Using Productive Failure to Learn BIG

No more reading about “how to use today’s technology.”  It’s time you try a little productive failure in order to start moving forward.  Ok bare with me here as I go a little academic on you  Remember, after all, I am first an educator and communicator with with a thin layer of Goofy Geekiness to help the learning go down.  (Kind of like the sugar-coating over a valium– meant to keep you awake to learn something and then it will seep down into your brain as you sleep.) Hmmm I digress, but I see a new marketing slogan coming!

Back to productive failure.  Michael J. Jacobson, Professor and Chair of Education at The University of Sydney, is an international expert in the fields of the Learning Sciences and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning.  He is one of the top researchers exploring learning in the world of 3D virtual reality.   Jacobson says students learn more if allowed to do something challenging where they will most likely have a hard time being successful.  When they cannot do it, students are engaged and guided through ways to solve the problem.  Sure it’s setting them up for failure, but it’s productive failure.

Recently I took a video-editing class at the Apple store, where I got my MAC, and realized that I had engaged in productive failure to make a huge leap in my learning.  I had been playing with some editing tools on the MAC without really knowing what I was doing.  I got frustrated when I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to find any of the movie clips I was loading.  In the class, Rob, my instructor, guided me through a discovery process to find out that I needed to organize the clips differently.  I GOT IT!  I knew what he was talking about and immediately saw the application.

Back in time, we know that people learned new skills through aprenticship programs and learning on the job.  But once education was institutionalized, that all changed.  We now sit students (both kids and adults) in classrooms, put the sage on stage to feed them information and then give them a test to see if they remembered any of it.  Sadly much of corporate learning is still done this way.

What we don’t know using this method is whether or not the student can actually DO the task or USE the skill learned.  The student has head knowledge but doesn’t know how to apply the learning, and when they do go back and try to implement, they become frustrated and revert back to what is comfortable.

Now let me step out of the academic and into your world (unless your world is the academic world, then you can just stay  in your seat).  So many people are talking about ways to use technology in our businesses and in our learning environments.  But most people attending the class are listening to the sage on stage and taking notes.  Some are sitting on webinars watching screen shots.  When the learner goes back, they don’t always remember how it was done and many get frustrated and quit.  It’s time to dive in.  It’s time to start doing and stop reading about it.  What is one new technology tool that you keep reading about but haven’t yet taken a stab at?

Don’t worry about being perfect with it or having to set everything up perfectly before you start!  Just start.  Sure you may fail at parts of it, but when you do … fail productively!