#DBCBookBlogs: Don’t Ditch That Tech

Quick! Go take this super-simple, fast survey about technology use in your classroom. Pay close attention to the scale provided; the agree & disagree alternate in questions! Before you click submit, be sure to add up your total points! You’ll need that in a moment.

There’s a new DITCH book out called Don’t Ditch That Tech and it’s the 74th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of super-awesome books by super-awesome folks! The two previous DITCH books are Ditch That Textbook and Ditch That Homework! In the book , Matt Miller, Nate Ridgway, and Angie Ridgway show readers how to differentiate instruction using technology, which is music to my instructional technologist ears. The best part?! They teach how to differentiate by… wait for it… DIFFERENTIATING! dontditchthattech

Back to that survey! Do you remember your total points? In the first chapter (which are interestingly given letters rather than numbers – it spells out DITCH IT!), Matt & the Ridgways identify “five roles that correspond to different levels of a continuum of technology integration and differentiation”. They are quick to remind us that these do not define us, but give us a starting point.

  • If you scored from 0-16, you are a Pilot.
  • If you scored from 17-22, you are a Museum Exhibitor.
  • If you scored from 23-28, you are a Restaurant Owner.
  • If you scored from 29-34, you are a Councilmember.
  • If you scored from 35-40, you are a Creative Art Coach.

This continuum moves from Pilot being mostly teacher-centered to Creative Art Coach being mostly student-centered. I found that I scored 34 points and am on the cusp of Councilmember and Creative Art Coach. When you read the book, you’ll find out much more detail about what each role means and how to move from one role to the next in the continuum.

The entire book is set up to be a guide based on your current role. You could read this book in a jiffy, multiple times by focusing on your current role only. Imagine if you’re a Pilot the first time you read Don’t Ditch That Tech and you focus only on the Pilot sections of the book. You choose a couple of things to implement (as the authors tell us again and again NOT to implement too much at once because it will overwhelm both teacher and student) and you implement them with success. Then, you take the survey again with these new tools in your tool belt to see that you have moved up the continuum. (YAY, you!) Now you’re reading as a Museum Exhibitor or Restaurant Owner. Get it? Isn’t that neat?! I love that this differentiation book is differentiated to meet the needs of the reader!

I’ll be perfectly honest, I knew that anything Matt Miller touches turns to gold (truth), but I wasn’t sure if there was anything in this book for me to really connect with. I wouldn’t dream of ever ditching the tech, so being told not to in the title made me go into this book with a coaching lens – as in, how can I use this with the educators I work with who are ditching tech daily. I was very pleasantly surprised that there were tech tools that I got to explore while reading as I’d never heard of them! Matt and the Ridgways also included some oldies but goodies like VoiceThread and Blabberize that I honestly had moved on from, but checked them out again. I’m impressed with their updates and look forward to possibly using them in the future.

There are so many things to love in this book as it is insanely practical! I truly appreciate all the examples using QR codes and shortened URLs!  There’s advice, notes, tips, and recommendations throughout the entire book that highlight various potential pitfalls when using tech. I love that the authors are being proactive about these possible issues and helping readers avoid those issues altogether!

Implementation

Last year I introduced Google Keep to my students and several jumped right on board with it! There were many however, that were overwhelmed with the post-it note look to the platform and thus felt unorganized. I’m excited to… yep… differentiate (!!!) next year! Now that they know about Google Keep and how to use it, those who want to continue to use it for due dates, upcoming events, etc can do so. For those who want to try something new or never really liked Keep, I’m excited to introduce Google Calendar to them. I’ll use our 1:1 school-provided Chromebooks, as well as helping those with cell phones set up their notifications on their Google Calendar. (Of course, some may choose to use their iPhone Calendar.)

I’m really excited about all Don’t Ditch That Tech has to offer and I love the focus on differentiation. I also love that there is so much emphasis on technology being more than a shiny tool, but using technology to strengthen student experience making each student feel like the class was created for them. Be sure to click here to purchase your copy of the book, and check out the free preview! I believe this is a book for everyone – whether you believe it’s blasphemy to ditch technology or you just wish the “tech lady” would stop pestering you with these “tech ideas” or if you’re somewhere in between!

For a little extra bonus, check out Matt’s blog about this latest DITCH book! Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #DitchBook and follow Matt and Nate & Angie Ridgway! It is abundantly clear throughout the book that they are very open to answering questions and helping readers move through the continuum differentiating instruction for students using technology! You don’t want to miss out on this book!

#DBCBookBlogs: Relentless

“Bye, y’all! See you soon! I love you!”

Every time students leave the media center, I say something to this effect. I *LOVE* my students and they know it! How do I know they know it? Because I tell them… all. the. time!

It’s always fun to see the looks on the faces of my 6th graders as they hear that for the first time. It ranges from confusion to eye rolls to the occasional “aw, I love you too.” By 8th grade, students know it’s coming and by golly, they know that they better say “I love you, too, Mrs. Ray” or I’m following them to their next class. HAHA! (I really did that once and that kid & I formed a bond that has lasted 3 years! Every time he sees me, he now tells me he loves me first.)

What stood out to me more than anything in the 73rd book from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc was the message of love and legacy. Relentless by Hamish Brewer is certainly a book that gets your blood pumping.

relentless

Hamish shares his story and boy, is it a doozy! He certainly took the scenic route into our profession and his current position as principal of Fred M. Lynn Middle School in Virginia. It’s clear that this scenic route he took greatly impacts his role every day. His motto “Be Relentless” is more than just a catchphrase. It’s a lifestyle that he’s lived out his entire life, it appears. He shares the secret sauce behind multiple school transformations! The way he explains it makes it seem like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, but if it’s so obvious why are more schools not knocking it out of the park! My school has a new principal beginning this fall; I’m so excited to see how our school culture continues to shift! She’s already holding one-on-one conversations with our faculty and staff, being an archaeologist as Hamish describes! She’s clearly on the right track already!

Relentless was a word that stood out to me when I read Lead Like a PIRATE by Beth Houf & Shelley Burgess. This year I have strived to be relentless in finding the best in people. I’m telling you right now; it’s hard! The fact that the tattooed, skateboarding principal lives this out daily is pretty impressive! It’s tough for me to live it out for even one conversation. Planting your feet in positivity and refusing to succumb to the negativity and drama around us can be insanely difficult. However, Hamish tells us that there are no excuses. We are in charge of us, and I choose my own attitude. Every day.

Loving my students is part of the attitude that I choose to have. Telling my students that I love them is one of the most important things I do every day. Some students need to hear it one-on-one to believe it. I’ve held the hands of students as they are angry with me, a teacher, the school, the system, or someone else, and look straight in their eyes and tell them that I love them. Every time I feel an immediate shift in emotion, typically followed by tears. (Got to love middle schoolers) Even in dealing with disruptions from students in class, I remind those students, “I love you, and you’ve got to stop doing ______”. In the event that I get frustrated and address the class’s not-so-stellar behavior (shocking, I know… but it happens), I will fuss and immediately follow with, “now y’all know I love you and I expect better.”

Relentless also made me stop and consider my legacy. What legacy am I leaving? When students leave me at the end of the year, are they excited to see me again in the fall? Being in a position to teach every student in the school for the entirety of their middle school career allows me to develop relationships during a pivotal time in their lives. What is my legacy? If my legacy is negative, I’m setting them up for a miserable three years.

Tonight I got to dig into my legacy a little. While at the softball team pool party with my oldest daughter, I realized that one of the lifeguards was a former student. She will be a junior in high school in the fall and I taught her the first semester of her 5th grade year before accepting my first media coordinator position at the midpoint of the year. The moment she realized who I was, she jumped up and came running to give me a big hug! (The irony of the lifeguard running beside the pool was not lost on me, by the way.) We chatted for a while and she mentioned so many memories she had from our short time together. It made me smile that she remembered the experiences we shared in such detail! I love her!

One of my favorite parts of teaching is not the legacy that I leave, but the legacy the students leave with me. I learn something from every kid I teach and every adult I coach. Their legacy becomes my legacy. The idea of a legacy is so powerful, and reminds me how important our job is. This year’s implementation of Relentless by Hamish Brewer will be more intentionality about the love and legacy I leave with each student, and the legacy they leave with me.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #Relentless and check out Hamish’s website here! I highly suggest checking out these videos on YouTube! He has done so many interviews and shares so much with us! Definitely check out his TEDxTalk here! You can preview & purchase a copy of Hamish Brewer‘s book, Relentless here! It’ll get you pumped up this summer and ready to hit the ground running when students come back to school!

#DBCBookBlogs: Empower

Immediately upon finishing LAUNCH by John Spencer & AJ Juliani, I knew I wanted to read their second book, Empower, as quickly as possible. Finally, I was able to find time to read it and I was not disappointed. Some sequels start out where the first left off, but Empower doesn’t simply pick up where LAUNCH left off; it adds a whole new layer of aspirations for our students.

LAUNCH taught us to engage students in design thinking and how to relate this student-centered design thinking process to every content area. Empower shows us how to shift our thinking from student-centered to student-owned.

empower

From the foreword from George Couros (author of The Innovator’s Mindset and co-owner of IMpress with his wife, Paige and Dave & Shelley Burgess) to the invitation to innovation on the final page, this book was a powerful read. John & AJ share why it is not enough to simply shift the educational environment from compliance to engagement. We must extend this vitally important shift for students to empowerment. Students should not be answering our questions, but asking their own questions and then seeking to find the answers. If we want lifelong learners (and I genuinely hope that is the quest for all educators), we need to help students take those reins. It’s not enough to tell them we want them to set goals for themselves, we should give them the freedom to actually set them.

There are many moments in this book that I felt a mic drop from John & AJ. One moment that I felt a mic drop was when AJ and John share the shift from ‘making the subject interesting to tapping into student interests’. I love AJ’s story about Mr. Flynn and how Mr. Flynn’s interest in AJ ultimately pulled out the maker in him by empowering him through a programming class. The rap created by AJ & veteran teacher Jen Smith further illustrates the difference between making a subject interesting and tapping into students’ interests.

The description of the tourist teacher was a perfect description of me teaching in my early years. I was driving the bus and the kids were along for the ride. If the students found something they were interested in and wanted more information, I had to keep going so we’d stay on topic and on time, according to my schedule. While I understand that there is content that must be taught and time constrictions to teach it, we must rid ourselves of this model teacher. It’s not easy. In fact, just this year (my 13th in education), I was able to give students more choice and voice than ever before through passion projects in the media center. I was able to do this because I gave myself permission to let go of control and release the power to my students.

Yes, some failed miserably. Some didn’t turn a thing in, and some wasted time. Many expressed that they learned more than they thought possible and that they enjoyed the learning! There are facets of this experience that I will certainly change in the future, but one thing will remain the same – they will own the learning. And they will own it without being graded. They will feel the freedom of taking risks.

Another mic drop moment was the discussion of the difference between fail-URE and fail-ING. AJ and John highlight George Couros saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the failURE of our students, but the act of resiliency and the grit of getting back up again.  AJ and John talk about reframing failing as success through iterations. I think of it as a productive struggle. Every time our students experience a Breakout from BreakoutEDU, I see the productive struggle. It is so tough to watch their content teachers as we co-teach in these experiences. They desperately want to help the students as I encourage them to let the students struggle with it. The victory is so much sweeter when they have achieved it all on their own. Many of our students are beginning to believe this is true, as well. I know this because they use their hint cards less than they did initially. It’s so much to celebrate success with students, especially when they have achieved that success on their own!

A true craft in writing is using an analogy to describe difficult concepts and these two authors have proven that they are artists. The comparison of differentiation, personalization, and empowerment shown through ice cream examples is brilliant. It’s worth purchasing the book just to read this short section. I want to take a teacher field trip to a Baskin Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and Sweet Frog (our own fro-yo spot) to make these connections with our teachers!

Finally, I love the section about the stages John shares as students move from consumers to creators.

  • Exposure (Passive Consuming)
  • Active Consuming
  • Critical Consuming
  • Curating
  • Copying and Modifying
  • Mash-Ups
  • Creating From Scratch

As always, I intend to implement at least one thing from this book. Because I work with both students and teachers, I have a lot of flexibility in my implementations and interpretations of the books I read. I have chosen to go a bit off the beaten path with this one, mostly because I can. Also, I feel that it is in the spirit of the book to do something a bit different. The premise of the book is empowerment and what happens when students own their learning. I am perfectly comfortable sharing that I am still a student. I will always be a student. My learners are also teachers, who are also students. So this implementation will go a bit “top down”, if you will.

I have facilitated somewhere in the vicinity of 50 various breakout experiences from BreakoutEDU with teachers and students in our school over the past two years. (With many breakouts being repeated in classes 3-4 times per day, this results in somewhere between 150-200 total experiences.) Some are digital and some physical. All have been copied straight from the BreakoutEDU platform. In a few cases, I have tweaked clues to better suit our students, but I have never created a BreakoutEDU entirely on my own. My implementation is to create my own BreakoutEDU for one of my media classes and empower teachers (and students) in my building to create their own for their content areas. Following the LAUNCH cycle, I will launch this Breakout to an audience by submitting it to the platform for BreakoutEDU and encouraging teachers to do the same.

It’s going to be messy, however I believe it will be a success!

Empower is the first book released under the IMpress label! Check out this website with an incredible toolkit and more information on maker projects and the Global Day of Design! This is good stuff! The sketches within the book are stunning, and really bring the message to life! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this incredible book by John Spencer and AJ Juliani! Here’s to hoping they share another book of their incredible knowledge together with the world! Until then, check out their blogs – here is John’s and here is AJ’s. Both of them have also written their own book; AJ wrote The PBL Playbook and John wrote Making Learning Flow. Both are certainly worth a read as well!