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ISTE2017, San Antonio Part 2
August 1, 2017

In this second part of my blog series on ISTE2017, I will focus on some of the themes that I noticed at the conference. The themes I noticed include:

  1. Failure; reflection driving improvement

  2. Learners as edutech creators, not consumers

  3. Digital Citizenship - teaching internet behaviour

  4. The slow morphing of pedagogy with principles of andragogy

  5. Access/Accessibility

In this piece, I will be talking about #1...

failure is an option image from Linked In

Failure Is Not An Option...or is it?

In the opening keynote address by Radiolab founder and producer Jad Abumrad, he said something that caught my attention: “The process becomes the story every single time.”  He was talking about creating something, and the pressure we often put on ourselves to produce the best something every single time.  The expectation weighs on us, sometimes to the point where our creative efforts freeze; you hit that wall, because you're not sure that you want to produce something that is only meh.  Jad encouraged his audience to be okay with the first few attempts at something not meeting our expectations.  You’ve got to have something to hone.

Educators As Creators
We are educators.  In the absence of appropriate material, we create it.  We write the short story, rope our significant others into recording listening assessments, and experiment with gamification.  Sometimes these efforts produce gems, and other times, well, after the third learner points out the typo or the fact that Larry wasn’t even in the story, you just want to trash it.  

Don’t.  Take a second look.  Give it to a colleague.  Reflect and revise, and the test it out on the next group of students.  It may not be perfect then either.  Perhaps your question levels were not varied enough, or were too easy, etc.

Failure without reflection has limited growth potential; failure plus thoughtful reflection produces learning moments. That was the message of the Tech Rabbi Michael Cohen.  Reflection on the process and project is key if you want to improve.  No reflection, very little growth. Jennie Magiera, another keynote speaker, also had a message about failure.  This time it was with regards to our technology-resistant colleagues.  There are often many reasons behind the resistance (lack of time, energy), but often, learning how to use educational technology can be daunting.  For some, there is a steep learning  curve, a curve which often includes pitfalls and avalanches…. Magiera suggested sharing your stories of failure with colleagues will help to get a dialogue started, and might encourage them to start taking steps towards integrating technology when and where they can.

Techies Fail Too
I know that I’ve picked up a reputation of being “the techie” at my worksite, and within my affiliate.  Believe me when I tell you that I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to find them.  I’ve failed numerous times - most recently in my use of OneNote for creating digital portfolios.  Oh, OneNote creates *beautiful* digital portfolios alright, but they are impractical for our students and very difficult to export.  I also failed exceptionally well when I planned a how-to webinar on using OneNote.  I had forgotten about the Mac users, or at the very least, had vastly underestimated the numbers of Mac users in my audience that night (they represented a sizeable chunk and the screenshots/downloads were not compatible).  For a few members, it was a great webinar; for many others, it did not meet their expectations.  I scored very low, but read the comments over thoroughly.  Instead of swearing off webinars (it was the lowest rated webinar of all time), I hoped the members would trust me to do a better job on the next one.  I’m still perfecting my webinar techniques (my timing is gradually getting better), but the survey comments show higher engagement and better attention to audience needs.

I now own a Mac.  I still use OneNote personally, but not for students.  I’m still searching for a platform that works well for digital portfolios.  Google Sites is a possibility.  Google Sites can be created with tabs to simulate the PBLA portfolio quite nicely, and it is fairly easy for learners to attach assignments.  From my last attempts at creating digital portfolios, I now know to ask:

  • How easy is the tool for the students to *use*?

  • How easy is it for the students to *share*?

  • Will the student accounts get wiped out on the board server at the end of the course? (Answer: yes, sadly)

  • How easy is it to add a collaborator to the tool?


If I had given up completely on my quest to produce e-portfolios, then I would have failed my failure, so to speak. Because I’ve had the chance to reflect both with other teachers and the students using the tool, I think I have the right ingredients to do it successfully this time around.

FAIL:  First Attempt In Learning + The Tech Rabbi’s addition of the suffix “ure” to mean “unless reflection exists”. There’s power in reflection.  Try not to overlook it. Figure out how to make failure work for you.


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