Monday, March 20, 2006

Is failure NEVER an option?

A tagline on a tee shirt shop that I went to in JB yesterday proclaimed the above caption. It just made my brain juices think, can't we just tolerate failure? Are we becoming a society of 'no-failure acceptors' to the point that failure is seen as an indication of one's inability to plan or pre-empt well. Once there is a failure, you'll be doomed!

I went for a brain-based workshop on how to teach very effectively in a classroom two days back. I must say, it must be one of the MOST, if not THE most fantastic training workshop that I've been to so far...really inspiring methods and ways to engage my young learners. Hope that I'm able to 'practicalise' them in my classes. Try I will, and failures I will make and hope to learn from. The question will be, will others be willing to accept my failures even though I've tried.

Which brings me back to the need on accepting failures in the classroom, specifically. The thing is, are we as educators, engaging ourselves in activities that does have a certain probability of failure? Or have we become a bunch of wussies (no disrespect intended here) to the point that we will only be involved in something that will be a definite 'non-failure'? On the other hand, do we need to have failures in our lives, or as part of our experieces, in order to 'qualify' ourselves as 'successful coaches' to our students and others? Hmmmmm.

During my recent volunteer training to my 3M parents, I did mention about the concept of a "successful failure". A term coined by NASA engineers after their infamous incident in the Apollo 13 programme, this term I believe, do aptly capture the kind of failure that all of us should be afraid to accept, i.e. making a real and honest failure, learning from them, and then not to repeat these same faiures, or prescibed to the conditions that will result in the same failures again. I quoted the story of Sir Thomas Edison, and his tedious, untiring efforts to pick the most suitable material for his filament. After about 3000++ materials and over several years, he finally found the one that he was looking for. Interviewed later on why doesn't he give up even after 2000 materials, his reply was that, "Now I know that these 2000 materials will not work." Can we as educators do that? I am aware on the little or almost no-margin of error that most of us will have to live with in our job capacity, but should the fear of failure always restrict us to the 'prescribed or time-and-tested' methods and archaic didactic approaches, that we have been so accustomed to. How can we ask our charges to think beyond or even outside the box, when our mental models are still within our own pathetic boxes?

My personal take on this is that the failure of failure is when we are NOT able to transform our failures into a successful failure, and thus eventually, into a successful success!

So what have you learnt today...?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Learning Applied : Applied Learning

My caption aptly captures the feeling that I have after being one of the facilitator for the Design & Technology Forum yesterday @ SAS. It somehow captures the essence of what I personally feel, that is, in our, or rather, my search to find the true essence of what d&t education is all about. I guess it is all about 'engaging', rather than 'educating' (borrowed terms from the guest speaker! ;)) the students, to open up their minds, to enable them to 'see' things, to be able to appreciate, and henceforth be able to apply their learning. So smitten am I on the caption that I think I would like to use it as my department's mantra, as part of my vision towards a 'department of excellence'.

But really, I did mention about the fact that though there was a resurgence of sorts towards a more design-biased approach in the subject matter, there are indeed some issues that we, d&t educators, do grapple with. I guess one point that still bugs me is the consistent and constant voices by others on the need to have some form of a 'structured' approach to design activities, and about some form of a 'regular, standardised guideline' on the subject area and its eventual evaluation and assessment criterion. But then again, isn't this whole episode of 'convergently divergent' wonderful? I don't really feel that there is this dire need to 'standardise', nor a need to have only one 'straight-jacketed' approach towards the teaching of d& fact it is THIS whole multitude of approaches that I think will add to the richness of our teaching and engaging experiences, and it is THIS very 'flexibility' that will give our subject area its particular uniqueness! Hmmm.....