Why we should not just take the easy route

This past few weeks we have been teaching the grade 10 students at our school about failure, and why failure is a good thing. Using famous examples we are trying to demonstrate to the students why failure can often make you more successful, and a fear of failure will more often lead to nothing. The last few weeks have seen me making a decision, do I take the easy route in my COETAIL final project – take on what I see as an easy unit plan and just do that… or do I take on the big project, the one that could make a huge difference in how I teach, but risk failure?

I decided to take the big project…

The reason for my choice was that throughout this course, throughout the Learning 2.0 conferences and most tech related conferences, I have sat through TED Talks and workshops where speakers have talked about the need to reform what we do, and to use tech to make our classes highly individualized… but none have told me really how to do so. At some point I felt like if nobody was going to change from “do this” to “this is how you do this”, maybe I should actually have an attempt at it. I am not saying this is going to be the groundbreaking app that is going to reform the sector, but next time I hear someone tell us we are doing everything wrong, it might be nice to see them talk about how people are trying to change it.

So I will be creating an online and gamified environment for students to learn Physics.


The goals of the project are:

  • To create a greater level or learning autonomy with students – sage on the stage down to a fraction of class time with little direction from me.
  • To allow students to work at their own pace and earn a grade which is representative of what they DO know as opposed to how well they can write a test.
  • To allow high achieving students the chance to really extend their learning.
  • To allow me a greater amount of time to work with the students who really need my help understanding the material.
  • To give students a choice in how and what they learn.


Syllabi will still be followed for the most part, but the point of the system is to increase differentiation, direct me at needy students more and build better learners from the students we have. Me standing in front of students works for some but not many – activities work for many but not all, videos work for a some but not others. By allowing students to select the ways they want to learn and we start to build intrinsic motivation which will help them become better learners in the long run.



Currently the database and basic structure of the site is designed, with a Google sign in used to make it easy and secure to log into the site. The first module I am going to have students learn with it (I tried having the word ‘teach’ here but found it difficult to reconcile the word teach with this project…) Fluid Mechanics which should be in early April giving me plenty of time to get the rest of the requirements for the project sorted.

I think initially I should keep this simple. One key feature of the application is collaboration, however if I reduce the collaboration down to within the same physical space then that means I do not have to write chat tools or anything which requires peer-to-peer connections. It also makes things like experiments much easier to do, because of course students cannot do experimentation at home as easily as they can in school (although home experimentation and lab experimentation could be distinct ‘ways to learn’ on the site).

The site will make sure of several tried and tested activities to help students learn in a variety of ways. Each of these activities will be accompanied by questions which students can peer assess one anothers answers.

Students choose activities to learn the different material in the topic they are learning. Each activity has questions to assess their learning either by peers or by me.

How much of this will be possible by the launch is a question that depends upon the time available and the difficulties in getting the project underway. So far the site looks like this…

The current site basically has a google login, and a Fluid Mechanics module set up – although more is done in the database!

Thus it is not very far along, but it is progressing fast now I am back at work after the break for lunar new year.

As I complete this project I will post various updates via Twitter so make sure to follow me for screenshots and updates! The main event when its all up and running will be in April so be excited for the project end! Why should we not just take the easy route? Because sometimes to hard route delivers way better scenery, and really helps you understand why you set off at all 🙂


P.S. If you have any suggestions for how this could be way more awesome let me know in the comments below 🙂

2 thoughts on “Why we should not just take the easy route

  1. Alex, good for you! Seems like you’re really taking on something great here. How’s it going with the site?

    • Hi Michael,

      Yeah pretty well thanks! I have been posted pictures to my twitter feed (@mrabunting) and its coming together. Still a reasonable amount left to do but its all entirely manageable I think 😛

      How is your final project going?


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