Failure is Okay on the Road to Mastery

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I really liked the video in Suji's post Learn. Fail. Repeat. Paul Anderson played video games in '80s. And now, as a teacher, he's learning to apply what he learned from games to his classroom.

I've written about gaming before (what we learn easily in games, the amount of time we spend in games, games and the future of education). But I wanted to write about this because Anderson has hit on two key lessons that are spot on:

1. Failure is okay. When I finally entered the official school system, I was horrified by grades. They were so counter-intuitive to how I had experienced learning to that point. My education was about mastering a task or a topic. The speed at which I progressed or how I fit into "standards" weren't even on my radar. I wanted (or needed) to learn; that was that. If I failed to properly cross-stitch, or didn't spell a word correctly, or smudged my drawing, or broke my computer code, or got a poor recording... oh well. The frustration was purely one of "wasted" time and a bruised ego. In high school--and again in college--suddenly I had to prove, right now and in a pre-defined way, how well I was doing. It didn't make sense. Much better is to look at learning as growing (leveling). Rather than losing points, you gain experience as you progress.

2. Mastery is the goal. The end game of education should be mastery. How well can we apply and use what we have learned? In video games, this achievement is clear because you've completed your objectives. The number of times you've failed doesn't matter. What matters is that you are now standing victorious. No one really cares about how fast you got there. I love that Anderson's colleague mentions shop classes: You learn skills and then apply them. This is the hope for every learning experience.

Three main lessons Anderson has learned: Kids need structure to keep moving forward... however unspecified that direction is. Kids need to be able to read... not just listen to a teacher give them information. Kids like interaction... interactive worksheets are not the future of education.

This fits perfectly with Sonlight. Your Instructor's Guide provides a flexible structure so you can move at your pace and where you need to go. You don't need tests because you know how well your student is progressing (though, they can be a nice way to get outside confirmation that you're doing well). There's nothing better for learning how to read than a literature-based program made of the best books available. And you and your child will absolutely interact as you discuss the stories you've read.

We can learn a lot about about education by looking at video games. The nice thing is that every time I do, Sonlight continues to dominate the scoreboard in the points that matter.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Pingback: From Luke’s Inbox: What’s the Big Picture in Grading? | Sonlight Blog

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