Learning Creative Learning Week 5: Open Learning – The Good and Bad

Getting help when you are stuck is a crucial element of learning. Questions & answers represent a micro teach & learn exchange. And online Q&A communities provide new ways of reaching much larger communities of potential co-learners and mentors. Let’s try how it works: 

* Join a Stack Exchange site that picks your interest 

I joined Stack Exchange, but really struggled with this site. When I played around with it I found it helpful. I think it could be something of use for research and help, but with so many other tools available I just don’t know that this is one that I would readily use. I feel like I can get all the help I need from my other communities that I am part of. However, I like the crowd and the help everyone gives. Perhaps more time with the site I could find it more beneficial. It does feed into the idea of open learning because this whole community is open and willing to help one another out.

Activity: Teach & Learn Hangouts
 

For those who want to go deeper, we thought it might be fun to connect people who offer to teach something, with others who want to learn it. The matching-up part is a little complicated. But we have no doubt that if anyone can figure out how to make this work, then it’s the Learning Creative Learning community. Over to you! (Note: It might be easiest to try and coordinate in your smaller groups, but here is our suggestion for doing it in the G+ community) 

I participated in a few teaching classes offered by people. I attended the Where Are Your Keys language game conducted by Arne Sostack. You can check it our here – http://coffeeforthebrain.blogspot.com/2013/03/learning-creative-learning-lets-play.html

I had a blast learning a new technique and how to speak Dutch. However, I was saddened to only see myself join. What a great opportunity and a great teacher for this session.

I also conducted a session on robotics and how to operate a team. I thought there was great interest, but the night of the showcase only one person attended. It was a great night, but it once again saddened me to only have one person.

Here we are a group of over 10,000 members. I shared my stuff online beyond the class as well. Maybe the topic was not interesting enough, but this class has been open. I see many offer ideas about things that need to be changed to be better and so forth. I see people trying, but at what point do we stop trying when others don’t take an active role. I am not criticizing people, bu t the downside to open learning is a lack of participation. Here I went into planning and preparing thinking I was going to have a crowd of more than 10 people based on earlier feedback. I moved platforms to Blackboard to accommodate everyone and then was let down. I could have used that time to do something else. I think this is one of the fears for people. Why put ourselves on the line, devote the time to prepare and plan, and then not have people show up. We cannot hold them to anything as it is open.

I find myself falling farther and farther behind in the class. I started super strong. I have connected with some amazing people. I am following blogs, Twitter, and G+ of others who do nothing but inspire me so that this has been the great benefit to this class. I am trying new things. But I feel lost in the shuffle. I cannot keep up. I don’t know where I am supposed to be heading. While trying to maintain a job, my own projects, family, health, etc. I find this class falling further and further down my list of things. It started out on top. I was on top of things, but each week I lose momentum. This is unfortunate because this could be something that is truly remarkable. I don’t have the answer or at least I don’t have it yet, but I think this class is close to being something really amazing with some minor tweaks.

I hope to get back on track this week for Week 6. I am a bit behind, but looking to get caught up and become inspired again.

Those are my thoughts for week 5. A bit late, but better late than never.

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Learning Creative Learning: Let’s play WAYK in Danish

Yesterday I joined Arne on Google Hangout to learn how to speak Danish. I will tell you that it was an amazing experience. I was out of my league learning a new language, but I had a blast participating. This is what I do after school. I am always engaging and trying to find new ways of learning and stepping out of my comfort zone. I worked with Arne who lives in Denmark. How cool is that?

Anyways, here is the Hangout. Watch me struggle, but have fun doing it!

I think this is a new technique that our foreign language teachers should try. I will using this as a presentation tool. I found it fascinating. I love this course and this week we have been challenged to teach others something. I joined this as I was quite intrigued. Tonight I teach about robotics!

To learn more check out – http://www.whereareyourkeys.org/

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My Letter "A": Turtle Art and thinking about thinking

  • first powerful idea is that there are powerful ideas
  • a lot of education is about getting unstuck

I am unstuck. I finally had time to play with Turtle Art. I had 20 minutes to just play and test at my own pace, my own comfort level, and style of learning.

The result?

Pretty simple and nothing too impressive, but this required some serious learning for me.
Above I captured the programming to make the letter A.
Why do I share this?
1. I learned about my learning by doing this project.
2. I see a need for this type of coding/programming in school. How powerful to have students think, think about their thinking, and then solve a task at the end of the day. Why is this not happening in all schools?
3. I think I might create an online course where we tinker with programming.
I feel good about myself for creating my letter A. I am now motivated to learn more and try to go deeper. 
And that is the goal of going to school! To find our passions and motivations.

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Learning Creative Learning: Week 4 – Powerful Ideas

This Week for Learning Creative Learning

Readings in Preparation for Session 4 (Mar 4): Powerful Ideas

* Alan Kay (1995): Powerful Ideas Need Love Too! [Note: Open in a new tab or window to view the whole document]
* Mitchel Resnick & Brian Silverman (2005): Some Reflections on Designing Construction Kits for Kids. Interaction Design and Children conference.
Reflections:
Papert described powerful ideas as general (applicable across domains), intelligible (easy to grasp), and personal (rooted in experience). Share an example of a powerful idea from your own experience. What people, materials, or environments supported your learning experience? How might you help others understand and appreciate this powerful idea?
Activity:
Create a project with TurtleArt, and reflect on any “powerful ideas” you engaged with in the process. (For more background, see TurtleArt paper below.)
Additional Resources:
* Paula Bonta, Artemis Papert, & Brian Silverman (2010). Turtle, Art, TurtleArt. Constructionism 2010 conference.
*
Art themes with TurtleArt
* Arvind Gupta (2010). Turning trash into toys for learning (TED talk). See also free books and videos from Arvind Gupta.

I am learning things more as a whole this week as opposed to my recent posts where I had key ideas from each article. The thing I am learning most is my desire to be good at whatever I do. Take Turtle Art for example. I suck at it. Plain and simple. It drives me nuts. I want to create art. I want to create cool things. I need time. I need to play and tinker with Turtle Art. This goes back to the previous week of playing, making, tinkering to learn. I have these powerful ideas that I want to create, but need freedom to explore how to make it happen on the canvas.

While reading the articles in my short amount of free time I realized that I agree with the notions shared. Schools don’t have the luxury for kids to have time to explore “big, powerful ideas”. I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility in my classes to do this and I see the rewards at that come with it. However, my situation is different than the rest of my fellow educators and classes. I work with the gifted. I have more freedom and wiggle room in my classes. The rest don’t. Because there is not that time to go big everyone suffers. Just like my Turtle Art skills are suffering right now for not having time to explore. It all connects!

Because we don’t have this time to do these big idea thinking and tinkering many students struggle because this is how they operate. Schools don’t have time or space for them to strive and be successful. They must conform to the desks, 45 minute class periods, with multiple choice tests. I often wonder if we could simply eliminate labels of special ed, gifted, etc. and instead changed the whole school day around. Would these labels be needed if we could create “learning centers” that met the needs of the learner and the project they were working on with breakout sessions ran by “teachers” that taught the essential skills to help guide them on their personal journey of self learning and experimentation? 

That is where I am. I have crafted time into my schedule this week for specific Turtle Art learning and specific Scratch learning. With this time carved into my schedule I look forward to documenting my learning journey. Perhaps I will screencast my learning and thinking. That would be interesting to broadcast this, have others chime in, and experiment with sharing my tinkering process. I might do this. I love spontaneous “powerful” ideas!

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Learning Creative Learning: Week 3: Constructionism and Making Part 2

I was swirling in so much reading between school, deadlines, book reviews, and this class that I am behind. I have not been able to fit the time in to do the assignments with Scratch and writing about my childhood object from last week. They will get done, but just not in the weekly manner.

I do want to make sure that I have time to type up my responses and ideas to the readings because I feel that is important.

Readings in Preparation for Session 3: Part 2

I have added my thoughts under each of the articles I read and videos I viewed. I was think about the following:
In preparation, please read the suggested readings (above) and discuss with your group:
* What ideas in the readings interested or resonated with you?
* How could you apply these ideas to help others learn in your own work, family, or community?
* Seymour Papert (1980): Mindstorms (Chapter 1: Computers and Computer Cultures)
I marked a lot in this reading. I won’t go through it all due to space, but I have a few parts I want to discuss. 

Right away I was hooked by this passage:

In typical education situations it is “the computer programming the child.” 

“In the LOGO environment the relationship is reversed: The child, even at preschool ages, is in control: The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they think themselves.

This to me is powerful. Not so much with programming a computer, but with helping children understand how they think. How many of our students could answer the question about how they think? I don’t think many could. Perhaps if we could help guide them to understand themselves more about their learning then the classroom could become more powerful and influential. I don’t know how to do this, but I am quite fascinated by this mindset in teaching students to see themselves in this manner and as a results teachers would gain a deeper understanding of the students.

“…our culture is relatively poor in models of systematic procedures.” 

I don’t know what to make of this. I kept reading and then it all made sense. We live in a society where things are either right or wrong. With a systematic procedure students could go back and work out the “bugs” in their thinking like in computer programming. Software is not wrong, but you have to find the bugs and work them out. The passage explains it best when it states:

“For example, many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you “got it” or “got it wrong”. But when you learn a computer program you almost never get it right the first time. Learning to be a master programmer is learning to become highly skilled at isolating and correcting “bugs”, the part that keep the program from working.”

This is the essence of what we should be teaching students, don’t you think? The key is how to do this in a system and society so ingrained in “right” and “wrong”. Many people believe that there simply cannot be another option. To change education to this model of thinking is a drastic change and going against society, history, government, and life. How does one go against the grain to reach these goals? It is not simply changing your classroom. It is an ebb and flow of ideals and systems that must change and that is not easy.

Reading this article felt so relevant to me despite it being written in 1980. The one passage where he writes, “Skeptics do not expect the computer presence to make much difference in how people think and learn.”

I am not sure that computers do change our thinking. We change our modes of how we accomplish things, but I think that we still think and learn as before without all this technology, it is just that our order of operations depends on the tools available to us at the current time. My son watches Minecraft videos to learn how to do things in Minecraft. I used to read the monthly Nintendo Power magazine to study how to beat Metroid. Same ideas and modes of operations, but technology has changed the speed of feedback and availability.

To show that the article was written in 1980 I have to share this part because it is now true when speaking about the future of TV or the super TV.

The content might be varied to suit the tastes of each individual viewer, and the show might become interactive, drawing the “viewer” into the action.

We have this today with reality TV, voting for our favorite dancers, watching YouTube, etc. The future is here!

Later in the article he discusses how students who used to struggle with writing because it was laborious with pencil and paper can now eliminate the labors of writing with a computer. With writing by hand he talks about writing out a rough draft, writing it again to make it better, and to physically keep rewriting. With computers it can be fixed right away and not include so much physical issues. I would still disagree with this notion. A couple of things. The labor of writing is in the actual process of figuring out what to write. To edit on a computer is still not enjoyable. Many teachers still expect a rough draft hand written or typed up, then another document printed off showing progress. We still live in a system using old school methods with new technologies so the rule themselves out. Furthermore, most lower elementary students are not able to be on computers. My son is not able to type at school for his homework. Typing is becoming a lost skill as there is not enough time in the day to teach it and many think students can do it. There are still issues with typing and I don’t think that the computer has improved the joy of writing for students.

I think that we need to adopt a line from the article which is not what it was intended for – “educational intervention means changing the culture, planting new constructive elements in it and eliminating noxious ones.” I think we are at a time in education where we need to begin to do this process. Time to adopt to the new ideas and technology and begin to shift how we operate in public education. I think schools are working hard to do this, but we really need to look at what systems in place right now are not best suited for kids today. As educators sometimes the things we are most comfortable with are very things that need to change. I don’t have the answers, but I sure wish I did. The conversations are starting and need to continue. I love networking with others to see what is going on because people are working to make positive change. Funny how he states in 1980 that “We are at a point in the history of education when radical change is possible…” I think we are at the point again.

To change is hard. When he states the QWERTY problem of the “tendency for the first usable, but still primitive, product of a new technology to dig itself in.” For example, it drives me nuts that students cannot figure out different ways to present besides a triboard. When you eliminate triboards from a showcase you would think that were told students their dog died. We have to dig deeper and really think things through and begin to challenge ourselves and thinking.

Whew! That was some serious thinking.

* Dale Dougherty: The Maker Mindset

Another great article. As always, a few things really grabbed me. I liked how he writes that Makers are trying to reject the idea that you are defined by what you buy. I like this. How do we define ourselves? Can we do it without labels of society and instead true human qualities? Tough to do.

As I read this article it reignited the change of my school converting to a true Project Based Learning school. We need to teach students or help guide them to explore, create, discover, and engage in the world to create their own paths. We should not have classrooms with rows of desks where they sit and listen. Students want to be challenged. They want some say in their learning. They still want structure and guidance, but we must provide them some freedom as well.

I really wish I had my own classroom so I could create my vision of learning. I would love to write grants and create an amazing classroom of thinking and creativity. We need to study makerspaces and incorporate these themes into our classrooms of today. More economics  art studios, and science labs should be built into our rooms.

Last, I think the one thing that I will forever take away from this article is the question

What can you do with what you know?

This needs to be asked as educators. When finishing the plans for the day ask yourself this question. If there is not a good answer to your lesson plan perhaps you need to tweak things. Students need to ask the same thing and if they cannot come up with an answer then they need to pay more attention, dig deeper, and find ways to make it applicable. 
After writing all of this up I feel that I have some ideas that I can infuse in my teaching philosophy and I need to continue to fight for better educational opportunities for students. That is what I am going to do with the ideas from these readings.
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This will spark an interesting discussion

A person in a class I am taking online posted the following on Facebook and I thought it was worthwhile to share it here

“every act of teaching deprives the child of an opportunity for discovery” 

 I’m interested in what teachers, parents, and coaches have to think about this idea. opinions?

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Striking How We Can Build This…….

Supersized Earth, A Place to Live, Flatpack Future http://bbc.in/RYEuH7

But, it is nearly impossible to be able to create the change needed that we all see and recognize to enhance education and make the 12 – 14 years students spend in public education worthwhile.

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Learning Creative Learning: Week 2 Reflection

This week was a busy week and my reading and videos and thoughts were scattered among the chaos of many things colliding all at once. The two questions we were to think about and answer for this week were the following:

If you are interested in what I read and viewed to get to thoughts that I am sharing please go to my Evernote page to see the listing

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s31/sh/1e647339-9761-477d-977e-4169021710c1/db0658cc7e5b1586136bc6a00eaeeded 

I did not take much away from the videos this week. I took away a few thoughts that were the following:

“If you understand the structure of what the expectations are, what the achievements are, how you get recognized, it really is not that hard to conform if you feel like doing that.” How true is this? 100% true. I know it is true because I teach. If you just show up, breathe, smile, nod, it is impossible to fail. You have to work harder to fail than to succeed.

Onwards to the readings

What did you find most surprising in the readings?

The following statement stood out to me personally as I am working towards a new vision of our gifted education program in our school district. This is taken from the Ito’s blog Formal vs Informal Education

“I wonder how many people there are like me who can’t engage well with formal education, but don’t have the mentors or access to the Internet and end up dropping out despite having a good formal education available to them.”

With gifted education I wonder how many students are left out because of a lack of support structure that did not fit the model of our public education? How often do we label these kids as lazy, problem, talkative, loner, etc. Do we provide a wrong label for something that is not their fault? The bigger question is how do we find the necessary information out to meet their needs?

Public education is not for everyone. I am starting to think that at times it is not even for me as a teacher. Our hands are so often tied up with little details that have such a huge impact on our teaching. I am stuck with kids of the same age….not ability. I am stuck teaching to the confines of 42 minutes….where it sometimes takes me 20-30 minutes to get in a groove personally. I am stuck teaching to the confines of an ABCDF grading system…..not a learning progress. I see issues from both perspectives and understand why there are students who do well in school and others who don’t. I see the issues as a teacher where certain kids just don’t care no matter what opportunities are provided them and what do you do then? It is cycle of questions that don’t always have answers and after so long you plop in your chair and question what is right or wrong because there are times I don’t know anymore.

These questions all flow into a thought pattern that just so happens to be discussed in the next blog post Dubai and Learning about the Unknowable. This post reminds me that I am immersed in education and learning and trying to figure out how to prepare for the next wave in education. In the end none of us know, but we try like crazy every single day of our lives to figure it out. In many ways, educators are living a full out project based learning project by figuring out the best approach to reach the next generation. We have the variables of socioeconomic status, parent influence(or lack thereof), job creation(or job loss), and what will be the next important skill to stay one step ahead of the competition.

With no direct thought connection I still had another takeaway from the next blog post

Reading Joi Ito blog post Reading the Dictionary

All I want to share about this without going crazy is that I connect. My son watches Minecraft videos for hours to teach himself how to do something. It is amazing how he self teaches himself when it comes to something he enjoys. He does not do this for anything else, but with PASSION he will make it happen. Now my daughter is involved in this game and it is amazing listening to them talk, teach one another, and develop strategy on how the accomplish certain feats.

Last, I cannot help but be fatigued by my thought for my assignment

Read Seymour Papert’s essay on the “Gears of My Childhood” and write about an object from your childhood that interested and influenced you. Share your story in the group. 

I am going to give this assignment to my students. I am intrigued by the ideas that develop from a middle school standpoint. I am struggling. I don’t know that I had an object that influenced me. I was lucky enough to have a life of many tangible objects. I have my choices narrowed down, but none have really completely connected. I will think more on this. I feel like this is an important assignment for self discovery and one in which I feel like I am overlooking something with significant value. I will take the late penalty(I know there is really not one), to stay hungry and do this assignment right so I can discover some self discovery that perhaps is really needed with my swirl of thoughts.

 What did you disagree with or have questions about?

I don’t have anything specific, but I think my thoughts on public education or just education in general fits this question.  I keep thinking of the idea of creating my own school free from rules, regulations, and standard thinking. Instead I would have this atmosphere that would do nothing more than prepare students for self awareness and preparing them for the real world. No schedule, no textbooks, no “set” curriculum, but in the end or should I say graduation they are ready to be one of the best candidates for whatever they want to accomplish. It would not be for everyone. Some people enjoy and are designed to follow rules and always be told what to do. You have to have these people to keep society working, but this school would be for the people who create the jobs for these rule followers. Crazy thoughts, but at the moment all things that feel very real and burning my brain with infusion.

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Learning Creative Learning: MIT Online Class Week 1 Thoughts

I came across this awesome online class that MIT is experimenting with called Learning Creative Learning. You can find the link here

I missed the registration, but am participating in Google+ and still trying to stay current with discussions, blog posts, readings, videos, etc.

Today I had a chance to watch the introduction video and read the reading for week 1

The reading was All I Really Need to Know (about Creative Thinking) I Learned (by Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten, by Mitchel Resnick of the MIT Media lab. This was the suggested reading for the first session of the Learning Creative Learning online course.

I won’t give a summary as you can read it for yourself, but here are some of my take aways from the reading.

  • I like the idea of the spiral learning of Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect, and back to imagine that they lay out in the article when discussing kindergarten. This whole idea is intriguing and one that I need to reflect upon more and see if it exists in my classroom enough throughout the days, weeks, and months and more importantly how to chart and analyze while working to create a better learning environment.
  • I agree that kindergarten is losing out on the essentials. So weird to read this as I just made comments like this to other people about my daughter. Kindergarten is no longer just a place to learn to be creative and work with others. There is more emphasis on reading, writing, math, etc. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it has shifted the way these classrooms look and operate. I am quite glad that my daughter does not have homework. My son had homework in kindergarten and that drove me nuts. 5 and 6 year olds should not have homework. 
  • “In a society characterized by uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to think creatively is becoming the key to success and satisfaction, both professionally and personally.” AMEN! Wake up schools as this is why we need to rethink how we operate in certain aspects.
  • Kindergarten repeats the whole spiral learning process over and over and I cannot help but think of my son playing Minecraft. I know video games get a bad rap(still not sure why, but that is another discussion), but my son does Imagine, Create, Play, Share, Reflect, and back to Imagine in Minecraft several times a day. When he explains his world it is amazing to hear his articulation and thinking. If only I could get that incorporate into his sentence writing in school we would be set. The transfer or should I say passion is not quite there yet.
  • Another line that really stood out to me – “…”little c” creativity – that is, creativity within one’s personal life – not big “C”………The goal is not to nurture the next Mozart or Einstein, but to help everyone become more creative in ways they deal with everyday problems.”
  • This next one has me thinking about the general idea in terms of education. “I am sure that designers and engineers at the toy companies learn a great deal while creating these toys, but I doubt that children learn very much while interacting with the toys.” Applying this notion to education I think about how much I loop ideas in my brain to create the next great lesson or unit. I mean I work like mad to perfect the teaching moment. I sometimes wonder if the students use their brains as much as I did to prepare the unit. I don’t know how to measure the levels of thinking, but if I can create environments of learning that generate as much thought and reflection as I do into my lessons, then I have something good!
Those are my thoughts which are plenty for one day!
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