Question 27 of 365: What happens if we are wrong?

We seek truth. As much as we seek to be right, we must seek truth. If we are unable to see when we are wrong, then there is very little chance that we will ever be able to see a truth when it presents itself.

Being right is one thing I tend to think I am a lot. It isn’t that I am overly arrogant about being right, it just happens that I set myself up to be right. I make little tests for myself, hypothesize about what is going to happen and then when it does, I pat myself on the back. I do this constantly in the online school that I helped to create. When students are having a problem, I look at what they have written about it. It is usually something like “I can’t see this video” or “my login doesn’t work”. I sit for a moment and come up with what I think is the root cause. After a very simple investigation of about three clicks of the mouse, I am very often proved right. I am proved right because the stakes aren’t very high. I am proved right because I have experienced many of these issues and figured out the common denominators. In effect, I have all of the data and I can act on it.

But, why is it that I am equally certain about things like Authentic Learning (learning with a real purpose and for a real audience) and using a collaborative and social networks to get things done. Why is that I believe I am right when I say that being connected to knowledge is much better than memorizing it. I have a small amount of data to support this. I have seen it work in my own experience and I have read the work of people who agree with me on this topic. Yet, there are an equal number of people who are convinced that using technology instead of your memory is detrimental to the learning process. There are entire cadres of people who are researching and working so that the curriculum is well-defined and does not include my passion for collaboration and co-authorship. Do they have more data? Have they gone through this more times than I have and so they can make better predictions about what will happen to students?

I don’t know any way other than to write and think what I believe to be true, but there is always this gnawing suspicion in the back of my head that I could be wrong. Perhaps open source isn’t as good as proprietary software. Perhaps hybrid courses will really destroy our system of learning. Perhaps all companies do need to have a formal business plan. Perhaps we should keep following through on a mass-production way of life.

If I (or more importantly, we) are wrong about our hypotheses for all of this then we are clearly going to be leading a whole lot of people down a rabbit hole after us. We may be looking at the data completely wrong, or it is entirely possible that we don’t have the right data. Perhaps all of the things that people will create within this hyper-collaborative vein will lead to the downfall of society as we know it.

While that sounds pretty dire, it is something that keeps me trying to justify every move that I make. It keeps me pivoting at every crossroads I come to, reassessing my direction with all of the available data. Because if I am wrong, especially about the big stuff, I’m not sure how I would live with the consequences of  not preparing my kids, my students, my employees, or my society for what they face today and will continue to face unless they pick up what I have not been able to give them as a result of my hair-brained hypotheses.

I’m just glad no one has called me on it yet.

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0 Comments

  1. Being wrong, or at least the potential for being wrong, is an important ingredient for learning. If we are wrong, and we should be some times, we will have learned something valuable. We should expect our students to be wrong. What is important is for us to be willing to be wrong as we model our own learning to support our students as they learn. We need to make being wrong the right thing to do.

  2. bhwilkoff

    Absolutely. I hope I didn't come across as saying that being wrong was the
    enemy. I know that I have and will continue to have the need to pivot hard
    in new directions. I think that as long as we are constantly willing to take
    long hard looks at what we believe, the chances of us looking like a fool
    are much less. It is when we are so stubborn in our righteousness that we
    end up doing ourselves a disservice. I believe that students should be
    taught that being wrong is good for learning, but being wrong about small
    stuff won't leave you feeling quite as burned.

    I haven't quite picked the hill I want to die on yet, but when I do, I had
    better have some serious data to back up that stance.

  3. I hope we are wrong. Not totally wrong, just wrong enough. Just wrong enough to keep asking questions and seeking answers.
    Robert Fulghum writes that whenever someone asks, “Are there any questions,” he raises his hand to ask for the meaning of life. He says he doesn't want to miss the chance that someone might know.
    In the part of my mind perpetually playing What if?, I try to imagine what would happen if someone had THE answer to that question and spread it to all of us. Then, what if we all worked in accordance with THE answer? I think I'd miss being wrong.
    I realize there will never be a dearth of questions to ask. Some of the questions, though, the staple questions, I'd really hate to see them go.
    I hope we're just wrong enough to keep things interesting.

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