First Day Fails

flickr photo shared by makinations under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I start my classes with the mantra, “You can not succeed in this class if you do not fail.”

Today I lived rather than spoke this truth.

I attempted to do a live demo lecture and also record it in our new collaborative learning space. The students loved the set up of the classroom. There are tables each with HD displays and a control panel. You can throw any device to the screens, the projector, or to every work station. It comes equipped with HDMI displays, a switcher, and two remote cameras. Finally there is a top of the line SmartBoard in front of the class

Things looked like they were going to go smoothly. Five students joined me for the information session and two unlucky souls tried to sit through the lecture remotely.


Once I could download the video from home I too sat in horror. In the middle of the class I tried to use the SmartBoard. The first grant I ever wrote was for a SmartBoard in my 6th grade classroom. It was 2003 or 2004 I think. Wow have they changed.

I tried to use the marker for free drawing but when I couldn’t figure it out I moved on and went back to standard markers on the board. I never like trying to figure something out in the middle of recording. It is worse than dead time. What I forgot was I had screen sharing on. The SmartBoard still picked up my markers as a cursor. People at home just saw the display jumping around while I went on.

I need to learn the tools prior to recording. For now I have to go home and record a new introduction.

Need a Producer

I tried to watch the downloaded video. Its impossible to watch. So I re-recorded my introduction. The video capabilities of the class are too hard to manage as you teach. I would either need a display and a tablet to switch cameras, zoom, and pan.

I also haven’t found the perfect angle to capture myself in front of the class. I need to place markers before recording.

In fact since I would rather be concentrating on teaching I think live video lectures in the room will require a producer.

Storytelling has Evolved

Humanity grows from failure. Iterative design after messing up is how our species learns. It’s an old story. Yet today I got an eye witness look into how storytelling has rapidly evolved in the past thirty years. From the video games we play, to the classic myths thousands of years old, the audience can be immersed into the yarns we weave. New tools allow us to mix up modalities in ways never possible.

Yet children’s literature can often open up a mind just as much or more than any Minecraft mission. They are both stories but what we want to explore in this class is what makes some stories endure? How do the stories we tell and hear shape who we are? Will we remember Minecraft in 2,000 years as we do Medusa? I do not know.

We will just be using the newest tools for storytelling as we do it. So as you join me for EDU 307 don’t be afraid to fail. Instead learn out loud. Share your troubles with tech on the Stream and someone will be there to help.

First and foremost any literature class must be a community of readers and writers and every teacher–a lover of words. And every teacher must embrace failure.

The Joy of Struggle

The pursuit of perfection too often perpetuates a lens of product over process. When you teach children’s literature you move into realms well beyond the standards and meaning found “within the four corners of a text.” We ask questions about humanity, fate, free will, love, and family. We get at “Why” and “I.”

During these inquires you may stumble along the way. More importantly you will guide your students as they develop a sense of self and agency through classical and modern literature. This stuff is hard to measure. There is no quiz or single essay you can give; no rubric to be made. You need a classroom open to failure. To allow every idea a chance. In essence you can not have a climate of intellectual risk without failure. Strive not for best practice. Aim for better practice.

I was reminded of this today as I tried a new method of delivery. I can’t wait to try again and fail a new way tomorrow.

Originally published at INTERTEXTrEVOLUTION.

Like what you read? Give Greg McVerry a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.