Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Move fast and break things

This post on Mark Zuckerberg's vision at Facebook came through my twitter feed last week and it really resonated with me.  One of Facebook's core beliefs is that "moving fast" inspires innovation and empowers employees to try new things to better the product for the consumer.  Zuckerberg admits though, that moving fast also creates a lot of headaches and a constant need to go back and "fix" things that were broken as a result.  Along with "Move Fast and Break Things" the post also highlights some other key motivational posters and core beliefs such as "Fail Harder", "People over pixels" and "Done is better than perfect".

I wonder if we are preparing our students to work at a place like Facebook?

I would imagine that moving fast and breaking things can be a lot of fun and also incredibly scary. Every time Facebook changes even a minor privacy setting or enhances the view, one just needs to go to social media to see the hailstorm of criticism. Yet it remains the most popular social media tool on the planet. The most recent numbers indicate there are over 1.1 BILLION users and over 650 million active users a DAY! So if one of the most successful companies on earth with mind-blowingly active daily "consumers" are willing to move fast and break things, to endure criticism in the face of creating a better product,  why are we often so unwilling to allow our STUDENTS to move fast and break things?

There are a ton of things we struggle and grapple with when our classroom is not living up to our own expectations. They run the gamut from peer pressures ( I can't do something different because colleague x will be upset with me), administrative pressures (I need to make sure I am on pace or I will get in trouble.) , standardized testing pressures (If it's not on the state test, I don't have time to teach it) , parental pressures (As soon as I try something new, I might need to explain it to parents)  , student pressures (Some of my students can't handle this kind of work), and personal pressures ( I just don't have time to try something different today/this week/this month/this year) .  But those perceptions or worries, whether real or imagined, are not at the root of why our classrooms don't provide more room to move fast and break things.

Control is.

Our students are naturally inclined to work fast and break things, yet because we are uncomfortable with this, we slow them down and often praise them for doing things right the first time.  As teachers, we are incredibly reluctant to work fast and break things, especially when it comes to technology.  Innovation and inspiration often go hand in hand with failure and how we learn from those failures.  As educators, we sometimes struggle with new mediums, new pedagogy, and new ways of learning that are different than our own. Disruptions such as cyber learning, 1:1 initiatives, learning on demand through Khan Academy and MOOC's (for example), and the proliferation of web based social platforms (that can also be used to collaborate and communicate)  such as Twitter and Facebook create a greater divide between students who are chomping at the bit to move fast and break things, and teachers who often want to move slowly and keep things in order.

In the end,we must PLAY. When handed new devices, and/or access to new software or web-platforms, we must change our paradigm and see it an opportunity to learn from and alongside our students. Their willingness to work fast and break things is an asset, not a liability.  Giving up some control and permitting ourselves to be a learner with our students can be scary, but also invigorating. It's what makes us human to them. It empowers students to be seen as young adults who have value not just in their world, but in life itself. It creates a bond and a connection through learning together. It creates an opportunity to fail safely together and to learn from our mistakes too.

Work fast and break things. Together.

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