“Congrats! You did it wrong!”
Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Encouraging mistakes is a paradigm shift for a society who raises children in a context in which he who earns the highest percentage of correct scores or reaches the finish line the quickest is the one who is rewarded and praised.
However, what must be realized is a person who is raised to fear mistakes will not take risks. And a society void of risk takers is a society void of innovation. As we sit here ready to plunge into the second decade of the 21st century, we all should now be cognizant of the critical importance of innovation across all spectrums of our society — this includes teaching and learning. We need change agents, we need out-of-the-box thinkers, we need creative minds. We need to foster a generation of risk takers and I believe we, as educators, need to be weaving risk-taking into our pedagogy to model it to our students. Risk-taking is teaching creativity. It’s teaching entrepreneurial thinking. It’s teaching 21st century skills. It’s what we need to be doing every day in our classroooms. And it’s ok to make mistakes — we should be striving to make mistakes because without them we aren’t learning how to transform our existing models of learning.
Joshua Kim has offered a wonderfully insightful and some would still say “brave” excerpt of a sociology teaching experiment that required risk taking on his blog. In the end, his experiment resulted in some successes as well as some failures. What was his experiment? Instead of requiring his students to complete research papers, the traditional outcome of a higher education experience, he offered his students the experience of working with multimedia to create “voice-over lectures and video mashups” (with Jing and iMovie) that would be placed publicly online through YouTube. Check out his students’ impressive work!
The success? As Kim notes, “We created a warm and supportive learning environment. The students did great work. I think we covered the foundations of the sociology, and maybe got some people excited (and prepared) to take more courses.” The failures? The technologies implemented for creating the project took a long time to master (not everyone enters a sociology class with video editing skills) which limited the amount of time the students had to engage more thoroughly with the curriculum.
I have, personally, reflected on this challenge myself as I have thought through the potential of encouraging faculty to integrate movie-based projects into learning. My suggestion to Kim (and one that I left in a comment to his blog post) would be to check out Animoto, and easy way to create videos with voiceover from still images. The resulting productive doesn’t use video but it creates a high quality video with amazingly cool transitions set to music. Animoto even incorporates the ability to use voiceover and text-only slides. The training time is minimal and (here’s the best part), it’s all web-based (students can do it from home with an internet connection) and they offer free accounts to educators!
Cheers to Kim and his efforts. Do you have examples of risk taking to share from your classroom? Take a risk today and applaud yourself or a colleague for making a mistake. Start a paradigm shift. Be a change agent.