Learn by Doing

Reflections on Learning from both sides.

Learn by Doing. At Carnegie Mellon they refer to it as LBD. My students refer to it as “having to teach themselves” – not always intended as the compliment to my teaching that it really is.

I always spend time reflecting on what I have asked my students to do and on the feedback I get from them. I have a list of questions that guide me in this process. Was I clear about my expectations? Did my instructions make sense? Are the tasks I set clearly aligned to the key learning objectives I have outlined? Did students adequately demonstrate mastery? You know, all those questions we bullet list under the word “pedagogy.

But, what about these questions. Was the experience perceived as worth while by my students? Does the word “frustration” really mean frustration or does it mean “no one has ever truly challenged me before?” Has at least one student let me know that the experience of learning mathematics was not as bad as they had feared it would be?

I use these same questions when I reflect on what I am trying to learn. It helps me to target things that work and things that don’t. They allow me to own and appreciate the mistakes I make for the value they provide in redirecting me to different approaches, options, tools, and ideas. My mistakes are things I can truly own. No one wants to take credit for a goof up. It is a good thing I get so excited about mistakes, it is the only time I know I am really learning something.


We celebrated the Salmon!

One of the things I love about KPC is that work-life balance is not just something we talk about – it’s encouraged!

Thanks to that cultural attitude, I was privileged to chaperone (without guilt) my daughter’s second grade class to  Johnson Lake for the annual Salmon Celebration (if you haven’t been, find a 7 -11 year old and go!)!  Great day – no rain and lots of fishy business. 😉

Road trippin' with second graders!

Road trippin’ with second graders!


Fishing on dry land….hmmmmmmmm


The fish was named fliptail – hopefully his (her) release to Johnson lake wasn’t too traumatic! :-0

5 (or so) Blog-writing Nuggets of Wisdom

beaver typing

Comic from Jamie Smith of Ink and Snow (Fairbanks, Alaska).

I want to pass on some tips I received when I first started blogging. I was in a class that relied heavily on blog posts, reflections, and meta-thinking, and was not feeling stellar about my writing or my purpose. I am (was) so used to writing with the aim of conveying instruction sets, that I was (still am) finding it challenging to imagine who my audience was and what they would find interesting.

I was lucky enough to get great advice and wanted to pass on some nuggets of wisdom.

From Alan Levine (@cogdog)- A Rockstar ed tech blogger (I’ve paraphrased a bit):

…My advice, free to discard, is *#^! the audience. Stop trying to project how people will read into your work…Write for yourself as audience first. If you cannot interest yourself in your writing, how can you expect anyone else to glom on?…

(1) I do not start until I have a clever title. DO not write boring titles. The title should not explain the content, it should hint at it. The title is the grab you have if you do want attention, but my titles are my way of telling jokes to myself, or puns, or plays on pop culture.

(2) I do not write until I have a visual or media metaphor– I see you are doing that already, but once that funny title is in place, I go looking for images.

(3) Do not forget hyperlinks. If yo mention anything that refers to a place, a thing, a person, a named concept, find a link. It’s not just to think of readers, when I am out looking for links, I am always finding other relevant things that I often bring in; I find accidental stuff.

(4) In my own style, maybe 5? years ago I stopped writing long paragraphs. I play with mixing the rhythm. I like tossing in one line, sometimes one word paragraphs. Break grammar rules. Stomp commas. Dangle modifiers (put) (weird) (things) (in) parentheses. Try all kinds of rules, then break them all.

(5) I aim for a close. But I can tell you a lot of times I start writing about one thing, and end up going elsewhere. Sometimes I have an end in mind, sometimes it finds it as I write. But close strong. Some people like to end with questions (The Chronicle does this ad nauseum, “what about you?” I find that tiring).

(6) I ran out of ideas. Or forgot them.

Now go write.

For more on this, here is my original post on my blog, “Time to Myself” with more super comments on blog writing from some (of my) super hero bloggers, Adam and Chris Lott from UAF.

Our group blog here is perhaps a little more lightweight but I am still stoked to see you all posting, commenting, and branching out in these online spaces as we get to know each other in and out of session!

We are a great group for it because we already have such a close-knit working community- way to engage KPC!

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