Where’s your edge?

Photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1sKGYNL (3 min read)

Last night’s  webinar had some really inspiring moments, and several people picked up on Howard Rheingold saying “if you’re not falling off it, you’re really not exploring the edge.” (the full quote is below, and timestamps are from within the webinar for reference)

This really resonated with me. I believe it is very important to continually learn and to share this with my students and anyone I connect with. Sharing is new, new is daunting, daunting can be exposing if we are not sure how to recover from a stumble.

Gardner Campbell hit it spot on when he described students’ faux understanding of learning in the context of term papers of days gone saying:

“Imitating a spurious authority that they didn’t really believe people had…” (51:43) 

Oh my goodness, this is exactly why we need to allow students to see us on that edge, and yes, falling off the edge sometimes too. We need to show them that we learn, and how we do it.

Kim Jaxon raised a good point though about how “It doesn’t all have to be shared.” and there are limits. Laura Hilliger went on to explain that she keeps personal aspects of life separate, and that’s ok. Nobody would suggest that a window into learning, showing yourself walking that tightrope, should include everything. 

My question to all of us is where is your professional learning edge?

When something is new, we make a judgement about our capabilities, and this informs the course of action we choose, perseverance, the way we react in difficulty or failure – everything. This self-efficacy belief is important, and for our learners, they need to develop self-efficacy for the things they do – whether learning or performing. There have been various comments throughout these first few weeks of connected courses about learning how to … learn, trust, be, blog, … and yes, there are many learning how to aspects of what we do, and it is important to have models, and experience. Experience is the most informative teacher, but without the skill and belief – someone could easily dive headlong and end up doing a proverbial belly-flop, whereas if they see someone else (us perhaps?) teeter on the edge and sometimes wobbling, sometimes aceing it, sometimes falling a bit. As Harold said:

“I just want to reinforce that I am happy when I fail technically in front of my students, It gives me an opportunity to, first, say IF YOU’RE NOT FALLING OFF IT, YOU’RE REALLY NOT EXPLORING THE EDGE, and also to model what you do when you fail, which it – you try stuff – and I’d 95% of the time I can figure out what went wrong and how to fix it while they’re watching.” (32:13) 

This is learning how to learn for us, and teaching how to learn for our students.

What about connecting it up? I turn to Howard again:

“If you’re a bright person, a self-motivated person, and you don’t have access to great schools, or maybe don’t have access to schools at all, but you have access to the web- then you have access to great lectures, and access to other learners and to engage in an essentially social activity that learning has become” (48:00)

So how are you doing it? It could be small things or big things…

In the past I have put myself out there, in the student’s shoes in different ways – some private and some public. The most public was when I played a concerto a few years ago with the orchestra and having the students and the audience assess me just as the students are in their final performances… same assessment forms, same marking scheme. That was fun, but scary! and they were honest and it was a way in to assessment and the process for many of them.

The edge I am on now involves taking a singing exam at the end of the term. That may not sound scary, especially for a musician, but there are two reasons it is a big edge for me. 1. I had that dreaded experience where people told me ‘you can’t sing’ when I was a teenager. and 2. It isn’t just a singing exam, it is pop music. So this classically trained cellist is singing Joni Mitchell, Debbie Harry, and Mandy Moore, and the first reaction of people when I told them was to laugh. (!) I will be singing for my students as a stepping stone, and I it makes me nervous even to think of it, my edge. -but I love the challenge.

As for why we don’t share, I talked about that in my post yesterday for my own course MUS654 (scroll to the baby photo). It is important for me to show my students that they can explore what they like, that I will respect it, and that I will help them to learn as best as I can.

“It is important to impart the skill and thirst for learning. …they need to be equipped to learn on their own.” -Howard


Photo CC licensed here: http://bit.ly/1vZkjwX


  1. Darshna Katwala

    Thanks for your delightful and poignant reflection. I am learning so much vicariously through the Connected Learning community. This experience has created wonderful opportunities to think about my teaching practice and how I can build trust while taking risks. Best of luck with your exam. I imagine you have a tremendous cheering section.

  2. Tania Sheko

    Laura, you’ve highlighted wonderful quotes here, and I kept saying ‘yes’ throughout. So much to comment on. I think I’ll wait until I have time to write a post. Wasn’t that a rich discussion!
    I wonder how we can impart a thirst for learning in secondary school amongst the over-crowded curriculum and frantic push to get the best mark in the final year in order to get into university. It’s almost like: put off learning until you’ve finished studying. Still, we try. Modelling is good. Thank you for your post.

  3. Simon

    Great overview of the session. I too like the quote about being on the edge, but it’s also important for students to see that you are in control too 🙂

    Throughout the #ccourses experience I have tweeted about the value of failure. Examples here: http://twitter.com/digisim/status/518011861586149376 and here: http://twitter.com/digisim/status/520527476964204544

    But we need to provide safe places for failure, where we show that we are in control and safeguarding a students’ fear of failure. There is no greater trust in a teacher than when a student shows you their failure knowing that you are there to help them move that closer to success.

    I also spotted that you did a little bit of transcription for the video. I often take notes on videos and use this for syncing my notes to the video content: http://www.videonot.es (it needs Google Drive to store the notes but it is amazing).

    1. Post

      thanks 🙂 I agree completely about safe places for failure, and about having staging posts – least exposing to watch someone else, then perhaps we can offer a hand to hold, and then a student can know that we are there ready to support as needed, and then when they are sure, they can go for it… Takes time and I’m still learning too !

      As for transcribing, I didn’t mean to- was just taking notes. I have my 6th grade computer teacher to thank for teaching me to touch type – good thing he gave the incentive of playing Oregon Trail !

  4. Maha Bali

    Awesome, thanks Laurie, i miss all the hangouts and it’s posts like yours that keep me on track and up to date with what happened, and i love your own reflections on it. Strange that i tweeeted sthg last night about how useful failure is to our learning, and i had no idea this was mentioned in the hangout 🙂

    Thanks again

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