Thursday, 28 May 2015

Modelling failure and learning

I recently ran a workshop with some children to assist them on reflecting, in talking about photos and their purpose within reflection I mentioned Thinglink. These learners appeared interested, so I quickly showed them the front page and their interest grew, so I resolved to introduce them this afternoon. 10 children attended the workshop at 1.40pm today, with no inkling of the disaster that would evolve in front of them.

I've used Thinglink with previous classes and figured that as long I knew where this was, today's session would be fine. Hence, I too wandered into my own workshop feeling sure of myself.

Thinglink generated email and passwords.
I'm using a free education account on Thinglink, this entitles me to have students loaded into a class channel using either a Thinglink generated email address and password or students can create accounts using a special code, their own email address (we are a GAFE school) and password. For whatever reasonI decided to pursue the former, within a very short space of time the learners were resplendent in a chorus of "Reid, Reid, Reid". It was reminiscent of a great 'Finding Nemo' scene and a signal that I was heading down a slippery path. They were getting mixed up between their own gmail addresses, different passwords and the Thinglink email. 

Rather than dig myself deeper, a feat I didn't think would be appreciated by the students or the observers visiting HPPS today, I decided retreat was a better option. 

I explained to the group "I knew there were two options for creating student accounts on Thinglink and I should have chosen the other option. Their calls for help signalled the first path wasn't working and I was getting into a learning pit. We need to stop and take the other path".

"We teachers also make mistakes, but it is getting out of the pit that helps us grow. If anyone feels comfortable with this job, you could go to our Learner Profile statements and pick one that you think I need to work on based on this."

A student returned with this:
When asked where I sat on this continuum, she replied that I needed more support! She was right on the money.

With some great conversation to supplement our learning, I had all the students return to the login screen to use the Class Code (right top. But the damage had already been done, the students were still confused and tried using the original Thinglink passwords with the new code, or combinations of Thinglink and their own details. Of course these combinations returned error messages similar to the picture (right below). The chorus started again and I realised I'd just run a complete disaster with very little effort. 

I gave up on the Thinglink aspect of the lesson. There was a bigger lesson occurring.

"Can everyone close their screens please. You are doing everything right but are getting error messages, it is like when a cook follows the recipe but something goes wrong.

We have two options. We can quit, go to our next jobs and forget this ever happened. Or, you can head off to your next jobs and I promise to go away and do some testing so that I can run this lesson again next week. We need to learn from our mistakes so that we can move forward in our learning. What should we do?"

Reassuringly, they all wanted to have another go.

I asked "Have you ever made mistakes and then thought it was easier to give up?"

Unsurprisingly, many of them silently nodded.

I know of many ways that I can make this lesson more successful and deliberate (within the Thinglink aspect).

  1. Run the tests myself using a dummy email. √
  2. Test with one student before running the full lesson.
  3. Write a step by step guide for logging on using the best method. Alternatively, a video would be quite useful also.
I'm hoping that the real lesson was in the workshops failure and not its success. We ask our students to reflect on their learning, its only fair that I write this reflection in acknowledgement of my own.