Teaching Edtech through Failure

#edtech #edchat #elemchat Could allowing our students to fail at edtech projects be the key to their success?

The other day I was sitting in the back of a staff meeting working on my tech scope and sequence, when a couple of teachers got up demonstrate some new science experiments that they had learned from a summer class they had just completed. By the time their demonstration was over, I was rethinking my ideas about teaching technology. You see, the science experiments were engaging because they allowed the students to fail. In fact, it was only through the failure that true learning occurred. This is called "inquiry" science. Let me explain...

The teachers asked for two volunteers to demonstrate a science principle. Of course there were two eager teachers that wanted to show off their science skills. Each were given very long plastic-tube bags (7 feet long), and then they were asked to guess how make breaths would it take to fill it. So one teacher breathed one breath into her bag and then squished it all down to the sealed end and then she saw how much it filled the tube and estimated that it would take 9 breaths to fill the tube.

With that said they decided to have a competition.

Ready, Set, Go!

With one teacher huffing and puffing like a wolf trying to blow a little pig's house down, the other just took one breath and filled hers in about 4 seconds.

"Done," she said.

The other teacher turned around in shock.

So how did the one breath teacher do it?

The second teacher used Bernoulli's Principle to fill her tube; she opened up the deflated tube about 12 inches from her mouth and blew. Her one breath was amplified by Bernoulli's Principle and the bag was filled quickly with one simple breath.

The basis behind inquiry science is that students already come with their minds full of ideas, and we need to use their correct ideas while at the same time pull out any ideas that are wrong or limiting. That's when BIG LEARNING happens.

How do we find the limiting ideas that are floating around in our student's brains?

We allow them to fail.

A failure happens when something they thought was right turns out to be wrong, this allows the brain to reset and start again with a new idea.

Now let's apply this to teaching 21 century skills and technology to our students.

Let's say we have a challenge like the one above. Two students stand back to back. The teacher announces, "Using any technology in this room, explain Bernoulli's Principle to your classmates.”

Student A just takes his smartphone from his pocket and sends a text to his classmates with a few facts about Bernoulli's Principle.

Student B takes out his smartphone and opens an app like Storyrobe, takes some photos about what he just learned and then narrates it and then uploads it to his classmates so they could see his photos and hear his voice telling them about Bernoulli's Principle.

When we allow our students to fail in the controlled environment of our classroom it should be followed by a "Wow." Failures should be celebrated and not mocked. Something that one of my edtech heroes Kevin Honeycutt truly believes in, we spent quite a bit time this past summer talking about it at Podstock. He believes that we should cultivate this idea of "safe failure" so that kids truly learn at a deeper level.

As teachers we can take a couple of notes in our books about this same subject -- allow yourself to fail. Try Skyping, try Glodster, etc. And when if doesn't work, try again, or try something new. Allowing for failure means that you are a risk-taker, and what education reform needs now more than ever are a few more risk-takers.

So go forth and FAIL!

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary