Complete, 100% failure. OK, maybe more like 95%. But pretty damn complete. One of my “goals” this semester was to start a business, just as I ask my students to do. Inherent in that goal is also to understand their experience. I now get it! I intended to raise nearly $5,000 through my business to buy my wife a fancy suitcase. Not going to happen most likely. Because I have yet to achieve even $1 in sales.
My son asked me yesterday how I was doing in my class. I would give myself an F if I was grading myself (like I ask my students to).
What Failure Looks Like
My plate is too full. I have other responsibilities. I will eventually get to it. The laundry list of excuses and justifications for my lack of progress can be long. I had a plan to build a basic website (check – see the down and dirty version here). I had a plan to push this to the student population across ISU, using Facebook and some basic marketing methods. No check there – never got to this. I will still try to crank this up, but given there’s only one month left of the semester and the weather is super nice out, students have basically checked out (can’t blame them!)
Bottom line is that this is the one project that gets put on the backburner when I get too “busy”. In this experiment I am only accountable to myself. In other businesses I am founding, I am accountable to my co-founders. At school I am accountable to colleagues. Those are “more important” on the surface. However, now I realize I need to be even more accountable to my students, especially given the craziness I ask them to jump into. So this class gets sidetracked. I feel terrible and almost ashamed. Not because I’ve failed in my experiment. If I was being honest, I basically expected that. I feel that was because I continue to ask my students to do something that I am not pretty sure is nearly impossible. They can achieve the goal of “starting a business”, I have no doubt. Students at other schools do this all the time. What is nearly impossible is for them to do this in the class the way I run it. Bottom line – they need a bit more structure.
Looking Forward to Alleviate Failure
I will restructure the class for the fall semester to include more checkpoints, a little more structure. I won’t do traditional assignments, won’t do tests, they will still be responsible for grading themselves. But I’ll go back to flipping the classroom, so I’ll deliver a bunch of video content ahead of time. Then one class will be dedicated to applying that learning. The other class that week will be dedicated to playing. Not games, but deep, meaningful, impactful playing. Applying learning at a whole different level (like the challenges I offered the students this semester). So now I get to work wrapping up this semester, and planning the next. I’ll be posting videos and content and updates on structure as I develop it. But I basically put a fork in this semester.
Other Bits and Pieces: The Chocolate Challenge
I gave my students one more challenge. In the spirit of the One Red Paperclip and the Marble Game, I gave groups of my students a Hershey’s bar each, and gave them the rest of the semester to see what they could uptrade for. No prize, no assignment. Just an experience and opportunity. I imagine not many will truly engage. Some will work in their groups as I expect them to and each take the bar for a week to see what they can do. Big mistake. HUGE! Because then they are not using all their resources (perhaps another group member knows the perfect person to trade with during that week????) I did hear from one students already who has so far been able to trade up to a Swiss Army Knife in 3 days. Impressive!