Regular failure and a dash of success (II)

The first test I ever took in college was a humbling endeavor. After a pretty breezy high school experience, the wind was promptly taken out of me when I scrolled down the printed off list of student numbers and saw a 37% next to mine. While I don’t exactly celebrate that moment, it may have been the best thing that could have happened in terms of my future academic performance. My abysmal score on that chemistry test taught me that I needed to change some things.

Over the years, I’ve had to change a lot of things with regard to how I teach. The students change, the tools change, and the subjects/courses I teach have changed. Along the way, I’ve failed at a lot of pedagogical attempts. Similar to my college experience, these pratfalls have actually helped make me a much better teacher. With regard to technology integration, it has helped me figure out the best tools to use and the most effective ways to use them. I’ve written about other failures and the lessons learned before (here and here), but below are some of the most recent instances.

Getting links out

Before – I used to have students use my Diigo tags to get to specific links for a lesson or put them on my classroom blog.  Other times, I’d just copy and paste them on a google document that was shared with my students.  Each of them had various pros and cons, but each option required multiple clicks to get to a single link.  It ended up slowing down lessons and leading to students accessing the wrong site.


Now – I use twitter to share links to my students.  My twitter feed is on the front page of my website, which is the home page on the students’ computers.  Now students have one click access to any link I share.  Better yet, I have my twitter connected to my diigo account, so I can share a link directly from my Diigo.


Sometimes paper is better

Before – When I first went 1:1, I had students complete the daily boardwork on a google form.  I had some strong ground-rules for how to handle it, but it ended up wasting too much time in a 45 minute period.  Some days we didn’t even use the netbooks for the rest of the period and it was a waste to even get the computers out, logged on, etc.


Now – After a 1 year hiatus from paper boardwork, I returned to it this year.  I find it far more efficient and a lot easier to maintain and setup.  Even though the google form had some advantages, the paper version was just better.



Before – I often got so frustrated at students’ ability to locate and find information for research projects that I’d just break down and create a weblist of sites for students to use.  This required me to do all the research and find sites relevant to their particular area.


Now – While the weblists are helpful to students and I still use them periodically, I’ve recently started focusing on research skills.  Instead of telling students to just complete research on subject “x”, we spend time talking about the best search terms and ways to narrow down a search and decide if the information is helpful.  We also talk about how search engines work and why certain sites are at the top of the list.  It’s still a work in progress, but I think it has helped the students get better at research.


Now – I’ve gone back to the way I did boardwork before


5 thoughts on “Regular failure and a dash of success (II)

  1. I wish my teachers would have taught me good research skills at that age!

  2. Thanks for your honesty and sharing your experiences.

  3. I think this article is a good reminder of making sure that the way you use technology in the class room should help simplify the experience and streamline things. We’ve talked in class before about not useing tech for techs sake, that it has to have a purpose, and I couldn’t agree more.

  4. I think that I’ve had a few teachers who were just so excited about using technology that they didn’t think about whether or not it was the best way to get that information out to their students. I think it’s really important for teachers to look back and reflect on exactly why they are using the technology they are using.

  5. Great article! College was a big shock to me too, since I also breezed through high school. Also, you’re article reminds me even more that as teachers, or any profession, many things are trial and error. It takes time to find the right things that work.

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