From Telling to Doing – TECSIG Reflections #tecsig15

“Every iteration of a failure brings us closer,” shared Juan Orozco, Director of Instructor Technology at Del Valle ISD at the TCEA TECSIG Fall, 2015 meeting, “to a solution.” The conversation kicked off at our table–featuring Joel Adkins, Diana Benner as well–as we asked ourselves, What have you failed at? Of course, we didn’t start with failure. I asked the question, “What wicked problems have you overcome this past year?”

Are you a possibilitarian? A “glass half full” person?
Pictured above: Dana Bickley

“Are you failure averse?” Our collective fear of failure drives us. But as Juan points out, “If you don’t acknowledge failures, then you can’t learn from them.” Some of the “failures” or “wicked problems” that we discussed included some that are affecting school districts around the state of Texas:

  • Transitioning from Instructional Technology to Instructional Coaching: As Joel Adkins (@mradkins) discussed yesterday in his session on HackedPD, dragging people to “shotgun” professional development events, often irrelevant to what they are doing in their classrooms to enhance student achievement, just isn’t working anymore, if it ever did. I still remember soliciting workshop participants and the same lifelong learners would show up. The rest of the population spurned Instructional Technology’s offerings.  Check out Joel’s PD Profile document.

    As Joel says, “I don’t want technology in my title…it means that I’m about how to, fixing stuff. Instead, I want to focus on critical thinking and higher order thinking skills.” Dr. Dawn Wilson and Dr. Katie Alaniz, in their Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration presentation at TECSIG, offered a different vision for professional learning that completely abandons “old tyme” professional development offerings. Instead, it’s about differentiating learning. Find out more by reviewing their workshop materials and listening to the podcast of their session.

  • Dealing with data file creations for textbooks – If you work in a Texas school district, then you know the problems school districts face with a million different textbook providers requiring districts to send them data files of students and staff information. Each textbook provider has a different requirement. It makes you ask, “Why are textbook companies dictating to school districts how their data will be organized and imported?” Maybe the issue is TWADI–That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It! To get past that, we need to revisit the processes we use so we can get the outputs we want, that result in the experiences that are worthwhile.
“Don’t hinge it,” says Joel, “talk about failure.” Unfortunately, it’s too easy to “hinge” our discussions of failure…that is, as Joel pointed out in our conversation, to first describe how we failed then describe how we achieved success. Instead, we need to embrace the “intellectual tension” that helps us grow, says Juan Orozco. 
Listening to Joel, Juan and Diana, I imagined failure as a muddy ooze that we are wading, climbing through. When you’re in the hole, you naturally want to get out, to wash off, to focus on what comes after. But, what if instead, we embrace the moment? Grab onto the experience of failure and, without letting it overcome you, use it as a way to learn? We have to see value in failure. Juan pointed out that he faced failure every time he asked his children, “What did you learn in school today?” He uses this as an analogy for the work he does in schools with adult learners. “I realized that I have to rephrase, reframe my question to get at what I really want to know. So, instead of asking my children ‘What did you learn today?’ I ask ‘What good questions did you ask today?'”

Selfhood derives from the sense that one can initiate and carry out activities on one’s own. Even the simplest narratives are built around an agent-self as a protagonist. Any system of education or theory of pedagogy that diminishes the school’s role in nurturing its pupils’ self-esteem fails at one of its primary functions. Personhood implicates narrative. -Jerome Bruner

If we reflect on the power of this approach, you can see that it is as simple as tapping into our each unique perspective as the narrator of our brave adventure we call life. Instead of me asking the question, a person trying to find out what you’re doing, you are cast into the role of storyteller, of creator, of a “do-er.” In short, you are the hero.

‘Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.'”
Samuel Johnson, as quoted in Boswell: Life of Johnson

“One of my most productive days was throwing away 1000 lines of code,” shared the presenters in the IBM Design Thinking preso. I imagine that coding, writing are similar…and when you keep in mind that every iteration of failure brings you closer to a solution, you realize that you must fail to move forward. 
One of my best learning experiences was writing draft after draft of book reports…the book report was immaterial, but the experience of reaching and longing to find a way to say what I meant to say and nothing more or less, that was the value in experiences. If you’re a writer, a coder, a learner, you can’t be failure averse.
Finally, I’m also reminded of the story of how people grow closer to God. I suppose you could replace God with “a better expression of perfection as I perceive it:”

God in heaven holds each person by a string. When you sin, you cut the string. Then God ties it up again, making a knot–and thereby bringing you a little closer to him. Again and again, your sins cut the string–and with each further knot, God keeps drawing you closer and closer.

The power of failure–cutting the string–brings us closer to the perfect idea, as expressed in writing, in code, or in life. Do you cut the string on purpose or do you let it happen?

My Notes on the IBM Design Thinking Preso

  1. IBM Design Thinking
    1. cmacrae@us.ibm.com
    2. kmparsons@us.ibm.com
    3. Hashtag – #ibmdesign
  2. “There’s one key to our future growth: the client experience.”
  3. People+Places+Practices
  4. Design Activity
    1. Design a vase. 
    2. Take 2 minutes to design a better way for people to enjoy flowers in their home.
  5. The theory behind design thinking is to focus on design experiences for users that engage their emotions and feelings.
  6. Core practices
    1. Hills focus you project on big problems and outcomes for users, not just a list of feature requests. Clearly articulate what you’re trying to accomplish.
    2. Sponsor users help you design experiences for real target users, rather than imagined needs.
  7. Process
    1. Understand – interviews, phone calls, visits, and more.
    2. Explore
    3. Prototype
    4. Evaluate
  8. “In the realm of technology, the Education industry is the last frontier” Doug Hunt, IBM Education GM
  9. “One of my most productive days was throwing away 1000 lines of code”


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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