Monday, February 10, 2014

Invent to Learn Week 3: Learning and Thinking About Thinking

There were a few quotes in chapters 2 and 3 that really jumped out at me. First in chapter 2:
The reason for all this structure is not that it benefits the learner. In reality, it benefits the teacher-as-manager and the administrators in the system. The structure makes it easier for one teacher to teach a one-size-fits-all curriculum to large numbers of same age students. None of the constraints of school are for the benefit of learning - they create a more manageable, homogeneous, efficient platform for teaching a predetermined bit of content.
Chapter 3 discusses thinking about thinking. I found the section interesting when the authors talk about the rigidity of the scientific method: learning the steps, learning the definitions of the scientific method vocabulary words. Then they go on to say that "This is not science. Science is about wonder and risk and imagination, not checklists or vocabulary memorization." And chapter 3 ends with, "The deepest problem for us is not technology, nor teaching, nor school bureaucracies -- it's the limits of our own thinking." What are your thoughts on the idea that we (the adults) should get out of our comfort zones, lessen the rigidity of the educational system or how we teach, and give our kids the freedom to be creative, to tinker, to create? Do you feel comfortable doing this? What other thoughts do you have about chapters 2 and 3?

For next week, let's read chapter 4, "What Makes a Good Project?" and chapter 5, "Teaching." Happy reading!


  1. I definitely would support efforts to move educators out of their comfort zone. I love the direction in which the "Maker Movement" leads us, and I think all entities would find this effort to be beneficial! I just don't know how to respond to teachers' concerns about using at least part of their instructional day in this way. They feel so much pressure to cover the standards, benchmark, and prepare for the tests that it seems there isn't enough time for this sort of freedom. I think a lot of teachers would readily "dive right in" to this concept if not for these fears. The book says "the deepest problem for us in not technology, nor teaching, nor school bureaucracies- it's the limits of our own thinking," I hope as I read on that I can see our limitations are at least in part self-imposed and learn practical skills to help us move forward. In closing, perhaps my favorite statement so far is "the time is coming when students will demand that schools live up to the standards of learning they have come to expect via their home computers." Here's to hoping the learners of this world will be heard!

  2. This section reminded me so much of an event from my own high school days. The top 10% of my senior class was able to take a chemistry class and our teacher had a doctoral degree in chemistry. One day in December, he passed out dissection dishes and starfish to our class. He told us to "mess around" with cutting up the starfish to see what we could learn. During the course of the next week, starfish arms would appear in various places around the school. One of the girls from the class was Christmas shopping at a mall and she reached into her coat pocket for her keyring. She pulled out one of the starfish arms and let out an echoing scream. The elite members of our class learned a lot about human nature but nothing about starfish.

    The point of this trip down memory lane is that even though creativity and exploration is great, students in a school environment also need structure. I need to let my students explore their ideas within acceptable guidelines.

  3. Comfort zones- This not only applies to adults but to our students as well.

    Three weeks ago, I finally launched my interpretation of Genius Hour. My intention was to create an environment in which students could explore their curiosities through imagination and creativity- somewhat of a tinkering environment- of such. I was excited to extend students' learning through their own exploration and agendas. Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as I anticipated.

    I discovered that the students were the ones stuck in the comfort zone of being spoon fed. They didn't know how to think for themselves. A couple of students were in tears- explaining they didn't understand..... I asked, "Understand what?"..... they didn't get what they were supposed to do.... how to think for themselves.... how to create.... how to explore..... it caught me by surprise.

    As I read chapters 2 & 3, it was very apparent that we're doing our students an injustice through spoon-feeding curriculum and telling them what to think and how to think. We need to move students out of their comfort zones. Although many students jumped in with two feet- there were too many who have programmed themselves to "play the game" in education and do what is needed to make the grade.

    I look forward to next week's reading....

  4. While reading chapter 2 many ideas stuck out to me but a few really brought out what I felt was the essence of this chapter. For example the phrase, “the purpose is not to represent what is out there but to imagine what is not,” is an accurate descriptor of the Maker Movement. This phrase could not only be used to explain to students but also to motivate them to make, tinker, and engineer their thinking.

    Another intriguing phrase that stood out to me was, “Engaging children as quickly as possible in real projects creates an authentic context for learning…” Sometimes as teachers we have a tendency to talk too much and be “the keeper of the knowledge” when we need to remember our role is best served as facilitators of learning.

    Lastly the ending sentence of this chapter brought everything together, “Tinkering is the way that real science happens in all its messy glory.”

    In chapter 3 the cycle created that shows how a kindergartener learns and the TMI model were my biggest takeaways. The author explains how a kindergartener imagines, creates, plays, shares and then reflects. This is interesting to think about because this is the way of thinking I wish for all learners. The TMI model I also found compelling because of its simplicity and practicality. It outlines the problem-solving process into four components: Think, Make and Improve. Both this learning cycle and TMI model are great supports and diagrams in the process of understanding the Maker Movement.

  5. It is interesting to reflect how education has changed and transformed, since I first started teaching. In my early teaching, there were opportunities for creativity. In the past students counted on adults, parents and teachers, to help in their creativity. Today they have not only that but quickly at their fingertips they have technology with answers to what will work and what might not. Some of the busy work, memorization, etc. of education has decreased.

    For majority of my teaching years I have used self-evaluations at the end of the project, which goes full circle with TMI, (think, make, & improve). We truly are coming to time where computers offer replacement of some of the teacher technology with learning technology. When a student asked a question the teacher was not certain about an answer, teacher might spend hours looking through books, encyclopedias for an answer and now the student can find answers via internet in a matter of minutes which again gives them more ownership.

    In too many cases we have turned out students that have knowledge but lack the ability to apply the facts they know. With the age of technology we may not be seeing the improvement in that we would like. Yes, they know where to go to find answers but simple things like cutting a recipe in 1/2 they do not have the logic and vision needed. Last year I went to the movies and handed a 15-year- old $20 and they had to use a calculator to figure how much they owed me with a bill of $6. Even with technology, I find myself being too reliant at times on it decreasing the stimulation of my brain to increase my creativity.

    This semester in my Advanced Child Development class, I have the most variety of projects being made for a child in all my years of teaching. This is due partly to E-learning for professional development days and E-learning for make up of snow days. They searched Pinterest and googled site for ideas. This is both good and bad, but the great part is that it gives them more ownership of the project. Our last E-learning snow day they searched for ideas to increase the quality of their project. Like the "waterfall method", I am a bit nervous considering the money they have in their supplies, but they don't seem to have the fear I do. It is like they have gained confidence from the Internet.

  6. I agree that classroom management is the reason for many educators to be more structured in their teaching style. As tech integrationist, I am in and out of classes a lot. I see the engagement in students that have a "controlled chaos environment." I'm not saying it should be that way always but during projects and collaboration times. There needs to be a balance of instructional and hands-on time in the learning environment. I can see how the "maker model" would be great for some areas of the curriculum. Kids need hands-on exploring and collaboration time.

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  9. "All learning is personal. Always."

    How do we balance the "maker-model" in our classes and still meet all of the requirements of our day to day responsiblilites, standards and expectations of administration? I fear that the nessessity of "making" in our classroom will war simply with the lack of time given to plan and create these activities. And yet the shift must happen.

    We are teaching a much different generation of kids then ourselves. Thanks to having the world at our fingertips-always just a click away, these students have opportunities to do things with their lives that our generation didn't. Giving these kids the best chance possibible at these opportunities rests heavily on the success of teaching kids to break through their own perception of self imposed limitations and to embrace risk taking, exploration and daring to think that "little 'ol-you" can discover and create with the finest.

    "When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves."

  10. The quotation hit close to home! It is true that educators must look for ways to streamline their work load due to increasing demands on their time and energy. The structure does help some students, but it definitely makes planning, collecting, and grading easier for teachers. I know I responded best to teachers who gave me choices and options, so I'm trying to do more of that in my own teaching. It was a little uncomfortable to read the quotation and realize, sometimes I am doing things a certain way because it is easier for me to organize myself and stay caught up than because it is the best way for students to learn.

    My favorite part of this chapter was the "TMI" section. The "too much information, too much instruction, too many interruptions, and too much intervention" labels are certainly true in most classrooms. One size does not fit all. The new acronym the authors suggest is "Think, Make, Improve." It is still difficult for me to keep track of all of my students with their varying needs and varying abilities, but this acronym helped me wrap my thinking around it better. Instead of wanting all students to do the same activities to earn points, what I really want is to realize different students approach the same activities in ways that make them think, make, and improve. If they are doing that, they will learn. One size does not fit all.