Monday, November 30, 2009

Embracing Failure

As I have reported from time to time in this space, I the centerpiece of my American Government students is "The Game" -- a legislative simulation played toward the end semester. Last year I developed a full fledged online edition, requiring each student to create a web site for the character she portrayed in the game. Going high tech produced a number of successes and failures which I reflected upon in Web 2.0 Simulation Post-Mortem.

My biggest error was unwittingly putting myself in the middle of far too much web activity. I allowed the game and project requirements bombard me with emails and force me to go back to the student web sites again and again. After launching the game with great enthusiasm in all three sections, I barely enjoyed any of the cool things that came out of it. Each night I would respond to numerous student emails and and check dozens of student web sites. Playing the game in three classes simultaneously proved to be overwhelming.

So, here I am again, launching three simulations, simultaneously. But I've learned from the school of hard knocks, instituting three major changes to shift or share more responsibility with the students.

1) Last year I asked students to email me the url of their web sites so that I could post them for the class. Pretty stupid. Utterly confusing and inefficient. This year I created a wiki and listed all the students' names on a page. I asked the students to request an invitation to the wiki which are easy to accept at the Wikispaces site. Students are then required to link their sites to the wiki. It took about five minutes in class to show them how.

2) I am recruiting students to evaluate each other's sites, determining whether the required "stuff" has been posted. This can be done through a blind process (students of one class will check the "characters' sites of another). I am awarding a bit of extra credit for the service. Having those eyes and ears poking through the sites will be a major relief. This year I should be able to look each site over once.

3) Students will complete a check list self-evaluation which they will submit at the end of the project. This is intended to improve responsibility and also relieve me from going on wild goose chases, looking online for artifacts that don't even exist because the student missed a deadline.

I suspect that I will be noting some new failures in my next post-mortem. But it's hard to keep moving forward without having some choice mistakes point you in the right direction.

"epic fail :)" Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of anna

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