At ISTE 2013 in San Antonio, Texas, Microsoft gave away over 10,000 Microsoft Surface Tablets to participants.  Basically anyone that was at the conference that wanted one was going to get one for free with their registration.  The majority of people that came to the conference had no idea that this was happening and I would say very few (if any) people signed up to go to ISTE to get the Surface.
    I chose not to get one.  I chose not to take a free tablet/computer with my registration to ISTE.  From what I heard before the conference, the device was not that great, would crash often, and was not as intuitive as other devices.  If that was the case, why would I want one?
    As participants unpacked their devices, played with them, what they had told me was basically what I had heard in the reviews before.  People were complaining about the devices that they were given free because they weren’t that good.  This was a tough crowd admittedly, as most people were very tech savvy, but these are the same people that I would ask for their advice.  If they would have told me it was awesome, I would have possibly reconsidered filling out the form to get the device, but you know right away when a company is giving a ton of their devices away at a conference, it is probably because they are not in that high of demand in the first place.  Apple’s policy (from what I have been told) is that they will donate money to conferences, but they will NEVER give away their product because they believe it to be the best.  Why would they give something awesome for free?
    Here’s the thing…if Apple gave away an iPad at ISTE, I would have taken it in a second.  That is with even having two iPads already.  It is a great product.
    Embrace Failure?
    This is not about Apple vs. Windows.  This is about the word “failure”, and this huge movement by educators that we should embrace “failure”.  Even some going as far to saying that we should promote “failure”.
    Every time I hear things like this, I get worked up.
    Googling the definition for the term “failure”, here is the screenshot of what I found:

    Based on the definition above, the “Surface” was a failure at ISTE.  What happens when a product is a failure within a company?  People lose belief in that organization.  With all of the talk about “embracing failure”, how many of you would take your own money and start investing in Windows after the Surface?  I know I wouldn’t.
    Failure or something else?
    Yet people throw around names like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein when they talk about failure.  Some of the most brilliant minds in whatever they did, and I would not put them under the definition of the term “failure”.  Steve Jobs, who died with a net worth of 10.2 billion dollars, may have been a failure in other aspects of his life, but business and innovation were places that he excelled.  It was not all smooth sailing, but in the end, they were successful.  Did he have failures? Absolutely.  But there were other characteristics that they had that are much more important in their work.
    When having a conversation with an educator that discussed the notion of embracing failure, I asked her if students could fail her high school math class.  She said, “no way.”  I asked her why and she told me that there is no way she would let them, and she would work her butt off to make sure that she would not let them fail.  She would do everything in her power to not let them fail.  Then I said to her, “based on that, do you really embrace failure or do you do everything to avoid it?”  She knew what I was saying.
    Language is important
    The words we use in education are very important to our public.  Only a few days ago, a parent tweeted from me that educators need to do better ensuring that students have a “work ethic” and that schools are getting soft.  I thought about what he said and cringed at the idea of many teachers talking about “failure”; if he thought educators were already being soft on students, this would NOT help that cause.
    Last year, when Edmonton Public talked about their “No-Zero” policy, the public went irate and the talk started again about “lazy teachers”, etc., because people believed that teachers were okay with their kids failing, when in reality, the policy was to NOT accept failure.  Teachers were working harder than ever to not let a student just take a “zero”, but were making sure that they were working with students to learn material.  The term “no-zero” brought people back to their time in school and was a poor choice of words.  Think of your time in school?  Would “failure” be something that we would have seen as desirable when we were in school.  Not where I grew up.
    Then I have heard educators say, “we need to educate the public on what ‘failure’ really means, and change the definition.”  Really? The public already has enough issue with all of the educational jargon that we throw around, and now we want to change the “definition” of words?  Will people really get behind what they don’t understand?
    Grit and Resiliency 
    So getting back to the term “failure”…is that a part of the innovation process, or even learning?  I guess I don’t think of learning as either “pass” or “fail”, but as a process with ups and downs, mistakes, issues, things we need to overcome, challenges.  These ideas are all things I can work my way through and be successful.  This “grit” is a key to people being successful.
    If you look at the term “grit” as defined in the Wikipedia, this is something that we need to work to instill in our students:
    Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.
    Or even the term, “resiliency”?  Again, here is the definition when I Googled the term:

    “Grit” and “resiliency” should be the terms that we talk about when working with our students and our community.  We should also talk about what the road to “success” really looks like.  The chart below clarified this process for me.

    What’s narrative do you want to share?
    I totally understand what educators are saying when they talk about “failure” and our thoughts are on the same wavelength.  That being said, the narrative of what teachers actually do is misconstrued by our public when we use the term.  Most of the people that I know that defend this term do everything in their power to NOT be failures and since they are educators, that means they do everything to instill “resiliency” and “grit” into their students as well.  Do they (or their students) fall? Absolutely.  But the story should not be about “falling”, it is about what we instill in our students to make sure they get back up.  That is what we need to share.
    Right now, there are a lot of companies that have products that are considered “failures” in the public’s eye, and they do not have the confidence of their stakeholders.  I struggle thinking that if we keep talking about the importance of “failure” in schools, that our community will lose faith in what educators are really trying to do.
    What story do you want to tell?


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