Our first problem: Homework.

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

My students’ assignment was simple: Write a short blog post reflecting on any of the following:

  • a problem you have
  • a problem faced by your school, community, or the world
  • the concept or process of “problem solving”
  • this class

After several days, not a single student returned to class having completed the assignment. Not a word had been written.

We had a very SMART problem. If you don’t know the acronym, SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Jim Lerman pointed out to me the other day how applicable the SMART acronym is to problem seeking, and I think he is correct.

I had to think fast, because you can’t have a blog without blog posts, and while I didn’t want to turn blog writing into a punishment, I did want to kickstart my students into writing.

So I opened up a single Google Doc, shared it with all of them, and had each of them write their name on the blank page. I spaced their names out along the length of the document, and asked them to write. The same topic, but this time I asked them to just write. Stream of consciousness. Free writing.

Two minutes in, and 80% of the class wouldn’t have paused to acknowledge a fire in the room. Here are some things I would like to share in no particular order (note: I asked them to not check grammar or spelling, though I have edited their writing in some – not all – places)

1.choose a topic
2.list expectation
3.list facts
4.comparison
5.list problems
6.solve problems
7.check check check

We can share our [experiences] on the blog. . . .we could list the problems and figure out the solution. In this case, each step of our problem-seeking project could be clearly presented on-line, which will be efficient to show [others] what have we done all over the time.

to solve a problem, we need to have a problem!!!

How do we solve problems? How do I know that I have a problem?

Fire. This is what we need. We need passion and motivation and inspiration.
Perhaps we should figure out one thing we as a group are good at. But that feels risky. Like building a hammer without establishing the existence of nails.

So, what’s gotten me thinking in other classes?
status exercises
dropping in
free writing, oddly enough

What inspires people?
a good soundtrack
people they know
any underdog story
eloquence-“Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power”

But maybe it’s not when effects us personally but what evolves us emotionally.

problems are problems because they need to be fixed
it’s possible that problems only exist because they have a solution
perhaps if a problem has no solution then maybe it is not a problem
to use math as an example 3+2 is a problem because it has a solution: 5
5 is not a problem because it has no solution
It is likely that having a solution is not the only common thread between all problems
there are other things all problems have in common
they can all be phrased as a question
for example: what is 2+3.
the answer is 5 again, but unlike the prior example, this problem was phrased in the form of a question

(so much for the flipped classroom!)

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