What makes a good challenge?

Yay! I completed the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge – Advanced. It was a good challenge and I’ve not only learned more about blogging but of various other things like art and science whilst visiting other participants’ blogs.

I love a good challenge. I once made a croque-en-bouche (though without the traditional pan) because my husband said that an Orange poppy-seed  syrup cake  was too plain. I recently also made a Mocha Truffle cake because my (always yummy) chocolate mud cake was becoming a staple, and thus ordinary. (Just for fun and to practice some #ksyb skills, I’m putting in a photo gallery of these two creations…..please oblige).

What makes a good challenge?

  1. Success is possible. Though success cannot always be guaranteed, I need to be able to see that I can achieve the objectives. For the #ksyb, I had a choice between Beginner and Advanced. After only a year of blogging, I certainly didn’t think of myself as advanced but decided I probably wasn’t a beginner either- this turned about to be a right decision for me. The #ksyb site even said “There’s no pressure — you can join and leave the challenges at any time.” plus there were promises of support and mentors, if needed. A 30-day challenge was  not easy but certainly do-able, I thought.
  2. Opportunities to learn. A good challenge allows me to do something I haven’t done before or at least do things differently. I started blogging for various reasons and was fumbling along with much resourcefulness and use of Google. Passionate to learn especially in improving my practice, I really did see #ksyb as a chance to learn. Ditto for the cakes above – first time I’ve ever made them.
  3. Personally relevant. A good challenge means I gain something: new skills/techniques, insights/perspectives, relationships, inspiration and the like (you get my drift).  It is personally interesting. I could see that my blog needed kickstarting and #ksyb definitely came at an opportune time.
  4. Flexibility to be me. Ok, a challenge followed to the letter can be a good challenge too. However, challenges that allow for my own creativity or individuality provide extra motivation for me. #ksyb certainly allowed that with multiple options and even extension activities. I can call this point differentiation but only educators seem to undertand that term. Really, when we differentiate we allow for individuals, right?
  5. Completion provides a sense of satisfaction. It can’t be too easy as I have to be able to stretch myself. This point is like the flipside of #1, i.e. Failure is possible. It is possible for challenges to provide a sense of satisfaction even if objectives aren’t met (some call it failure).  Failure that generates learning allows one to transcend the “negativity” of failure. I think that even if I didn’t complete #ksyb (read: fail to complete) it would still have been good because each activity in the challenge had features of a good challenge.

With #ksyb, I was able to put myself in learner’s  shoes (re: Teacher, be a learner), pretty much along the lines of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. I gained more than kickstarting my blog, the original objective, towards expanding my PLN. Visiting other blogs as part of the challenge was a stroke of genius. I felt some pressure – self-inflicted, I assure you – which helped motivate me. I felt affirmed in many ways by comments in my blog posts and seeing what others have written as well.

I am a bit sad that it is over but I am glad as well.

How can this experience translate into better teaching?

How can we design teaching programs that provide good challenges for the learners in our classrooms? Does it even make sense to look at teaching programs as challenges for learners?

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13 thoughts on “What makes a good challenge?

  1. mrsjwilson says:

    I’m sad the challenge is over as well, Malyn. There was something about assigned topics that really helped me keep blogging – even when I wrote unrelated posts. However, I now know I do have readers, and that I can share things from my classroom that others will hopefully find beneficial. Thanks for your reflection on the challenge! P.S. Can I come over for dessert? 😉

    • malyn says:

      Hi Janelle,

      I missed that point, i.e. a good challenge has to have sufficient structure so participants can navigate their way from start to finish. If it is too nebulous (I’m sure you love that word), then it’s no good. It is possible to have structure with flexibility just like this #ksyb challenge.

      Posting about your classroom adventures are not only interesting for some and good reflective practice for you, it actually makes your voice unique. Be heard!

      And if you’re over in this corner of the world, holler and I’ll invite you over for dinner AND dessert. You can regale me with your scientific knowledge. My girls would love it, too.

      cheers,
      Malyn

  2. mrsdkrebs says:

    I definitely believe my experience in the challenge is making me a better teacher. I have already been planning more activities that allow them more time for discovery and introducing them to a worldwide audience. I’m planning to have my students participate in the student blogging challenge. I’d love to try those desserts too!
    Denise

    • malyn says:

      Wonderful, Denise. I’ll sign up to visit student blogs as part of the challenge. Let me know when you’re around Sydney and we could meet up for cake – homemade or not.
      cheers,
      Malyn

  3. mistea says:

    Malyn
    Fabulous pictues of the baking. Mouthwatering. I too got so much from the challenge. It was not only the actual challenges for posting, but all that I learned from others as I visited their blogs. Whole new avenues for learning have been opened up to me.
    Kathryn

    • malyn says:

      The good thing about personal pictures is I don’t need to worry about copyright. 🙂
      I’m glad you got a lot from the challenge, too. The challenge is actually to keep the momentum up. Don’t you think?

      cheers,
      Malyn

  4. Karla says:

    Malyn,

    I think for me #ksyb showed me that integrating technology into our teaching and learning programs isn’t as impossible as it seemed to me before this challenge.

    Simple things like setting up blogs is a fantastic building block in the use of technology in the classroom and then you can further build on it from there by adding and trying new programs.

    I think this experience translates to better teaching because it has made me even more conscious that the divide between teacher/student and the relationship between teacher/student is affected by technology. To engage with our kids we have to face the challenges of technology. #ksyb helped me do this.

    • malyn says:

      Thank you Karla. You are so right.
      In my role as ICT Integrator, I am currently working with a maths teacher (year 9). We set up a blog which we’ve used as a launch pad for activities such as online surveys. Students are then asked to comment back. There are plans to get them to create blog posts as well. We are taking the line of integrated technology – i.e. it’s practically transparent with the focus always on maths and applications thereof. To be honest, there’s easily one blog post here for me to do, don’t you think.

      cheers,
      Malyn

  5. Jee Young says:

    Hi Malyn,

    This is a great post! I kept thinking during the challenge, that they did a good job differentiating our learning. I loved how they had beginner & advanced options for each challenge. I also liked how they had so many different options for us to choose to write about. It made me reflect on my teaching and whether I have enough differentiation and options for my students to learn.

    –Jee Young

    • malyn says:

      #ksyb is a well-designed challenge and I’ve learned more than I thought I would. There’s a team behind it so we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves if, working on our own, we can’t achieve the same level of standards. Still, we ought to try.
      cheers,
      Malyn

    • mrsdkrebs says:

      Good point, Jee. I too always had at least one of the options I was interested in writing, and some I didn’t want to try. Would I have kept going had their only been options I didn’t like? On the other hand, when I would read someone else’s entry on a topic I thought I didn’t like, then I was always impressed and liked what I read. It offered differentiation in both writing our posts and in the interest in reading the products. It really was a well-designed challenge, as Malyn said, and I’m looking forward to carrying the torch they passed on.

  6. tmallen says:

    I can relate to your last point about completing the challenge. I asked a colleague of mine to try the beginner’s challenge and I would help her along the way, but she got instantly nervous and didn’t even start the challenge. She says she wants to try again next time, but I’m afraid something else will come up…do you see those challenges where you work?

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