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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

During World Creativity & Innovation Week (April 15-21, 2018) I had the pleasure of moderating a week-long conversation on imagination with the Google+ Creative Higher Education (#CreativeHE) community. My imaginative colleague Jailson Lima from Vanier College, Quebec, moderated with me. You can read the whole week of conversation on Google+ in the Creative Academic community space here.

Walking Challenge

We posed an imaginative challenge on Day 3. The challenge? Get Outside. Here's what we said:

Greetings imaginative colleagues! Sometimes we need to change our contexts (eg actual locations, ways of engaging, practicing or thinking) to get our imaginations going; we need to purposefully step outside of our typical practices to more easily envision new possibilities and alternative perspectives. The goal of this challenge is to stimulate the imagination of someone else and the challenge requires you to literally (and figuratively) get outside. We want you to take a walk with wonder and curiosity guiding you. Have something in mind that you teach or you might help someone else learn. Let your wonder and curiosity guide you in noticing what your local community might teach. What lessons or knowledge does the Place afford? How is your imagination ignited? If you are a teacher or educational developer seek the affordances for teaching/learning this topic outside. What imaginative task or activity might your students do while outside (walking or in stillness) that could enhance their imaginative engagement and meaning-making and enable their creativity to flourish?

(You can learn more about the Walking Curriculum from imaginED hereCurrently a PreK-12 resource but expanding!)

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

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When You Teach Something You Get To Learn It Twice - Jim Kwik

Cameron, a former student of mine, who is now in college, commented on my recent post about efficient and effective learning titled Too Much What, Not Enough How. Here's what he wrote on Facebook:

As a student who graduated with a GPA well above 4.0, I completely agree specifically with the point about students teaching subject-matter. Most of what made me successful was not studying - I rarely did that - but teaching other students, and in doing so, closing gaps in and solidifying what I knew. I tutored other students in almost every single class I took throughout my high school career, especially the science courses. That was my secret to success and I didn't even realize it until senior year. The feeling you get when you help someone grasp an idea they struggled with is an awesome feeling, too.

But Why Is Teaching Such An Effective Learning Strategy?

If you closely analyze and dissect Cameron's comment you can identify at least 4 aspects that made his strategy of teaching others to learn it yourself super effective. They are Active Learning, Deeper Learning, Efficient Learning, and Emotional Learning. 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Learning is like playing the blues.

If you wanna get really good at it and be able to improvise, you must practice playing the blues a lot. You must also understand it. The scales, the chord progressions, the beats, the turnaround, the stories, the mood; the "how to blues."

If you wanna get really good at learning you must practice learning. You must also understand it. The brain, the habits, the strategies, what works, what doesn't; "the how to learn."

If you understand how your brain learns you might be able to hack your learning; to improvise and modify sketchy study strategies that mostly don't work and make them more effective.

Today, I attempt to do that with cramming and if you read my last post What's The Brain Deal With Cramming? you know that I don't recommend it and instead advocate for smart spaced practice. 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Hi!

Earlier this year I created a new resource we all can use to help kids focus. And let's be real. Many adults, myself included, lose focus from time to time (that's a vague way of saying often). As we're not robots, we all need a reminder from time to time (same as above :).

Working with teens for 180 days each year for the last 14, I noticed that many flat out don't know how to focus, need help with focus, or simply lack focus. The reasons why kids might have a hard time focusing are many; lack of sleep, lack of movement, a surge of emotions, mental health etc. They are all valid.

The infographic below is about achieving deep work and insane productivity in the moment. It is to be used during those home or classroom moments when your kids have a hard time getting going on a task or project. It is a system anyone can use to achieve laser focus and to get things done. And, I plan on putting it up and using it often with my high school students this year.

Check it out.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

It's January, and I am still confronting the junk left in the wake of the dreaded Five Paragraph Essay.

Mind you, I have danced with the Five Paragraph Essay on more than few occasions. Early in my career there were few teachers I my building teaching composition at all, and it seemed like a good place to start. And the Fiver is still an improvement for those students whose preferred format is the Uniblob-- a mass of untethered words and sentences that spreads out across the page with no regard for order or sense.

To my students, I compare the FPE to training wheels-- they may be useful when you're starting out, but leave them on too long and they become a hindrance rather than a help.

The problem with the Fiver is that it leads a student to approach writing exactly backward. Instead of asking "What do I have to say and what's the best way to say it," the student says, "Okay, I have these five paragraph-shaped blanks to fill up-- what can I fill them up with." And that backwardness infects the entire process. As I slogged through my students' last paper (about symbolism and theme in The Awakening), I can see plainly that they did not ask "Have I made my point and buttressed it with solid support and evidence." Instead they have asked, "Does that paragraph look full enough yet? It does. Okay, then on to the next one."

Structure in writing needs to flow from the function. Start talking about an idea, a part of an idea, a step in setting up the discussion of an idea, and then when you're completed that task, start a new paragraph. It's simple.

But for all my decades of teaching, I have had to keep answering versions of the question "How long does this have to be?" (which is itself a version of the question "What's the least I can get away with doing on this assignment?"). The only answer is "Long enough to get the job done."

You don't measure a nutritional value of a meal by measuring how many minutes you spent eating it.You don't turn to your romantic partner and ask, "How many minutes do I have to talk to you in order for this thing to work?" And you don't determine the quality of a piece of writing based on how many pages you filled up with words.

You cannot put structure ahead of function-- unless, of course, the only thing you feel comfortable evaluating is structure. In which case you are not teaching writing at all-- you're teaching Making Marks on Paper. And you are contributing to the students' sense that school is some sort of Kafkaesque exercise in following odd instructions that are unrelated to life on planet Earth. Oh-- and you're also preparing students to do well on the Big Standardized Test, which also does not know how to evaluate good writing. So I guess there's that.

So, die, five paragraph essay. Die painfully or quietly, with a bang or with a whimper, but just die. And let's fill the space left behind with the goal of saying something clearly, effectively, and vigorously, according to the structure that best suits what we have to say.

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