Uncertainty, redefining “failure,” and the importance of prototypes

As I caught up with tweets and blog posts after taking a few days away, I saw the word failure crop up quite a bit.

I particularly loved @cris2B ‘s suggestion to teach in beta. I see this piece as redefining a perception of “failure” in teaching and learning.

Also, the piece about filter failure resonates…it sounds like this is a useful type of failure to encourage as well since it might stretch our perspective.

I would love to see a shift in how everyone sees the learning process, a separation between formative and summative assessment (in the minds of learners as well as teachers), and infusion of creativity and risk-taking throughout the learning process to better prepare people for the summative assessments (which ideally would be performance-based–but that could be a whole other post).

I’m going to take this out of the classroom to edtech/instructional design/media development. Within this space, there is a need for innovation, creativity, and iteration. While I’m not sure there was ever a time where every detail could be tested before a launch, now the development timelines are tight. Often with technology integration projects, one has to design and teaching in beta, if for no other reason than the technology is continually evolving. But beta can’t feel like beta either– it has to be well-thought out and good enough for prime time. We need to borrow from past success to have solid, tested elements and then continually push the envelope with another piece of the design to continually expand and improve and create new opportunities. The best teachers and learners are always going to be looking for that 10%, and as facilitators in this process we need to look for these opportunity and recognize them, even when (maybe especially when), it’s the pedagogy that’s pushing the technology to adapt. There needs to be a space for technology development to finally take seriously the needs of learning design.

A design model that helpfully incorporates the idea that a first pass at design is the rapid prototyping model.
Rapid prototyping allows for more frequent input from stakeholders, opportunity to clarify critical points in the design process. It can be helpful for identifying “failures” before they occur— those these might (and often are) constraints in how workflows and interactions can work within available technologies.

Is this how this SHOULD work? No, in an ideal world, we would be able to construct virtual learning environments with the specific affordances that will enhance the learning we wish to foster. In a sense, our physical environments aren’t always or even often constructed in ways that foster learning, but we have gotten better at intentionally designing physical space (with University of MN being at the cutting edge of evaluating this). Just as physical space has constraints, technical “space” has constraints and specific affordances and characteristics that must be accounted for in a design.

But in the classroom and learning experience itself, let’s look for ways to recast “failure” as a necessary step in learning to be creative and iterative.

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