Education faculty and graduate students from the University of Michigan-Flint joined researchers and leaders in educational technology June 22-25 at U-M Ann Arbor to participate in an inspirational gathering held by the Institute for Innovation in Education (iiE).
Centering on the theme "Fail Better," the event included an authentic FailureSlam, where participants shared a personal or professional failure within a five-minute time slot. Each storyteller took listeners through the experience as they lived it, beginning with hopes for success and ending with frustration and unexpected outcomes, which yielded a surprising golden nugget of inspiration for future success.
Those connected with UM-Flint who courageously shared a failure and explained how the experience transformed their outlook on teaching and learning included Aviva Dorfman, Christine Kenney, De'Andre Shepard, Tracy Wacker, Annie Whitlock, and Joe Posante.
Attendees discussed the concept that failure can happen under the best of intentions and can become a valuable learning tool. Failure makes educators better planners, improves strategies for helping students succeed, allows for ambiguity when answers are not readily found, provides insights to improve communications, and transforms humiliating disappointments into great stories to tell later on.
The event provided a creative and friendly environment for professionals and students to learn and to network with one another.
"To have these kinds of colleagues and friends is priceless," said participant Amanda Dawes, 2010 UM-Flint educational technology alumna and Dean of Technology Integration at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Florida. "This isn't just a place you're accepted—it's a place where you belong. I hold in such high esteem the students and faculty here. I'm getting a really full experience in development. It's a rare thing when you can learn from a failure and then celebrate it."
Enjoying a continued spirit of collaboration throughout the event, participants attended professional development workshops centering on innovative approaches toward teaching and learning, browsed a public symposium of projects including those created by UM-Flint educational technology graduate students, and discussed topics in group sessions.
Aviva Dorfman, associate professor of early childhood education at UM-Flint, led a workshop about how viewing drawing as a playful activity can enhance a variety of projects and other learning activities. UM-Flint students presented projects about Google apps in education, a board game based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a card game incorporating historical figures dealing with common dilemmas, a teacher thank-you app for parents, and an online homework project.
During a public symposium, UM-Flint educational technology graduate student Joe Posante, who also teaches middle school science, presented his effective online strategy for improving homework outcomes with the goal of helping students feel less worried about having the right answers in class discussions. Ultimately, his program can enhance student achievement.
"I used the homework as a scaffold for where their levels are and as a way to build them up so they would have a richer dialogue in the classroom," Posante said. "We have to end the stigma that teachers are never wrong."
Every iiE gathering nurtures an atmosphere where collaboration across disciplines is encouraged so that new ideas can turn into real projects that impact learning. Gatherings are held approximately twice each year at different locations around the globe.
"The openness and collaborative spirit at this gathering is inspirational, and the people here don't have a problem with crossing disciplinary boundaries and learning from colleagues," said Tracy Wacker, Director of Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching at UM-Flint.
Those connected with the Institute for Innovation in Education include people from educational institutions including the UM-Flint Educational Technology Master's Program, community organizations, private companies, government institutions, agencies, project partners, and entrepreneurs. Core members are associated with the U-M Interactive Communications & Simulations group.
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