Why don’t we ask more questions?

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Have you ever set aside 5 minutes to just ask questions? Starting with one question and just writing down all of the questions that come to mind for 5 minutes? Before this week I had never tried it either, but now that I have I think it is a good practice. The picture above is the end result of my 5 minutes of questioning.  I started with a question about inquiry (or questioning), and at the end of 5 minutes, I had created a board of questions that have the potential to dramatically change the way I teach.

Keeping myself focused on writing down questions regularly for 5 minutes was tough. I really struggled at first to think of more questions, but then they started to flow a little more freely. By the end, I was so focused I jumped when the timer went off. I’m a curious person, and I think I ask an average number of questions on a given day. I ask questions of my students to guide them toward answers, or to encourage curiosity, but also to check for their understanding of the current topic. I ask questions of my colleagues. I direct questions at my children when I pick them up from after-school care to inquire about their day, their learning, their plans for the evening. However, in general, I never ask as many questions in a row as I did during this 5-minute exercise.

To prepare for the exercise, I first read a portion of Warren Berger’s “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas.”  In his book he suggests that all of the great “changemakers” have one thing in common, “they were exceptionally good at asking questions” (Berger, p. 1). Questions are powerful because they help us learn, they challenge us to think, and they lead us to new discoveries. It’s human nature to be curious and ask questions, and in childhood, we ask an extraordinary number of questions. That begins to disappear as we age and it’s unclear why. It might be because questioning is such a part of us that we take it for granted. It could also be that we’re taught not to ask questions via our school experiences.

Unfortunately, in our schools and even workplaces, we don’t encourage people to ask questions. In many cases, we actively discourage it. Some teachers discourage questioning because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Others because there isn’t enough time to cover all of the required curricula if they veer off in search of answers. This is unfortunate because “as kids stop questioning, they simultaneously become less engaged in school” (Berger, p 45).

In Berger’s book there is a section heading that says, “Can a school be built on questions?” (p. 50) and in the margin, I have written in big bold letters I WANT TO WORK THERE! It just makes so much sense to encourage our children to ask more questions, not less.  I’m completely hooked on this idea. All of my questions from the 5 minutes were related to structuring my teaching around inquiry. Upfront it seems like a logistical nightmare. There are 24 students per class, and we don’t have the resources (stoves, sinks, mixers, etc.) or the budget to go in 24 different directions. It might mean letting go of some control in the classroom because if the teacher asks all of the questions they hold all the power.  However, it has worked for others so why couldn’t it work in my classroom as well?

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Berger’s book and exploring his website.  My future reading is piling up as I just purchased a book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, founders of the “Right Question Institute,” who were written about by Berger.  I’m sure this will just help me create more questions.

References: 

Berger, Warren. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Copyright and Fair Use

As a teacher, I often use bits and pieces of other peoples written work.  I am not an omniscient being so I draw on the work that others have done to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.  I don’t present their work as my own, I give them credit either by linking to the original work or a bibliography citation. I also require my students to do the same.

Attribution
This is on every recipe students submit in my class. This MUST be completed, or I won’t accept the recipe.

This week I have been refreshing my understanding of media use, and it was a much-needed lesson.  The media available to teachers has changed dramatically over the years.  The first few days of my exploration actually made me a little nervous! Copyright law and the need to attribute work to the correct person was not new. Fair use was a concept that I had heard of and is the doctrine that allows the limited use of copyrighted work.  As long as you are only using a portion of the work for educational, not profitable, endeavors and using it in a transformative way you are probably falling within the fair use doctrine.

It was actually the word “transformative” that got me a little nervous.  It seems so vague! I did extra research on the meaning of transformative as it is used in this instance and you can see my new understanding in the following remix video.

I hope your understanding has been solidified a little by my remix video as well.  I learned a lot this week, and I intend to continue exploring. I added a Creative Commons license to this site, and I want to learn more about finding Creative Commons resources.

References: 

Freestocks (Producer). (ca. 2018). Baking Pastry Bread – Free Stock Creative Commons Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BDGT_ef8qo&list=WL&index=2&t=0s

Freestocks (Producer). (ca. 2019). Herd Of Chicken – Free Stock Creative Commons Video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvCvdb8-b8g&list=WL&index=3&t=0s

Lawlor, Orion (Publisher). (ca. 2011). Slow Motion Water Ripples. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsrUxhaaWks

Music by Max Sergeev from Fugue. Retrieved from https://icons8.com/music/theme–slideshow

So Many Problems

I learned this week that all problems could fit into three categories. There are well-structured problems which have one best answer. There are ill-structured problems which require “flexible access to, and application of highly organized systems of knowledge that must continually shift and evolve”(Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p.4). Finally, there are wicked problems, the issues that never get solved because they contain so many ever-changing variables.

This week I was asked to choose an ill-structured problem from my classroom and suggest a solution.  I finally settled on one that has become a pervasive issue in many of my classes. Teen anxiety is on the rise, and it presents itself in many forms. Teens that are feeling anxiety often experience problems with communication. They freeze up when called upon or have a question to ask the teacher, but the thought of asking in front of the rest of the class silences them. This is the ill-structured problem that anxiety creates. How do we re-open the lines of communication with students who are suffering from anxiety?

I submit Google Chat as a possible solution to this problem.  It is available to all my students and is easy to use on their Chromebooks. This app allows the students to take part in classroom discussions online, which is more comfortable for students experiencing anxiety. They can also use the tool to send a private message to the teacher with any questions so there is no anxiety over what the other students will think.

I see new problems that could arise with its use. It’s going to require more time for the teacher, and it could make the students too comfortable with online communication in place of face to face. As I start this new initiative with my students at least, I know some of the pitfalls.

References used in the video and blog post-

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York, NY: Routledge.

Pierce, Tamyra. Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. (2009). Computers in Human Behavior, 25(6), 1367-1372.

Swick, Susan D., & Jellinek, Michael S. Anxiety in teens. (2018). Family Practice News, 48(3).  Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A531979484/ITOF?u=msu_main&sid=ITOF&xid=02faae6b.

Varley, Christopher K. & Smith, Cindy J. Anxiety Disorder in the Child and Teen. (2003). The Pediatric Clinics of North America. 50(2003), 1107 – 1138.

Is FAILURE really such a bad thing?

I’ve been thinking about failure a lot this week, and strangely enough, it’s not because I have suffered a recent failure in my life.  The reason failure is on my mind is that earlier in the week I was asked to explore the topic and start to change my mindset where failure is concerned. No one likes or enjoys failure, most of us avoid it at all costs, but the more I’ve thought about it this week, the more comfortable I have become with my view of failure.  I honestly don’t think it’s a terrible thing and that was a shocking revelation.

Failure, you see, is just an excuse to try again and do it better the next time. It is a chance to LEARN and grow. In my classroom a failed recipe is never the end of the experience, it is the beginning of the investigation into WHY it failed and how we can make it work the next time. My students aren’t afraid of failing because they know it won’t be penalized. Instead, it will be analyzed for the learning it can provide and the new ideas it might spark. They know this because I’ve shared stories of my own failures with them and how they led to awesome creations, like Stuffed Bagel Balls and Inside Out Apple Fritters.

All this thinking about failure has started a reflection on my teaching as a whole. What does learning look like in my classroom? Does it transfer? What kind of learning do I value? Etc. To clarify all of my thoughts and how they interrelate I created the following infographic…

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In the infographic, you see that something called constructionism is at the center of how I try to teach. Constructionism is an educational philosophy that is “based on the principle that meaningful learning occurs when individuals actively construct a meaningful product in the real world (Rob & Rob, 2018, p. 5). ” According to Rob & Rob constructionism can be summarized as students using past knowledge to construct new knowledge by collaborating and sharing with others to make meaningful real-world products. In my classroom, this comes to life. My students are always working together and what could be more “real-world” than the food that they are preparing?

My favorite class to teach is Advanced Baking because it is taught with a truly constructionist approach.  We run a Bake Shop, and the students are tasked with creating new items for the menu.  The process starts with brainstorming and dreaming of creative baked goods. Then students do research to figure out the best way to make it become a reality.  They become makers in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes over and over until they get it perfect.  Each failure is a chance to make it better next time around.  When they have it perfected, the item is added to the menu and sold to our customers.

Transfer of knowledge is critical to this learning model.  “The ability to apply what you have learned in one situation to another, connected situation” is the definition of transfer (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 53). Students must be able to use their existing knowledge in new situations to make creation possible. Problem-based learning, such as the Advanced Baking class, encourages transfer.

You may have noticed that I described the students as “Makers.”  Maker culture has become very popular because it allows people to use technology to create and then share their creations with the rest of the world. While I was reading this week, I noticed quite a few parallels between maker culture and my classroom.  In their journal article Cohen, Jones, Smith & Calandra(2016, p 223) note 4 “Principles of Makification.”  They say that it involves creation, iteration, sharing, and autonomy.  Those are all part of the Advanced Baking class described above.

In the end, after thinking about this all week, I think it comes down to giving students a good base of knowledge and then allowing students the autonomy they need to be makers in the classroom so they can actively transfer their knowledge to new situations and learn through failure (iterations) so in the end they create knowledge. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their own learning.

References:

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Cohen, J., Jones, W. M., Smith, S., & Calandra, B. (2017). Makification: Towards a framework for leveraging the maker movement in formal education. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia26(3), 217-229.

Rob, M., & Rob, F. (2018). Dilemma between constructivism and constructionism: Leading to the development of a teaching-learning framework for student engagement and learning. Journal of International Education in Business11(2), 273-290.

Finally, a place to sit and rest.

Over the past few weeks, I have written a few blog posts about a Networked Learning Project (NLP) that was assigned in my grad class. The project challenged each person in the class to choose one thing we had always wanted to learn to do.  I decided on a goal of reseating an old wooden kitchen chair.  The exciting thing about this project was that we could only use online sources to learn the skills needed to complete it.  We were not allowed to ask another person in our life to help us, but we could ask folks on Twitter or Facebook for assistance.

I have been able to complete not one but two seats during this project!  The first taught me a lot of lessons, but my learning is not over.  I continue to learn more about the process with each seat I weave.  This puts me halfway through my set of 4 chairs, and I’m sure I will learn new tricks with each remaining chair. I’m really enjoying this and see it continuing into the future as a hobby.

 

Pictures of the first completed chair! So exciting!

I created the following video to give you a better understanding of my project goals, the sources I used for my learning, as well as the lessons I learned.

During the process of weaving these chair seats, I learned a lot about weaving and working with paracord.  One lesson is that paracord is very strong and if I pull it too tight when I am wrapping it is possible that the wooden rungs of the chair won’t be able to hold up against the pressure and they may break. To avoid this, I wrapped the paracord with a little slack so it would have some “give” when someone sits on it. I also learned that it’s important to pay attention to what you are doing when weaving.  I allowed myself to get distracted during the first chair seat and I messed up the weaving.  The process of undoing that work and reweaving it was frustrating.

The project was a great way to learn some of the lessons from class in a real-life setting.  For instance, at the beginning of this course, we started by reading and talking about learning, transfer, and expert knowledge. In that reading, we learned that people construct new knowledge and understandings based on what they already know and believe and the preconceptions that they approach learning with must be addressed for them to change their beliefs (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 10).  This was painfully obvious when I tried to tie a knot with paracord.  I was confident that I already knew how to do it and had to experience failure before I was ready to learn a new method.

This project also helped me to understand 21st-century learning in a much more personal way.   We learned from our explorations that 21st Century Learning is learner-driven, requires communication and collaboration, encourages a global scope, is adaptable, and encourages problem-solving (Rich, 2010).  While finishing these chairs, I was required to guide my own learning by using the global world of the internet and communicating with others via Twitter when I ran into problems.  I had to adapt the information to my own situation and solve problems as they arose.

Overall, I think this was a worthwhile project, and I see the benefits of this type of learning.  It is useful that while learning from online sources, you can do it in your own timeframe. I also like that there are so many sources of help when you get stuck in the middle of the project.  With this type of learning, support is often just a tweet away.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my other blog posts on this topic, you should check them out. In the first blog post entitled, “Have a seat?” I introduced the project and described my goal.  It was followed by a second blog post, “Tying a knot is…hard!” in which I described the trials I had met along my journey.

References

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853

Rich, E. (2010). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. [online] Edweek.org. Available at: https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019].

Note:  All photos and videos are the work of the author.

21st Century Lesson Planning

21st-century learning is a term that identifies skills and practices that are most important in the 21st-century classroom.  It identifies past practices that are no longer relevant to the classroom and should be updated or entirely left behind. “The term “21st-century skills” is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world”(Rich, 2010).

While it is great to identify these skills and practices, surely it would be even better to apply what we’ve learned to our planning and our classrooms. This week I’ve begun the process of bringing the 21st-century skills into my classroom.

To begin, I chose a lesson that has been part of my Baking curriculum for quite some time.  The experience is about the most common categories of baking ingredients and the purpose they have in recipes.  It is only by really understanding this information that students are able to start making changes to recipes to make them healthier and friendlier to those who suffer from food allergies.

In this new version of the lesson, I have included more chances for the students to work together in small groups and larger ones.  The Chromebooks are used for research as well as creation. The biggest challenge in planning this lesson was deciding how technology fit best in the plan.  I decided on using an application called Popplet so students can create a web with the information they find. Critical thinking and problem-solving are incorporated in the lesson so that students aren’t just learning information but USING it. All of the changes are supported by 21st Century learning.

This is just the first step on a long path, and I’m looking forward to the journey!

References:

Rich, E. (2010). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. [online] Edweek.org. Available at: https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019]

 

Tying a knot is…hard!

Last time I chatted about my chair project I was awaiting the arrival of my paracord.  Once the paracord arrived, I got started wrapping it front to back on the chair frame.  About two inches in I realized the side rungs were at a bit of an angle so I would have to work in gaps on each side. I unwrapped the paracord and started again with better results.

Then my piece of paracord ran out, and I needed to start a new piece.  A traditional knot just won’t hold it together because the paracord is too slippery.  I watched a few Youtube videos and found @gkparacorduk on Twitter to help me learn to tie a better knot. I practiced the techniques shown in the videos, and after a few tries, I got a knot that seems like it will hold up for a while.
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I finished wrapping the paracord left to right across the chair taking great care to start leaving gaps at the right time on the right to match the left side.  I finished up by weaving the first cross row. I’m very excited to see the progress and can’t wait to get back to it and finish the weaving.2019-02-06_21-29-00_876

I was thinking about what we learned in the first week of my grad class while I was working.  We learned in our reading that, “Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000, p. 31). I am not near an expert level at this stage, but I have hope to get there by the time I finish the fourth chair.

References

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from    https://www.nap.edu/read/9853

Oh, how education has changed…

It was 1995, and I was in my senior year of high school. In Government class, we listened as the teacher talked about the topic of the day and took notes from the chalkboard.  Then to Calculus where the teacher instructed us and then watched as volunteers showed their work on the board. Communication was one way, and group projects were considered a way for students to cheat. Digital technology was rarely available, and the internet didn’t exist in our rural district.

Fast forward to this week in my classroom.  As new students arrived in my class, I used technology to greet them and explain the course.  We moved on to a group activity to get the collaborative spirit of the class initiated. As everyone talked and shared ideas, the classroom buzzed. I moved around the room facilitating, but not leading, the conversation.  Then the students completed a Google Form to introduce themselves so the class recipes and activities can be purposefully planned.

I’ve been exploring 21st Century Learning, and it has encouraged a lot of comparisons between my learning 24+ years ago and now.  “The term “21st-century skills” is generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world”(Rich, 2010). After really ruminating on what it means and how it appears in my classroom I created the following presentation to show my understanding.

Of course, there are also a lot of ways that I need to improve the use of 21st Century Learning.  The idea that learning should have context and have applications outside of the classroom (Nichols, 2017) stands out as a starting point.   I see a lot of 21st Century improvements happening in my future.

References: 

Nichols, J. (2017). 4 Essential Rules Of 21st Century Learning. [online] TeachThought. Available at: https://www.teachthought.com/learning/4-essential-rules-of-21st-century-learning/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

Rich, E. (2010). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. [online] Edweek.org. Available at: https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019]

My 1st Twitter Chat

In my recent blog post (Is it the WHAT or the HOW that matters most?)  I introduced TPACK. The creators of TPACK feel that teachers need to plan lessons from the sweet spot where technological, pedagogical and content knowledge overlap.  In their work, Mishra & Koehler (2009, p. 16) encourage teachers to repurpose technologies to make them more useful for our content and pedagogical needs. Most technologies at our disposal in the classroom were not developed with education in mind.  One such technology is Twitter.

As a social media platform, it can be an excellent way for people, including students, to stay connected. One exciting way that I have interacted on Twitter was through a Twitter Chat.  I joined the #TeacherMyth chat which I found on the schedule of education-related Twitter chats. The experience went mostly like this…

Step 1: Choose a chat experience and join in by introducing yourself.

 

Step 2:  Pay attention to the instructions they give.

Twitter Chat Instructions from Mod

Step 3: Each question is posted individually with time in between for conversation to happen.

Twitter Chat Q1

Step 4:  Take part in the conversation when you feel comfortable.  Start by answering the questions but then consider replying to other peoples answers too.

Twitter Chat Response to a response

I enjoyed the twitter chat but was overly nervous about how my responses would be received.  It was exhilarating when my post got liked and even retweeted!

Twitter Chat Retweet

Ever since the twitter chat I’ve been considering how this platform can be repurposed for my use in the future.  This quote keeps popping into my head, “Teachers need to develop a willingness to play with technologies and an openness to building new experiences for students so that fun, cool tools can be educational” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009, p. 18). I’m consciously open to the ways I can repurpose this tool in my classroom.

References:

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2009, May). Learning and Leading with Technology. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ839143.pdf

 

 

Have a seat?

A few summers back I happened to drive by a sign that claimed to have old wooden chairs in need of new seats at bargain prices. I bought six chairs, the seats broken out of them all. Precisely what I had been looking for…but didn’t need!  It’s been two years, and all I’ve done is paint the chairs.

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With my new grad course, I finally got the motivation to start working on the seats.  A Networked Learning Project (NLP) was assigned in class. We were asked to choose something we had always wanted to do and then only use resources from the internet to learn how to do it. Perfect, I’ll learn how to reseat an old chair!

I’ve spent loads of time online this week looking for inspiration and instruction.  I saw traditional rush and splint woven seats, but that’s been done and seemed bland.  What I was looking for was color.  After a few hours of research, I finally happened across a website that showed seats that were colorful, unique, and attractive. “Weave Chair Seats With Paracord” on instructibles.com shows precisely how to weave a new seat on an old chair using paracord. A quick search online helped me find paracord in every color imaginable, which I immediately ordered.

This won’t be my first time weaving. I wove a basket as a teenager, so it is possible that I’ll have enough knowledge to transfer to the present challenge of creating a seat.  I remember the first week of class that “some kinds of learning experiences result in effective memory but poor transfer; others produce effective memory plus positive transfer” (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 51).  The coming weeks will show what kind of learning took place for me.

References

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from    https://www.nap.edu/read/9853

Kentdvm. “Weave Chair Seats With Paracord.” Instructables.com, Instructables, 1 Oct. 2017, http://www.instructables.com/id/Weave-Chair-Seats-With-Paracord/.

Note:  All images are the property of the author