Everything Is A Draft

Call whatever you are doing, creating, studying, or learning, a draft, a work in progress, or a design cycle. Remind yourself that learning is a process that leads to more learning and improvement, not to perfection.

In the realm of education, we often refer to the process of designing learning experiences as an iterative cycle similar to this.


When we engage in this cycle of instructional design, we find ourselves always in the middle of something. We are engaged in a work in progress. Any part of the cycle, should include constant feedback, discussion, and reflection so that we can learn and improve. Great educators take the time to have conversations about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how they’re doing it, how it’s going, and what’s next.

When we work with students, we want them to apply a similar model. Throughout the model, we want students to reflect on their learning, provide feedback to others, and adjust their actions as they go. We want them to engage in something like this when they work on a project, task, or inquiry.


In the middle of our cycles, we sometimes run into these challenges:

  • We insert some kind of final product or assessment and assume that the cycle ends there
  • We get attached to the idea of a final product or assessment and stop sharing our progress and ideas until it is perfect

As a consequence, our learning slows or stops, and we assume that no one can learn from our partial, unfinished, or imperfect experiences so we don’t share them. Think about all of the missed opportunities for learning! Consider the ways in which development cycles are continuous in the world beyond the classroom, and where the goal is not to be perfect, but to grow and improve. Here are just a few examples:

  • Software and app developers release new versions and iterations of their products (sometimes daily, it seems)
  • Hardware manufacturers create new versions every year (think about the newest ________ you’d like to buy, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, television, game console, washing machine, air conditioner, power tool, etc.)
  • Fashion designers contribute to new trends, building upon each other, changing every season as well as over time (think leggings, skinny ties, and fringe bangs)
  • Car manufacturers release new models every few years
  • Chefs refine their recipes and take inspiration from trends in health, food sourcing, and cultural inspirations
  • Athletes and their coaches constantly develop new training goals, techniques, skills, and strategies
  • Businesses change their focuses, products, approaches, and markets, and develop over time
  • Medical researchers build on partial and ongoing research across their communities

It’s time to rethink what ongoing learning really means. In what ways do final products put an end to a cycle? Should the end of a unit, course, semester, or school year result in the end of a learning cycle? How can sharing your works in progress or unfinished learning experiences help to propel the learning of everyone forward? How can we create a culture that accepts drafts and builds upon them? How can we apply learning from one situation to the next, even when it seems as though the two have nothing in common?

The act of creating and publishing something online (such as this blog post) is a part of my own reflection and learning cycle. It will lead to more. And I’m not afraid to share and gather your feedback. Because this is a draft.

Publish First; Write Second

Today I stumbled upon an excellent collection of PD resources called EDtalks – Educators Talk About Learning. These talks are published by CORE Education, a not-for-profit group based in New Zealand and the UK focused on PD, leadership, innovation, and technology in education.

One of the videos on EDtalks is a 6-minute presentation by David Kinane, called Publishing Student Voice. Take a look:

David advocates for using web 2.0 tools to publish student work before it has reached the state of the ‘final product’. By using technology to share works in progress, students see greater value in their time and efforts, feel accountable and committed because of an authentic audience world-wide, and continue to learn long after a project is finished because they can  re-purpose and re-mix their work and share it with others who will do the same in the future.

Some of the ways in which students benefit from sharing works in progress with an online community are:

  • Sharing with an authentic audience (world-wide, within class, throughout the school, with families and friends, and within  communities).
  • Work is exciting and relevant (and stays that way even with long-term projects), and students feel more committed to keeping up with it to share with their audience.
  • Learning to use the Creative Commons (CC) to share and distribute work. Students can use the work of others to build on their own and then share it again to help others in their learning.
  • Draw on outside resources to build on work throughout the process by gathering ideas, feedback, and suggestions from online resources and users, and by engaging in continuous research over the course of a project.
  • Reflect on work throughout the process using web 2.0 tools as a digital portfolio of the entire learning process. Learn about the process and skills used to tackle a learning challenge, instead of focusing only on the final product (with little reflection).
  • Teachers can monitor student progress and help students throughout the process, yet they will not be the only voice contributing feedback. Instead, they can be one of many voices contributing to the project.
  • Use web 2.0 tools to brainstorm, think, plan, and do ‘brain dumps’ of rough ideas before going back to refine, build, and polish them.

Here are a few suggestions for using Web 2.0 tools to share works in progress. Many of these tools can be integrated together:

  • Individual student blogs for sharing research and reflecting on long-term work. These can be private blogs where students share personal reflections on the class with a selected group of teachers and/or peers, or they can be public blogs where students share their work with a larger online community.
  • Class blogs or course management systems where students can collaborate, share information, research, debate, participate in discussion boards, and ask each other questions.
  • Class wikis or Google Docs can be effective when a class is divided into small groups and each group researches an aspect of a broader theme. The groups share their research on a wiki and then use all of the gathered information to draw conclusions and learn from each other. This is also a great way for students to collaboratively create unit review and exam study resources.
  • Timeline tools where students chart their progress or learning over time. (Check out my review of five timeline tools here).
  • YouTube, Vimeo, and other video publishing services can be used to capture work, student reflections, and a series of events.

What are your thoughts on publishing works in progress? How can professionals and students use this to further learning?