Learning from Failure

This week in my MSU class I was part of small group working on a giant problem – how to get students to see failure as a learning tool. This idea started the 2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit, which discussed many wicked problems in education. One of them was allowing failure to serve as a learning tool towards success. The quote that stuck out to me while reading about The Future of Education was “learning is all about risk, but learning institutions are anything but risk tolerant”.


My group (three other educators) brainstormed virtually on how to help students treat failure as a necessary and helpful learning tool in the classroom. Along the way we had to remind ourselves that failure is okay and part of the process. Our meetings didn’t record as planned, audio was more difficult than expected to place into the mashup, and some comments on Google Docs were missed. However, at the end of the experience I believe that my group and I came up with some wonderful suggestions and visuals to help students, of all ages, learn to learn from failure. Check out our Blendspace for more information.

Our ideas expanded on James Paul Gee’s idea of students trying again and again (and again …) while trying to beat a difficult video game, but don’t show the same grit in school. We came up with a rubric for teachers and students to use that leads students through a feedback loop and assesses their attempts without a grade on the material until the end, when they’ve had a lot of time and feedback. If you have any suggestions or stories about how you help students learn through failure please comment and let me know!



Chua, Celestine. (2013, November 11). Success and Failure [Feature Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/10797838426/in/photolist-7jod9o-7vR5pH-5tCATs-qKut4-56xtz1-aRW4n-4DhmZz-aRv9fK-any4oT-hsaKb3-9jt4iL-fEFbbk-d4fbZh-9beqom-8Xdq3A-xpcC-7XiTN8-5uKBt2-dxJq6r-9jq8gk-ComFW-9mwWR3-4tCELz-6rtMaL-9jtcWA-9jtdAy-4tDKMe-9jq94Z-9qExkL-4LoHCL-8kSF6-2heHCF-e7UAuF-9cEokr-c91QF-5gJKh-9jq164-9jq2Yi-9jt7P9-9jq5Up-9jt8iW-9jpYC2-9jq3Lt-9jq4zk-cHscNU-96L1k4-aC5dMS-4q2g13-4q2b3W-4PbmV6

StormKatt. (2012, December 1). Failure [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/stormkatt/8235365437/in/photolist-yDZmp-9w3xa-9jktKi-fMJabv-aeZWUY-7RrjPg-44idF5-dxJpeg-dwWHw5-nVdB9X-fJFVeE-6bKGE9-7He5Fa-CXBv3-6S8jo9-aoWxVG-FDWDs-65guvE-7axGNN-9jqbQZ-4tCE16-igoPpc-9jtgc9-9Aoswy-fJpnNK-fJFUWS-fJpnTV-ogZXX-L7Dj6-7orBcT-5YLwJ8-yDZq6-9mQt6W-6DXx5d-4Edzge-9iMybX-9jqaUa-9mMkVB-nSEBw2-nSwCPW-8j1HQ7-nAaPWa-yDZrq-yDZoo-nAb1yb-nUrYMa-nSnxiT-2Tz4Z9-cBdvPJ-nSnxkB

The New Media Consortium. (2013). The future of education: The 2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit communiqué. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2013-Horizon-Project-Summit-Communique.pdf

Williams, Gareth. (2010, October 30). The Wit and Wisdom of Winston – Oct 2010 – Westerham Pub Wall – Those Two Imposters [Picture]. Retieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gareth1953/5219326886/in/photolist-8Xdq3A-xpcC-7XiTN8-5uKBt2-dxJq6r-9jq8gk-ComFW-9mwWR3-4tCELz-6rtMaL-9jtcWA-9jtdAy-4tDKMe-9jq94Z-9qExkL-4LoHCL-8kSF6-2heHCF-e7UAuF-9cEokr-c91QF-5gJKh-9jq164-9jq2Yi-9jt7P9-9jq5Up-9jt8iW-9jpYC2-9jq3Lt-9jq4zk-cHscNU-96L1k4-aC5dMS-4q2g13-4q2b3W-4PbmV6-i7PxM6-zHYJ8-g5axJ-nS675K-e2fQKB-9vs5dY-9XGLRZ-nCWBUx-8dy4pa-o5dmFR-8LLZbB-4pq5vm-3g2ZyV-7wpiWw 

Musical Room Lesson Plan Word Map

Musical Room Open to All Students

This week I learned a lot more about the principals of UDL (Universal Design for Learning). UDL is all about adapting your classroom for all learners to ensure every student gets a fair opportunity to learn. Fortunately, all the changes that you make to your classroom to help some students ends up helping all students. Schools that have easy access to text-to-speech applications helps dyslexic students, ADD students, auditory student, hard-of-hearing students, and more!

To really immerse myself in these ideas I was asked by my CEP 811 course to look back over a lesson plan I created a few weeks ago and make changes that help all students. If you’ve been following my blog you may remember the lesson that I created where students worked together using a MakeyMakey to create an interactive room for guests to walk through and interact with. If you want to remind yourself of that post please click here.


I’m a list person, I make lists upon lists upon lists to stay organized. I make them on my computer, phone, sticky notes, … anything I can find. Therefore I was so thankful that my professors gave me an editable list to go through and take notes on to see how my current lesson addressed all the key UDL principals. If you want to look at my notes just click here. The writing in black is the notes I took on my original lesson plan, while the purple font reflects some of the changes I made this week. I think this could be a helpful tool to use during every unit I teach and to keep in the front of my mind for daily lessons.

Throughout the last six weeks this is actually the third official draft of my lesson plan for a musical room. In the same vein as the list, the black is from the previous draft and the purple font is what I altered with the UDL ideas in mind. I’m really pleased with how much more inclusive and in-depth the lesson became after these changes. Originally I thought that an open-ended exploratory framework for each day would be great. While I didn’t add many specific tasks to any day I did help chunk my lessons into more manageable pieces that students could follow along with on their summary sheets. I created a worksheet of sorts for each day where students were asked to answer a few questions that would review the previous day, have them think about their plan for the current day, and self-reflect on how they spent their day. Those are all skills that are addressed in the UDL ideals and helpful for all students. Below is a word cloud that I created using Wordle by copy and pasting my five days of planning to see what words I used the most. I was overjoyed to see that my most used word was “student” – UDL helps make the students the focus of the lesson more than anything else. I also used the words MakeyMakey, summary, explain, sheet, room frequently. Wordle is such a fun way to visually see the focus of a set of words! I had heard of Wordle before, but I never tried created one myself. I wish I understood how easy and helpful these can be! I can see myself working these into my lessons more frequently after finally trying one myself.

Wordle: Interactive Musical Room Lesson Plan

In my updated lesson plan I also took more advantage of the 1:1 technology of my school. Since I teach online at a public charter school all students are provided with a computer and headset. In my original lesson plan I had the students look up MakeyMakey examples online if they wanted to, but that was about it. During this revision of my lesson plan I provided the summary sheets in their email so that students could use their computer. This can help with students who need text-to-speech, speech-to-text, are better with typing than writing, prefer computers, need spell check, etc. I also adapted an earlier instructional blog post to create a how-to sheet for making a piano using water in drinking glasses. I even used bubbl.us to create a brainstoring map to show the flow of my 4 day lesson. This tool is going to be great to use with my students in a virtual classroom to create an online mind map that they can share. I’ve tried using Microsoft Word in a similar way before, but it’s more difficult and time-consuming than this site.

Created using bubble.us

Created using bubble.us


I also added a portion of a summary sheet with a graphic organizer to fill in at the beginning of the lesson unit. I had originally planned to discuss conductivity related to using a MakeyMakey, but now there is a physical representation that students can fill out. This list will help reinforce the information that we verbally discuss as well as provide a spot for students to look back at later in the unit.

Overall I am much happier with my revised lesson plan. I honestly thought that it was a good lesson before this week, but after taking each UDL principal into account while revamping it it’s gotten so much better!


Rogers, Carissa. (2008). kid to do list, list, Be happy and go home. Retrieved August 10, 2014 from Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/rog2bark/3437630552/in/photolist-6eLKNh-5UDreC-4cpJwh-4d2PMz-bEPm7E-6tQG1N-7YFeSB-82Z8Cz-CdE9B-8QzzeL-87uSWj-2v76ZB-hfeWM-7S3bUw-7Mfehz-8yZxtY-5sn96z-9fv65v-7pHc1U-4tGweV-7MD3dV-57JGWQ-xkmcD-5raao6-f4tB4-7iiwfN-wQYgi-gcq9mk-6B1dj5-6n25Xw-4tLxTC-fMyYHh-5jhfU6-5okhYJ-8ZkX4z-6oGuSN-9Tc4PR-fJL71z-8aWuJs-6wqgMN-6kr1hu-7aftUu-8yTnut-6hG6pZ-7ENKAT-9wKsHh-6BteLf-6n9R42-6VJMFx-7MLCQJ

Classroom Redesign 1

Designing a Classroom Experience

As you may know already if you’ve read this blog before – I teach online. I’m working at a virtual K-12 school in Michigan as the High School Math/Science Title 1 teacher. This week in my graduate class at MSU, CEP 811, I was asked to evaluate my current classroom design and re-imagine a new environment to help my students function better. I decided to think back a couple years when I worked at a brick-and-mortar school in West Virginia to complete this assignment so that I would have a physical space to “work with” virtually.

As I prepared for this week I watched many videos about concentrating on the experience of education. That means focusing on the content as well as the physical space, emotional connections, ways students can participate in the space, the flow of the classroom, and more! The one that really inspired me the most was a short video with a cliff hanger that I’ve experienced many times while watching HGTV (anyone else relate in a similar way?)

I got caught up in the excitement from the teacher, students, and designers. I was immediately drawn back into my room in West Virginia where my classroom set up wasn’t great. The desks were those that only had one way to get into them. There was one left-handed desk and the rest were built for right handed people. When I tried to set up groups there were always students “trapped” in their desk while in the group. The walls were painted in a material that seemed to resist all adhesives and therefore were pretty blank of posters or student work. I had student desks and my large desk, but no other table surfaces. While watching the video I was reminded of statements students said spontaneously about my classroom without conducting a workshop. “Why is all the paper in the back?” “Why have a desk if you never use it?” “Why do we still have an actual chalkboard? Do we even have chalk?” “This carpet is disgusting!”

I used SketchUp to model my ideal classroom experience. I imagine tile or vinyl flooring for easy cleanup. I try to do as many projects as possible in my classroom and they can get messy and this flooring would help that process. This would ease the stress of students as well. I imagine this would cost around $2000.00.

Classroom Redesign 1

I would remove my desk and in the back of the classroom set up an interactive notebook station (Wist). This station would have all the materials in easy to grab locations; pens, pencils, markers, glue, scissors, colored paper, hole punch, glue, staplers, prepared foldables, and any other materials I might need. The cubes would hold books, manipulatives, and be a resting space for students’ group work. Using wood from a home improvement store I imagine this costing around $500.00.

Classroom Redesign 2

A couple standing stations along the back of the classroom would allow for additional collaboration locations as well as provide a space for students with ADD, ADHD, or just need to stand while they learn (Richards, 2008). These stations would allow students to stand while still having a workspace at their new level to work with. I imagine these costing around $300.00.

Classroom Redesign 3

Tables would replace the single desks to allow for easy group work and collaboration (Ward, 1987). These would be set up in groups of four, but might move depending on the lesson. They would be spread out in the room and all for there to be multiple “fronts” of the room (Mastrine, 2012). My workstation with a projector and Elmo being on wheels would help with this ease of motion. As well as there being white boards on three of the walls so that I can set up a viewing area with the projector on multiple walls for whole class or just individual group lessons. I imagine this costing around $2,000.00.

Classroom Redesign 5

Two tables would frame the door. These would have areas for turning in assignments, picking up graded work, and the “group of the week” award.

Classroom Redesign 4

In order to pay for this renovation I would contact students and parents to ask for support. This could be donated in money, connections to vendors, manual labor, additional ideas, etc. I would also apply for grants and ask local businesses for help. Having my idea mapped out in SketchUp would probably help with my plea for assistance since a detailed visual would be provided complete with reasoning. This would not all need to happen at once and could (and most likely would be) a multiple year process.

Now if you, like me, were wondering about how Steve Mattice’s classroom ended up looking after the “big reveal” that was shown in the video above, don’t worry. I tracked it down for me you. It’s a three part series, but you can click here for the first part. or here to really skip to the end. 🙂



1. Deardorff, Julie. (2012). Standing desks: The classroom of the future? Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-07/health/chi-standing-desks-the-classroom-of-the-future-20120807_1_desks-standings-classroom

2. Mastrine, Jule. (2012). Does where you sit in the classroom say a lot about you?. USA Today. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from http://college.usatoday.com/2012/01/05/does-where-you-sit-in-class-say-a-lot-about-you/

3. Richards, Eric. (2008). Stand-Up desks provide a firm footing for fidgety students. Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/32501809.html

4. Ward, Beatrice. (1987). Instructional Grouping in the Classroom. School Improvement Research Series, Close-Up #2. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/instructional-grouping.pdf

5. Wist, Caroline. Putting it all Together; Understanding the Research Behind Interactive Notebooks. The College of William and Mary. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from http://interactivenotebooks.wikispaces.com/file/view/ISN-Research+Based.pdf