Learn to fail. Or. Fail to learn.

Last May I began screencasting. I had no idea what I was doing and no formal training.  I just badly wanted the end result; the ability to make video lessons for my students that I could load on to You Tube. I had a real and tangible goal that I wanted to achieve.

I watched the video tutorials on Camtasia.  I tried, I played, and got some basic skills going.  I watched the video tutorials again. Through the process of learning to screencast I failed. A LOT.

As in, I failed to have success the first time, or the second or even the third time I screencast. My screencasts at first, were pretty rough, nothing like my mentor’s Paul Anderson (they probably never will be as he is da bomb at screencasting).


I failed, repeatedly on my journey to make a screencast of the caliber I wanted to produce.

Did I get sent to AI (academic intervention), did I have to give up lunch hours to complete worksheets on screencasting, did I have to complete an I package in June? Was I told you are no longer responsible for your learning, “we” will take it from here, cause you, Carolyn Durley are a failure? Did I receive a zero on a piece of paper with my name on it, cause I had not yet mastered screencasting?

Failure is not an option?

You know the answer already.

I kept screencasting. I kept failing. Each time I failed, I learnt, sometimes it took an hour, sometimes five minutes, but I always came back to the problem.


Because I wanted to experience success. I wanted to learn how to screencast so I could make video lessons for my students that I could load on to You Tube. I had a real and tangible goal that I wanted to achieve.

A year later, I am still not a master screencaster. I still want to grow my skills and this summer when I have time again I will come back and grow my skills a little more.

Embrace failure, like a dearest and “bestest” friend. Hold her tight. Then let her go.

Learn to fail. Or. Fail to learn.

17 thoughts on “Learn to fail. Or. Fail to learn.

  1. Nice post – very fitting this time of year. I hear the irony loud & clear. Certainly a few factors make your experience as a keen professional a bit different from that of the general moderately-academically-challenged student (although, I’d say many times academic issues are the result of poor academic behavior & attitude – not completing work, not asking for clarification or help when needed, not taking learning personally & lacking self-advocacy). ‘Engagement’ – you clearly are motivated to learn & grow your screen casting art. ‘Commitment’ – you are willing to put in the time needed to produce a product that you are satisfied with. ‘Motivation’ – you have it within yourself because you are desiring to be a better teacher, and you are making it happen. ‘Future Vision’ – you see the possibilities of what your videos can do for you, so you are willing to do what it takes to create them.
    The biggest under-question I heard from your post was regarding the issue of motivation: how to we help play a role in move the motivation factor from extrinsic – rests on outside factors – to intrinsic – rests on the individual – for desired results. Daniel Pink’s book Drive is a great addition here. This is one of the largest questions I have had as an educator this year. Thanks for helping me process it even more through the words of your post. (And sorry for the long comment…iPhone just makes it so easy to be connected.)

    • Hi Paul, I have fallen sadly behind with my blog and in replying to comments! Finally some time to sit and reflect again. First of all I appreciate your readership and insights over the year. The interaction beyond “just reflecting to myself” does increase the clarity of the reflection.
      Of the factors you mention above; engagement, commitment, motivation, and future vision which do you think comes first? Do you think it is different for each learner? From my observations with students they usually lack motivation, commitment and future vision as they themselves are not engaged in the topic or project at hand. How do we as educators, engage them? It is with inspiration, is it with choice, is it being a role model, or is it a unique and different formula for each learner?
      I loved Pink’s book and still reflect on it. The concept of “flow” learning rang true for my own learning and from my observations in the classroom over the years. The big question for me is, how do I set up or provide an atmosphere where this type of learning is possible? So many questions still!
      Thanks for learning with me 🙂

  2. I completely understand about failing and learning from it. I’m making my first baby steps into screencasting for my AP Environmental Science class for next year. My first attempt has been a miserable failure, so I’m going to try another way. (I should probably just bite the bullet and go with Camtasia!) But however it works out, I will keep striving for success. Learning about technology has gotten me out of my comfort zone, but I am definitely LEARNING.

    • Thanks for the comment and for sharing your failures! What have you been screen-casting with so far? I would definitely recommend Camtasia, you can download a free 30 day trial and they have great video tutorials, which is how I first learnt how to screen-cast. I am no expert but the more I do it the better I get! Here is to failing often and celebrating it!

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with failure as part of the learning process. Being a sports coach who also has “self-taught” skills in software development, I would like to contribute the following related to these 2 domains.

    My key point revolves around being judged, or perception of others towards your failures. Like in your screencasting failures, I found that because I was able to learn software development as a “solo endeavour” that I could fail without the worry of being judged or perceptions of others. This left me “unhindered” to keep stuffing things up until I eventually worked it out (a very good feeling by the way!).

    Now my observations from coaching. If you take a youth player learning a team sport as they grow up, they will likely have many people judging them and forming perceptions on their playing and training performance and development (primarily coaches and parents). This completely changes the dynamic of learning and failure in my opinion. If the attitude or “vibe” given off by coaches/parents towards failure is even slightly negative then the child could easily develop a fear of failure, leading them away from actions that could result in this failure. Therefore, the result being the player does not learn the skill. The worst case scenario is seen when players deliberately avoid gaining possession of the ball because of this fear.

    So what does this tell me for learning and coaches/teachers. Learning alone/autonomously can be beneficial because failure is not judged. When learning activities must occur in a group environment such as a class/team and under the eye of teachers/parents/coaches, then the environment must have a strong theme that “failure is ok” and this must be supported by the actions and words of teachers/parents/coaches.

    Keep failing!


    • Hi Mark, thanks for your insightful comments. I agree with your observations and experiences. I know that I much prefer to learn alone, as I hate making mistakes in a public setting. I think we put so much emphasis on success and perfection that we as a society have forgotten to celebrate failure. I really notice this tendency in high end students who are results driven but who are immobilized by a fear of making a mistake. These students want to be sure they have the “right answer” rather than risk being wrong. AS a result, these students have low tolerance for risk and their anxiety takes over.
      In general I find athlete students more accepting of failure as many of them work in a culture, where being coached on how to improve and receiving constructive criticism in normal.
      I am searching for ways to create a climate like one you describe, where failure is embraced and celebrated, as essential stepping stones to success and growth.
      I am becoming more comfortable about the idea of failing out in the open, and I hope I can model this for students in years to come.
      yours failingly!

      • Carolyn,

        Thanks for following up and sharing some more of your experiences.

        One of the related areas that might help create the climate you are after is the research done by Carol Dweck on “growth” v “fixed” mindsets (you may have come across it). I think the earlier we can instil a “growth” mindset into children/students the more comfortable they will become in failing, due to an understanding that it is all part of the learning process.

        You can read a good summary by Dweck here…


      • Hi Mark, WOW, how coincidental that you mention that book, as I just purchased last week and began reading it this AM! Sometimes clues on how/where to grow show up just when you need them in life. The “growth mindset” idea is resonating with me in a big way. I think I was stuck for along time in a fixed mindset. For me, trying new skills, that I thought I could not do, proved for me personally that I can grow. Now I feel a bit braver and ready to take more risk with my growth. It is exciting, and even more exciting to try and figure out how to share this with students, as I agree with you, the sooner the better.

        Thanks for sharing you clues with me 🙂

  4. Thank you! I’m looking to begin my own screencasting journey…and anticipate plenty of flops. But the parallel you’ve drawn is a great reminder that we’re all still learners, and that the journey doesn’t end. (I hope OKM holds another Flip conference – I found out about the recent one on the day it ended!)

    • Hi Avril, How exciting that you are embarking on such a great journey. I wish you the very best of luck and let me know if you have any questions along the way. Hopefully we will get a chance to meet this June!

  5. Hello all,
    I am a new Biology teacher and do not have an old bag of tricks to start from. I am still learning the old stuff and suddenly here is all the new stuff. Carolyn, you mentioned that you have a lot of your materials on Youtube. Would it be OK if I looked at (ok so maybe more than looked at) your materials to see if any would be a starting place for me? Believe me…I need all the help I can get!

  6. Hi Carolyn,
    Just started following you on Twitter today, and discovered your blog. Can this day get any better? 🙂 How can I help you with Camtasia? I don’t want to step on Paul’s toes…but I’d be happy to try and help you gain more confidence with your screencasting. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, or if you’d like to walk through anything.
    (from TechSmith)

    • Hi Ryan, as I tweeted to you I so appreciate you offer of help. Yours is one of more favourite comments yet 🙂 Paul is another teacher so he has not really taught me about screen casting. I did most of my learning from watching the TechSmith videos, they were very helpful! I am hoping to update some of my videos this summer using Camtasia and would like to make my videos a little fancier. So when I get there, and when I am feeling over-challenged and stuck I will give you a Tweet, if that is OK with you?
      thanks Ryan!

      • Definitely…any time! Just let me know. I’m glad the tutorials have been helpful…the Camtasia tutorials are ones I’ve done. Have you looked at the new Camtasia Studio 8 yet? It just released on June 19th, and it gives you lots more ways to be “fancier”. 🙂 I look forward to working with you! -Ryan

      • Hi Ryan, I have my code for CS8, just have to get it loaded on my tablet (work order takes time 😦 ). I did watch the webinar on it, pre-release back in June, and seeing that inspired me to go for fancier 🙂 Once I have it,Ii will get busy and hopefully fail a bit more but in the process grow a lot!

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