Using literature to teach students that taking risks, making mistakes, and persevering are key to success in today’s digital world

The Importance of Troubleshooting


Those of us who have ever used technology, especially those of us who rely on technology heavily in our daily lives, can recall a time (or 20 times) when the technology just didn’t work. Perhaps we knew the reason and could quickly troubleshoot the issue, perhaps we knew the issue but didn’t know how to fix the problem, or perhaps we didn’t understand why the technology wasn’t working.  All of these situations are frustrating, some more than others. Many of our students are attending schools that utilize digital learning environments and teachers are working hard to teach students how to use different devices and programs and also teaching students how to be respectful and safe digital citizens. But often how to troubleshoot the technology when things aren’t working correctly isn’t taught. We just stop using the technology, or call the Help Desk, or wait to try again later.  But if our students are depending on technology in their daily academic and personal lives, they should be equipped with some skills to problem solve technology “issues”.

ISTE Standards for Coaching 3e is “Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.”  While technology coaches are not IT specialists, it is important that they can troubleshoot basic problems. However, I think a goal of technology coaches (and all teachers who use technology in their classroom) should be to teach students how to troubleshoot basic technology problems.  Having technology not work as you had expected is frustrating and often a response is just to quit or give up. But, like with all aspects of school (and life), we are trying to teach our students that accepting obstacles, learning from mistakes, and figuring out how to persevere and problem solve are critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives in many situations.


How to Help Students Learn to Take Risks, Make Mistakes and Learn from Those Mistakes

How do we teach our students to take risks when there is an “easier” option?  Make mistakes without feeling like a “failure”? And to continue to problem solve and work hard even when feeling frustrated.  In the Brookings Institute blog, Kate Mills and Helyn Kim have written about “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Students get ‘stuck’ and ‘unstuck’ ”.   My favorite sentence in this post is: “Helping my students grow to be people who will be successful outside of the classroom is equally as important as teaching the curriculum.” Sometimes we, as teachers, can lost sight of that goal. I also enjoyed reading about how this teacher “normalizes trouble” in her classroom in hopes that her students learn to accept challenge and failure as opportunities for growth.  Another key point I took from reading this post was the importance of making sure students know that the teacher is not there to solve their problems, but there to support students as they solve their own problems.

“In the real world, students encounter problems that are complex, not well defined, and lack a clear solution and approach. They need to be able to identify and apply different strategies to solve these problems. However, problem solving skills do not necessarily develop naturally; they need to be explicitly taught in a way that can be transferred across multiple settings and contexts. (Mills & Kim, 2017)”.  I feel that one of the ways that these problem solving skills can be explicitly taught is through children’s literature. Reading books that show examples of characters struggling with problems, “failing”, and then persevering aloud to students and then having class discussions, as well as independent reflection time afterwards, could really help our youngest students gain the understanding of these mindsets that will be important to the success of their digital learning experiences.



Literature Recommendations

Grit, perseverance, growth mindset, and learning to fail are all “buzz words” in classrooms today. And for good reason.  As educators, parents, employers, and member of society we know (or are learning) that these characteristics, values, and attitudes are linked to success in school, career, and life.  We also recognize that often these “skills” are not explicitly taught. One of the reasons is that it is hard to “teach” these values and attitudes. However, literature allows readers to connect to the characters as an “outsider”. And often when we are outside a situation we can more easily see what is happening and learn from the situation. For this reason, teaching social-emotional skills and mindsets through literature is very effective with students. Below are some examples for books to use for primary students. I referenced Good Reads for suggestions, but many of these titles are ones I have used in my own classroom. These are just 10 books, but there are numerous books out there at every reading level and interest area that can be used to teach students skills such as risk-taking, perseverance, and acceptance of failure.

By Andrea Beaty


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires  

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

What Do you Do with a Problem by Kobi Yamada

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Journey by Aaron Becker

Brave Irene by William Steig

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up Again) by Dan Santat


Sources: website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from: website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from:


Kim, H & Mills, K. (2017) “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Kids Get Stuck and Unstuck”. Brookings Institute Blog. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from:


One thought on “Using literature to teach students that taking risks, making mistakes, and persevering are key to success in today’s digital world

  1. Susan, I love the topic you chose to explore and especially your suggestion of using literature to promote the growth mindset that can help students change their perspective on failure. It’s so hard sometimes not to have a response for every problem that may arise in the classroom (tech or otherwise). This post was a great reminder to model my problem-solving process with students and also to let them experiment when they get stuck with technology instead of immediately offering to solve the problem. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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