Learning is Supposed to be Frustrating

So, my classes have been working on the Campaign Trail Collaboration wiki with a bunch of other schools around the country and world. It has been an interesting learning experience as wikis are still very new to a lot of people. It is interesting to see who excels at it and who does not. Most don't. It is surprisingly difficult for some people, even parents. That is completely understandable, though. It took me a little bit to understand the nuances of a wiki as well. This video from the "CommonCraft Show" helps explain it much better than I can.

Learning is supposed to be frustrating. If it is not frustrating, you probably aren't learning. I like to think of it as a piece of wood being carved into something beautiful. If the wood were still alive, surely it would hurt and be painful. But, the benefit is that it is becoming something great and beautiful. That is how learning should be (notice I didn't say education!). I am sure that some people are going to get upset and say that learning should be fun/enjoyable/safe/whatever other positive thing you want to contend it should be. Joseph Smith said:
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else...all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304).
You can still enjoy learning even if it is frustrating.

I had a parent who actually emailed me with some valuable reflection about her experiences working on it with her son (and husband). I include it here with her permission:
Hi Mr Jones,

Just wanted to give you some feedback on the Super Tuesday activity M participated in. It absolutely got him involved in tracking the candidates and was valuable for the opportunity to work with others as he added to the state info as it developed. We did not see any info entered from other students on his state. Could it be because we were not looking in the right place? It has the potential to be a great collaborative activity working with others to track the election process. That is the whole point for this, to be a collaborative effort. It helps people work together and learn together.

We were a little disappointed this morning to find the updated info that he had entered at 9:30 pm last night was gone this morning. We did not print out a page from that time, but he did print one out this am to turn in to prove he was filling in the info on [his state's] primaries. Here they learned on their own how to adapt to a new medium; they didn't know what the protocol was, but were able to figure it out on their own.

This was the first time he ( and his father and I ) had ever used the wiki page. Not surprising, but now they have used a wiki, and the next time their child has to do something with technology, this experience will help define their approach to a new one later in M's career. We spent a lot of time figuring out what to do and how to get to the appropriate areas, so maybe in the future a bit more detailed instructions would be helpful. I am assuming she means better instructions than "Here is the wiki page. Do it." ;) I didn't give very good instructions, that is for sure.

It was a great experience for M in using technology and working with the computer. He was copying and pasting results repeatedly to update the info, which really made him get comfortable with going between windows, etc. This is a great skill for him to learn. He will be able to use this later, I am sure.

We'll be interested to see if M did this assignment as expected. It was a good learning experience, and a little frustrating too. Thanks for your help. Since this is my first time teaching, I don't even know how good of a job I did teaching it. How can I give someone a bad grade for making a concerted and valiant effort when the directions were so poor to begin with?


I did spend some time with the students teaching them what a wiki is and how it works, but I didn't teach them well enough. We were able to get on the computers and edit some wiki pages, but they still didn't get it. Showing the video posted above really helped them out. That was a very positive thing to do. I should have done it earlier.

So, what have I learned?
1. I need to give clear concise directions that are easily understandable.
2. It is okay if learning is frustrating.
3. If you are fair and equitable and try new things, most parents will support you.