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the 1990s… and it’s something I had to also learn. I became aware of this in 2013 when I was on Sabbatical and had a meeting with a student. It was one of our top students, who wasn’t feeling comfortable with my Sabbatical replacement, and wasn’t able to figure out how to do an assignment that was worth very few marks. The student had failed the assignment because they weren’t able to meet the professor’s expectations. In fact, they hadn’t followed the instructions given. I commented to the student that from my perspective, this was pretty minor. A good lesson learned and a really good teaching moment for them. The student replied “No. You don’t understand. I’ve never failed anything!” I wrote in my notebook at the beginning of my Sabbatical that when I get back, I’m going to “give my students the opportunity to fail.”

JW: Where does giving your students opportunities to fail connect with popular culture and making? DD: I started this approach in my classes when I got back from my Sabbatical. I gave students opportunities to do projects in my own five classes of communication courses. We then initiated this in the whole Communication Studies Program… and called the initiative COM-X – Com for communication and X for experiential learning. Upon return from Sabbatical, I initiated this new program with my colleague June Madeley. We committed to using this framework of teaching 21st century skills in our courses.There always has to be a connection between what the students learn through their studies and the practical skills we also want them to acquire –

theory and context. For us, the link is popular culture. The way we use popular culture in our program is both the context in which we live and as a way for students to find examples. It also gives meaning to the concerns or interests they are addressing. Students bring passion projects to classes. You want to build something because you’re a maker, that’s okay. If you want to explore something that’s outside the class, that’s okay too… or, if you want to volunteer with an organization, you’ll get up to 20 percent of your grade for following through in the course. And, if you don’t follow through, it doesn’t affect your grade. If you fail, and you don’t want to be evaluated on that, that’s fine. If you want to be evaluated on that, you can be. The best example of this for me has nothing to do with making