When I went down to Tucson two weeks ago to hang out with my friend/colleague Shelley Rodrigo (Shelley, you left ODU for UA, get yerself a domain!) part of the trip was to meet some colleagues at a Cyber-Salon hangout.

Shelley invented the one I participated in in Phoenix starting in 2008, later copied by Todd Conaway in Prescott. It’s a simple idea- do professional development outside of the workplace. Someone picks a bar/tavern with open wifi, and an open invite goes out for anyone who wants to come geek out.

Anyhow, one of the people I met in Tucson, Anthony Sovak from Pima Community College, was talking about a PD program he was running with faculty, and he asked me to do a video chat to talk about… something (I think the original idea was something about the virtues of openness).

We did a video chat last week with appear.in. As Anthony was having some video challenges getting his screen recorder to work, it seemed appropriate to what I call the DS106 Tradition of Futzing. This really came out from the days of DS106 Radio, where as a broadcaster you were never sure if the thing was working, if you were on the air, if anyone could hear you.

It’s almost part of the routine.

And I think it’s valuable for teachers dealing with the pressure of “getting technology to work”– there is a lot of concern if things do not work, and that pressure may be what makes many adverse to trying something new.

Perfection is over-rated and boring (I’ve heard, I have never tried it). As a teacher, as a presenter, I almost welcome when technology does not work- because you can (a) demonstrate it’s not the end of the world; (b) that you can fix problems rather than have them shut you down; and (c) you can also show that you can do something without technology (worst case).

This exact thing happened to me one third of the way into a keynote talk last June in Denver. I was trying to play a video, and spotted the pinwheel of death on my MacBookPro, maybe the first time I had seen one on that relatively new machine. With some help from the event host (John was good at jokes), I kept talking as a I restarted, acknowledged the problem, and just kept some banter going. I was ready to ditch the computer all together, but it came back.

I futzed in public.

And they loved it; I could not have planned it better. They appreciated seeing someone who is supposed to be an expert struggle with the technology. Futzing shows you are as human as the audience.

The problem is not technology failing you. The problem is you failing to find a way to continue, to adjust.

Futzing frees you from the expectation of perfection.

I am proudly a futzer.

Here is the archive of our talk. Thanks Anthony

Top / Featured Image: Not expecting much, I tried a Google Image Search (limited to licensed for reuse) on futzing and got some… curious images. I took the first one, a flickr image titled “futzing” psd https://flickr.com/photos/psd/15681656470 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license. I guess PSD was messing around with something.

The post "Me on Futzing" was originally emerged from the primordial ooze and first walked on land at CogDogBlog (https://cogdogblog.com/2016/03/me-on-futzing/) on March 29, 2016.


  • Sandy

    Ha! This is an all too familiar theme, and one we /I addressed at a NEH Institute last summer. Here is the digital story I did on it:

  • Anthony Sovak

    Thanks for posting this follow up Alan! I’ve invited the participants in the PimaOnline Professional Development to head over here and follow up with you. We’ll see if anyone takes me up on that. I appreciate your time!

  • Sandra

    Thanks so much, Alan, for doing this chat with Anthony for our PD class at PimaOnline. I love your emphasis on the authentic audience that blogging and digital storytelling can provide. I agree–students often respond with wonder when they get that first blog comment, and it can be the first time they’ve published any of their writing. I also like your application of futzing as an instructional technology principle. Very cool. A video that has made a huge impact on me–and I show it to all my writing classes, even though the video is on learning math–is at youcubed.org, a math ed. program at Stanford run by Jo Boaler, formerly a UK math instructor. The video (www.youcubed.org/students) talks about brain research and how our synapses grow at two points: 1) When we make a mistake, and 2) When we realize we make a mistake. There’s nothing there about learning the material. The message–“mistakes grow our brains.” So, futzing grows our brains.

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