When is Failure Not Failure?

embarrassedrabbitSo, when is failure not failure? When it is defined as an “iteration.”

What does that mean? An iteration is a repetition, but not an exact one. An iteration is a repetition that changes just a bit, each one coming a bit closer to a goal. Think  about times you’ve tried a recipe several times, “tweaking” it just a a little each time until you found the proportions that were just right for your family. The early versions weren’t “failures,” (or at least, not usually), but each one could be improved–like practicing a piece of music, or adjusting an engine to its most efficient.

Helping students understand that repeated efforts are simply iterations–productive ways to get better–is an essential part of learning, and particularly of the risk taking necessary for creativity. This video is fascinating for a number of reasons, but for me the most interesting part was the way students began to understand iterations. It tells the story of students building Rube Goldberg machines and, I suspect, learning at least as much about failure as they do about mechanics.

The video is part of an Edutopia series called Made With Play, co-produced by the Institute of Play. More on their efforts another day.  For today, let’s just think about iterations. What do you do to help your students understand the vital role of repeated iterations? What could you do to help them learn it better–perhaps in a more creative context? We’d love to hear your ideas.


5 thoughts on “When is Failure Not Failure?

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