My World


I created a picture of my world today on The Open University Create Your World.

Roughly from left to right, here’s what my picture represents:

  • Good conversations with new friends here, and also faraway friends and online connections
  • Brain research, thinking, questioning and teaching the ABCs and more to five-year-old Arab children
  • Jesus, the Tree of Life, bringing shade to the world, as well as standing over the puzzle piece of my life
  • Wedding rings represent my husband and me
  • Two flowers for our two lovely daughters
  • Good books, fruit, creativity and art are some of my favorite things

Am I a Planet-protecting, probing motivator? I’d like to think so! 🙂

Sheri Edwards created a wonderful connected language lesson using this Inspiring Learning: My World app.

Read all about the picture of her world and her middle school lesson plan on her class blog post called: “#teach2blog About Me World Ms Edwards

If you had $3000…

What a fun question I received in a tweet today:

“If you had $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program, what would you buy?” Thanks, Rhonda!

I just had to write a blog post to answer that question. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure this list is exhaustive or that I won’t think of something additional tomorrow, but for now a couple things immediately come to mind.

First, I hope you already have access to great Internet connectedness and laptops for your students. If not, I’d start there with extra bandwidth and a small set of laptops or Chromebooks or iPads.

If I had enough computers for at least part time access for students, then I would get:

  1. A pro account on Edublogs and pro accounts for any other tools that you and/or your students love. They can each have their own snazzy blog and  join a world-wide authentic community where they will grow in reading, writing, presenting, and 21st century skills.
  2. Video recorders and editing software.
  3. A huge collection of Legos Mindstorms robotics, software, and Legos for students to tinker and create.

How about you? What would you do with $3000 to buy tech equipment for your genius hour program?


I’m glad Kirsten asked these questions: Where do you think failure fits in an educational context? Do you use it with your students?  Those are great questions, Kirsten.

Even today, failure is fitting into my educational context. Watching Susan’s vlog post inspired me to try to make my vlog post, even though this week has not been conducive to working on my own stuff.

In addition, since my last vlog post, I’ve gotten a new computer without iMovie, which has been my video-editor of choice for seven years now. This evening, already a day late, I considered using the video camera on my computer, which I could have made a quick video (like I did once on PhotoBooth), but I’m in my pjs. Also, I had some images I wanted to add. I tried WeVideo, but I got frustrated because I don’t have enough time to figure out the new program right now.  So, hmmm…I’m going to call it a fail and write a blog post.

I actually don’t like the word failure for what I just did. I can fail to post a vlog this week, but I’m not a failure. Thanks, Susan, for pointing out the difference.

Perhaps I just found another way to get my post about failure out, even if it is late and in print.

Erin liked the word resilience – “the human capacity to face/overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s adversity and challenges.”  To me, I’ve been thinking about that word all week. I like the word, but I haven’t really used it with my students. After thinking about it, I decided that’s a word I would use for overcoming outside forces – life’s adversity and challenges coming at a person.

However, when I think of many of the kinds of failure at school that we can help students overcome, I think of the internal forces within us. When we try something and it doesn’t work, like using a new video editor, we can quit or we can keep going.  If we can’t keep trying, if we can’t continue on, or find another way to solve a problem, then we don’t have perseverance, persistence or grit. Those are the words I have been using this year to describe the kind of learning that must happen when the going gets tough. Like in the video Brendan shared with us of Audri’s Rube Goldberg machine. That little guy persevered, persisted, and had GRIT. I think of those words to describe  Audri. Even though he used the word failure to describe when his machine didn’t work, and there were plenty of times when it didn’t, he and his machine were anything but failures.

I just checked out this book at the library: How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough.

According to Amazon, the author shows that “the qualities that matter most have less to do with IQ and more to do with character: skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism.” I can’t say much about it yet, but I’ll be reading it this week.

Sheri used this image from me.

I don’t know who originally said this, but I like it. A fail is just a first attempt at learning. That’s all. However, I think if it’s the first and only attempt, then perhaps that’s a real fail.  For instance, if I never edit another video because I no longer have iMovie, that would be a fail.

Then, as Sheri does so beautifully, she makes FAILURE into a beautiful thing with this extension of the thought.

Image by Sheri Edwards (teach.eagle on Flickr)


Connotations of Fail and Failure

Okay, Sheri did a great job with that idea of Failure, and I like it. In fact, I will be using it when the need comes up to remind a student what failure means. However,  after thinking a lot this week about the topic, I realize I don’t really want to use the words fail or failure in an educational context. They have too much baggage with them.

For instance, it reminds me of all the young crazy kids who are so proud to share their #epicfail pictures with the whole world. Think of Ben’s video for more!

It also reminded me of my least favorite thing about teaching — grading. Karen did a beautiful vlog post about how much failure in school can affect someone.

I picked up this book at the library the other day:  A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck.


I thought I might read it again because I wanted to remember why it had a powerful effect on me when I was young. I opened it first thing to this page, and in light of our discussion on failure, I just had to check it out.

F is for Failure

I agree with what so many of you said this week. What we learn through failure is of utmost importance. Resilient people are successful. I’m not sure failure will ever have any positive connotation attached to it. However, the other words we’ve been discussing in our common glossary this week do — resiliency, persistence, perseverance, grit.

Now, will I have resiliency after my failure to get a vlog post done this week? Will I persist, persevere, and have grit to learn how to vlog again? You’ll have to tune in next time to see.

Vincent Van Gogh Persevering

It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be. The difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner’s work; it doesn’t advance as quickly as one would like, and as others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of them too much one would get stunned or disturbed.

Mr. Vincent Van Gogh, one of the world’s most famous artists, wrote these words in a letter to his brother.

He speaks of perseverance, grit and stick-to-it-iveness — qualities that I hope and believe my students and I learn during genius hour.

It Takes an Adult

I love hearing passionate people talk about passionate learning.

M.T. Anderson gave an amazing speech to accept a 2009 Printz Honor for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves.  (I just finished volume 1, The Pox Party. An awesome read!)

I wish I had heard him give the speech, but I enjoyed reading “On the Intelligence of Teens.” Here is an excerpt:

No child naturally hates knowledge. No toddler comes into the world saying, “Don’t tell me how stuff works. I don’t give a s%*t. Learning about the world sucks a#&.” Few Kindergarten classes are plagued by incuriousness. Few seven year olds can’t stand hearing about weird stuff that happens on the other side of the planet.

No, it takes an adult to make a child hate knowing things. The fact is, kids don’t believe that thinking isn’t fun until we tell them so.

We need to stop talking about how teens aren’t equal to challenges. Evidence suggests that kids respond strongly to our expectations, positive or negative. If enough of us have high expectations of their achievements, I believe that kids will rise to meet those expectations.

Anderson’s line “It takes an adult to make a child hate knowing things” makes me shiver. (It reminded me of some other important words Jesus spoke to teachers.)

It does take an adult to be a learning-joy-sucker, doesn’t it? I have had my share of lessons that I only taught them, thinking that was the goal. How off I was. The goal is for them to learn. I am ashamed of mistakes I’ve made in the past, but I am trying to make up for them with present and future students.

Read a Washington Post author profile about M.T. Anderson here.

At the time of this post, M.T.’s webpage is unavailable, but when it’s back, you can find it here and the speech here too.

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