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Tag: creativity

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Tips to be Creative

I’ve been rethinking learning and see how innovations can happen. I love books and see the potential for eBooks. That is, until I learned about Richard Mason’s book History of a Pleasure Seeker. Mason is a prolific author who writes his original manuscripts by hand in a journal the size of an iPad. When he saw the iPad, he visualized how his book could come to life — not just an eBook or iBook. It took two years, but this is the way I wanted books to be. One reviewer wrote:

“The History of a Pleasure Seeker app is exactly what a book app should be! You can read or listen to the book (or both at the same time) and enjoy the little extras (extremely well produced extras, I might add) without having to put the book down.”

He included ways for his readers to ask him questions, paragraphs can be read to you, you can visualize text, and more. Mason is a writer and changed the way he saw how his words could be represented to his readers.

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

Anyone can be creative because we all possess mental processes that include decision making, language, and memory. Richard Mason is a creative writer, but anyone can change how they see the written word. I am doing research on cognitive science and neuroplasticity. You can change your brain. All we have to do to boost our creative potential is to break down the established ways we view and interact with the world. Allowing yourself to see things differently encourages creativity and looking for ways to be innovative.

  1. Creativity is a Way of LifeObserve: When you are trying to come up with a new project or idea, study how others do something similar and the problems they might be having.
  2. Become an Expert: Focus on something you are interested in and learn as much as you can. Then share what you find.
  3. Step out of your Comfort Zone: Do something outside of the ordinary for you. Sign up for a class doing something you always wanted to do, read a different type of book than you are used to reading, learn a new language, go on a trip to somewhere you never thought you would go to. New experiences change your brain and might open up ideas you never thought of before.
  4. Be Willing to Work Alone: Sometimes working in a group and brainstorming stops the creative process. If you focus on your ideas and play with them, you just might come up with something yourself. Then share it.
  5. Play and Have Fun: Balance in your life is good for you. If you only work all the time, you will start resenting what you are doing. If you stop and play, you can come back refreshed and maybe have new ideas to work on.
  6. Daydream: It is amazing how the mind works. It doesn’t stop even when you sleep. Take a nap in the middle of the day. Pause and reflect on what you have been doing. Then imagine things that are just almost impossible.
  7. Reflect: Keep a journal or write a blog. You never know what ideas come to you as you start reflecting on your thinking. Then share your ideas in social media. It might be interesting to see if any of your ideas are retweeted.
  8. Share your Ideas: If you come up with something novel, share it. Find others who will give you constructive feedback. They may give you ideas that go in a completely different direction that will make your ideas even better. You may get ideas that will not help you at all but confirm the direction you are going.
  9. Challenge Yourself: Sometimes you are onto something and just keep doing it because you started it. Stop! See if this direction is going to work. Maybe you need to stop and start a new project or idea and put that other idea to rest for a little to come back to later.
  10. Express Yourself: Take a break to sing a song, dance a dance, or draw a picture. If that doesn’t get you going, then just get up and move. Go for a walk. Your brain works best if you move and stimulate both sides of your brain.

 

These are my adaptations of tips shared in Scientific American Mind July/August 2012 and added a few of my own. I believe that anyone can change their brain and think in new ways. They can learn in new ways if they open their minds and just imagine things in different ways.

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Didn't we do this already?

It’s Sunday and a great time to reflect on the last week. All I can say is that it was a whirlwind. Working 12-14 hours every day on Race to the Top proposals, refining our process, talking to different groups about what is and what isn’t personalized learning. The talk always goes back to technology.

It’s not about the technology. It’s about the philosophy you embrace around personalizing learning.

If it’s all about the learner and starting with them, then everything about teaching and learning changes. Technology supports personalizing learning but should not be the focus.

Just putting technology in teachers’ and learners’ hands doesn’t mean they know how to personalize learning. I remember the early days of technology in schools. I believe the late 80s and early 90s, schools built labs called CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction) such as Computer Curriculum Corporation, Success Maker and others.

Old Computer LabAs a technology consultant during those times, I was asked to help build those labs. Most of these labs were built in high poverty schools in rooms that weren’t made for computers. Even the electricity in some of these older buildings couldn’t handle the capacity. They would string together extension cords from other classrooms and hold them in place with duct tape. In some rooms, we had to step over the cord that was 2 feet high. There were some rooms where they moved the computers next to the heaters. Actually, that didn’t matter, because the heaters didn’t work. I needed the work at that time, and that’s where all the money was going. One lab with 50 computers and the software took all the technology budget. There was no money left for training. Only enough to train a paraprofessional who managed the lab. There was no integration with any curriculum in the classrooms.

I observed these labs. Kids loved them in the beginning because it was new, interactive, and included games. They loved the idea of playing in school. The paraprofessionals collected the data and shared with the administration. Scores were going up. The kids rotated through the lab once or twice a week.

But after about six months, kids started talking about how boring it was. One third grade told me that it didn’t matter how he answered the questions so he just hit any key to make it go to the next screen. Scores were at a plateau then dropping. Dropping all over. All the labs. Everywhere. Few years later, the labs were changed. They took off the headphones and brought in technology teachers. Teachers with credentials. Only issue I saw was that they were prep teachers. This meant that there tended to be very little integration of what was happening in the classroom to what was happening in the labs. I know so many of these fantastic computer teachers who did amazing projects. When I was asked to come in, work with the computer teachers, and help integrate technology into the classrooms. Classroom teachers were so busy teaching the curriculum that they didn’t have time or the energy to take the work in the lab and connect it to the classroom. So once again, the work in the labs stood alone and was mostly focused on building isolated technology skills. But there were some amazing computer teachers and librarians who found ways to integrate the skills with projects happening in the classroom.

So now fast forward to today and learning labs to support blended learning rotations. The labs look similar to the CAI of the past and, yes, the scores are improving.

Rocketship Education

But the real learning that is needed seems to be lost. In some of these environments, the student to teacher ratio has increased because the computers “individualize” the student’s learning and they don’t need as many teachers. Maybe that’s how or why schools are looking at this solution — to save money. Based on algorithms and data, teachers keep track of performance and work with individual students to respond to intervention — to increase scores based on standardized tests. This may sound good to some people, however, to prepare our children for the global workforce, they need different skills then they acquire sitting in front of computers like this. It just cannot be about the scores.

The skills needed for today’s jobs include:

  • collaboration and teamwork
  • problem-solving
  • critical-thinking
  • creativity and innovative thinking
  • choosing and using the appropriate resources for a task
  • building a network of learners locally and globally
  • learning how to learn, unlearn, and relearn

 

Computer labs like the ones some schools are building to blend learning are fitting learning into strict schedules: 20 minutes at one station then move to another station. Real learning doesn’t work that way. We did this already, and it didn’t work. Now we have mobile technology and learning can happen anytime anywhere. Let’s rethink this strategy before we invest millions again into set labs with desktop computers that are just trying to increase scores and use curriculum that adapts to their performance based on algorithms instead of how they learn best.

Personalizing learning needs to be social. It starts with the learner not the technology. Real learning encourages play, creativity, experimenting, taking risks. Learning is supposed to challenge the learner and that cannot happen if they don’t have a stake in it. Learners have a stake in their learning if they have a voice in their learning and are motivated and engaged in the learning. Learners just cannot own and drive their learning when they sit in front of a computer with headphones on clicking through adaptive activities that keep track of their keystrokes.

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Get over it! It's already 2012

How long do we have to be in the 21st century to say we are 21st century teachers? 

Everything has changed because of the Internet. Schools are going wireless, using interactive whiteboards, flipping the classroom, putting in 1:1 solutions — some are even BYOD (Bringing Your Own Device). I see exciting technology yet rarely see innovative teaching and learning. I don’t mean to be harsh here, but  I read Med Karbach’s What Does It Take to be a 21st Century Teacher? and thought I need to write something. It’s all about a culture shift. It’s not just the technology. It’s a mindset.

There are lots of great teachers that don’t use technology. They motivate their students. Students are engaged and love being in their class. Karbach included this image:

To Be

This image says it all to me. It is all about each learner and their own learning potential. Do we tap into it? Teachers mostly teach the way they have been taught. To move to a more collaborative learning environment involves all stakeholders. One teacher in a school can move desks around, have students create learning plans, but this is a whole culture shift that needs to happen.

I am invited to facilitate change at schools all over. Observing teachers, I notice a desperation. They tell me that they want to make a difference; they want to use the technology; but…

Here’s the buts:

  • I have to cover the curriculum.
  • There is such a diverse group in my class.
  • It is so much work to design projects for all my students.
  • Group work is a pain to set up and assess how each student is learning.
  • I’m told to differentiate all my lessons which now takes even longer.
  • My class size was increased by 10 more children.
  • I am so tired each night grading papers, there’s no time left for me.
  • I am spending more time creating video lectures to flip everything.
  • paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.
  • The parents are so demanding that I have to put up homework every night.

 

Do any of these concerns sound like you and your situation?

 

I have an idea. Let’s flip learning. Your students have been 21st century learners most of their lives. They know how to use all of the technology. If they don’t, they figure it out. Why not make them more responsible for their learning? What if…

  • your students create the videos about the content to flip the classroom. Check out Mathtrain.tv where Eric Marcos realized that students learn best from other students.
  • involve your students in lesson design. Be partners in unpacking the standards and designing activities. Children today are very resilient and smart if we give them the chance. Check out this post from Kathleen McClaskey and myself on Personal Learner Profiles and the Common Core.
  • See Think WonderAsk your students to brainstorm and prioritize questions about the topic. This post on Making Just One Change where I interviewed Sara Armstrong helped me understand the importance of inquiry.  Michael Wesch encourages his university students to wonder. Dave Truss shared the opening of their new school The Inquiry Hub where students “learn without boundaries.”
  • Imagine your students building lessons with you as partners in learning.

 

Maybe it’s a matter of letting go and trusting that your students can learn — want to learn. I have a difficult time sitting in a lecture hall myself. When I go to a conference and listen to a great lecture, I learn. But I learn more when I am more involved in the learning process. Sharing. Curating. Discussing. Even arguing a point.

So maybe we need to rethink what a 21st century teacher is. It’s a culture shift. Maybe that teacher is a…
  • partner in learning with their students.
  • facilitator who guides the learning process.
  • an advocate for each learner who has strengths and weaknesses, passions, interests, and aspirations to be whatever they can be.
  • person who realizes they can never know everything so learns to unlearn and learn again.

 

How about some innovative strategies for professional development? Like having students teach teachers how to use the technology. Maybe include students in professional development so you hear their point of view. If this is a culture shift, can one teacher do this alone? I still believe it takes a village idea. We need to involve all stakeholders including the parents. But if you want to make a difference now.. start involving your students — one lesson at a time. Let’s see what happens and share back. Let me know.

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Read Around the World á la Francais

“I think I’m like many teachers: most of us feel like we haven’t yet arrived where we want to be in terms of what we’re doing with students. I have so much further to go and I really want to do more work that infuses rigor and relevance in the curriculum and connects my students to both their communities and the French-speaking community.”    Nicole Naditz

My search for student-centered learning environments led me to Nicole Naditz who teaches French at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks near Sacramento, California. Our conversation first started about flipping the classroom. She wrote me:

“I’m still a novice in terms of fully turning over my curriculum to the students, but I’m always striving to work more in that direction. In the meantime, I work hard to ensure that what their learning is put to meaningful use, is rigorous and engages them with the French-speaking community beyond our school.
For the online projects with other countries, I have typically designed them in cooperation with the other teacher, although my students always have significant input. I tell the students to write a book encouraging children to eat healthfully. After that, they are free to create. The best books are sent to France or Belgium to be put in the waiting rooms of children’s areas of hospitals or dentists.

That’s when I knew Nicole was moving into the student-centered world even if she didn’t realize it. Email after email, I received specific projects from Nicole.

 

Preparing for Collaboration with Burkina Faso 
Burkina FasoFor their work with Burkina Faso (the village has no input), Nicole had an idea called ‘Through their Eyes’ about students in both California and the village in Burkina exchanging pictures of how they see their world and lives. Burkina Faso, in West Africa surrounded by six countries, was occupied by France up to 1960. It is currently a member of the African Union and La Francophonie.

 

The students ran with it from there, taking the pictures, explaining them in French, creating the photo album and selecting other items to send to the students and school along with their pictures. In the box with the photos, they also included some student work from French 3 (student-created “magazine” about French-speaking comic-book characters) and disposable cameras for them to use for their pictures. The students also wanted to send hot chocolate since no one in the village has ever tasted it except for the volunteer. French 4/AP is now matched with a new Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso. The village where she works does not have Internet (or any electricity) but she can access Internet when she goes into town. One day, while she was in town, we decided to go onto Ustream and introduce ourselves to her. We recorded it and sent her the link because it wasn’t possible for her to watch live. http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17872769.

 

Nicole’s students haven’t yet received their cameras back to get their pictures. This is a very slow process without Internet!!!

 

Student-Created Museums
Two student-created museums were done by  classes at the Alliance Française de Sacramento. Hosting the museum at the Alliance guarantees they will get at least some other French speakers for whom to present instead of just presenting to the teacher in class. Nicole believes it is extremely important that students do work for an audience greater and more relevant than just for the teacher! http://studentmuseums.wikispaces.com/Le%C3%A7ons - Picture of student explaining show to guests.
at the Alliance Française de Sacramento of a student explaining her exhibit to a guest

 

African Tales by Solar Light
This was a community event held in cooperation with the local public library as a celebration of solar power before they sent the grant-funded lanterns to a village in Senegal so the families could stop using kerosene to light their huts and the students in the village could do homework and study after dark–students did all the research about solar energy to pick the lanterns and they designed a Web site about their findings.
African Tales by Solar light

 

The lanterns were funded by a grant from the local utility, SMUD (Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District). The students did such a good job researching solar lanterns to purchase with the grant money that they were able to get twice as many as were needed for the Village, so the class donated another 100 lanterns to the local Red Cross for use during emergencies when there is no electricity. http://burkinasolarproject.wikispaces.com/

 

“Une Nuit à Paris”
Her students are designing a community event celebrating francophone cultures. This will take place at the end of May or beginning of June this year. They chose the theme “Une Nuit à Paris”, how they want to divide up the space (multipurpose room) with exhibits, entertainment, food, etc., and they will be the ones preparing all of the exhibits and food, and presenting all of the entertainment. They will also be the ones hosting the event and speaking with the guests in both French and English (because the audience will have both). This will feature food samplings, student work–possibly including books they wrote and published on Storybird (the class may pay to have them actually printed and bound for the class to share), entertainment by the students, and a few museum-style exhibits on topics of interest to the students.

 

UStream
Earlier this year, French 4/AP created their own inventions and presented them on Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/voil%C3%A0-le-fran%C3%A7ais This was very informal. It was a basic homework assignment rather than a “project”. It went with the AP theme of science and technology. We were studying the role and responsibilities of scientists and inventors.

 

Interview and shot of live stream

 

French 2 was given free reign to show off what they could do at the end of the first semester. Here is a clip: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/17835286

 

Nicole’s class web site is http://www.sanjuan.edu/webpages/nnaditz. At the top are “links” and within that page are some of the tutorials. Her blog is http://3rs4teachers.wordpress.com And she’s working on a new Web site featuring primarily google tools for education but it may expand beyond that: http://sites.google.com/site/classinthecloud.

 

Nicole NaditzNicole has taught French to grades 3 through 12, including AP French Language since 1993. Nicole is very active in professional organizations. A recipient of numerous awards, including the 2010 Jane Ortner Educating through Music Award, she serves as webmaster and advocacy chair on the FLAGS board. She also serves on the Leadership Team of the Capital Foreign Language Project and she served on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages interview committees for the first National Foreign Language Teacher of the Year in 2005 and for the Florence Steiner Leadership in K-12 Education Award in 2007. Nicole was invited to join the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Subject Matter Advisory Panel for Languages Other than English in 2004. She is the founder of the Read Around the World Program and organizes additional opportunities for students to experience languages and cultures outside of the classroom.

 

Nicole has presented on a variety of topics at local and state workshops since 1999 and has received several grants for study in France and Canada. She was named an Outstanding Teacher by both the Foreign Language Association of Greater Sacramento and the California Language Teachers’ Association and was a finalist for the California League of High Schools Educator of the Year in Region 3. In addition, Nicole achieved National Board Certification in 2003 and earned her M.Ed in 2006. In 2012, she was named San Juan USD Teacher of the Year, Sacramento County Teacher of the Year and was one of 12 finalists for California State Teacher of the Year. That same year, she also became a Google Certified Teacher.

 

She has been a member of the FLAGS board since 2001. In her spare time, she enjoys figure skating, calligraphy, singing, crocheting, musical theater and travel. 

_____

 

Can you see why I wanted to share Nicole’s personal journey?

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Free Report Explaining the Chart on Personalization

The chart on Personalization vs Differentiation vs Individualization that Kathleen McClaskey and I created has brought an enormous interest from people and organizations around the world. We also have received lots of requests for copies of the chart along with thousands of hits. So what we did was create a place to download the chart.

Now that the chart is all over, we have been getting lots of questions and requests for more information. We created a report explaining the elements of the chart in more detail and added it to the download.

Click here to learn more and download your free chart and the report

We would appreciate feedback on the report and please share with the people in your network!
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The Artist within Builds the New GroupThink

GroupThinkCollaboration is in, but it may not be conducive to creativity according to this opinion piece on the New York Times. The author, Susan Cain, states that solitude produces innovation and brainstorming sessions are the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity.

The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

The reason why this author states that brainstorming fials is that people in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure.

Then the author talks about electronic brainstorming and communication. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

So the new GroupThink takes individual artists and thinkers to share what they know and are learning. This is a good point but I believe that being in a room collaborating on an idea is not all bad.

You need a good facilitator for group work be it with teachers or learners. I also see how easy it is to turn a point with electronic brainstorming. There are individuals who alone can be very loud on the Internet. Cain ends her article with “Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time.”

Cain’s opinion made me think about personalized learning and why the world is moving to individuals on the other side of laptops and mobile devices are making a difference in how we learn now. Some of the loudest individuals on the Internet sit in their living rooms or at Starbucks all by themselves tweeting, blogging, curating, and doing so-called collaborating online. It’s whoever has the loudest voice, the most Twitter followers, the most hits on a post that makes a difference now.

I see that each person can be an artist, inventor, and “out of box” thinker if they are given opportunities to work alone, brainstorm with others, and connect with the world online. Personalized learning is all about the learner — starting with the learner — and designing an environment that is conducive to them becoming the artist, the inventor, the writer, or whatever they are so they blossom and grow into who they are supposed to be.

Image by Andy Rementer from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/opinion/sunday/the-rise-of-the-new-groupthink.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

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18 Predictions for Educational Trends in 2012

Something is happening in education. Do you see it? Education is changing. Textbook companies realized they have to change. Everything is going digital. Many online courses are now open and free. Educating children is different than it was a few years ago. But what does that mean for schools and teaching? Learners are different. Learners are demanding to learn when they want to learn wherever they are and in anyway that works for them. They use new tools that are not allowed in most classrooms. They do it anyway. They are dropping out of school or taking classes online. Parents are looking for alternatives. Learning matters!

Maybe you noticed that students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own…that is, mostly outside of school. They need to know something so they google it or ask others. The teacher is no longer the only expert in the class. Teachers have less professional development or access to resources so they are trying to figure things out and still teach to the test. That part has to change. Teachers may not want to change because they only know what they were taught — to be the expert in the class. They are being evaluated by test scores so the pressure is on them. But, even with that, teachers are asking other teachers for help in the next classroom, going online or figuring out things on their own. Some teachers are realizing that their students have the expertise they need especially when it comes to technology. As a coach working with teachers I realized that I had to see how and why everything was changing. I cannot assume that professional development, curriculum design, and instruction will be the same so I had to rethink my coaching and how I support teachers and schools.

2012 Predictions

In doing this, I thought I’d make several predictions on what education could look like and what I’d like to see in 2012:

  1. Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.

  2. Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.
  3. Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.
  4. Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it’s not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.
  5. Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or “guide on the side” instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.
  6. Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.
  7. More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.
  8. The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.
  9. Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.
  10. Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.
  11. Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.
  12. Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.
  13. Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.
  14. Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.
  15. Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.
  16. Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner’s learning team.
  17. Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.
  18. Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.

    These predictions may seem like dreams to you, but I really believe they can happen. It is all about our children — right? We need to teach less so everyone can learn more.

6

Being in the Flow

When I think about engaging students, I think about Flow. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.

In 1997, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi published this graph that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Flow -- Engaging Students

Graph of Flow from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29

The center of this graph (where the sectors meet) represents one’s average levels of challenge and skill. The further from the center an experience is, the greater the intensity of that state of being (whether it is flow or anxiety or boredom or relaxation). Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills.

Kindergarteners spend more time learning how to take a test than learning how to socialize. Watch children play and challenge themselves. You can see how they are engaged. Play and learning needs to go hand-in-hand. If play is purposeful and challenges the learner, any learner of any age will want to learn.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Conditions of FLOW

Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi identified ten factors one may experience with FLOW:

    • Clear goals and expectations

    • Deep concentration
    • A loss of the feeling of self-consciousness
    • Distorted sense of time
    • Direct and immediate feedback
    • Balance between ability level and challenge
    • A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
    • Intrinsically rewarding activity
    • A lack of awareness of bodily needs
    • Absorbed and focused only on activity

How are you experiencing FLOW?

Think about an activity that gets you excited and are passionate about. If you love mountain biking, you probably cannot wait for that time to jump on your bike and take off. If you are working on a project that you are really interested in, you might work right through your lunch and not even know it. If you are part of a team and are valued, it makes you feel important. If the project you are working on is something you want to do or want to learn, then you spend even more time on it than you would in a traditional classroom setting.

How are your students experiencing FLOW in the classroom? Are they? If so, when?

I am a coach. I work with teachers to facilitate moving teaching and learning to student-centered classrooms. This isn’t easy for teachers especially with everything else on their plates. When teachers develop an activity that is student-centered and their students drive and own their learning, the environment changes. The noise level in the classroom gets louder. For some teachers this is bothersome, but that’s just because they are not used to it.

I call it controlled chaos and purposeful play. There’s a buzz going on in the room. When students are working in groups and fully engaged, they enjoy working as a team. Especially if each member of that team has a role and is valued in that role. I’ve seen middle school classrooms change from a group of at-risk students who are not interested in anything to learners who are excited about learning. I’ve seen them stay during lunch or after school to continue to work on projects. Now that’s FLOW!

You can see FLOW happen when students are working in groups or doing individual work. FLOW is personal. Learning needs to be personal. It really is all about the learner.

8

Creativity, Failure and Learning

Science 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills include three areas of creativity:

  • Think creatively.
  • Work creatively with others.
  • Implement innovations.

The elements for these skills include:

View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.

Traditional school doesn’t allow for people to take risks and fail. Glenn Wiebe wrote in Are You an Under-taker or a Risk-Taker?

“One of the reasons that we as teachers don’t take risks is our fear of failure. We’re afraid that our state tests scores won’t be good enough or that we’ll look silly in front of kids or that the technology won’t work or that we’ll get calls from parents or…

But we also know that failure is often a prerequisite to success. Teachers take risks because they understand that screwing up is not necessarily a bad thing. Risk-taking involves possible failure. If it didn’t, it would be called Sure Thing-taking.”

Standardized TestNothing in life is a sure thing-taking. That is except the answers on a standardized test. Life is not a standardized test or we would have everything labelled A, B, C, or D. Today is so different than yesterday. Look at the economy. Who knows what’s going to happen with the stockmarket? Look at jobs and unemployment. What type of jobs will be available for us in the future? Many jobs we used to offer are no longer an option. Because of that higher ed is changing or needs to change. So why am I talking about failure?

For hundreds of years, people were preparing for factory jobs. That’s why schools were set up in that model. They needed to know how to follow orders and not question. Failure was NOT an option. Candidates for most jobs now need critical thinking skills and to stand out of the crowd. They need to be remarkable. The only way you can be different is to take risks, fail, and come up with new ideas. You also need to build up a network of people you can ask because the world is changing so fast. You won’t find the answer in a book. You may not even find the answer online. You will need to know how to collaborate and work together as a team. Each of the team members will bounce ideas off of the other members of the team; some ideas work, some don’t. You learn from things that don’t work.

Thomas Edison with Light Bulb

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

We want our kids to be inventors, thinkers, team players, and innovators. The only way to do that is to create a learning environment that encourages failure or new ways that won’t work. I believe the secret to success is failure. We need to create an environment that challenges students so they struggle with unfamiliar or difficult information. Why make it easy for someone to learn? Why is it that teachers are working harder now than ever? The students need to be the hardest working people in the room and challenged so they are excited about the topic.

When you look at children playing a game that challenges them in a good way, they are motivated. They don’t win right away. They get feedback right away. What is the fun in winning right away or all the time. The fun is in challenging themselves beyond what they know. I know myself and how I am writing and taking risks to write down new thoughts. I learn from you. I learn from others. I don’t have to have the right answers all the time. That’s what learning is all about. Challenging yourself to change; trying new things and failing and trying again.

National STEM ChallengeHere’s a new challenge: The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge that opened today is a multi-year competition whose goal is to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games. Go ahead and show your students this challenge. It is open to multiple ages. They have until March 2012. Have them experiment, fail, and come up with something amazing. They will learn so much.

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Immerse Yourself in Video

A new iPad app just came out, Condition ONE, that lets you change the perspective of what you are seeing in the video. You can physically control the camera’s perspective in the video by moving the events on the iPad as if you are holding the camera. This is just the beginning of what we will be seeing in the future how you will be able to make your virtual experience with technology more personal.

Condition ONE Demo from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

Condition ONE was created by photojournalist Danfung Dennis and his partners as a way to make more immersive documentaries, but the format has the potential to work for any topic or subject that is enhanced by a feeling of immersion (sports, live music, education). The app turns specially encoded video into a virtual reality experience, where the iPad becomes your window into the video that you are watching. Using the iPad’s gyroscope, as you twist your body the viewing window follows with you as if you were in control of the video’s camera. Want to see where that action is coming from? Just turn your body (with the iPad) and look.

How do you see this as an app in education?

Download Condition ONE here.

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