Monday, October 19, 2009

Frustration, Disappointment and Failure

At the ADE Summer Institute we were urged to embrace failure and a natural part of the quest to innovate. I understand the notion, but it does not make the consequences any less painful if you have invested time and effort into a project. Perhaps by sharing my frustration, disappointment, and failure; someone will have some helpful feedback or at least be spared a similar experience.

I urge my cbl project groups to map their progress using Google Docs. They are required to include me as a collaborator so that I can add notes and provide guidance. I get the strong impression that usually one group member tends to dominate the authoring. Worse, the comments I make don't elicit any back and forth. A couple of students waited until class to see me about the comments (What happened to email?), in both cases worrying that they were being "marked down". One erased my comments before the rest of her group even saw them, and then asked me if she had fixed the problems, sort of missing the point of collaboration.

I'm hoping this situation will improve after the students become more acquainted with Google Docs and the benefits of collaboration.

Build it and they will come....That certainly is my experience with the Blog Squad Ning. The purpose of this virtual club is to afford students the chance to help other students with commonly used technical tools. I gathered names last spring and issued invitations. Students immediately signed up this Fall. I began a couple of discussion threads and groups. Then . . . . nothing. I am reluctantly conclude that to ignite the group we a physical meeting or email bombardment may be necessary. The members are not used to being attentive to the Ning. This is ironic, because the reason I jettisoned sponsorship of a more conventional club was that students seemed to assume I would be its major force. Now I find myself in the same position with the Ning.

A) I was very excited about offering my AP students an ebook option for their text, this year (At our private school the students purchase books). It has nice features and is half the cost its traditional text. Strangely, only about 15% opted for it. This I simply do not get.

B) Last spring I offered film students the research option of writing a digital research "paper" with hyperlinks rather than using the conventional MLA model. The result? I got dreadful citation and reference with both options. And I mean, really bad.

Have you noticed than in all of these I've mistakenly assumed that students will adjust readily to digital media?

P.S. While I haven't yet sewn any silk purses from these sow ears, at least they have given me blog content!
"Angst" Flickr Creative Commons photo by tizzle


Claire said...

I would have loved the option of both the e-book and the hyperlink citation when taking your classes. I would have liked the option in ANY class, quite frankly. It's disappointing to me that even in my undergraduate and graduate studies, where there was all sorts of great technology right in the classrooms, it was hardly ever utilized. There's my own personal frustration. :)

Bridget O'Donnell said...

That does sound frustrating, but I am not that surprised. They are probably just so used to the conventional education they've received for the past however many years that the digital stuff seems like an optional addition to their assignments. I'm guessing they assume they can get by with decent grades as long as they master the traditional stuff. The technology is probably just an afterthought for them.

I'm sure if you make it known that it is a serious requirement of the class, it won't seem so unconventional anymore. Perhaps you could make ALL of the film students write hyperlinked essays, rather than making it an option. It would force them to take the hyperlinking more seriously because it is such a huge project with very specific guidelines. Maybe the citation errors wouldn't be as careless. And by sophomore year, they've already written some MLA-style research papers in other classes. One less MLA paper in your class may not make a huge difference in whether or not they master the style.

As for the Blog Squad, I'm sure it's difficult to maintain because they all have so many other activities + classes going on. I think you are correct in suggesting physical meetings because that's really the only way to get students to feel invested in the group. Without face-to-face contact, the group is a little more impersonal. From the students' perspective, it might also be nothing more than another activity to add to their college applications. (When I was at Mercy, I definitely viewed my membership in clubs outside of sports and Newsprint as such).

I experienced similar frustrations when I tried to introduce more innovative online/design things to the college paper. I often found that the editors would implement the changes, but they'd either do the bare minimum or do poor imitations of my examples. Don't give up -- just raise your technological standards for the classes and provide examples of excellent digital assignments. That will force them to adapt.

Hope that helps!

Will said...

I find it VERY refreshing to hear from alums with tremendous positive insights and encouraging words! Good news!

bulleigh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bulleigh said...

You have laid out the ground work to make learning a more innovative experience. You have also empowered your students with the option of choice. Eventually, they will choose to take advantage of the opportunity you are providing. The transition is slow sometimes as it isn't what they are used to, but in time we will see this change. Just keep laying the ground work toward innovation and soon they will come : ) Tina Bulleigh ADE 2007

Larry Baker said...

I appreciate the words of encouragement here. I'm not giving up on all these experiments, but with tech I'm pretty quick to switch horses . . . . even in the middle of the stream.

Vicky said...

Concerning the e-book, maybe i'm just a student of the stone age, but i found it a lot easier to read a physical book than staring at a screen, especially for AP gov when the chapters would be between 30 and 40 pages long.

Larry Baker said...

Anybody who would like to check out a sample of my ebook can go to

K. Koskela said...

Went to the book sample chapter.Wow! Have to say,I'm more inclined to prefer having a book in front of me. However, having the ability to make notes, (not lose them), highlight, and NOT have to carry a heavy textbook would be very appealing if I were a student!

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