#DBC50Summer Explained

A few years ago I started blogging to fulfill a requirement for a blogging quest chain in an incredible gamified professional development opportunity called EPIC Academy designed by Lucas Gillispie (blog, follow him on Twitter).  I had read several other blogs as part of the quest chain and found that some bloggers will do a series of blogs related to one topic.  That intrigued me, so I decided to experiment with this idea by doing an #edtechsummer series that year.  You can find those blogs here.

I learned through EPIC that I am a completionist, a gamer who attempts to complete every challenge and earn every award available within the game.  It makes sense because I am also a collector.  It started with baseball cards as a young girl, and has continued as an adult.  I always want the “full set” of everything – movies, TV series, books, etc.  That would explain why I enjoy binge watching series on Netflix, right?

Because of my desire to own “all the things” as a completionist, and the insane level of PUMPED UP I became after experiencing (there is no other word for it) Dave Burgess‘s keynote and breakout session after #PiedmontDLC in April, I decided I wanted to read all of the books in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up…in the order they were published.

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This has led me to my Blogging Summer Series of 2018, #DBC50Summer.  This is my way of keeping myself accountable for reading the books (I’m pretty sure my husband may cut off all access to our checking account before this is over, oops) and then, as Dave says, we have a moral imperative to share our most effective ideas.  Well, these are not MY ideas, but they are incredible manifestos, stories, and lessons that others have learned, written, and published!  Perhaps someone is on the fence about one of these books, or maybe isn’t aware of it.  Folks don’t know what they don’t know. If Lisa Milstead had not shared the book that started it all, Teach Like A Pirate, with me several years ago, I probably would not have known either; I only read (errrr, skimmed) the books assigned by my school/district or grad school class. Therefore, I am embarking on a quest to read all 50 books published by DBC, Inc as of today.  It seems as if a new book is coming out every week, and I’m hoping to continue the blog series as the new books come out as well.  It’s just going to take a hot minute to catch up with what they’ve published to date.  See…

 

So what will this look like?  I’m going to be completely transparent… I. Have. No. Idea. I will share my reflections, quotes that stood out to me (quotes to live by) from the book, perhaps link to some related podcasts/videos from the author, and hopefully, as the librarian in me often does, suggest other books to read in a “if you liked this, try this one next” format.  As most books, there is an intended audience for each book, so I may try to make a note of that as well.  That does not mean it’s not a book that ANYONE could get something out of, so take my recommendations of intended audience with a grain of salt most of the time.  It is important to be aware that throughout the summer, these are my reflections and my opinions only, and I am not being compensated by the authors or DBC, Inc.

I will suggest that you purchase

every

single

book

not based solely on my reflections in this blog series, but because I believe that these authors are amazing humans and educators; I believe they will inspire you as they have inspired me. Basically, you should read the book yourself & get active in the social media communities that surround these books!  So…. we will begin with the beginning, the book that started it all…. Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.

While waiting for that post to be published, you may want to check out the background story of DBC, Inc by listening to a terrific podcast where Dave joins Don Wettrick (remember that name, you’ll hear more of him soon) in #StartEDup episode 128.  The link to Dave’s blog post that includes a link to the podcast episode can be found here.  Enjoy!

You down with GPD? Yeah, You Know Me!

Good luck getting that out of your head!

What is GPD?  Gamified Professional Development.  Microcredentialing, badging, gamification… these seem to be the latest and greatest buzzwords in education.  Normally, I am immediately turned off by buzzwords.  For example: “21st Century Learning”… y’all, it’s 2018 – for the love of everything holy, let’s move on from that one, please!  “Innovation”… putting a worksheet in Google Classroom is NOT innovation, it’s a digital worksheet.  “Project-Based Learning”… doing a class project at the end of a unit does not merit the label of PBL.  I get frustrated because the buzzword becomes a “thing” and everyone rushes to do “the thing” without giving “the thing” any real thought or due diligence.

With that small rant behind me (I’m sure it won’t be the last though), I have to say I’m a huge fan of the move toward gamifying professional development.  For the first 8(ish) years of my career, professional development was the one thing I dreaded more than any other.  Give me all the paperwork, grades, conferences, faculty meetings, or any other <insert educational acronym here>, and I’ll do it with a smile on my face.  Give me some ridiculous professional development where I sit through an hour workshop of something someone with a higher pay grade than me thought I needed to know, and I was immediately rolling my eyes and mentally checked out.  I had numerous CEUs from professional development I’d attended, but hadn’t learned a single thing, other than how to refine my ability to pass notes more stealthily.  Then, Lucas Gillispie was hired by my district in 2014 and his first PD with us was #Education, in which I learned what I was missing in professional development.  I realized that I needed to personalize my professional development.  I immediately started using Twitter professionally and following the folks Lucas recommended following; my Twitter PD exploded from that moment.

I continued to learn from Lucas as a pilot participant in the gamified professional development he created called “EPIC Academy” in 2015.  I was immediately hooked by the aspect of a leaderboard and earning points!  Above all else, the learning that happened here was RELEVANT!  If the quest didn’t pertain to what I needed at the time, I just dropped the quest and chose something else.  I had CHOICE in what I learned.  The quests in EPIC Academy were designed to be bite-sized pieces of information.  Showing mastery of each bite led to another bite, and before you know it, you’ve created a product that shows mastery of something much bigger.

In 2016, Lucas asked me to come onboard as a quest designer for EPIC.  I was terrified as this was “his baby” and I wanted to be sure to maintain the level of awesome he had precedented, while keeping the “buzzword” aspect out of it.  I wanted to give each quest I designed the forethought it deserved, and have participants create a product that was relevant and useful to them and their learners.  I designed the quest chains for Augmented Reality and Digital Formative Assessment that year.  Since then, I have been privileged to design the quest chains for Digital Storytelling, BreakoutEDU, Digital BreakoutEDU, Teacher Productivity Tools, Classcraft, and BreakoutEDU 2.0.

EPIC Academy has taken off exponentially since 2016.  Lucas applied for, and was awarded, a Digital Learning Initiative Showcase Grant from the NC Department of Public Instruction to expand EPIC Academy, to connect and share the content to educators from across the state.  As part of this grant, Lucas designed a model for mentors to assist those in EPIC Academy.  As an EPIC Mentor, we support and encourage educators new to the gamified professional development world.

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I have watched this model flourish under Lucas’s leadership.  There are no educators in EPIC that were required to join; participation is completely optional.  With some of the latest buzzwords being “microcredentialing”, “badging”, “gamification”, I am thankful that EPIC Academy is untarnished by the effects of buzzwords thus far.  Through EPIC alone, I have gained over 8 Digital Learning Competency CEUs, but more importantly, my students and staff have been exposed to the benefits of Google Drive, Coding, Skype, Augmented Reality, Digital Formative Assessment, YouTube, Virtual Field Trips, BreakoutEDU, Flipgrid, Appsmashing, QR Codes, Game Based Learning, and much more.  My teaching has been taken to the next level, and my desire for continuing learning is piqued.  GPD is the way to create life-long learners of educators; the days of one-hour professional development is ancient history for me. So… who’s down with GPD?

Battle of the Books – Gamified

I gamified my Battle of the Books team using an online gamification platform.

I’m getting ready to upset a lot of people with my next statement.  I despise Battle of the Books. (waiting for the shame bell and rotten tomatoes….)  I realize some are 110% adamant about the benefits of Battle of the Books (BoB), but I struggle every year showing enthusiasm for something that I truly believe is detrimental to many students.  My reasons for not liking BoB? (So glad you asked!)

  • A required list.  Let that sink in… a REQUIRED list for reading.  I’m a huge supporter of self-selected reading.  I agree with the oodles of research that states that one way a student develops a love of reading is to choose their own books.  I – as many educators – want students to have a love of reading.  This is not only a required list, but a LONG required list.
  • TWENTY-SEVEN books for middle school in one year.  27 = 2 tens and 7 ones.  I realize these are usually phenomenal reads, but let’s think for a minute about how long is takes the average student to read one book, let alone 27.  Oh, and competition is typically before Spring Break.  This will immediately turn off many students who might otherwise be interested.  I believe it raises a concern of quality vs quantity here, too.  I’d rather see the students invest in half the amount of books, really internalizing their themes and learning life lessons through empathy for characters.  Who’s with me?
  • Retention rate of students throughout the year is low.  I may start the year with 20-30 students who show an interest in being on the BoB team.  Only 12 students are allowed to attend competition.  This isn’t typically a problem for me as I am lucky if I end up with 8-10 students on the team in March because the others choose to quit.  Why do they quit?  Read, Accelerated Reading test (don’t get me started), answer questions, repeat.
  • Let’s talk about those questions… “In which book is there a white house in the bend of a river?”  Honest.  “In which book does a character send a note to a friend through a nurse?”  True story.  How about we ask some real thought-provoking questions?  The white house was barely a blip in the story, and the note was sent to a friend because the girls weren’t allowed to see one another due to their race, so they resorted to passing notes through a compassionate nurse.  Let’s focus on what’s important in these books (like the reason behind the note, and not the note itself).

These are just a very few of my grievances.  Also in competition, we can always use the “we’re all winners” approach, but let’s be honest… unless you win & advance in a competition, you lose the competition.  Ever had to ride a bus back to school with a group of students who have spent all that time reading and studying mundane questions to have them come in last place?  Yeah – it’s not fun.

With all that said (my personal opinions), my district participates in BoB.  So… I participate in BoB.  Every year, I get a team together.  Every year, we continue the “read, answer questions, repeat” tradition.  Every year, I lose several students due to a lack of continued interest.  Last year, I decided to try something new.  I had dabbled in this idea while working at an elementary school, but really dove in this past year.  We didn’t practice from August until February.  You heard me.  No practice… My students had so many extracurricular activities, and those that really would have success comprehending the books were the students who were involved in Robotics, Drama, Debate, various athletics, etc, etc.  I agreed that if the students would read the books on their own and complete projects, we would meet virtually, with no physical practices until the final team of 12 was chosen – typically in late January, early February.

How did I ensure that the students were reading the books in the meanwhile?  I gamified Battle of the Books using Rezzly, formerly known as 3DGameLab.  This platform allows me to create quest chains in which students complete quests to earn badges, achievements, and rewards, which also equates to experience points (XP).  Each student who showed interest at the beginning of the year received the log-in information.  They learned about BoB through a quest, learned how to earn points through a quest, and learned how to earn additional XP through a quest.  For each book, there was a thought-provoking question and a short project (a service project, a research project, a collaborative project, etc) that must be completed in order to earn the badge and XP for that book.  I attempted to create questions that were similar to questions in ELA class, thus targeting specific skills as needed.  There were NO Accelerated Reader tests… I repeat, NO Accelerated Reader tests.  In order to keep the landing page from overwhelming students, they were presented with a quest called “Are You In” first.  This outlined the basic ideals behind BoB and presented them with the opportunity to opt out or opt in.  If they opt in, basic information on Rezzly was available as a quest, as well as a quest for their first book (usually a shorter book, or a book with a fairly straight forward project attached) as a starting point.  From there, it would spread as the branches of a tree, allowing the student more choice in selecting the next book.

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Examples of quests can be seen below.

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Upon completion of the question/project, they would submit the quest.  I was then able to approve or return the quest.  I would return the quest if it was evident the student struggled with the response (typically reflecting a quick skim of the book), and would approve if it was sufficient.  If the response was exemplary, the student earned awards, such as a gold coin, which earned additional XP.

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Various badges, achievements, and awards were given as additional forms of XP and bragging rights for those who earned them.

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As students completed all 27 books, they earned a Bookworm badge with 200 additional XP.  Then they were presented with new quests that encouraged students to think of comparisons and contrasts between two or more books on the list and reflect on those similarities and differences.  Finally, the top 12 students were chosen in late January/early February.  These were chosen with as much objectivity as possible.  Basically, the 12 students with the highest XP were on the team and would attend competition.  The top 6 students were designated as mentors.

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I must also mention that we had a guild (basically a virtual meeting space) available on our district LMS page.  This allowed us to have conversation in discussion boards, polls, and share our projects with one another on a virtual platform, which took the place of practice until the month before competition, freeing those students to participate in other extracurricular activities.  We met twice a week for the 4 weeks prior to competition to perfect the dynamics of the team and participate in mock battles.  After competition, we had a party, celebrating one another and what we had learned thanks to these books.  I guarantee you that my students learned more than there was a white house on the river, and they understood significance of a note being passed between these two girls.  We didn’t win the competition; they won so much more.