#DBCBookBlogs: Educated By Design

In the Spring of 2017, my family and I bought a modular home about 20 minutes from where we lived at the time. Our old home was built in 1900 and we had spent more money than I’d like to think about upgrading the plumbing and electrical systems and the roof. I was ecstatic to move into a home that was built only 5 or 6 years ago. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom home with an open concept and a playroom/office. We have between 1.5 – 2 acres of land and there was very little landscaping around the home.

Walking into a completely empty home was a bizarre feeling and one that left me a bit overwhelmed at all of the empty (mustard colored – ick) walls and windows. I have never had a knack for interior design, so seeing this blank canvas added an unwelcome layer of stress to our move. I immediately called my stepmother who is a painter and does faux finishing on any surface. She is incredibly talented. She helped us find a color scheme we liked and before placing our furniture, she painted every room in our home. My husband chose the window treatments (yes, I did say my husband) and he did an outstanding job! Next came the pictures, artwork, and decals placed on the walls. We chose our living room sectional together and our bedroom furniture was our big gift to ourselves when we moved in.

The idea of being creative and designing a space that fit our family was overwhelming for me, but with the help of others, we have been able to put together an interior design that we are all happy with. We continue to add to it, and have even taken away a few things over the past (nearly) two years. Being creative with the design process was a real struggle for me. The 61st book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line of books,ย Educated by Design by Michael (The Tech Rabbi) Cohen, shows us that it shouldn’t be scary.

educatedbydesign

There is so much to love about this stunning book, beginning with the beautiful cover and the square design! It is totally symbolic that this book would be shaped differently from any other book in the DBC, Inc line. It’s symbolic in that this book is all about design and creativity. Rabbi Michael Cohen (yes, he’s truly a Rabbi) does an awesome job sharing his story and showcasing his love of design, incorporating it into the field of education.

The sketchnotes in this book are remarkable! Even in grayscale, they jump off the page! These are Michael’s own sketches and they add so much depth and beauty to the book!

There are two main points that really stood out to me as I read.

Creativity must be taught in our school. We are doing a disservice to our students if we don’t give them the opportunity to showcase creative thinking on a regular basis. Students are taught that creativity belongs in their art class or their music class. This isn’t the case! Creativity belongs in ALL classes! As Michael says, “Creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” He also shares this. “Creativity comes from within. It’s not something teachers give to students – it’s something they reveal.” Are we revealing creativity in our students? Do we give them multiple opportunities to engage in the creative process? Michael speaks to the need to allow students to fail, emphasizing that failure is not a final destination, but a part of the journey. We, as people, do not fail, but our creations might. So we “stop, reflect, and pivot” to fix our next iteration. I love how Michael brings his background in design into the classroom and allows students to dig into the process!

The other main point that stood out to me was that we must connect with others. In fact, the author shares the word “connect” or some derivative of it 45 times (Thank you for checking that for me, Michael)!!! Michael shares that educators must learn from those outside of education, as well as those within education. Similar to when we bought our house and brought in an expert to help us choose a color scheme, we should be connecting our students with experts in their fields of study. I love that Michael suggests that we “diversify resources and connections when looking to hone our educational craft.” This will truly allow us to open our minds and get creative in the design of our lessons and student learning. He gives us a list of folks to follow outside of education and, of course, I went to follow each of them immediately!

Finally, I must say that once again, the DBC, Inc books are complementary of one another – building on the philosophies of others. I see many aspects of Teach Like A Pirate and The Innovator’s Mindset within the pages of Educated by Design. The idea that creativity must be something completely new is a fallacy and Michael speaks to that. He shares that creation can be the mashing together of two or more things that are already in existence, as well as the use of a tool for a reason other than what it was intended. Hearing these descriptions make me feel that, you know, maybe I am creative after all! Thanks, Rabbi!

My implementation of this book relates to the research that my students are currently doing during their media classes once a month. Throughout the next four months, students are embarking on a research project in the media center. This coincides with my implementation of the book, Launch, by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. By implementing the LAUNCH cycle in research, students are learning research skills by delving into any topic of their choosing. I have students researching anything from Fortnite to diabetes, from Greek Mythology to Holocaust, and from Imagine Dragons to traveling to Fiji. Using inspiration from Educated by Design students will be able to show their learning in any medium they choose; the only stipulation is that they create something. It can be hands-on using materials in the makerspace, or can be driven by technology using their Chromebooks. They may choose to create a poem or song, or a video and upload to YouTube, it doesn’t matter to me. We will then place their creation on display in the media center, as well as on the school’s student blog.

I highly recommend reading this book (preview it here) and using the Creativity Toolkit at the end of the book as a hook for students (and teachers) to reveal their own creative process! His emphasis on empathy as a driving force for creation is on point! If you can’t get enough, check out The Tech Rabbi’s keynote from ISTE 2018!

There is so much goodness to share and thankfully, he has a lot of it on his website! So check that out! As always, you’re invited and encouraged to check out the Flipgrid (created by the amazing Andrea Paulakovich) and add your thoughts!

I might also add that my one word for 2019 is CONNECT, which fits with this book quite perfectly! Check out my blog post about why I chose this word here! You have a part to play in helping me live out my one word, so be sure to let me know when you’re within driving distance and I’ll meet you for coffee, lunch, dinner, ice cream, whatever!

Well, what are you waiting for? Go grab your own copy of Educated by Design and start “designing the space to experiment, explore, and extract your creative potential”! Thanks for bringing us another incredible book, DBC, Inc!

Mustang Madness

Teaching to an empty room

This quote is at the heart of the book Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. (Shoutout to Shelley Burgess for creating this beautiful graphic!)

When I read about Ryan McLane‘s Teach Like A Pirate Day, inspired by this quote, in the book he and Eric Lowe co-authored,ย Your School Rocks, I knew I had to figure out a way to make it happen! It quickly became one of my implementations for #DBC50Summerย even though I had no idea how I was ever going to convince the teachers I serve to give up a day in their already busy calendar.

The Plan

In early August, I met with my principal and explained this day centered around celebrating a love of learning. The more we discussed it, the more her eyes lit up. (Side note: I love that she is constantly finding ways to let me lead & grow. This was just one example of that. She rocks.) We discussed that this would need to be brought to the School Improvement Team (SIT), so we made a plan for me to pitch it to them at the next meeting. Little did I know that I would be elected to serve on SIT just a few weeks later.

Every month we have a Mustang Madness Day built into our schedule. These days are usually held on dates with early release schedules or at the end of the quarter when we’d be holding our awards programs for academics and athletics. The members of SIT seemed eager to develop this idea further, so we preemptively looked for holes and concerns our teachers might have. We scheduled the first attempt at a #tlap day for the Mustang Madness day before Christmas vacation. Then… life happened.

In late November, I sent our SIT chair and principal an email asking if we were still moving forward with the date as scheduled. Getting the green light from them, I began organizing the day with as much structure as possible, as suggested by SIT.

Here’s how it went down…

Every teacher in the school shared their activity on a Google Sheet. Using that sheet, I created a form for students in each grade level to rank their interest in the activities (1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on). Here’s an example of a form.

*We decided to keep students with their grade levels to streamline the process this time.*

During media classes in early December, students completed the form. It took about 5-7 minutes in each class. Using those responses, I created schedules for every student (yes… every. student.) making sure to respect their 1st and 2nd choices in the core classes and 1st choice in their encore classes. No child ended up with anything less than their 5th or 6th choice!

On Wednesday, two days before our Mustang Madness date, I printed a copy of each teacher’s class lists for each class. Teachers still had their planning period in tact and would be going to lunch at the same time. On Thursday afternoon, I emailed every student their schedule for the day.

Let me just tell you, the hype was REAL! Kids were pumped to be at school the next day! I could hear them discussing which classes they had and trying to figure out who they would be in class with!

*When students completed the form, they did not know which teacher would be doing which activity – I wanted them to choose based on activities only to eliminate any preconceived notions about their own interest level. When they received their schedule, they only got the name of the teacher! So there will still so much suspense around what they’d be doing the next day. It was so much fun to listen to them guess which teacher was going to do which activity.*

Then… it was time.

Signs were placed at classroom doors with the name of the activity and the teacher’s name. I hung up poster-sized schedules with 1st period locations to prevent confusion among students, especially our 6th grade students. The bell rang and the excitement in the halls was palpable. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, but in the best way! I had FUN teaching! To my knowledge, there wasn’t a single behavior issue the entire day. I asked students and teachers to complete a survey at the end of the day and responses are still coming in. This is the preliminary data.

That’s HUGE! Do you SEE that? From what I’m seeing, 62.5% of students CAME TO SCHOOL (on a snow make-up day, no less) because they were excited about Mustang Madness! Yep – that’s making kids want to tear down the walls to get INTO school, rather than to get out! In my eyes, that statistic alone makes the day a huge success.

Here’s some other feedback I received:

From students

What did you love about today?

“it was funner than school has ever been”

“having teachers i don’t normally have”

“I loved the fact that we could do what we chose and that we could choose our own schedules.”

“everythang”

What would you change?

“nothing”

“make it longer”

“If i could change anything i would make the option for the students to have more access to which students there going to be placed with in there classes because some people may have got no classes with there friends and people that may have really wanted to have this day together couldn’t so i would love to see more accessibility towards that part.”

“Today everything was fun and we don’t need to change anything today.”

From teachers

What did you enjoy about today?

“Getting to do lessons that we are really passionate about, and being able to meet new students that we normally do not see.”

“The vibe of the school is so much fun.”

“How much the students engaged in something that was an “out of the ordinary” experience.”

“Getting to have fun with the kids and see them at their best.”

What would you change?

“Not much, the schedule worked great but having a little more input or access to the sign-up process would be nice.”

“Do it on a full school day; may need more time with some activities”

“Let kids sign up during homeroom so we can catch the ones that are absent.”

*It is worth noting that 100% of teachers said this is something they want to do again!*

So… what’s next?

I would love to see this run like Ryan did his. Students report to first period for attendance and announcements, then disperse throughout the school for classes. I think that once a class is full, the teacher will shut their door and any remaining students who wanted that class can go to their next choice and try to attend the class they missed in the next block of time. I’m excited to see our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students mixed up within the classes. This was something our teachers were very hesitant about; I mixed grade levels in the media center with no trouble, and am hoping that will serve as a model for the next iteration. I believe that allowing free movement and not having a “schedule” ahead of time will give students the ability to have more classes with their friends. Also, if we have it on a regular school day (not an early release) students and teachers will have more time in each class.

Some of the best feedback I received from this day came from three different people.

One teacher said, “You didn’t know it, but I needed this day so bad. It reminded me why I love teaching. I had forgotten.”

One of our custodians said, “My favorite part about today was seeing teaching today. Every time I walked by <his/her> classroom, <he/she> was so excited! I’ve never seen <him/her> teach like that.”

My administration said (and this meant so much to me), “Today was the very best, smoothest last day of school before a break that I’ve ever experienced in my 17 years of education. Thank you!”

As kids were leaving the school, the halls were vibrating again. It wasn’t necessarily from excitement to leave. It was from students yelling their “see you laters” and “Merry Christmases” to new friends. I believe they will be excited to be back on January 2nd, and that they will be looking forward to our next Mustang Madness.

Enjoy a few of theย pictures of our day celebrating a love of learning! This is just a sample of what our incredible teachers and students enjoyed. Thank you for this incredible idea Ryan, and for sharing it in Your School Rocks! Just another example of how #DBC50Summer is changing my world, one book and one implementation at a time.

For more on this idea of #tlap day, check out Ryan’s blog! He has so many resources and has done this many times! It’s a wealth of knowledge and he’s super helpful if you need anything that you can’t find there!

Stained Glass and Snowflakes

Stations. The best unkept secret in education.

Snowflakes are hexagonal… perhaps the best kept secret in advertising.

macro photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on Pexels.com

During #DBC50Summer, I followed every author from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on Twitter and love being connected to them! One of the funniest authors is easily Denis Sheeran, author of Instant Relevance. His sense of humor pulled me into his book and now I get to enjoy his wit through social media. He created a hashtag to serve as a Public Service Announcement. Snowflakes are hexagons. Really! #Snowflakesarehexagons

The poetry written to the companies along with the photos of his own version of “false advertisement” cracks me up! With those posts, do you know what he did? He made me stop and count the dang sides of every. single. snowflake. in every. single. ad. I see.

Our amazing 8th grade math teachers, Ms. Luce & Mrs. Hawks, and I had already planned to do an extension of a PBL in MinecraftEDU. The students had learned about how linear functions are used to create stained glass windows. They had a guest speaker a few weeks ago who actually showed them how she creates stained glass and students have been creating their own stained glass (by coloring) and figuring out the linear function in slope-intercept form of each line. In MinecraftEDU, students could create a stained glass of their choosing. This could be done by modifying the one they created with linear functions to be “blocky” so it could be built in the game, they could create anything from scratch, or they could look up pixel art and use stained glass blocks or wool to create it.

This gave us two stations in our classes, but we needed a third. I had just discovered that Sprite had six-pointed snowflakes on their product (thanks to Denis’s Twitter PSA) and thought students might have fun discovering which products had “the right snowflakes” on them.

Our third station was a huge hit!

First, students searched for snowflakes in advertising and shared an image they found on a Padlet. Bonus for me: I get to talk about digital citizenship next week and have students determine if this was best practice for using images! (Hint: No, no it was not.)

After finding an image, they read one of the three articles referenced in Denis’s blog post Snowflakes are Hexagons. They were to secretly tell me how many sides every snowflake has and why it has that many sides based on their research.

Upon giving me the correct answer, the students did exactly as Denis suggests in his blog… they created paper snowflakes. There were a lot of octagons, decagons, quadrilaterals, and circles, until finally someone used their resources and googled “How to make a six-sided snowflake.” HA! My principal suggested taking it up a notch further. These paper snowflakes (with the correct number of sides, of course) will be used as decorations for their Winter Dance in December.

Check out a few of their creations that I tweeted out! There are dozens and dozens of hexagonal snowflakes in our media center now!

 

Then, this morning, this kid blew me away!

The MinecraftEDU station turned out pretty fantastic, too! I am currently working to upload the file on my YouTube channel and will embed here when finished, but for now, check out this link to a walkthrough on my Google Drive. (There is no sound.) I was so impressed with what they built in the 25-30 minutes they had available to create. Several came before and after school as well as during their lunch to finish their stained glass pixel art and more have asked to return this week. Students showed one another how to “light up” their windows using glowstone, so when the world turns to night it glows in the most beautiful colors!

I am so proud of the students I serve, and the teachers were blown away by both their stained glass creations and their unique snowflakes. This was one of those times that we got it right. Thank you, Denis for inspiring a way to make learning relevant for our students! This definitely serves as one implementation (I’m sure there will be many more to come) for my #DBC50Summer post on Instant Relevance! I am honored that our 8th grade math teachers trusted me to help create this PBL extension and spur-of-the-moment lesson on snowflakes. I’m looking forward to more lessons like this!