Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why teachers and principals need to "fail"

In his book, Digital Leadership , Eric Sheninger  makes it clear that leaders need to model the use of digital tools if they want educators to embrace them.

The problem is this: many principals and leaders do not feel comfortable with technology themselves, so are reluctant to use it in case they "fail" in front of others.

However, when we encourage students to make mistakes, so that they can have a growth mindset and create synapses within their brains, we need to create an environment that supports that.

Studies prove that brain plasticity is real. This blog post by Maria Miller identifies Growth Mindset and the value of mistakes in math learning.

We ALL need to model our failures.

As a classroom teacher, I fail every day.  It is not intentional. It is not always comfortable. It is, however, essential.

Recent failures include:

  • forgetting to attach the document to the email. THREE TIMES IN A ROW!
  • not being able to wirelessly connect to a projector
  • not being able to connect to a WIRED projector
  • using the incorrect password multiple times and getting locked out of a site in front of students
and my most recent
  • not being able to figure out how to remove the lens cover from the projector in front of a room of current and future principals
I guess it boils down to this: technology modelling = a sense of humour and adventure.
I have noticed that when I make mistakes, others are much more willing to give it a shot. 

 In my classroom, there has been a dramatic shift over the course of this year.  In the beginning, I had a lot of push-back from students who were intimidated by using technology for creation. 

They didn't want to try. They didn't want to share. They didn't want to fail.

So I failed in front of them. And I asked them for help. And I googled the answers in front of them.

And, slowly, it began to change. 

We are now sharing freely. We laugh together at the funny errors they make when recording themselves telling about their math strategies on the iPads. Then they broadcast it on the Apple TV so the whole class can see it.  We also laugh at the fact that I manage to sound bomb everyone's presentation recordings because I am loudly chatting in the background with other groups about THEIR recordings.

One key thing that I have learned is that, when it comes to technology, NEVER assume that everyone knows how.

Level the playing field and everyone's comfort level by taking the time to explain. 

Model it.

Today I gave a presentation as part of my PQP (Principal's Qualification) Part II course. Yup, the lens cover incident.

When I used various technology tools, I took a few minutes to explain...
  • how to get to it (URLs or the names of apps)
  • ways it can be used
  • and the cost - (usually free)
Then I let them try it out.  We installed QR Reader apps on phones. We used our laptops to scan QR Codes too.We clicked on links in the Piktochart I had created.  We answered survey questions via Kahoot.

Did I get through my whole presentation? No. Showing the technology ate up some of the time. 

Did it matter? Probably not. It WAS all information that they could google or find through the links and resources I gave them. Hopefully people weren't too disappointed that I didn't talk at them about Equity book for the entire time frame ;-)

But, I modelled that leaders need to model digital tools so that others can embrace them.

If you use it, they will too.

And if you fail while you are using it, then that may be even better.

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