#DBC50Summer 30/50: Spark Learning

When I first started thinking of blogging my thoughts about all of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books, I checked Dave’s website to see a comprehensive list of the books he and Shelley have published over the years. Many of the books I recognized from Twitter or Amazon, but there were several that I didn’t recognize as DBC books. Two years ago I vanished from Twitter only resurfacing during conferences, edcamps, or workshops. It was just a few months ago that I really reinvested in my #PLN and plugged back in to the power of Twitter. During this hiatus, DBC really began to pick up steam and released several incredible books. Among them was a book that was written as an extension of a TED talk from Ramsey Musallam, EdD. The thirtieth book released by DBC, Inc is Spark Learning!


Before I even started reading, I tuned into the TED talk from Ramsey. You should stop and watch that real quick, okay? I’ll even save you the Google search, just click here.

So… what did you think? Pretty awesome, right? I can certainly appreciate his daughter’s curiosity as my own 5 year old asks “why” about everything! As a mom, I’ve got to be honest, it drives me crazy! I’ve even uttered because I said so. However, as an educator, my heart rejoices and I hope she never loses that intense desire for knowledge. So how do we help to encourage curiosity and inquiry in the classroom?

Ramsey shares the information from his TED talk and so much more in his book, Spark Learning. Much like his TED talk, he serves a powerful punch in a short period of time. It only took me about 90 minutes to read this book and I pulled several takeaways in that quick reading. In the book, Ramsey shares his 3 keys to embracing the power of student curiosity again.

Rule 1: Curiosity Comes First

In this section, Ramsey shares the research behind making curiosity the focal point of your lesson, and not the instruction. He shares three curiosity “sparks” that can pull your learners into your lesson. (Sounds a lot like the Captain‘s “hooks” to me!) These “sparks” are Missing Information, Anticipated Solution, and a Surprising Result. He shares specific examples of each of these “sparks” in various content areas. One of my favorite spaces in this book is where he intentionally gives you space to jot down ideas that have been…wait for it…”sparked” by what you’ve read! This was the perfect space to write my implementation plan for this book! Yep, I already had it figured out in the first rule!

I love that Ramsey is constantly looking for ways to use what he sees “in the real world” in his classroom! I, too, am always seeing the world through “teacher eyes” and drive my non-educator friends crazy when I mention how that would work perfectly in this or that class. In fact, when I was in Chicago this summer for BadgeSummit (check it out on Twitter here – it was great stuff), my coworkers and I went to the Field Museum. The entire time we were there, I was taking pictures of exhibits… why? Because it connected with our science curriculum and that is another resource my science teachers could show students!

Rule 2: Embrace the Mess

I appreciate Ramsey’s vulnerability in this chapter as he describes the same thoughts so many of us have when planning our lessons and the guilt that creeps up when we work those late hours to perfect a lesson only to leave knowing that it’s still not quite right. Many of his thoughts I have definitely had as well. I find it odd that my favorite quote from this book isn’t even a quote from the author. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this book and took a lot from it. Ramsey is a wordsmith; he pulls together phrases in ways that make you stop and reread the sentence to be sure you read it correctly. But the quote that stuck with me is the same quote that stuck with Ramsey when he first heard it. In fact, he even states that he had to pull over on the side of the road to take notes upon hearing this!

It is through intense structure that I find the safety to be creative. ~Jon Stewart

Yes, y’all… Jon Stewart…the comedian from The Daily Show. Those profound words belong to him.

The correlation between The Hero’s Journey and the 5Es learning cycle blew my mind! I love the example shown and will definitely use this to create a lesson that encourages curiosity on the pages provided. In the space to jot down notes in this section, I wrote about the arduous task of waiting… I have always struggled with wait time. Whether that is the time between posing a question to the class and waiting to call on a student, or the time given to write a response, or the time between taking the standardized tests at the end of the year and getting the scores back. I’m not good at waiting. This section reminded me that waiting is integral to learning. I love how Ramsey relates the mentors in movies to a teacher in a classroom. The movies wouldn’t be as great if the mentor showed up in the first scene! Students need to struggle a bit before the mentor steps in to impart their wisdom to the “young grasshoppers”.

Rule 3: Practice Reflection

I love the reflection techniques that Ramsey shares here, both for students and teachers! It’s so vital that our reflections be consistent, honest, and mutual as Ramsey states in the book. Being consistent is the hardest part for me, but I’m planning to do better in this year through blogging.

I have to say that this is one of the first books that did not 100% align with my own educational philosophy. While you may have a “oh no she didn’t” look on your face right now, give me a minute to explain. I’m actually thrilled to finally have this moment! This is perfect for my own reflection and I’m beyond excited that I’ve been able to take the time this summer to begin to really nail down what my educational philosophy really even is! Think about it… it wasn’t that long ago that I stopped and determined my own #EDUpassions through bracketology. Now I’m at a place where I feel confident enough in my own opinions to question something in the book. That’s a HUGE place to be, y’all!

Ramsey shares a way of reflecting called Double Lesson Planning. Here he recommends creating two columns, one with this year’s plans and one with next year’s plans. Immediately after students leave, he copy-and-pastes this year’s plan into the next column highlighting changes he’d like to make for the next year. In my position, I haven’t reused any lessons in the past 5 years. In the media center, I have the opportunity to teach with more flexibility so my educational philosophy encourages me to find new ways to teach every year (without duplicating lessons). Also, I don’t have a specific objective to meet in each grade level, but have school goals that I try to reach. Last year we focused on digital citizenship and safety. This year my focus will be on research and inquiry. Therefore, this practice won’t work for me. When I was in the classroom, this practice would have suited me well, but now it doesn’t align with my teaching practices, which are a direct reflection of my own educational philosophy.

I love the 10 Bonus Strategies that Ramsey lists at the end of his book! You’ve got to check those out! I can see using and/or sharing a version of each one this year!

Implementing Spark Learning

This may have been the quickest that I ever decided on an implementation for one of the DBC books so far! Immediately upon reading the first section, I wanted to create a way to spark curiosity in my students and engage them in learning outside of the classroom setting. Last year I had a bulletin board in an old trophy display that read “Today’s News is Tomorrow’s History” and had QR codes to the current headlines of local, state, national, and international news. In class we discussed bias in the news and verified that each of the news outlets I presented were among the least biased outlets available. Because the QR codes were linked to the home page of each news outlet, I didn’t need to update it at all because the QR codes were linked to pages that updated daily. I love this board and although I don’t want to take it down, I realize that students may likely walk past it and not bother to check the news because this was “last year’s board”. I also want my students to see that I’ve put in the effort to think of something else they can interact with this year. Our school is working to create a culture of readers as a piece of fulfilling our vision of creating lifelong learners. Part of that culture is seeing that each of our teachers are readers as well. With this in mind (what Dave calls Creative Alchemy), I’m going to create a board that sparks curiosity through showing the favorite books of each staff member and asking students to predict via Google Form (linked from a QR code on the board) who they believe chose that book as their favorite. You’ve likely seen versions of this on Pinterest, but I hadn’t even considered using it until reading about the “sparks” in the first section of this book. I’m excited to have teachers share their favorite book and create this board this week! I will post pictures and share a blog post upon the revealing of the answers to students! I’m not a creative bulletin board kind of gal, so I’m excited that this book has sparked (yup, I went there) an idea of a bulletin board!

I greatly enjoyed reading Spark Learning by Ramsey Musallam, EdD! You can check out parts of Ramsey’s website for free and the rest requires a monthly membership (bummer). You can get more of Ramsey on the Internet TV Show called Infinite Thinking Machine produced by CUE! He is a co-host on the show! I’m excited to watch a few of these myself. As always, the flipgrid is a space to share your own reflections and ideas from each of the DBC books! Andrea Paulakovich thought this piece of awesome up when #DBC50Summer first started in June. Please feel free to share in this space for global collaboration (& go follow Andrea – she’s incredible).

Well, folks… that’s it for our third set of 10 books! It’s time to continue with the Summer Recaps by sharing the last 10 books read, so look for Summer Recap 3 coming up next!

One thought on “#DBC50Summer 30/50: Spark Learning

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 21-30 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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