just so excited we wanted everyone to have lots of options for Tech integration. So here were are biggest problems:
- Teachers were overwhelmed with all the new tools.
- Teachers were using some of the new tools, but it became more of a "let's see what we can use" not "look at curriculum and then integrate technology"
Bottom line we have turned things around. We are now focusing on a few tools that do multiple things, rather than lots of tools that do only 1-2 things.
We are also focusing on the Why. Plan the content, then let's look at the tech. How can tech enhance it? Moving away from let's show this one tool so I can get it checked off my box during my observation. We are working hard this year, and will continue, to make it part of the curriculum that enhances and extends lessons. It is a hard road to go down when you started out the other way, but teachers are getting it.
Township High School District 211
My first attempt at learning (Schoology FAIL) was also my first attempt at creating an online digital citizenship course in Schoology. While not an epic fail, what started out being a proud endeavor resulted in layers of disappointment.
Armed with Common Sense Media material, ISTE-S standards, and a self-paced, gamified delivery plan, I was feeling pretty good about the results of my summer project from three years ago. I was thorough with the copyright protection, I made sure to align CSMs scope and sequence with ISTE's digital citizenship learning objectives, and applied a gamified theme based loosely on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.
This is so cool! I thought. Let's roll this out to all of the freshmen in all five of our high schools! (roughly 3000 students). It wasn't long before huge cracks started appearing in the hull of my course.
First, the course contained subjective questions that needed grading before the student could progress to the next completion step. Who was going to grade the thousands of responses? (Ouch!) Second, I didn't realize creating copies of the course disabled grading options and completion rules. About 25 tests containing hundreds of items needed to be edited to enable student self-pacing. Third, I didn't account for some sort of exit ticket from the course (game). Analytics gave me some general completion results, but in order to confirm completion and award badges, I needed to go through the student progress report one student at a time.
My counterparts, understandably, wanted no part of this tedious work, besides, it was my mistake. Consequently, I went through the student progress reports for each of our five schools, you guessed it, one page at a time. As time-intensive and tedious as it was, I learned a lot about course creation, completion rules, mastery learning, and generating results reports.
My primary failure was not beta testing the course with actual students prior to enrolling all of our freshmen. I am nearing completion of the third iteration of Digital Quest. I still consider the course a work in progress, and it was those early failures that drove meaningful adjustments and updates. My goal is for 100% of our 9th-grade students to complete their Digital Quest during their freshmen year even though it is not officially mandated that they do so.
Since the course is built largely of tests, only a shell gets posted to Schoology's public resources. That said, I will share copies of the Digital Quest v3.0 with my interested Ambassador brothers and sisters. All I ask is for some general feedback to keep this project moving forward. Thanks to Kellie Ady for sharing curated assessment items, and thanks also to Glen Irvin for inspiring gamification (XP & AP) strategies . And thanks to everyone for listening to my challenging, but rewarding, journey on the high seas of Schoology course building!
Instructional Coach/Classroom Teacher
Eden Prairie High School
This is a great topic. It's a concept that I am hope I am modeling for my students everyday. In my building, I wouldn't say that we necessarily embrace failure, especially as a part of the journey.
I think the first gamified PD course I did via Schoology was a bit of a failure. The whole thing wasn't terrible, but the there were so many areas that I can now look back on and wish I had done differently. When designing the course, I didn't account for the amount of work I was asking participants to complete. I simply designed the course. A part of my failure was not recognizing that my participants were learning how to use Schoology via this course, and as I was designing it, I thought several things I was doing were quite simplistic. I didn't really take into account that it may have been easier for me, because it was the course I was creating! I try to keep that mindset when designing things for my students, so I'm not sure how I dropped the ball so much when designing something for adult learners. Since that point, I have learned to keep the student in mind—whether it is planning, organization, or task completion.
Another failure came from our district digital citizenship initiative. We attempted to roll out a set of digital citizenship lessons to all elementary students. The lessons were meant to be completed by staff while rolling out the iPads. There were several factors that made this a failure—time, expectations, goals, logistics, understanding of the lessons, and engagement. Again, I go back to my above response—thinking about the participants while designing material is of the utmost importance.
I wish we embraced failure more in education. I've learned more from my periods of reflection than I really have from my successes.
Ramtown Elementary School
We are in the third year of technology 1:1 for our students. Two years ago, we were so excited to get the computers in our student's hands. We were ROCKING it because of the ideas we had for our students to use these shiny new Macbook Air computers. They could create iMovies and iBooks! The K-2 students would have an iPad for every 2 kids which would totally hit it out of the ballpark. These kids would be using them everyday. It was so awesome. We all saw the vision. School started that year and ...
Wait ... how will teachers get their students' essays? The students don't have email ... We don't have a LMS ... Actually, we have these awesome Macs. Lets just airdrop the essays! Teachers can then airdrop assignments to the students!
5 minutes... 10 minutes... 15 minutes go by... Teachers were upset with the amount of time it took. Mind you airdropping should only be used by consumers and not in the education world. However, my response as the computer teacher was, "At least it is faster than a flash drive!"
This was an epic fail. We didn't have a LMS and we realized quick how important it was to have one—even if it was only used to send and receive assignments from students. This year, having Schoology has effectively changed our outlook on our 1:1 initiative. Now students can upload their essays. They can upload their videos created in iMovie. It is truly a dream come true.
Do you have any stories of educational failures you've learned from? Tell us in the comments below.
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About The "Ask the Ambassadors" Series
Schoology Ambassadors are passionate, engaged, and knowledgeable leaders who are the voice of our community. In the Ask the Schoology Ambassadors blog series, we pose a question to the group that appeals to their collective expertise.