Sunday, November 25, 2012

Epic Fail

Ok, so maybe epic fail is a bit of an exaggeration. I usually blog about lessons or events that go well so I felt it was only fair that I share about my plans that don't live up to my expectations.
This year after being inspired by the Level Up Book Club I started a reading program with my 6th graders called Reader's Quest. It started out well enough with lots of activity on our Edmodo group pages and several students earning badges quickly; however, it has fizzled out as the year has gone on. The majority of this fizzle is due to my inattention. I could list the other things fighting for my attention and time, but we all have a long list so I'll spare you the details. Right now there is only one student that still actively tries to earn badges and a small group of students that consistently post on Edmodo.

Now I'm left to decide if I will continue the program after Christmas. Should I continue as is and just target those students that seem to be interested? Should I revamp it and have a "pep rally" meeting about it? Should I scrap it, think about it more and try again next year? Or should I focus on other activities that seem to have a larger impact? For example, this year I didn't have a student book club because of limited time. In that past I have had two book clubs: one book club that anyone could join and we met monthly during our Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) time and another one for male reluctant readers from each grade that met with me daily during SSR. I tracked benchmark testing scores and Lexile levels for my boys and saw a significant improvement (average of 14 point increase in MAP reading scores from Fall to Spring and every student increased at least one Lexile level). Should I focus on those activities where I can show my impact with hard data? Maybe I'm giving up to early. I need to think about this over the Christmas break.

This year we also utilized gaming elements in a new professional development course called Level Up Tech Quest. Librarians provide a great deal of the professional development for our district, something I'm very proud of. Each year we are asked to do more and more. In response Kristen Hearne, Monique German and I created this self paced online course. Teachers often complain that there isn't enough free, tech PD offered by the district, yet we had only 7 teachers sign up and 2 of those dropped out quickly! As of today only 1 has kept up with the challenges and turned in her monthly point totals. We are still going to finish creating the course and have plans to offer it again next year since all the work will basically be complete at that point. I have a few ideas about why so few teachers are participating.
1. Many teachers only complete the minimum number of hours to be renewed
2. Tech savvy teachers have plenty of hours from other activities and don't want to add more to their plate
3. Teachers that need the hours and are techphobic are intimidated by the self paced online course and prefer face to face sessions
I'm not sure why we have such a small group, but I still really like this course and have had positive feedback from our little group this year. Maybe next year we will have a larger group.

These disappointments are in no way a reflection of gamification. I still believe that injecting gaming elements in learning can benefit many students. Rather than a judgement of gamification, I believe these programs demonstrate a weakness is my planning.

When you are one person with limited time and energy it is hard to make these choices because if you are like me you see value in so many ideas. It can be difficult to decide where to focus your effort. After some reflection, I hope to make some decisions and do what is best for my students and me. Eating lunch and being able to go to the restroom are priorities that I need to make time for.


  1. Thank you for sharing Tamra - and no, I don't think it was an Epic Fail - I believe it was an Epic Win for innovation and being a change agent.

    We are all sometimes overwhelmed with the myriad of things coming at us and must adjust our program accordingly. For those reasons we should, as you did, try new things, new approaches, and dabble to see what is going to work in our school! You tried it, you set it up, and gave it a good shot. It didn't fly, you move on. It's scatter shot - how do you know it would work if you don't give it a try?

    I recently talked to my Gifted & Talented teacher who was running Book Club discussions on Edmodo with some of our most enthusiastic learners and readers and yeah...she's a bit bummed because they started out excited and it sorta just fizzled to a couple of kids. Where the discussions only include on reply & there's no active banter. What to do?

    I've offered PD during planning time (or before & after school) to my staff, provided snacks, swag, door prizes, and have sometimes only had a few show up! But I gotta keep trying, right?

    Why not in the new year get your book club for guys going again? Not both, just the guys? That way you give time to a proved winner and still be able to eat your lunch & get a potty break!
    Just my 2 cents!
    ~Gwyneth Jones

  2. No, I don't think it was an epic fail at all - just a learning moment. All tech all the time isn't effective. I have access to a great deal of technology in my classroom, but one day had to move my students to another room because construction was going on in my room. We had no access to our tech and what I noticed was more focus and better face 2 face connections without the intermediary of tech. It has caused me to reflect deeply on my practice and the role of technology within it.

  3. Add me to the list of those that don't see this as a fail at all. You never know how things are going to go over until you try--and try you did! Our own enthusiasm for things sometimes does not translate well to others, I've found. If something you've previously been doing (such as the boys book club) was working well, bring it back. Don't let these little setbacks spoil your innovative spirit, though!

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