Dare to Care

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29/Apr/2015
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Day 29 – #AprilBlogADay – My History of Learning

Day 29 – #AprilBlogADay – My History of Learning

Your History of Learning – What have been your greatest learning experiences? (I’m going to tweak this a bit. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, but they’ve happened over a lifetime, not just experiences I can name.)

Two more days of #AprilBlogADay. I’m making it! I really didn’t think I would do it every single day in April! Yippee!

That’s one thing I’ve learned, perseverance. To carry on and keep going. Even when the road gets rough. Like when I was crawling into bed and forgot to write a blog post on April 20, I managed to stand up and turn around and write a really short one. I live by the you-need-to-eat-an-elephant-a-bite-at-a-time philosophy. Just keep on going…

Another thing I’ve learned I already wrote about here on Day 27. Over the years, I have learned to let go and become the chief learner in my life, in my faith, and in my teaching. It has made all the difference.

Another learning that has transformed my life is to choose grace and forgiveness, rather than judgment and bitterness.

How about you? What are the greatest things you’ve learned?

11/Aug/2014
by Denise Krebs
8 Comments

Reading about Learning, Brains and Metacognition

Metacognition is “thinking about thinking.” I may have first heard the term when I was studying reading education for my Masters degree in 2000. I soon came to know it was important to teach children to think about their thinking as they read. It is only then that they can grow as readers and proficient users of comprehension strategies. It changed my reading instruction, but it didn’t radically change all of my teaching.

Now, during the past few years, I have begun to realize that it had to radically change ALL of my teaching.

Oh, that teachers can help children to know and love the process of thinking and learning.

I’ve been reading several blog posts this past week that remind me even more of the power of knowing about learning.

The first one  reminded me of Meera, one of my kindergarten students. When I asked her this spring, “What do you want to learn?” she responded with, “I want to learn about my brain.” What a lead in! It was awesome. I actually explained  to the whole class a bit about brains.

But not as much as I will teach the whole class next year, thanks to Carol Dweck’s work on Mindsets and this post I read recently: What Kids Should Know About Their Own Brains by Annie Murphy Paul on Mind/Shift. Kids are interested in brain research, especially when it “makes a big difference in how constructively kids deal with mistakes and setbacks, and how motivated they are to persist until they achieve mastery.”

The second article gave questions students should be able to answer. like:

  • “What do you want to learn about?”
  • “What’s worth understanding deeply?”
  • “How do you respond to complex texts or digital media?”
  • “If I get out of your way this year, what will you be able to do?”

And 22 more in the article 26 questions every student should be able to answer (by Terry Heick on Te@chThought).  It wouldn’t be easy to interview all the students, so this article also gives ways shared by teachers to get students answering these questions, like jigsawing and team building games. Students should not only be able to personally answer these questions, but they should be asked to answer these questions by teachers who care about their learning.

In another article, Helping Students See Themselves as Thinkers also on Te@chThought, and also by Terry Heick, he ties learning and thinking into citizenship, “In lieu of outward content knowledge, perhaps the goal of all learning should be self-knowledge–themes of identity and purpose, then connectivism and interdependence–ultimately leading to self-directed thinkers who care for their connections with others, and the consequences of their ‘cognitive behavior.'”

This self-knowledge goes along with his lovely and brilliant definition of 21st century learning:  intimate, self-directed learning experiences that serve authentic physical and digital communities, ultimately leading to personal and social change. In his article, Terry gives 12 questions to help students see themselves as thinkers, and as thinkers they can also become problem solvers, conflict resolvers, makers of masterpieces, and self-knowledgeable citizens of the world.

That’s certainly what I want for all my students, so I’ll be helping my little ones see themselves as thinkers!

What have you been reading and viewing lately about learning, brains, and metacognition?

_____________________

Knight, Jim. “Instructional Coaching.” Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2011. 94. Print.

31/Jan/2013
by Denise Krebs
11 Comments

Must the Students?

From original definition in Online Etymology Dictionary

I had a ton of fun helping out with genius hour. The students seemed to be enthusiastic as well, which is crucial for making genius hour effective. One thing I was wondering was whether or not the students had specific learning goals for their projects because I think that is important. The students must be able to explain why their project is worth learning.

~First time Genius Hour observing teacher

I am a firm believer in starting with the why. However, I’m not sure I agree with the above sentiment, and I would like your opinion.

Yes, indeed. They can make a fine tractor out of balsa wood.

Before genius hour, I ask my students to ask an essential question, but I don’t judge its worthiness, whether it’s essential enough. For instance, “Can I build a tractor out of balsa wood?”

In their presentations, I don’t ask them to explain why their project is worth learning.

However, I do ask students to reflect on their learning after genius hour in blog posts. (Some students are still working on theirs.)

In my own learning, I’m not sure I can always articulate my purpose (or the worthiness of my projects) when I learn to use Google Mapmaker, Garage Band and Voicethread.

I just learn because I want to. And now I sincerely want to learn from you.

Maybe asking more of my students in setting their goals would help them be more creative and productive during genius hour. Or will I stifle their self-direction? What do you think?

Do students need specific learning goals in genius hour?

Must students be able to explain why their project is worth learning?

30/Dec/2012
by Denise Krebs
6 Comments

Creativity and Learning

I am so excited about creativity and learning. I can’t read enough or learn enough about how students learn and what creativity has to do with it. (Speaking of reading and learning about creativity and learning: I’m just finishing up The Element by Sir Ken Robinson for #geniushour chat on Wednesday, January 2, at 8:00 p.m.)

Tonight my husband and I had three little girls come over for some fun, food, and fellowship while their parents went out to eat and to a movie. They brought a bunch of new toys and fun things to do, and we did almost all of what they brought. There was one thing we didn’t do, though. Here are some things the four-year-old said, which will show why…

“I brought all these coloring books, but I don’t want to use them.”

“Do you have any plain white paper?”

“Can we hang them up?”

“Doesn’t our art museum look nice?

I was tickled that she was so creative and had so much fun. Her two sisters (ages 1 and 2) and my husband and I were creating up a storm too. I was impressed that Keith just kept going in and getting more paper whenever they ran out.

One of the things I did on my paper was to make dots and connect them, and Miss A asked me what I was doing. I told her about the video I watched yesterday where Vi Hart connected dots and made really beautiful mathematical creations. She was curious. I made a graph for her to connect some dots.


We had so much fun! Creativity and learning. It was happening here tonight. And I’m glad the coloring books stayed in the bag.

01/Dec/2012
by Denise Krebs
4 Comments

On Learner-Centered Education

CC Image by Kathy Schrock

The state of Iowa has identified Five Characteristics of Effective Instruction. One of them, which I have been paying close attention to lately, is “Student-Centered Classrooms.” From the EducateIowa web page:

Students are directly involved and invested in the discovery of their own knowledge. Through collaboration and cooperation with others, students engage in experiential learning which is authentic, holistic, and challenging. Students are empowered to use prior knowledge to construct new learning and develop meta cognitive processes to reflect on their thinking.

CC Image by Clint Hamada

This is huge. Does Iowa really want us to do this? Do our state-mandated tests even attempt to assess if students have become learners in the true sense of the word? I don’t think so.

Student-centered education is not just another tool in a teacher’s bag of strategies. It’s a seismic shift from teacher-centered classrooms of the past.

In order to have a learner-centered classroom, I have discovered that I must be the chief learner. Until I was, I wasn’t able to attempt to cross the chasm that is between teacher-centered and learner-centered classrooms.

On a somewhat related topic, recently my students’ completed self-evaluations for their mid-terms.  I sent these evaluations home. My #fantasyteaching hope is to someday be able to send home only narrative feedback written by the students (and maybe me), along with NO letter grades. I think that would be worth +25 points!

One of the questions on the self-evaluation was: Are you growing as a learner? Give evidence.

Are these students getting it?

  • Yes, because Mrs. Krebs is teaching me how to be an independent learner.
  • Yes, because I’m a genius.
  • Yes, I’m much more interested in a lot more things like presidents and world affairs, and so forth.
  • I am learning different ways to learn like on a computer and by talking to other people. I’m glad we don’t just learn from a textbook. I am learning to change the world.
  • Yes, because we can learn on our own pace and independently, and I am much more able to understand the stuff we are doing that way.
  • Yes, because I am accomplishing more than I used to be.

Do these students need more time?

  • Yes, I am listening better.
  • Yes, you teach me well. Everything that you teach me, I use in reality.

Even more telling were these answers from this second question: What is learning?

 Getting it?

  • Learning is when we get new ideas every day that you didn’t know before. And you use that knowledge for the world.
  • Learning is when you enjoy your exploring in something you love to do.
  • Learning to me is a beautiful thing where you can explore the world of thinking. Learning is wonderful because, without it, we wouldn’t be smart people.
  • Learning is growing, maturing, and helping us become  individuals. It helps us problem solve in the real world, helps us think better.
  • Learning is being able to obtain knowledge in a way you are comfortable doing, so learning is finding out stuff you want to know.
  • Learning is when you enjoy exploring in something you love to do.

Need more time?

  • You get taught things that you don’t know that you will need to know when you get older and out of school and when you get a job.
  • Learning is what the teacher says and then you will have homework and then you do the homework and then your teacher grades it.
  • Learning is what we need to know in the future and it is what we learn in school.

Those last three answers made me so sad. Those answers are also making me work hard to help these students understand the concept of the learner-centered environment I’m attempting to create for them.

This move toward a “student-centered classroom” is a process.

How are you doing it?

CC Image by Ken Whytock

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