Doing What’s Never Been Done Before

Sometimes, we have to apply our knowledge and skills to something that has never been done before. Consider NASA’s Curiosity mission to Mars. The final descent to Mars is affectionately referred to as “Seven Minutes of Terror.” The video below demonstrates this point.

For NASA scientists, they were presented the problem of the unknown. In order to land Curiosity safely, they had to depend on their knowledge and training as applied in a theoretical context.

Think about the kind of tasks we ask our students to complete when applying knowledge. Do we ask them to attempt the unknown? Do we ever challenge them with tasks that are unsafe or untried? Or do we simply ask them to repeat back the content we’ve presented to them in lectures, readings, and research projects?

Rarely do we have problems in our real lives that resemble the problems we solved in school. So, why not design authentic tasks that challenge students to apply the content to new scenarios beyond their limited scope?

I am not suggesting the impossible. To engage students and really push their learning, sometimes we have to ask them to do something they have never tried, maybe even something no one has ever tried.

So, while you reflect on last year’s students and prep for next year’s group, consider the impossible and the never-been-done. Dream of ways in which your students can stretch their learning to new and unimaginable contexts. The results might be as exciting as   “Seven Minutes of Terror” or at least feature the kind of engagement and authentic learning we strive for in our students.

[H/T Boingboing]

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: What I Learned on my Summer “Vacation”

This has been the craziest summer I have ever had.  I did a couple of presentations, went to SpaceCamp, visited the White House, saw the final shuttle launch, traveled with my family, and through it all have been continuing my doctoral coursework. I think I literally blinked and it’s over.  I’m ready though.  A new year is here.  I’m thinking of ways to make this the best school year ever.  I don’t want to take any of my summer experiences for granted, nor have them be a waste of time.  Each one of them taught me something.  As I start the year, I’m thinking about how to make it a great one.   So, what did I learn on my summer vacation?

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1.) Final Shuttle Launch:  “Teach this year like it’s going to be your last.” Watching the final launch and the final landing of the space shuttle taught me to teach this year like this is it.  Don’t wait to take that risk and try something new.  Just go for it.  Don’t wait for opportunities to come your way, find them.

2.) White House: “Accept that there are things you cannot change, and stop complaining about them.” As I listened to President Obama answers questions from all over the world, I realized how many problems and issues there really are in our country.  There are things everyday in our world, and schools, that we cannot change.  But, we have full control over ourselves.  This year I’m going to seek to learn and improve myself.  It’s really the only thing you have full control over, right?

3.) Space Camp: Set your alarm everyday to get up an inspire kids.” It doesn’t matter WHAT is on your lesson plan if you you’re not there to inspire kids.  Find out what they love to learn about, support them, mentor them, help them.  Provide experiences where they can struggle and help them find their way.

4.) Doctoral Studies: “Be open, be honest, be authentic.” After ten years in education, and lots and lots of classes, I’m having authentic discussions about ‘change’ with some amazing people in my cohort and realizing that change IS possible.  But, it’s not going to happen without difficult discussions. It’s not going to be some magic-wand experience where everything gets better.  It’s going to take some open, real dialogue.  So, don’t be afraid of it, embrace it, listen to others, share your thoughts, and make a difference.

5.) Twitter: “Never underestimate the power of collaboration.” People you’ve never met are willing to help you.  Learn to rely on others when you need to, and more importantly, learn to be there for others when they need you.  Share. Collaborate.  Truly collaborate.  Open your door to the teachers you work with and open your door to the global community on Twitter.

6.) Blogging: ”Keep learning…forever.” Stop. Think. Reflect. Repeat. Learn something.

7.) Reading. “Education is about Passion.”  I read the book “Passion Driven Classroom” in June.  I’m still thinking about it and what it means.  I ‘m going to have discussions with my students in the fall about their passions.  It’s also about embracing your own passions and sharing them with students.  Telling kids about your hobbies just might inspire them to share theirs.  Don’t overlook the value of learning what kids truly love to learn about.  The passion driven classroom is one in which kids LEARN.

8.) Traveling with Family:  ”I love my family.”  They support me.  They make me laugh. They are the reason I keep going.

I also learned that my dog loves pickles and was once again reminded that I truly love my job.  I’m pretty sure those things have no relation to each other, but I also know that I am excited to make this the best school year ever.

What did you learn this summer?

Post by guest contributor Krissy Venosdale of TeachFactory.com. Veteran eMINTS teacher, gifted education teacher, Tweeter, photographer….. and that’s just her day job. Original post August 2, 2011 on TeachFactory.com.

Thursday’s Tip: NASA TweetUp – eMINTS Teacher @ Space Shuttle Launch

Veteran eMINTS teacher from Hillsboro, MO, Krissy Venosdale, GreatDayToLearn.com and TeachFactory.com, is blogging and tweeting from NASA’s launch site this week. She was invited to attend and be a part of the NASA TweetUp.

“What is a Tweetup? A Tweetup is an informal meeting of people who use the social messaging medium Twitter. This Tweetup is an opportunity to learn more about NASA, explore NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and experience a space shuttle launch.” Krissy, known as KTVee on Twitter, is one of a few applicants that will be allowed behind the curtain to share with the world what happens, moment by moment, at the launch of the Endeavor space shuttle.

T-Shirt Krissy made with her students names so they could "attend" with her.

She wants to bring this awesome event to her students and yours by sharing her experience. Her blog will provide a live countdown, videos, pictures, interesting facts, teaching ideas, and her latest tweets. You can even ask her a question that she will pass on to a real astronaut.

What a great way to get your kids excited all while learning about math, science, and more. Check out her event blog, Learning Endeavour: One Teachers Space Shuttle Launch Experience to learn more and be a part of the Friday launch.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

*NASA, . “Connect and Collaborate with NASA.” 04apr2011. Discussion Board.
*“Endeavor.” Flickr – Koocheekoo. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/koocheekoo/2331555537/>.
*“NASA TweetUp T-Shirt.” Flickr – KTVee. Web. 27 Apr 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/venosdale/5657841099/in/photostream/>.