Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Learning is Messy

Elizabeth Peterson wrote a blog post called Face Your Fears of Art Integration. In that post, she listed 4 common fears about art integration that she hears from teachers and her suggestions for overcoming or dealing with those fears. I wrote a blog post previously saying that I felt like many of these same "fears" also applied to technology integration. (Part of me thinks of these "fears" as excuses or reasons for not even trying.)
  • Fear #1 – I’m not an artist.
  • Fear #2 – The TEST is what I need to focus on.
  • Fear #3 – My administration/colleagues will think what I’m doing is foolish.
  • Fear #4 – I will make mistakes.
I decided to write a blog post series about how these fears relate to technology. Here is what I have written so far:
Now it is time for me to tackle the third fear: Learning is a messy process. There are some pieces that fit nicely together but I think that part of the learning process involves being able to make the connection to make things fit together that don't seem to fit in the first place. Trying to make those connections may appear foolish to others. To have that foolish appearance means you are willing to take chances and not be afraid to fail. Failure is a learning opportunity.

When one sees "failure" as an opportunity to gain something (like knowledge) rather than a losing process, he or she is more willing to try. I think the fear of failure has stood in the way of great ideas and inventions for many people and many teachers. In order to grow and support the growth of others, you have to be willing to take chances. Start small because doing something new or in a new way is not always a bad idea. And even if the idea does fail at first, you will learn something (even if it is just not to do that in the future). You will never know what might be possible until you follow through to see what happens.

That is how I got started with technology. I saw things in my classroom that were not working. I felt many learning opportunities were being missed. I starting searching for ways to make some of that learning possible. I had two old desktops and one laptop in my classroom, so using technology had its challenges. In my mind, the potential learning benefits far outweighed the challenges. I did not grow up using the computer.

It wasn't until college that I really started using the computer. I remember in college when I asked someone how to add effects to my powerpoint slides. He took the computer, hit a few buttons, looked at me and said it was done. I wanted him to show me how to do it and not just do it for me. From then on, I really tried to figure things out for myself rather than asking since I could learn better that way. When I used technology tools with students, I gave them a few instructions and then let them figure things out on their own if possible. They were building their own learning (constructivist model). While I was typing this paragraph, I realized the connection between those events (me wanting to learn instead of it being done for me and how technology use was in my classroom).

My way of doing things may have appeared foolish to some, but appearing foolish to other is not necessarily a bad thing, since doing things the same way will not get different results.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results."


Scott Armstrong said...

Melissa, I like your idea of having kids figure things out for themselves. Oftentimes, my students want me to push buttons for them, but most of what I've learned about computers has been from making mistake after mistake after mistake (and then hitting Ctrl-Z).

Melissa said...

Thanks Scott. The way I look at is if we did everything right the first time, what would learn?