Best BITS: What are your learning rules?

Author Benedict Carey made this quick video to summarize some the findings he uncovered when writing his book “How We Learn”.

Benedict Carey: unlearn everything you’ve learned about learning from frank on Vimeo.

As a teacher and/or as a parent, what are some of the learning structures you put in place?  Are there methods you rely on day in and day out that you swear by as good practice?  Has the book (so far) shaken up your learning ideals?

In my house, we focus on math 3 nights a week and reading 4 nights a week.  I have the same location each time, the same start time and finish time, the same rhythm…start with some worksheets and end using the software Dreambox.  Get a reward when goals are met.  That all seems so sensible to me.  Repeat , repeat the concepts in a different modality, repeat in a tangible, practical way….  I think we need to question Carey’s definition of learn.  If learn means memorize, then that’s different than understand deeply.  Like with math, music, language….where there is a lot of memorization, then repetition makes sense.  Adding real world applications and real world distractions also makes sense but not until the basics are understood.  Do you think these are the best methods for history?  I’ve always thought the best way to learn history would be for someone to hurry up and invent Star Trek’s Holodeck Image result for star trek holodeck

…so that we could walk safely and virtually through history in order to experience it from multiple perspectives.

Elizabeth Mason Brown reminded me of the pencil problem that Carey proposes:

You have six pencils to create 4 equilateral triangles. They cannot crisscross and you cannot break them.

Elizabeth says: ” I think that Carey’s ideas about incubation and percolation can definitely lend themselves to subjects that require deeper understanding. I’ve felt for a long time that too much emphasis on just memorization or just critical thinking or just math skills or just literacy skills is short-sighted and doesn’t best serve our students. To meet the needs of learners who have no idea what the world will be like in 10 years, we have to prepare them to be more flexible thinkers, and I am continually searching for ways to achieve this. I had an AHA moment while reading the book, around the Pencil test. I must admit that at first I was unable to solve the problem. I hit that impasse and walked away. Without really working the problem, an idea came to me full-blown and I was able to solve the problem. Now, I can’t say for sure that his ideas are all on target, but I can see how allowing ourselves to walk away from a difficult problem might relax us enough or give us some form of insight that allows us to use our existing knowledge in a new way or innovatively think that lets us see the solution we have been seeking.”

So what do you think?  I look forward to your thoughts.

Best BITs: Would you rather…

#BIT16Reads asks participants in the How We Learn by Benedict Carey book club:

Would you say that you’d rather be a grade 9 student in the year 2016 or would you rather be a grade 9 student in the year that you were actually in grade 9….and why?

Here are some of the more interesting answers:

  • Kate Johnson-McGregor says: “I would much rather have been a grade 9 student in 1986 than now. The absence of privacy that our kids have come to accept as the norm – the obligation to create and maintain a virtual as well as a real presence, the “selfie” and “snapchat” pressures – I think it must be very difficult to be in Grade 9 today. In 1986, I wrote letters to my then-boyfriend on pieces of lined paper that have been long-since destroyed. My friends “called on” me by ringing the doorbell. And Dirty Dancing and Top Gun were winners at the box office. It’s hard to beat that.”
  • Elizabeth Mason Brown contrasts Kate’s ideas by adding: “Now! I know that there is a LOT more pressure on kids today, but I am a total tech addict. I don’t consider myself old, but I remember when TVs were black and white and we listened to 8 track tapes! I love the instant access to information and people from all over the world and hope that we become a truly global community. In teaching History this year, we are learning how long it took the explorers to travel from Europe to the new world but we can travel to virtually anywhere instantly. That excites me.”

I got into a lot of trouble in grade 9 and none of it was published on the internet so I would have a constant fear that my bad behaviour would get back to my parents if I was a teenager in 2016.  Having said that I think a do-over of grade 9 in 1985 wouldn’t have prevented me from getting into trouble because I still wrestle with those impulses now as an adult in 2016!  However I would rather be a student in 2016 in terms of learning because I bet it’s so much more improved than my 1985 experience.  Is that a huge assumption?  There are so many classes in my school that I wish I could audit.

So if Kate and Elizabeth represent opposite ends on the spectrum of answers, where would you place yourself?  I look forward to your answers.

The Best bits of #BIT16Reads

Today marks just 16 days away until the big event…the most stellar education technology conference in Ontario: Bring IT Together #BIT16

As such, I’m going to revisit 16 of the best conversations we’ve had inside TVO’s TeachOntario.  I enter into this idea with the same ideas that support #BIT16Reads:

  • to grow through my professional reading
  • to grow and strengthen a community of educators

…so please feel free to grow the conversation again.  I look forward to your thoughts.

#BIT16Reads: Multiple entry points

I attended TEDxKitchener last weekend and the first speaker of the day, Dina Pestonji, reminded me that learning has multiple entry points.  Likewise, our online book club #BIT16Reads has multiple entry points.  Here are some of the planned places where you can jump in:

June 1, 2016: Begin discussing Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

July 1, 2016: Begin discussing The Innovator’s Mindset 

August 1, 2016: Begin discussing Creating Thinking Classrooms

September 1, 2016: Begin discussing How We Learn

October 1, 2016: Begin discussing Building School 2.0

November 9 – 11, 2016: #BIT16Reads meet up at the Bring IT Together conference, Niagara Falls, Ontario

After #BIT15Reads last year, one of the most common comments I heard was “I’m so sorry! I joined the book club but I didn’t keep up and then I felt embarrassed that that I couldn’t keep up and so I just stopped participating…”

is completely contrary to The Point of BIT16Reads

The point of #BIT16Reads is

  • to develop a community of learning educators
  • to support each other beyond our annual face-to-face meet ups
  • and above all to enjoy it (there will be no public floggings).

The book club is an idea experiment in itself wherein we have a common text to move our discussion forward.  So if you read our first book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era and throw it across the room after 35 pages, that is your democratic right!  All I ask is that you tell us about it somehow, somewhere and tag it #BIT16Reads so we can see it.

If you want to find us, we’ll be on multiple social media platforms but I encourage you to REGISTER so we can find you!

TVO’s TeachOntario: 

and outside Ontario in Goodreads: