What Education Misses By Its Fear of Mistakes


Soon-to-be EMDT Graduate and freelance photographer, Drew Fulton wrote the following blog post as a reflection on our course reading, The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Yet it is only when we make mistakes in performance that we really begin to notice what needs attention.

While reading through the first four practices in The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, the above quote really struck me. To me, it is quite simple. The cliche is “we learn from our mistakes” but the reality is, we don’t let ourselves make mistakes. In education, mistakes have dire consequences. We lose points, we fail a paper, we don’t pass a course. In the real world, most mistakes are small and easily corrected and we learn from those mistakes. The big mistakes that aren’t easily corrected, well we learn from them even more, but there are often consequences that might be dire, but that is life.

Just yesterday, I sat down at my computer to edit a couple hundred photographs I had taken earlier in the day of a cute little Eastern Screech Owl sitting in a hollow tree branch. I had taken a hundred or so images over the course of 20 minutes or so and was pretty pleased with how they looked on the back of the camera. When I got home and pulled them up on my giant monitor, I realized that in the vast majority the bird wasn’t in focus. After spending a few minutes going through and picking out the good ones, I moved on and started to catalog the images. However, as I was frustrated by the small handful of images that were technically acceptable, I decided to go back and look at the soft images that I had deleted. Yes, they were soft and not sharp, but I wanted to know how and why they were sharp. Was the camera not functioning correctly and focusing on the wrong part? Was the camera and lens vibrating causing the image to be soft? Was I using bad technique? What was going wrong?

After careful examination of a handful of the bad images, I found that with the lens/teleconverter/camera combination I was using, the autofocus system was having a hard time reading the soft fuzzy feathers. Manual focus needed to be the answer. Next time I am in that same situation, I know, use manual focus and I’ll get acceptably sharp images. It is only by examining the mistakes, can we learn and see where we need to focus our attention to improve our performance.

About the author:
Drew Fulton is a freelance nature photographer with a passion for finding new ways to use media to engage and educate. Fulton is currently completing a Masters Degree through Full Sail University’s Education Media Design & Technology program. Drew can be contacted through his website: Drew Fulton Photography