30 April 2007

Fail Fast, Learn Quickly

An interesting article by Daniel Muzyka <How you deal with failure is the secret to success> from today's Globe discusses the culture of research and innovation, and provides some useful context to our work in College applied research. At first glance it is perhaps more applicable to industrial applied research, but there are distinct parallels with academic research that focuses on teaching and learning as well.

Encouraging innovation and experimentation is inherently risky, but potentially profitable, in the sense that these can lead to the application of new knowledge in new ways. Contingent knowledge, the cornerstone of science, requires that we find ways to apply our knowledge, be this in industrial settings or the classroom. And here is the linkage that we can draw from Muzyka's piece: where he speaks of designing for the future generations of products and services (itself a worthy goal of applied research), we should also seek new ways of involving our students in the research endeavour, and of encouraging and experimenting with new ways of teaching and fostering inquiry in the classroom.

The last decade has seen of lot of this emerge with theories of distributed learning. We now hear a lot about M-Learning, used to discuss the application of ubiquitous technology within teaching and learning contexts. These forms of learning have in common with applied research "a very delicate balance between the operating imperative to maintain output and efficiency (favouring that which exists) and the innovation imperative to be more open, creative and willing to renew (favouring the new and disruptive)."

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