Failure v. Constructionist

I have always heard that you learn more from failure than from success. This may be true but I think that it only works when the person truly tries to succeed, “fails,” and has the determination to build themselves back up again and try again. Where learning by failure fails is when the failure is emphasized or required.

I agree with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager when they write that our culture has confused failure with iteration (Martinez and Stager 2013). In constructionist learning the student, or learner, constantly tries new things and slowly shapes their design or project. When new things don’t work they aren’t deemed failures, there is no grade or scolding, they are simply parts of the design that didn’t work as expected. For example when making my Maker Faire project for next weeks blog post a small part of my PokéStop design didn’t work, there were huge gaps between sheets of foam board and the cuts were all ragged. I took the constructionist approach and viewed these as surprise problems to be solved and not failures in my design. With some improvisation and a heavy amount of sheetrock putty my design continued on.

Another huge problem with promoting failure is when it is built into the assignment. What happens when a student makes a very well thought design and their idea works perfectly, but the design called for several drafts where the student must find huge mistakes to fix. For a student who succeeded with their first design this can lead to a lot of head banging trying to improve a great design, and possibly lead the student to go back and purposely create flawed drafts to be submitted as first and second attempts. This student didn’t learn anything by failure, they just did busy work to appease a teacher.


Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom.


STEM Gets An A

In Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom Martinez and Stager argue that there is no real reason to mess with an acronym and the arts should be naturally added into STEM fields where necessary but not by changing STEM to STEAM (Martinez & Stager 2013). Instead we should focus on breaking down the boundaries between subjects for more natural learning (Martinez & Stager 2013). While those are wonderful goals that would benefit learning I disagree that the A shouldn’t be added to STEM. I think in the short term we should turn STEM to STEAM for one simple reason, money.

The Obama administration has pushed for increased funding for STEM fields in education to get more students to study STEM subjects, more faculty to teach these subjects, and more projects in these fields (US Department of Education 2015). Last year President Obama announced a commitment of $240 million in funds for STEM fields from various donors, foundations, etc. (the White House 2015). By bundling the arts into STEM some of that extra funding would find its way to supporting artistic programs.

While the federal government is raising funds to promote STEM fields many local and state governments are cutting funding to arts programs. The Washington Times writes that it is fairly common for arts programs to be cut, “Not too many years ago a high school in Wilson, North Carolina, lost around 20 positions, including clerical, teacher assistants and classroom teachers. Steve Ellis, principal at Fike High School in Wilson, said they have had to cut jazz band, piano classes and elective courses held through the community college” (Hambek 2016).

My hope is that by adding the arts to STEM they wont be left behind when the budget cuts roll through town.


Hambek, J. (2016). Arts programs in schools often in danger of being cut [web post]. The Washington Times. Retrieved from

Martinez, S., & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom.

The White House (2015). Fact sheet: President Obama announces over $240 million in new STEM commitments at the 2015 White House science fair [web post]. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education, (2015). Science, technology, engineering and math: education for global leadership [web post]. Retrieved from



INFO 287: Earning Badges and Flying Drones!

When I think of the library of the future I think of ideas such as automated retrieval systems, bookless libraries, and a heavy emphasis on technology, but these aren’t the only ideas for future libraries. The American Library Association, ALA, has published their predictions of the future. Some of the predictions align with my ideas of future libraries filled with tech centered Digital Natives, and some of the predictions really surprised me.

The prediction that surprised me the most was the digital badges. I stumbled on a link to digital badges while doing some online training at work the other day and I was confused and intrigued. Digital badges to create a simple portfolio that made me feel like an office working boy scout sounded like an interesting idea. While it initially sounds silly there are plenty of people who take videogame badges, or achievements, very seriously. achievement (2).gifIf the badges did catch on it would be an interesting way of creating a portfolio. These small icons representing achievements, workshops, and awards would be a fun way to gauge a persons abilities. Unlike military badges, digital badges can be easily shown to teachers and potential employers without wearing a uniform or even visiting them in person.

I was also very surprised that drones were listed as a library tool. Drones seem to be very popular these days as a photography, delivery, and of course surveillance tool. According to the ALA drones can be used to deliver resources, provide internet access, and help researchers make video calls from remote locations. For the most part these activities take place outside the library, but they still involve the library in some way. Sadly the article does not mention small drones pulling books off the shelves and delivering them to students, but there is still time to add that feature to the library.


Is There a Downside?

Is there a downside to making more museums and cultural institutions more interactive? What is your view of the limitations of maker culture? Is there a risked loss of identity and value for libraries or other institutions?

There is a give and take relationship with most changes. When a museum or library continually adds new interactive content they inevitably give something up in that change. In adding interactive content the library gives up things such as space for books and quiet throughout the building, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.

In her article, High Culture Goes Hands-On, Judith Dobrzynski writes that “Even in Europe’s old cities of culture, some people might stop in at the Louvre or the Uffizi, but often just to snap a few pictures on their cellphones to prove they were there” (Dobrzynski 2013). Modern life is fast paced and it seems that everyone is constantly on the move with little time to quietly reflect in front of a piece of art. While Dobrzynski writes about the good and bad aspects of museums shift towards interactive exhibits she only hints about why they are making these changes. She admits that they make these changes to draw in more visitors but doesn’t acknowledge that if the libraries and museums refuse to change they will still lose the idealized past versions of their institutions due to lack of use and funding.

Museums and libraries are very important institutions that provide priceless services to our communities, but before they can give the gifts of information they need to package it in a way to make it appealing to users in the current cultural climate. We cannot let our love of the book collections interfere with our ability to meet the needs of our patrons. If this means that we lose our identity as a house for books, great, as long as we keep our identity as a place for learning.


Dobrzynski, J. (2013). High culture goes hands-on. The New York Times [web post]. Retrieved from

Why? Why Not?

One of the concepts mentioned in R. Toby Greenwalt’s article It’s All Around You: Creating a Culture of Innovation is Creating Prompts. What kind of prompts do you think might work (or have worked in the past) for you in trying to kick start your own creative thinking around innovation

At my job in Resource Sharing we are always looking for ways to improve the department. Some improvements are to save money, and others have been made to improve staff wellbeing and attitudes, but we strive to find areas that can be improved. R. Toby Greenwalt wrote about library prompts as a way to get some creative juices flowing by asking questions such as “what’s the most relaxing spot in the building?” (Greenwalt 2014). While we do not pass around prompt cards there are two questions that consistently spark innovation in my department: why, and why not?
Ares looking confused

These two questions are as basic as they come. Ares, my 3-year-old daughter, knows the power of these questions to get to the root cause of almost everything in her life. She asks “why are we going to the store?” “Why do we need groceries?” “Why do we eat?” These questions are sometimes very annoying, but they often lead to conversations about the basic reasons we do things which greatly improves Ares understanding and gets me to explore a new perspective.

At work asking why and why not can get us thinking about new ideas by showing us that we are sticking to a workflow for the wrong reasons. For example we had always shipped UPS packages using a carbon copy shipping book. We would copy the library name, address, ILL number, and shipping insurance amount into this book, by hand, for every packaged shipped. I asked my coworker why we did this and her answer was, more or less, because it was how we had processed UPS for the last 16 years. We then asked ourselves, “why not a digital solution?” This lead to using UPS’s free software to print labels and save the information for each library into an address book for future use. UPS takes a fraction of the time it used too.
While this isn’t exactly a super innovative idea, most libraries use printed UPS labels, it was innovative to our library. Asking ourselves “why” and “why not” has lead to many more improvements in how we do things. We switched to printable bookband slips with reusable bookbands when we asked ourselves “why do we handwrite the bookbands?” We are quietly testing out a Pull and Scan program for our patrons because  “why not scan the article if we are already checking the shelf for it?” By consistently asking why we gain just enough distance to look at ourselves from a different perspective.



Greenwalt, T. (2014). It’s all around you: creating a culture of innovation [web article]. Retrieved from