In my experience one of the best ways to learn a new technology is to just play around a bit. In my last post on Fractus, I shared some tips to create a collaborative learning environment, and one of them was to providing time to explore. Creating a culture of confidence through exploration is critical to a successful learning environment. Since the year began, my students have completed several projects and had time to explore multiple apps. I’ve noticed two types of learners. Learners that just try something, and the ones that want my directions and encouragement. This pattern isn’t just limited to technology, but sometimes shows up more when creating projects and working independently.

A culture of confidence through exploration is critical to a successful learning environment.

I’m sure you’ve noticed something similar in your school or classroom. In an educational world full of Maker Spaces, Project Based Learning, and inquiry to prepare them for the future, we must teach our students to persevere as problem solvers. For each problem they are faced with, they must have the courage to get started, explore what works, and continue to explore until a solution is found.

Creating a Culture of Confidence

Here are a few things you can do to encourage young learners who might be timid, and need some help getting started, or persevering after a struggle.

 1. “Try something” or “What do you think will work?”

“Try something” is one of my favorite go to phrases. Before I say this to a student, I know that they have something in their bag of tricks that they can try. Maybe they’re hovering over a button trying to decide what to press. They could be thinking about what app to select, or even just trying to type a specific character. Whatever their situation is, this simple phrase can give them the boost they need to take the leap and try.

When students have specific questions, try to turn their question back on them if you can. I like to simply say “What do you think?” Asking this tends to force them to answer their own question, and just give it a try. I am of course there to help solve big problems, and little ones too, but most times I try to let students try, and sometimes fail first. Just taking the first step to try something can sometimes be the biggest hurdle.

 2. “Did it work? What will you try next?”

After a student takes the leap and tries, what happens if they fail? I think support in this step is critical. We need to be there to encourage them to take the next step. How we do that as educators is critical too. Do we just jump in and solve the problem, or do we invite reflection? Asking questions that lead to student problem solving can help boost their confidence again, and get them thinking on the right track. I find that a few questions to help them connect prior knowledge almost always works!

3. Buddy Up

Have you noticed how much more at ease you are if you’re in a new situation, and you have a friend? I think it’s important to recognize that when fostering a culture of confidence in our classrooms. When students work together, they learn from each other, share ideas, and help each other along the way. Take advantage of that! Even though sharing is sometimes an issue, my first graders learn so much from each other as they work together. Almost all our iPad projects so far this year have been team efforts. They’re taking turns, getting ideas, and feeling more confident because there is someone there next to them. By the way, that someone doesn’t necessarily know any more than they do!


Creating a culture of confidence can be a challenge. Helping students recognize that it’s okay to fail is important. However, teaching perseverance, growth, and fostering self confidence is critical, without them you just fail. How will you support your students and foster growth?


Feature image credit, Meghan Zigmond.

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