Risk Culture – (part of our Theoretical Model)

I’ve been working diligently on the Theoretical Model for this project. This is the beginning of the Pedagogical paradigm. Let me know what you think.

Risk Culture


“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” ~Benjamin Franklin.


“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” ~Sven Eriksson.


“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” ~Sir Ken Robinson.


Failure is necessary for learning.
We know that the best discussions in class come out of misunderstandings, inaccurate solutions, and unclear explanations; yet for the all the work a teacher can do to make these part of a classroom culture, there is still the stigma of being wrong and the proverbial “F” that is too hard to recover from.  As long as grades are what promote and represent success, a classroom culture of this kind of “Risk” for the sake of learning is unreachable.


To truly foster this kind of reality, there must be a safe place to make mistakes, constructive and immediate feedback to impact the thinking, unending opportunity to redo and revise until acceptable to the learner, and incentives to persevere through failure and disappointment to learning and success.


There must also be a place to be creative and innovative. Creativity and innovation run the risk of generating ideas, products, and systems that may not work. But then again they may work far better than anything at present.  The very nature requires a safe place to be expressed and tried.


If we want a generation willing to risk defeat, disappointment, and disillusionment to design solutions for tomorrows issues, then we better create a space for them to exercise the muscles necessary to persevere through this.


A person’s willingness to risk is directly related to 1) their comfort with failure learning and 2) the stakes.  If the stakes are too high (very embarrassing, unrecoverable grade, loss of respect) then one won’t risk regardless of their comfort with failure.  If the fear of failure is too high, then one won’t risk regardless of how low the stakes are.


It is important for the teacher and the learning environment to balance these as one develops a higher comfort with failure learning and with rising stakes.


Classroom Culture
Practically speaking, it is impossible to take the stigma out of being wrong.  However, at a young age, children aren’t programmed yet to “need to be right,” most are still wanting to be heard. Therefore at this tender age we find ourselves ripe with opportunity to create space for them to risk mistakes for the sake of learning. To let them learn from failures without feeling the weight of them.


If the classroom had “learning tools,” like MMB, that created the space for the failure learning to happen, then the classroom discussions about their learning could include how and what they learned from their mistakes. Instead of making their mistakes in real time in front of their peers and a teacher, they could make them in a private space, learn from them, and then share how they learned from them with the class. This makes the learning from failure a celebration versus a stigma of “wrong.”


Failure Learning
We define failure learning as the opportunity to make mistakes and fail and learn from those mistakes and failures  WITHOUT feeling like a failure, the social stigma of failing, or the permanent “F.”


Failure is complicated. It’s a result of numerous potential factors acting on a person all at one time.
Social expectation
Proficiency with a skill, concept, or tool


We can remove #1 by offering the opportunity to fail in a private space.  We can remove #4 by offering unlimited access to practice and exploration, thereby affecting #2.  This leaves us with #3 and #5 which influence each other deeply and are at the core of failure.  What choices do we make and why? If we focus on how the choices we make and why we make them then failure is seen as a temporary state necessary for learning.

Creativity is connected to the emotional side of one’s brain making it cautious and vulnerable to criticism and rational thought.  Young children are encouraged to be creative in the arts as it is a way to communicate before the written word is expected. But as one matures, creativity is considered “the arts” and falls secondary to rational argument and written ideas.  Additionally, creativity is squashed out of the classroom as priority is given to one-way thinking and single draft mentality around facts, dates, and regurgitated ideas.  No student risks a creative solution when the “right” answer is the safe expected one.


The best inventions and most notorious theories came from individuals willing to risk the norm and pose a creative solution.  They investigated, calculated, and discussed with trusted friends ideas and ways that were revolutionary.  This kind of innovative thinking is a result of integrating creativity with subject knowledge and a desire to design solutions for the day’s problems; and the biggest travesty is that it has been withdrawn from education.  Our children do NOT pose creative solutions, they are expected to memorize knowledge.


We must offer opportunity for creativity and subject knowledge to be integrated and we must offer this as soon as a child steps into a classroom.  Innovative learning tools, like MMB, can integrate these two with ease and offer students a chance to both creatively express their ideas, and offer opportunity to design innovative solutions to problems.


Motivation is based on the perception of relevance to the learner and the value of the incentive attached to active participation.  A game design weaves incentives into the fabric of the game experience giving value to the different program elements. This also offers earners the chance to earn more currency by redoing a element and pressing through “failure” toward greater success.



  • Every PE (Program Element) offers the learner an opportunity to build comfort with failure learning in a low stakes environment. There is nothing public about  the game space and the currency can be earned by restarting.

Classroom Culture

  • The report to the teacher indicates places where a student pressed through a failure.  The teacher can use this data to have students share how their mistakes helped them learn.

Failure Learning

  • Overall game design – all missions must be completed to move to the next Training Room
  • Mini-games in the training rooms
  • Secret Missions must be completed to move to the next level
  • Simulations


  • There is a create program element that offers students the chance to creatively express their understanding (multiple modality options)
  • The missions involve designing solutions to problems.


The incentive plan for this program is three-fold

  • In-game currency toward the mission parameters (the areas of currency increase over levels)
  • Out-of-game badges, patches, and pins for their labcoats. This gives status and a representation of success
  • Out-of-game status at program conferences


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