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Digital Story Critique: The Gift of Failure

By September 12, 2016Digital Story Critique

I heard CEO of a company say once “Fail fast and fail often.” I remember cringing when I heard it. We don’t like to fail. Americans feel uncomfortable with failure. But is it healthy? Do we do kids’ a disservice if we reward success and punish failure in school?

My Digital Story Critique is from the Good Life Project podcast with Jessica Lahey, an educator who speaks on the importance of children developing intrinsic motivation through autonomous living. Her message began when she made an alarming observation about the students in her classroom, saying, “Kids nowadays are largely made to feel useless.” She recalls that in America’s early history kids had a lot more responsibility of helping with siblings and jobs, making it so that families survived. Then as times changed the expectations shifted so that if kids helped with the working of the home, they got paid in the form of an allowance. Or if they got good grades, they were paid for that with money or shiny gadgets and such. There was a mentality shift from “this is your duty” to “we owe you something if you help and do well at school.” And what is the message being conveyed to kids? It’s performance based. It’s “I don’t care about learning; I just care about the end result.” And with this, a sense of ownership was lost.

Okay, I’m a parent and teacher and reward has been a big part of the end result with me as with so many others. She’s not saying that all that is bad. It’s not about judging our parenting habits, but to reevaluate them. Lahey asserts that failure can play an important part of character building and that it’s vital to let kids work through their tasks and problems themselves, not “pay” them or try to fix it for them. Not only is this the way for them to find workable solutions (and a sense of personal accomplishment), but an opportunity to build resilience.

She used an example from her own life about her son who often forgot his homework. This time, as it sat on the kitchen table, she had to fight the urge to run it up to the school for him. When she made the decision to not “save” him from the situation, it forced him to self-advocate with the teacher. He ended up having to redo it at recess and he was totally good with that result. Lahey felt jumping in would have robbed him of the valuable skill of negotiation and also managing his own organizational shortcomings. All too often adults miss these teachable moments that might look like mistakes on outside, but actually hold priceless growth opportunities that will serve our children well into their professional and personal futures.


I chose following traits from Ohler’s digital storytelling rubric to evaluate the effectiveness of this talk. In making my choices, I referred to the goal of the Good Life Project which can be summarized from their website:

“Together, we’re on a quest to help each other live more meaningful, connected and vital lives. No sleepwalking, no fluff, no delusion or confusion. We’re about living in the real world, pursuing our good lives in a way that is powerful and inspired, yet also sustainable and practical.”



The corporate business world seems to be moving toward this idea of embracing failure and lesson learning. Google has a department called simply X, and it’s completely devoted to flunking a product out before it hits the market (and I think we can all agree Google Glass should have never made it out of X). The point is, succeeding isn’t the most important aspect, it’s knowing when to say “It doesn’t work. It failed, and that’s okay. Let’s try something new.” Success and failure is far less about the end product and much more about the process. I think this should be taught more in our lives and at school.

Total Points: 26/30


  • Ashley Padilla says:

    Great review Lisa! I have had hard conversations with parents about putting their children in opportunities where they may “fail”. I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of students are so stressed out about the end goal of a grade or reward that they get lost in the learning. This is a great digital story that I will definitely share with my colleagues. Such a good reminder that it is ok for students to build resiliency, and that failure is not devastating, rather it is a learning experience that must be faced in life. By the way, I really like how you analyzed the digital story by embedding the rubric, I may have to steal that idea 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Your choice of story and critique really resonated with me in many ways. The idea of viewing failure as a learning opportunity has been my classroom philosophy since I started in the world of education. In my world of teaching math, having this philosophy is what makes the difference for a lot of my students. Math is all too often seen as “you’re either good at it or you’re not,” and this mentality is what turns a lot of students off to math when it starts to become hard. They tell themselves they can’t do it when they get back that first failing grade in math, and the end goal of learning and improving gets lost. For that very reason, I make a huge point to celebrate all of my students’ mistakes in class. Whenever a student gets something wrong, they have become accustomed to being asked to figure out why it was wrong and then presenting it to the class during our “What Went Wrong and Why” celebrations. At the end of their presentations, they are always required to ask, “Who did I help with my new insights?” and any students who felt helped raise their hand to show the student who they’ve helped. These presentations have been such a powerful motivator for many of my struggling students, because it gives them a reason to take their failures, learn from them, and then pass on the learning to their peers. It brings back that sense of ownership for learning that cannot sometimes be lost.

    In terms of your critique, I enjoy that you not only commented on each section, but that you provided us with a numeric score as well. Something else that I really enjoyed about your critique is that you really questioned whether or not the story was well-rounded in its persuasive approach. You were still left with questions, and I like that you didn’t just brush them away. You asked some hard, but good questions, and I like that you answered your questions with your thoughts on the matter. (Posted on 9/18/16 @ 12:03 AM)

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