Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

17/Feb/2016
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Question from @EduQuinn

Question from @EduQuinn

I started to answer in a tweet, but I soon realized it was going to take more words than fit. So here goes, Dave.

I would have to say it was not student engagement or lack of it that motivated me.

Actually, it was teacher engagement. When I became more involved, more engaged, more in love with learning, I wanted to share it all with my students.

When I became a connected educator, I began to love learning and teaching more than ever. I looked forward to coming in every morning and couldn’t wait to share something I was learning or see what my students were going to do next.

I wasn’t looking for how to help my students become more engaged.

Genius Hour just became a natural extension of what was beginning to happen in our learning. I became more of a learner, and I believe it became contagious.

Now, Genius Hour is definitely engaging and it helped with some students who were not engaged. However, engagement wasn’t a conscience decision in choosing Genius Hour.

I guess I discovered Genius Hour by keeping my eyes and ears open, as the chief learner in my classroom.

Just think what tomorrow will hold!

26/Apr/2015
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Engagement/lessons/tips/tricks/ideas for spring fever – age specific.

Funny, just last week, I found three ways to keep K-2 students engaged at the end of the year. Those are three things that I’m doing with my kindergarten students now. I wrote about them here.

Engagement for All Ages!

Those were for K-2, but today I’ll consider one way to engage all ages in true learning, even at the end of the year.

First of all, for all grade levels, they will be motivated if you let them have autonomy, let them have time to master, and let them choose the purpose of their learning.

From Dan Pink’s web page, the “Cocktail Party” summary of his book Drive:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I believe his connections to the business operating system can be equally applied to much of the educational operating system. People, including students, are truly motivated intrinsically, not by dangling good grades, stickers, candy, or small trinkets in front of them. That doesn’t work and often does harm. Children in school need the “new approach” to motivation, as well.

At the end of the year, when motivation is not usually at a high point, it is a perfect time to allow those things that will motivate. Give more choices, ask students what they want to learn, and then get out of their way. Here are a couple ideas to get started.

1. Ask them what they learned or did this year that they would have liked to learn or do more. Perhaps it was when they had a measurement lab in science, and they got to measure all kinds of liquid and solid ingredients. Let a small group measure some more.

Maybe some others are interested in the Civil War, but you didn’t have time enough to spend on it to satisfy their appetite. Let them pursue more about the Civil War.

Maybe you have some writers. Maybe they even wrote a novel in November, but they haven’t had enough time to devote to finishing it, revising it, or starting another one. Let a small group dive into writing.

2. For those who can’t think of anything that they would like more time with, ask them what they did not learn or do this year that they wish they would have. Perhaps some of them will come up with topics of interest to them that weren’t in your curriculum. If they have chosen it, they have some purpose in learning it. If you really meant it when you asked them, let them have autonomy to make a learning decision.

If you happen to be in classroom with access to enough computers, you can let them choose something from Gary Stager’s list of things to do on a laptop.

3. Finally, as soon as everyone has something they are interested in learning, step aside and let them learn it. The teacher becomes facilitator, resource finder, cheerleader and sometimes gofer. Some of us call this kind of learning Genius Hour.  If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #geniushour and see all kinds of amazing students all over the world learning with motivation, especially this time of year.

4. Have everyone choose a way to share their learning with the class.   They can write a blog post. They can make a presentation, demonstration, or model for the class. They can make a movie or photo essay of their learning.

Enjoy! Your students will love you for it! The year will be over soon, so if you haven’t tried Genius Hour before now, this is a perfect time to do a beta version of Genius Hour. Save all your notes for next year to make it even better.

Do you have any other advice for engagement / lessons / tips / tricks / ideas for spring fever?

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?

29/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
5 Comments

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose


I just returned from a conference for adjunct faculty at Buena Vista University. The keynote speaker was Troyce Fisher, a great educational leader in Iowa. She helped us unpack the college’s vision statement:

BVU’s Vision
We aspire to be a remarkable educational community, focused on learning, challenging every student, faculty and staff member to set and meet the highest standards of academic achievement, character, conscience and compassion.

My greatest takeaway came from the Dan Pink RSA Animate “Drive” video (below). When people are engaged in meaningful work, the motivation for them to do better is not for pay; they are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy – When people are self-directed and engaged, they do wonderful things. Management needs to get out of their way.

Mastery – People have an urge to get better at stuff. We do it not to get wealthy, but because it’s satisfying. Technically-sophisticated highly skilled people all over the world are working for free. (e.g., Linux, Apache, Wikipedia). Challenge and mastery are great motivators.

Purpose – When profit becomes unhitched from purpose, the results are uninspired workplaces and people don’t do great things. Flourishing companies are animated by purpose.

I like that I am part of an organization that aspires for every student, faculty, and staff member to “meet the highest standards of academic achievement, character, conscience and compassion.” It seems they know something about what I have learned over the past year about motivation, being a lifelong learner, and 21st century learning for all students.

Now, my question is, can I apply the motivating qualities of autonomy, mastery, and purpose to my full-time teaching job with 7th and 8th graders?

Autonomy – Can I get out of their way and let them make decisions on how and what to learn? Hmm…I’m not sure. We have the Iowa Core/Common Core hanging over our classrooms, feeling stifled at times. However, I believe there is freedom built into the standards. I know my 7th and 8th graders cannot be as autonomous as adults who have already found their way into engaging and meaningful careers. I still have to offer some structure. As Steve Hargadon recently said at #ITEC11, “When we balance structure and freedom, we unleash individual energy and potential.” I am working on what that balance of structure and freedom looks like in my classroom.

Mastery – If I manage to give them some autonomy in choosing their way, then the projects they are working on should be things they are motivated to do well and get good at.

Purpose – Education can be purposeful. It has to be for more than the grades they earn on their report cards. What a lame excuse for a motivator! I tell my students, if it’s only about grades for them, then let’s just all pack up and go home now.

We just finished a wonderful “unit” in 8th grade exploratory, where students planned and accomplished a Relay Recess for all the students in K-8 in our school system. Talk about purposeful! They were motivated! They were given lots of autonomy in the planning (along with the ready support of four of their teachers), they were given time to pull it off with excellence (mastery), and the purpose was obvious when we saw the wonderful time that was had by the K-8 students, survivors and other guests. (More posting on our American Cancer Society fundraisers and the Relay Recess later.)

What do you think?

Can we give students meaningful work all the time so that these intrinsic motivators guide them? Rather than the “payment” of the grades on their report card?

Here is the Dan Pink video. It’s really enlightening!

15/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP – Keeping Motivated

As NaNoWriMo founder and author Chris Baty says,

“We can all do amazing, impossible things when

given a deadline,

a supportive community,

and unlimited access to chocolate and caffeine.”

Here are a few ways students and I keep motivated during November to do the amazing, impossible task of writing a novel.

Deadline.

So many deadlines in my world are flexible depending on the situation. NaNoWriMo is not one of them. We must log in to NaNoWriMo and upload into the handy-dandy word counter our completed novels by midnight of November 30. That is a constant prickle on my calendar.  We have to stay on target. For a 10,000 word goal, that means 300 words a day, every single day. Or about 500 a day on school days.

For the teacher, it’s 1,667 words a day, every single day. We do not stop writing just because we have parent-teacher conferences, weekend plans, illness, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. We remember our hard and fast deadline is November 30.

However, we don’t wait until November 30. We log in to NaNoWriMo every single day and update our word count. (Google Docs or any other writing program you will use counts the words for you.) That is motivational, for sure! You can watch your progress chart climbing the mountain of noveling ecstasy!

Community.

Really, my greatest motivation comes from my students. They are fully engaged. November is all of our favorite month in English class. I love that they talk about conflict and resolution, describing with detail (because it can add a hundred words to your word count), and realistic dialogue. These are topics that, all of a sudden, are motivating and imperative. I’ve never taught a lesson on any of those topics that gets a similar response.

Our Virtual Classroom is another way we build community with others outside of our school community. Forums, directory map, and other available community-building devices are great global connectors. In addition, my class follows @NaNoWriMoYWP on Twitter.

As an adult, though, I am involved not only in the YWP NaNoWriMo, but in the NaNoWriMo program too. Motivation galore inhabits that world! On Twitter I also follow @NaNoWriMo, @NaNoWordSprints, and then the hashtag on Twitter: #nanowrimo.  A new blog I follow this year is WriMos FTW!. In these places, you will find unlimited motivation to reach your adult goal of 50,000 words.

Caffeine and Chocolate.

Now, I’m not in the habit of giving my students caffeine, for they are pretty much revved up on a regular basis. I do, however, give them candy. My class meets from 1:10-1:50. Prime time for the yawns in my experience. I also avoid chocolate, as it goes down too fast and gums up the keyboard.

Most often, I randomly pass out candy to everyone, but sometimes they earn it. When they have a day where they write at least 5%, they get to join the 5% Club for that day. Then the next day when they come to class, they get to choose from my candy jar. Usually they will find suckers and hard candy that their mouths can whittle away at while they type ferociously. That’s really all the extrinsic rewards I give.

Other motivators.

Students are allowed to bring headphones or mp3 players to listen to music while we write. I wouldn’t have thought of that because I’m not much of a music listener. NaNoWriMo did, though. One of the questions on each person’s profile is, “What is your favorite music to novel by?” That is a huge motivator. They know when they come to English class in November they can listen to their own music. Some take advantage of it and others don’t. It makes for an extremely peaceful noveling classroom environment. Magical!

Do you have any other ways you keep motivation high during November?

Sucker photo by Vic at vvvracer

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