Posted in Miscellaneous

Candy-Shop Learning

newpic-1If I’ve learned anything about learning, it’s that it is meant to be enjoyed. If it’s not enjoyed, it defeats the whole purpose–learning is meant to be exciting. One of my favorite things is to have a new concept click, to come to a new realization, or to learn a fascinating fact. We all love “light bulb” moments. The trick is to make each day of learning a light bulb experience.

We can look at learning as going to the grocery store to buy standard products that we use to eat and survive: bread, milk, eggs, apples. We mechanically walk through the aisles looking for exactly what we need, pay for it, and hurry home to get on to other tasks. Or we can look at learning like a child views going to the candy store. A visit to the candy store is a special occurrence, and the child looks around in awe. They savor the experience and look through every piece of candy trying to find what they would enjoy the very best. They then use their hard-earned stash of coins and dollar bills to buy the candy. The candy doesn’t even last for a whole day because the child quickly eats the much-anticipated candy. They get a “sugar rush” from eating it so fast.

I prefer the second analogy. The “candy” called learning is even better because it’s healthy for you! As future teachers, we will be able to either instill this excitement and joy for learning or we will contribute to students’ frustrations, dislike, or ambivalence toward learning.

This love of learning and the ability to enjoy it is transmitted from teacher to student subtly. It’s not something that can be taught, it’s something that has to be shown. That means we first have to acquire it ourselves. For example, when a student is struggling with a math problem, we can say, “I know, isn’t this kind of long and hard? But we need to do it.” Or we could say, “This is a challenging concept but after we work at it it’s going to be so exciting when it finally clicks.” In addition, instead of merely explaining a topic, we can show how interested we are in the topic as we discuss it. As I discussed in my last post, letting students ask questions can also be a way to stimulate enthusiasm. Through everything we do, we should make sure our classrooms and our lives feel like one big candy shop of learning.

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Art of Asking Questions

newpic-1I’ll admit that as a child I incessantly asked “why?” questions. However annoying they might have been to my mom, I have realized how vitally important it is to ask questions. Not teachers asking questions (which is still good), but students creating questions.

Let’s try a little activity. I’m going to say a topic, and I want you to think of as many questions as you can that have anything to do with this topic. Get curious and try to make them something you actually want to learn. Ready? Okay, here it is: planets.

Finished? What did you come up with? Here are some of mine:

  • Why do some planets have moons and others don’t?
  • Where did the names of the planets come from?
  • Who were the first people to discover planets?
  • Why is Jupiter so big?

I don’t know about you, but I think this activity was actually kind of fun. Tests, presentations, and worksheets in schools usually focus on answering questions someone else has written.  However, asking good questions spurs creativity, deeper thinking, and engagement. To ask those questions, I had to think for a minute and get creative. It made me pull from knowledge about planets that I already had (their names, some planets have moons, etc.) and then crank all that information through my thinking machine (aka my brain) and spit out a question. Doing this kept me engaged, and now I actually want answers to my questions.

In addition to those benefits, questions are really the base of every important discovery and accomplishment, even if the question is not explicitly stated.

  • For the Wright brothers it was “How can we fly?”
  • For the U.S. Founding Fathers it was “How can we create a good government?”
  • For a championship basketball team it might be “How can we play better and more effectively?”
  • For Joseph Smith it was “Which church is right?”

Each person or group of people didn’t simply answer a question, they asked it too. Because creating questions is so key, I want to integrate it in my future classroom. For example, when introducing a new topic, I want students to work individually or in groups to write or discuss as many questions as they can think of. I think this can involve many different students because there is no right answer, which means less pressure and more freedom to explore. In addition, one teacher commented that after having students ask questions, she has had multiple students remark that they “feel smart” (see comment from Ling-Se Peet, which is the fourth entry under “comments”). Learning to ask questions outside of the classroom adds excitement to life and is the key to being a lifelong learner.

If you’re interested in reading more, you can check out an article about a book outlining the student-created questioning process (here’s another page about the same book) or listen to my favorite BYU forum given by Michael Wesch where he talks about asking questions.

Posted in Miscellaneous

TED Talks on Education

newpic-1Ever since watching my first one in my high school math class, I have grown to love TED talks and their intriguing ideas. TED talks are videos of “leading thinkers and doers” who say whatever they want the world to know in just 18 minutes or less. I find them fascinating and particularly love those that discuss education. I have chosen a few of my favorite TED talks on education to introduce briefly. If you would like to watch them, follow the links below.

  • Sir Ken Robinson “Schools Kill Creativity”: This is the most watched TED talk, currently having over 15 million views according to the TED talks website. Robinson talks about how the way our schools are set up can kill creativity just when the world needs it most. I have seen this video many times and still find it fascinating.

  • Diana Laufenberg “How to Learn? From Mistakes”: In this talk, Laufenberg discusses the importance of experiential learning, student voice, and embracing failure to empower our schools to provide vital learning when we already have access to all the information.

  • Charles Leadbeater “Education Innovation in the Slums”: Leadbetter talks about students in developing countries being “pulled” to schools instead of “pushed.” He talks about making schools more meaningful and applicable so students are drawn to learning instead of forced to process information.

  • Emily Pilloton “Teaching Design for Change”: Pilloton talks about using a unique design system to rescue a failing rural school system in North Carolina. I enjoyed seeing how she aims to make learning more applicable and exciting to the students there so they would be more “connected.”

If you’re interested in learning more about TED talks, click here.

If you would like more ideas on TED talks about education try some of these links:

“8 Great TED Talks About the Future of Education and Teaching”

“10 of the Best TED Talks on Improving Education”

TED Talks “How we Learn” channel


Posted in Miscellaneous

Being Happy

newpic-1As winter semester continues I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. While it is warming up to some extent and we have passed the halfway point of the semester, winter blues are easy to catch during the months of being cooped up and stressed out. While the subject of happiness could fill up a whole blog, I’ll just stick to a few aspects of happiness that have meant a lot to me lately. Feel free to comment with other things you’ve found help you to be happy.

  • Don’t define your life by what you do: Make sure school, work, activities, etc. are not “your life” but just something in your life. Love all that you are involved in and then look to see how it’s helping you grow as an individual instead of feeling like school/work/etc. owns you. Be involved in a variety of things, take time to smell the roses, and just try to see your life differently.
  • Look at yourself and laugh: Over the summer I had the opportunity to travel. One night I was sitting in my room in a nice hotel in the beautiful city of Hanoi, Vietnam. I was so hot and could not figure out how to work the thermostat; I just wanted to cool off and get some sleep. I started crying to myself, feeling miserable. Then I pictured how funny I looked sitting there in that really nice hotel in Vietnam, crying because I couldn’t turn the temperature down a few degrees. The thought of it made me start to laugh a little. Part of me was annoyed and wanted to stay miserable, but it lightened the load considerably. Now whenever I start tearing up and look in the mirror, I think how ridiculous I look and start half-laughing. There’s just something comically awkward about seeing yourself in the mirror when you’re miserable. So next time you want to be miserable, maybe just look at yourself in the mirror and laugh a little.
  • IMG_7809Enjoy nature: I’ve had several days where my whole day was unbelievably brighter after walking around the south and west ends of campus. Have you seen the beautiful views we have at those parts of campus?
  • SLEEP! Last year I didn’t get any sleep. This year I made it a goal to get more sleep, so every night I get at least seven hours. I can testify that it has made a huge difference in my life. I didn’t think I could do it, but once I made it a BIG priority in life, it somehow happens (usually!).
  • Stop multitasking: When I start really paying attention in a class, to my homework, or especially to the people around me, life seems much more meaningful.
  • Prayer and scripture study: Don’t just do it, but make it the genuine center of your day.
  • Pray for opportunities to serve others: Try to look for those opportunities with love. This was a challenge from Elder Ballard last conference and it’s amazing how much it changes my attitude!
  • Remember that you are a child of God: No matter how many times you feel like you’ve failed, keep trying because God loves you and you are probably growing much more than you think. Have faith in yourself!

I love learning about happiness. I think it is especially important to grow in happiness as a teacher so we can be an example of joy to the students we teach. In a world filled with problems, hope and happiness can be two of the most influential things we give our students.