The kids came to school today knowing that we were going to participate in #stucamp, the first annual national student edcamp. Schools from Iowa, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Missouri were participating. We were going to use an app called Unhangout that leveraged the power of Google Hangouts with a breakout session model. It looked great.
I took a couple of days this week to prep the kids, show them how the app worked and show the #stucamp promo video about why education needs to change. Most of the kids were stoked to participate and some were thinking of sessions that they would lead. The #stucamp would run from 12:00-1:00pm CST. We were ready!
Noon struck and the #stucamp went live. The first 20 minutes were for introductions and proposing sessions. While a few of our kiddos took it upon themselves to be immature in the chat room, most of the kids were awesome! After the first 20 minutes, we were ready to launch our Hangouts and get into those sessions. As we hit the "connect" button......nothing. We could not connect because our filter at school did not allow video calls on the student Chromebooks. A half dozen kids immediately realized the problem. "We can't get on!" they cried.
Once we knew what the problem was, I said, "Okay, let's try to find a fix!" Many of the kids tried their phones, going off the school wifi and using their cell networks. Other kids thought that our school Google Cloud e-mail addresses might be the problem and tried to sign in under their private Gmail accounts. Both worked! As more kids transitioned over to their personal Gmail accounts and switched to their phones to bypass the filter, something happened. Suddenly, without warning, the system crashed. All of our kiddos started getting "504 Error" and "Gateway Time Out" messages. The program, for us, was dead. It was an epic fail.
While it was a disappointment that we could not fully participate in #stucamp, we were able to troubleshoot the problems we faced, up to a point. Many of the kids were intellectually agile in solving the problem. They asked, "Okay, how do I solve this? I'll try this." They tried, failed and tried again. That is the essence of learning. We did not learn what was intended today, but we did learn. If we see every situation as a problem-solving learning opportunity, the kids will too. We have to constantly reinforce that approach and show the kids that we all fail, but we all must try again. Picking ourselves up is one of life's great lessons.