Problem-Based Learning

From the research I conducted over problem-based learning I found two great descriptions/definitions for this particular approach to learning.  First, the University of Illinois Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning describes it as “a teaching method in which complex real-world problems are used as the vehicle to promote student learning of concepts and principles as opposed to direct presentation of facts and concepts. In addition to course content, PBL can promote the development of critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and communication skills. It can also provide opportunities for working in groups, finding and evaluating research materials, and life-long learning.”  Second, the Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation defines it as “a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem.”  This approach to learning is important because it “provides students with the opportunity to develop skills related to: working in teams, managing projects and holding leadership roles, oral and written communication, self-awareness and evaluation of group processes, working independently, critical thinking and analysis, explaining concepts, self-directed learning, applying course content to real world examples, researching and information literacy, and problem solving across disciplines” (Cornel CTI).

The classroom is usually grouped up for problems-based learning projects.  This type of project will usually be due at the end of a semester or end of a particular topic because it usually deals with a more complex question that may have no one particular “correct” answer.  Usually the last 15 minutes or so of class will be spent researching as well as whole classroom time near the due date for the project.  A big reason why teachers use this learning approach is to increase the students’ abilities to work in groups and understand the importance of teamwork.  Also, it allows students to use a deeper thought process when involving more complex questions.

One of the possible criticisms and disadvantages of problem-based learning is the possible disengagement of the students.  If the students aren’t aware of the problem or don’t have much knowledge about it, then they may experience a lack of interest in the project especially if it is group-based.  Also, problems that are applicable to your specific field of expertise may be difficult to find so choose your problems wisely.

Illinois PBL

Cornell PBL

Peter Doolittle @pdoopdoo





My search into the world of cryptozoology continues on!  At the beginning of the week I decided to focus my research on the specific sections of the cryptozoology zoo.  The section I chose to dive into for this week was the Humanoids.  Three categories listed in the Humanoids section are hairy humanoids, winged humanoids, and other humanoids (like I explained in last week’s edition covering my ILP).

Hairy Humanoids explains itself: “roughly human in form, but are largely or wholly covered in fur or hair.”  This is your typical Bigfoot and Yeti type of creatures.  Hairy humanoids are put into two main classifications.  The first is the “Normal” Bigfoots and mystery animals; these ones are the “more tame, normal specimens that have some respectability in the eyes of science” and “biologically plausible”.  The second category is the Hairy Bipeds (HB)/Big Hairy Monsters (BHM).  This category contains “all the weird things that seem supernatural, out of place, or just plain silly.”  Explanations for hairy humanoids fall into three camps: 1.) these creatures are missing links (in reference to evolution), 2.) they are primates, or 3.) they are primitive humans.

Hairy Humanoids Link: Click Here

Next are the Winged Humanoids.  These cryptids are often looked on as less plausible than other cryptids because of their genetic makeup, for they are more biologically absurd than others.  And because these beings seem to defy science, this lends to explanations regarding the supernatural.  Explanations and investigations of these are few and far between because of the lack of science involved.

Winged Humanoids Link: Click Here

The last category of humanoids is the Others.  These are the human cryptids that fall outside of the previous two categories, so they don’t necessarily have any relation or anything in common with one another.  Two of the popular creatures falling under this class are mermaids and aliens.  These two particular cryptids have opposite levels of attraction when it comes to science and research; aliens capture a great deal of interest from scientists, while mermaids are less often taken seriously.  Another few legends that fall into this Others category are fairies and shapeshifters and vampires.  Many of the things in this category are much more popular in mainstream media.

Other Humanoids Link: Click Here


When I started my research for Personal Learning Networks, PLNs, one of the very first sites I found was very helpful with teaching me about PLNs– what they are and what they are about.  On Teacher Challenges, it gives an 8-step guide on creating your own PLN.  This link I embedded will take you to step one.  Anyways, this article did a great job outlining what exactly a PLN is.  The site broke it down into each of its components: personal, learning, and network.

The personal component deals with the relationships you make and create with teachers and experts around the world. We live in a time where almost anything you ask, there is an answer for it on the internet; so why not build personal connections with those people who answer all of these questions?  It’s very clear to see how this can be beneficial towards learning.

The learning component hits on the sharing of the resources you find from these teachers, experts, school administrators, etc.  This piece ties directly into the personal piece mentioned above; if we build several different relationships online, all the learning that occurs online will be passed around and serve as learning for thousands of other people– teachers and students alike!  If a learning culture gains more and more users every minute, just think about all the more helpful this is to any question out there for any subject out there!

Finally, the network component speaks for itself.  This is how its described in the article: “The defining feature of the PLN is that it is a global learning network, enabling people to tap into and share diverse, global perspectives on teaching strategies, educational issues, and technologies.”

I learned other information about PLNs after reading “How to Cultivate Your Personal Learning Network”.  There were a 8 key thoughts on building this platform: explore, search, follow, tune, feed, engage, inquire, and respond.  These steps were outlined well so this article did a great job showing how each key component ties in with the other.  And it fit perfectly with the article I wrote about earlier!  It’s main point is creating a safe and growing learning center for learners of all kinds.

Also, check out this tweet from Jackson!


I finally settled on my subject!  If y’all read last week’s edition of my continuing search for my Independent Learning Project, you read that I narrowed my topic down to two possible ideas: the study of cryptozoology or learning about the history of tennis or hockey.  I did some research on both topics as the week began, but by Wednesday I decided that I am going to continue my research on cryptozoology.  The learning I was doing on it already was too much fun to pass up on and extremely interesting.  I was already deeply interesting in the subject because I think it is unfair to label things as ‘fake’ or ‘false’ if there is no evidence to dispel such things!  A common rebuttal is ” well, there’s no evidence to say they are true,” but I reply to that with there is something that had to start up the legend!  But anyways, here is some of the research I have done this week.

First and foremost, for those of you who don’t know what cryptozoology is, it is defined by New Animal as “the study of animals and other creatures that have not yet been accepted by science as real.”  A more blunt or paraphrased way of saying it– monster hunting.  It was interesting to learn, however, that cryptozoology is not only just the search for these”mythical” types of creatures but also simply new species and subspecies of animals!  So, whenever you are reading the news and see someone has discovered a new species of fish (since the ocean is the most common setting for new animal species) this is technically defined in cryptozoology.

Another thing I learned is that the “zoo” (of cryptozoology) is roughly divided up into three sections: Animals, Draconic (reminds you of a dragon), or Humanoids (reminds you of a human).  Included in the animals section is everything that isn’t of the other two sections.  It includes extinct animals, “out of place” animals, and just random, anomouls animals.  Draconic things in the zoo include the classic dragons and water monsters like the Loch Ness Monster.  Finally, Humanoids include “Hariy” humanoids (Yeti, Bigfoot), Winged humanoids (gargoyles, Mothman), and “Other” humanoids (aliens, fairies, mermaids).

What are MY Teaching Fundamentals?/Math is Beautiful

The two articles I read from the Passion Based Learning articles we were given were “What are Your Teaching Fundamentals?” written by Suzanne Farrell Smith and “Finding the Beauty of Math Outside of Class” written by Alessandra King.  The article written by King caught my eye automatically since my major is math and students are always asking “when will need to know this [any math subject] in everyday life?”  I used to BE one of those types of students; but as I’ve grown up and as I’ve started to realize, math is all around us and is incorporated more in our lives than we think.  The other article about teaching fundamentals that was posted by Smith is something I was jus curious to write about.

In “What are Your Teaching Fundamentals”, Smith lists her twelve teaching fundamentals.  I took a lot from these fundamentals because I think they will help me when I become a teacher.  Three such fundamentals that caught my attention were the first on her list– Content Knowledge– number five on the list– Classroom Management– and number seven on the list– High Expectations.  I always am worried about content knowledge for when I’m a teacher because I have somewhat bad memory so my worst fear is that a student will ask me how to do something and I’ll simply forget or not remember!  So Smith details that she studies everything she teaches to prepare herself for any student questions that might arise.  Classroom Management is always harped on in my college teaching courses so far so I took a lot from that.  Lastly, High Expectations was interesting because she explains how she has high expectations of her students, so she has to always know how to deal with the event of students still not learning something.  I know I can be impatient too, so this was encouraging to know I’m not the only one!

The second article “Finding the Beauty of Math Outside of Class”, King explains how she uses field trips to monuments in Washington D.C. to apply math to things in everyday life.  Even though Washington D.C. has several incredible examples of applied mathematics, this type of exercise can be used in really an city, setting, or venue.  In the article, she explains how the things the students observe range from several different math topics– from symmetry to the calculation of volume to the Fibonacci sequence.  Teaching and more importantly showing students the different ways math is incorporated in the world around us is very important because it opens their eyes to something  they never really believed.


Photo CC by kauphy luvr

Independent Learning Project Vol. II

My continuance of thinking about a subject for my independent learning project took all week, even into today Sunday.  If you read my previous post covering this Independent Learning Project, I listed a few things that interest me and could be a lot of fun to research and learn about.  One idea I was especially fond of was furthering my learning of the supernatural and cryptozoology.  I find this subject of things beyond explanation and reason incredibly fascinating and learning more about them can be an awesome learning experience.

Another idea that surfaced was one related to my love for sports.  In the comments of my previous post about the Independent Learning Project, my classmate Lynda suggested an interesting choice for a topic.  She proposed the idea of researching a sport that I’m not quite familiar with and dive into the history of the sport.  I think that was interesting because I never really thought to do a sport I’m not familiar with or interested in.  But perhaps a sport that I know a little about, like hockey or tennis, could be something interesting enough to enhance my knowledge of.  Hockey is very popular around this part of the country so perhaps learning about that would be worthwhile.  But I have played a little bit of tennis before and my dad was a good tennis player when he was younger.  I’m still trying to decide, if I am going to follow through on this topic, which sport would be more interesting to me– hockey or tennis.

So right now I am still at a crossroads between these two possible topics.  I did some preliminary research and Google-ing on cryptozoology and just looking through all of the creatures involved in this study.  I am not totally sure how exactly I would go about this project if using this topic: do I research one particular creature or the history of cryptozoology or what?  I still have some thinking to do considering this possible idea.  I also looked into the beginnings of both tennis and hockey.  I was looking for just general information so it wasn’t particularly in-depth, not just yet.

The fact that I don’t have a concrete idea set up for this project isn’t too concerning to me since I narrowed it down to two good ideas.  I hope by the end of this week for sure that I will have my idea pat down.

“Aha!” Moments

Matt Goldman in this TED Talk preaches on the concept of “aha” moments.  What an “aha” moment is is that moment of profound realization, surprise, greater learning, etc.  Goldman explains that there are certain conducive conditions that can create and harbor these intellectual “aha” moments.  Often times, teachers are especially guilty of this, people can shut down and kill creativity– for teachers it is the student creativity in the classroom.

He explains his own experience when co-founding the Blue Man Group in 1988.  His idea certainly could have been shot down and discarded; but because he believed in his idea and others believed in his idea, the Blue Man Group thrived and proved to be very successful even though it was an “odd” idea.  No one should feel as if they can’t do something because what they are interested in or are passionate about is cast down as weird or dumb or what have you.  Ideas of all kinds should be cultivated and encouraged because that is healthy for students; young people should be able to think freely and discover new things that may interest them and indulge in those activities.

Personally, I am an incredibly uncreative person.  My least favorite subject in school was art; I just didn’t like to draw or color and I could never think of anything to draw– things of that nature.  And God help me when there was an artistic or creative requirement in a core class.  With this said, there were several alternatives for students like me.  Sometimes while some students made iMovies, Powerpoints, or dioramas for a specific project, there were alternatives like writing an essay, which is more my speed.  However ‘mundane’ and ‘normal’ an essay is, this still fits into that mold of creativity because that is where I am able to portray my level or form of creativity.

I like to think that “Aha” moments are what change history– change the way people look at things.  The course of human history is primarily based on these ideas of creativity: from the creation of electricity, to the car, to Coca Cola!  This just goes to prove that no idea is completely absurd or undoable.  Likewise, nothing is unachievable.  If you want something and seek success, do whatever you can to find that success and do not let anyone or anything stand in your way.


Photo CC by Denise Krebs

Hacking isn’t Always Criminal

Bud Hunt’s blog post “Centering on Essential Lenses: Make/Hack/Play” was an interesting read; likewise, I enjoyed watching Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy”.  I wasn’t so sure what to expect from either resource when I began each of them because I don’t know much about hacking or anything like that– since I automatically related hacking to computer hacking and Matthew Broderick in the film WarGames.  I personally think hacking requires incredible talent and intellect alike.  However, all of this is irrelevant to my impending blog because to my relief these resources weren’t really based on this type of hacking.

To begin, Hunt’s blog post featured the talk of lenses and what having the right ‘lens’ means in teaching and in life really.  Our reality (the life aspect of it) and our students’ perspective in our class (teaching aspect, of course) can be shaped by how we view things by the type of lens we use.  There are unfortunate events in life, I won’t act like there is; but sometimes we can find positivity in the lousy and sad moments and the light in the dark.  And so, if we apply the right lens to certain situations then life can be made simpler for us.  We can use these different lenses to view things that happen to us differently, and perhaps view whatever it may be as a positive rather than viewing it as a negative.

LaPlante’s TED talk was an interesting video to watch too.  Something of relevance that I happened to point out in the beginning of this post was that hackers are intellectual human beings.  And something almost every intellectual has is creativity.  So, in turn, with hacking and being a ‘hacker’ comes creation and creativity.  And what Logan talks about in this TED Talk is the idea that innovation and creation can make some things better and possibly change the future of what we do.  I think these ideas can create new paths to walk along and create new tangents of learning.  And what a wonderful idea it is that someone, you or me, could change the world?  Not only the world around you or me, but everyone else’s world as well.  People with no connection, no link to you whatsoever will be impacted for the greater good because of something I did?  This thinking automatically creates positivity and the yearning for better things in this world.wargames2-jpg_192745

Independent Learning

I was not totally sure what it was that we had to do at first for this Independent Learning Project.  And if I’m going to be completely honest with you, it took me a couple of days to even begin finding a subject that interested me that is “important” to learn about.  A list of things that interest me are sports, 20th century American history, superheroes, and the supernatural (hauntings, extraterrestrials, cryptozoology, etc.).  Again, coming up with this list didn’t necessarily fall under the category of things “important” to me especially as a college student or future teacher, as stated in the description of this assignment.

I listed sports first and foremost because sports are everything to me.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for sports, I truly believe this.  Sports have taught to me so much about what life really is, and I learned lessons in every season in every sport I played– dedication, integrity, overcoming adversity, effort, and so much more.  But as i began thinking about this I just don’t know if there is anything I’d like to learn in this subject that I don’t know already.

As a middle grades major, I have to have two major requirements to teach at this level in the future.  My first major is math and my “second” major is history.  I have always loved history: history of people, history of where things come from, history of why something is the way it is, etc.  So I do think that I could indulge in an independent learning project involving history, but there is so much history to choose from!  I would have to take a great deal of time to settle on a single idea because of my enjoyment of history.

Something I did think about indulging for my independent learning project was that idea of the supernatural, especially the cryptozoology aspect of it such as Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, el chupacabra, Mothman, and a personal favorite– mermaids and mermen.  It may seem silly to some people, I understand that, but I truly am fascinated in the idea that there are things in and of this world that we cannot explain.  Some people are afraid of not being able to explain or comprehend something, so instead they pass it off as ‘fake’.  I’m more of a person that needs substantial, tangible proof before I will dispel these things.  So this subject, along with history, are two things I am thinking about researching for this project.


What is Digital Literacy?

When I searched “What is Digital Literacy” one of the first sites to pop up at the top of the page was a personal favorite of mine in the education realm: Education Week.  Suggested to me by several education professors here at Chadron State and my mom, this website offers several resources and provides information for incoming and veteran teachers.

In regards to this specific article written by Liana Heitin, she writes about how this term ‘digital literacy’ doesn’t have a set-in-stone definition.  Its’s not confined to one possible interpretation, but instead it can encompass so many fields of thought.  The title of her article is a great preface to her explanation– “Digital Literacy: An Evolving Definition”.  I like the word ‘evolving’ in this case because the definition is ever-changing and can incorporate several different moving parts as time goes on.  In the article Heitin states, “But given the new and ever-changing ways we use technology to receive and communicate information, digital literacy also encompasses a broader range of skills—everything from reading on a Kindle to gauging the validity of a website or creating and sharing YouTube videos” (Heitin Vol. 36, Issue 12, Pages 5-6).  I believe it is important to not refer to digital literacy as a concise, cemented concept; rather, we should think of it as this broad and fluid idealism.

Heitin also refers to the American Library Association’s digital literacy task force’s definition of digital literacy: “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”  ((Heitin Vol. 36, Issue 12, Pages 5-6).  Heitin also includes this piece in the article: “More simply, Hiller Spires, a professor of literacy and technology at North Carolina State University, views digital literacy as having three buckets: 1) finding and consuming digital content; 2) creating digital content; and 3) communicating or sharing it” (Heitin Vol. 36, Issue 12, Pages 5-6).  As you can determine, these two definitions aren’t word for word.  Though they are similar, there are many ways to explain what digital literacy means to you.

I think that my abilities in reference to digital literacy are strong.  I am not Joe Wizard on the computer, but the common tasks I am asked to do on the computer– like write a paper or research a topic, even create a blog (which I have never done before)– I can do these things without much trouble.  I have had my own personal Twitter for over five years now so I can navigate it very well along with other forms of social media like Instagram, Snapchat, and so on.  I have room to grow and expand my digital literacy abilities, but for the most part I am fairly skilled with it.  Knowing exactly what it is that I have to learn I’m not so sure about because I don’t know exactly what it is that I haven’t learned already, if that makes sense!  Learning something new has to come up organically rather than trying to search for something when I wouldn’t even know what to search.