“Teachers and staff need to be allowed to ‘fail forward,’ especially with current and emerging technologies.”- Ross Johnson, Australia
Head Teacher, Information Technology
NSW Department of Education
Tumbi Umbi, NSW, Australia
For students and teachers alike, failure can be just as important a lesson as succeeding. For Ross Johnson, the Information Technology and Computing Studies teacher at his school, it’s a necessity.
“A couple of years ago, I had a highly motivated group of students who were keen to pass their Microsoft Office Specialist Exams (I had passed some of the exams and the certificates were on my wall in my lab),” Johnson shares with us. “Four of my students completed all the necessary training but were hesitant to take the exam through fear of failure. But I explained to the students that if they fail, they can retry the exam as many times as they need to either pass, or be happy that they had given their best. Three of the four passed the exam at their first attempt, and the fourth passed on his second attempt. This showed my students that failure is part of the journey. All four of these students are now studying computer science-based courses at university. It showed me that my role as ‘sage on the stage’ transformed to facilitator for all the right reasons.”
What is good for students also applies to teachers, Johnson believes, especially as it relates to mastery of core skills. “Curricula around Australia are too bloated for staff to be able to teach all of them with any great mastery,” he says. “Core skills can get lost. Teachers and staff need to be allowed to ‘fail forward,’ especially with their usage of current and emerging technologies.”
In particular, Johnson sees lack of time as the biggest challenge for educators today, and he wants to help solve that issue.
“In no way, shape or form do I blame teaching staff for not being able to devote more time to increasing digital technologies in the classroom,” says Johnson. “Time is fixed, and it’s being taken away by the ever-increasing behemoth that is teacher administration tasks. Data collection and useless grading is killing creativity in the classroom.”
Johnson is responding to this issue by providing tools and professional development for teachers, making their admin tasks simpler, so they can focus more on teaching after. Johnson relies on tools such as Class Notebook, Staff Notebook, Microsoft Forms and OneDrive have helped staff focus on their students and giving them the tools they need to succeed.
About Ross Johnson
- Educational background: Teacher since 1994.
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: The Surface devices are simply revolutionary for the modern-day classroom. The power of digital Inking is phenomenal.
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Get a haircut and shave off that silly beard. No need to make yourself any more of a target than you already are.” My staff mentor at my last year of university told me this on the first day of my final year of practice teaching. Very wise words indeed.
- Website I check every day: www.starwars.com
- Favorite childhood memory: Winning tickets and going with my family to the Australian premiere of Return of the Jedi.
- Favorite book: The Empire Strikes Back