Thursday, December 15, 2016

What Education Can Learn from Angie's List

I spend a lot of time talking about change in education.  I honestly believe that if we don't start making changes, students will begin to realize that they may or may not need the traditional classroom experience to be successful.  It's hard to's hard to say.  But it's true.

We can learn so much from what is going on outside of education.  If we just take time to look around and pay attention, it's easy to see that everything else is changing based on what this generation needs and wants.  And yet, in education, the majority of classrooms look exactly like they looked when I was in school.  And, though I hate to admit it...that was a long time ago!

Just this year, Angie's List announced that it would be free.  They would no longer charge customers to use their services.  Sounds crazy, right?  Turns out that Angie's List realized that the majority of millennials were not willing to pay for reviews.  So, instead of expecting them to change, Angie's List decided to change.  They did what they needed to do to continue to be successful.  Facing reality and understanding who they were serving came before doing what was easy, what was comfortable.

What can we learn from Angie's List?

1.  It's important that we know our students, just like Angie's List knew their customers.  We should be willing to ask questions and have the hard conversations in order to meet our students where they are.

2.  Change isn't easy but it is necessary.  If we want to continue to be relevant, change is not an option.  It's not hard to figure out that traditional teaching is not going to work for this generation.   Change is might not be easy but if we want what is best for our students, it is necessary.

3.  Reality is what it is.  The reality is that things have changed.  The world is different and our students need different skills in order to be successful.  We can ignore that reality but the ones that suffer from that decision are our students.  It's important to see the reality for what it is and do what needs to be done to prepare our students for their futures.

Angie's list is not the only company in the "real world" making changes.  Companies are constantly reinventing themselves, changing their direction, trying new things.  Why do they change?  Because they want to stay to relevant.  They know that if they are can't meet the needs of their customers, they won't exist.

I can't help but wonder why the lack of change in education doesn't make us extremely uncomfortable.  Most teachers teach because they want to make a difference, impact the future, and help students realize their dreams.  Let's not lose sight of that simply because we have become comfortable.  Let's do what we all wanted to do when we decided to be an educator.   It's time to stop preparing students for a world that doesn't exist and instead help them prepare for their future by knowing them well and changing the classroom to meet their needs.

"Angie's List Does An About Face For Millennials." Fox Business. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.

Friday, December 2, 2016

What I Learned from Subway Surfer About Failure

Wow!  It's been a while since I have had time to write a blog post.  Since my last post, so many things have changed.  I accepted a job this summer at our local service center and absolutely love what I get to do every day.  While I miss the classroom, I enjoy being able to visit classrooms all over the region and encouraging teachers to do what is best for this generation of students.

Anyway, I wanted to share an experience I had a few weeks ago and just now had the time to sit down and collect my thoughts.

Last month, I was headed to Baltimore to visit a district and found myself very bored on the plane.  I had forgotten my book, my phone was in airplane mode, and I wasn't tired enough to take a nap.  As I began swiping through my apps, I found the Subway Surfer app that my daughter enjoys playing. Because of the lack of entertainment options, I thought why not?

I clicked on the app and began playing.  I realized early on that it was not going to be easy and I had a lot to learn.  As I continued to play, I also realized that I was experiencing failure over and over.  I would start running and hit a barrier, miss a bonus, or run into a subway car.  However, even though I was failing, I wanted to try again.  I wanted to see if I could get past the barrier,  grab the bonus, or avoid the subway car.

I also noticed that I learned from each failure.  Every time I would play, I would get better.  The better I got, the harder the game became and the more I was challenged.  I wasn't asked to complete a level that I had already mastered and I was instantly given an opportunity to correct my mistakes.

As the plane landed, I began thinking about the connections between the video game that I had just played and education.  I think we can learn a lot from the gaming community as we all know that many of our students absolutely love video games.

They will play for hours and will continue to play even after failure.  They talk about games, read books about games, and are often passionate about becoming better.  What is it about video games that encourages this behavior and why are students so willing to continue to play through the frustration and challenging situations?

I believe that instant feedback plays a huge role in this entire situation.  They keep playing because they know instantly what they have done wrong, are given the opportunity to try again, and are able to "level up" when they have already mastered specific levels.

Is it possible that students are less concerned about grades because they are so accustomed to instant feedback that waiting a week for a graded paper means nothing to them?  Is it possible that they realize that "mastering" a skill doesn't result in leveling up or being challenged so they lose interest? If receiving a grade or failing a paper doesn't result in an opportunity to correct those mistakes or get better, what is the point?

I believe that as educators, we can learn so much from video games and student behavior while playing video games.  Let's ask questions, pay attention, and know our students well enough to realize when something is working.  I'm not saying that instant feedback is always possible and classrooms can always model a video game.  However, I do think there are aspects that we can learn from and begin to use in the classroom to engage students and help them make connections.