Last summer and fall, I was hot hot hot into iPads. I voraciously consumed articles about the AAP and screen time. I attended LittleeLit’s Conversation Starter “A to Zoo for Apps” at ALA in Chicago. I became obsessed with the Fred Rogers’ Center. I creeped on Lisa Mulvenna’s blog anxiously awaiting her next post about iPad storytimes at her library. I convinced my department head to purchase an iPad so I could start downloading apps and trying things out.
We applied for a local grant in the hopes of obtaining 10 more iPads so we could develop a tablet focused program for caregivers and children. We didn’t get it so I altered my plans and decided to move forward with a more traditional storytime format that was almost entirely filled with book apps, Overdrive, and various other developmentally appropriate apps that support ECRR2. I borrowed an Apple TV from our IT department, tested everything out and set 2 dates: one for a Saturday morning and one for a Monday evening a month or so later.
I had a MSUTF (Mysteriously Still Unexplained Technology Failure) the day of the program, but I ended up with close to 20 attendees and I rolled with the punches. Lots of great conversations with caregivers after about the most important aspect of all of this technology: their interaction with the child and the tablet as they play.
I was feeling pretty confident for the next session. It was a repeat of the same program just scheduled a month later and in the evening with the hopes of reaching working families. I quadruple tested my technology. I was ready to go. And then?
No one came. Not a single person.
I decided the best course of action-given the limitations our department currently has with the number of iPads available-was to make my handout available on the service desk. And in a matter of a few days, they were gone.
Is that what failure looks like?
We’re in the process of reviewing the department goals for FY2015 and to bring a new staff member up to speed, our director attended our department meeting to go through them with everyone. In the course of discussing outcomes and resources and goals, she said something like this: “It’s okay if you fail. You WILL fail. Just make sure you fail forward. Don’t let your failure defeat you. Don’t give up. Examine what caused the failure, learn from it and move on. Fail forward.”
I fail all the time. I sometimes find myself reading developmentally inappropriate books in storytime. I develop pilot programs for school aged kids that end up being entirely unsustainable due to staff time or limitations on how many can participate. I occasionally feel the need to come up with a contingency plan for every possible outcome for a program thereby turning me into a straight up control freak crazy person who inevitably will miss the one thing that will actually happen to make the program a failure.
We all know when we’ve screwed up. But saying “I’m sorry” isn’t what my supervisor and director are looking for from me when that happens. They want me to look at the big picture. That want me to identify why it failed-is this a program our community is not interested in? Are the services being duplicated elsewhere? Was it a failure of something as simple as the name of the program or the time of day?
This is my journey of failing forward. I hope you’ll follow along.