#DBCBookBlogs: I Want to Be a Lot

Like many kids, I went through multiple career choices before being serious about becoming a teacher in high school. I wanted to be a veterinarian (until I discovered I’m allergic to anything with fur), I wanted to be a marine biologist (until I realized I’m not a great swimmer & not a fan of the ocean), and for most of high school, I wanted to go into the United States Air Force.

I also dreamed of being a singer/songwriter! I used to travel as a teenager singing anywhere they’d let me. My mom took me to Nashville to record a 3-song demo CD when I was 16; the CD is hidden where no one can ever find it. I even traveled to perform on a stage in Ohio at 15 years old. I guess you could say that I wanted to be a lot! Ashley Savage, a 19 year old college student, also wants to be a lot and she gives us permission to dream big in her picture book, I Want to Be a Lot – the 77th book in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line (and the 4th picture book)!


Let me first just say that this book is stinking precious and everyone should buy a copy (or two or three) right now! Ashley’s book is BEYOND perfect for graduation gifts! It’s an epic baby gift! I would purchase several copies to give as teacher gifts for your own children’s teachers! It needs to be in every media center in the world! I’m not joking; it’s that precious! My daughters have asked me to read it to them countless times since we received it!

I love this book because it frees our students from having to make up their minds about what they “want to be when they grow up.” Ashley writes, “It’s okay to love a lot of things… The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the other.” As an adult, that’s liberating! I want to be an educator, a speaker, an educational consultant, and an author when I grow up… and I love that I don’t have to give up loving one to pursue the others! Maybe, just maybe, I can have my cake and eat it, too (as the saying goes).

As for my daughters, the Pre-Kindergarten they attended does a graduation ceremony and one of the questions the children are asked is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Check out their answers below!

Bailey, 4 years old, PreK graduation (she’s now 10 years old)

Yes… you heard that right! She wanted to be a football player! And you know what? We watched professional football with her every Sunday, Monday night, and Thursday night, as well as college football most Saturdays. What’s precious about this is that she is the most meek, mild-mannered child you’ve ever met!

I asked her tonight what she loved and wanted to explore more and she said that she “loved to read, so maybe a librarian, or an author, or book reviewer”. She also “loved math, so maybe working in a bank, a cashier, or owning a business”. Finally, she “loved animals, so maybe a vet”. It warmed my heart that she didn’t feel that she had to choose one thing. Sometimes she’d get very worried when she didn’t know the answer to that question. Ashley’s book made her feel that it’s perfectly fine to be unsure and I’m so grateful for that.

Bailey’s favorite page of the book:

Sophie, 5 years old, PreK Graduation (she’s now 6 years old)

Ladies and gentlemen… she did say that she wanted to be a horse! As in a four-legged mammal that trots, gallops, and grazes… a h-o-r-s-e. Bless her! We didn’t quite indulge her the way we did Bailey with playing football for obvious reasons, but it certainly made us smile. For the record, she wanted to be a horse until around Christmas last year.

After reading Ashley’s book, she’s decided that she wants to be a photographer! She wants to “take pictures of wild animals in nature”. My sweet husband is determined to find his fancy Nikon DSLR camera before he takes the girls to the zoo in a couple of weeks so Sophie can take pictures of the animals she sees there. She was so excited about taking pictures that she was still smiling as she fell asleep. She may change her mind tomorrow about what she wants to be, but I’ve got to tell you – I’ve always seen her going into the arts somehow. When you meet her, you’ll completely understand! Photography sounds like the perfect fit for her. It’ll be hard to hold the camera with her horse hooves when she magically changes form, though. Bless.

Sophie’s favorite page of the book:


The implementation for this one is easy-peasy! I’m buying this book for our middle school media center and using this as our kick-off for passion projects in the fall! The message that Ashley shares is so important for our students (and adults) to hear! You can follow multiple passions and be successful!

The little girl in the illustrations by Genesis Kohler reminds me so much of a student that I teach at school that I’m going to have to purchase a copy for her! Her mannerisms, hair, and indecisiveness are exactly like my student and I can’t wait to share this story with her when we return to school!

You’ve simply got to get a copy of I Want to Be a Lot by Ashley Savage! This fourth* picture book from DBC, Inc is adorable and, true to DBC form, has a wonderful message for both children and adults alike! I can’t wait to see what this 19 year old author Ashley does – and hopefully she won’t choose just one thing; she’s obviously got a TON of talent to share with the world!

*The first three picture books from DBC are Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky, The Princes of Serendip by Allyson Apsey, and Zom-Be a Design Thinker by Amanda Fox!  The titles link to their #DBCBookBlogs posts, and you can find author info on those links.

#DBCBookBlogs: Zom-Be a Design Thinker

I always love when Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc gives us picture books! This third* addition to the picture book scene is absolutely precious and hopefully there are more to come in this Zom-Be series!

*The first two picture books in the DBC, Inc line are Dolphins in Trees by Aaron Polansky and The Princes of Serendip by Allyson Apsey! Check out their book blogs for more information: Dolphins in Trees blog is here and The Princes of Serendip blog is here!


As a former elementary teacher and media coordinator (librarian), I’m a sucker for picture books! As a middle school media coordinator & digital coach in a STEM magnet middle school, I’m seeing more and more that design thinking is a vital skill we need to explicitly and intentionally teach our students.

The author of Zom-Be a Design Thinker, Amanda Fox, and I are certainly (…wait for it…) on the same page! (Boom! Book pun!) In this adorable picture book, readers are encouraged to interact with the book in many ways.

First, Amanda has some incredible XR (mixed reality – augmented reality & virtual reality) embedded and more coming! There is even a terrific way for students to have the book read aloud to them! Hello, centers! By scanning the cover using Artivive App, Zom-Be Zip comes to life and does a little preview of the book! That in itself is the cutest book-talk I’ve ever seen! Loved it!

Another way Amanda has readers interacting with the book is that it’s written in such a way that encourages the readers to stop and answer questions and actually do things while reading the book! It’s really the perfect way to introduce design thinking to any age student! My 6 year old and my 10-year-old both loved it!

Finally, Amanda has some great things in store for the future of this book (and hopefully more Zom-Be Zip books – fingers crossed for us as readers) according to her website!

If you’re an avid DBC reader, or have been following along on Twitter, you may recognize that name “zom-be zip”… Amanda is the co-author (along with Mary Ellen Weeks) of the recently released Teachingland. (Whew – two books in such a short span of time! Wow!)

Zom-Be a Design Thinker is illustrated by Luna Stella D. Seeing Zom-Be go through the process of design thinking in hopes that he’ll become a real boy again is adorable in the illustrations! I can see younger elementary students really getting into the transformation of our main character, and an entire discussion on empathy changing us from the inside out.

So Design Thinking… what is it? According to Zom-Be Zip it’s:

  • Empathize – getting to know the people before knowing the problem
  • Define – determine the problem (it may not be as obvious as you first think)
  • Ideate – brainstorming all possible solutions without mentally crossing them off (harder than it sounds)
  • Prototype – pick the best solution and create your first iteration of that solution
  • Test – try out that prototype, get feedback, and iterate (making adjustments)

These are “big words” that Amanda unpacks and helps students of all ages understand ing her book!


Get your MERGE Cube and join in the latest exciting duo – CospacesEdu + MERGE to see what all the excitement is about! I’m super pumped about implementing this book with students in my middle school! Of course we’ll read it and use this process, along with our school process, LAUNCH from the book of the same name, LAUNCH by John Spencer and AJ Juliani! We’re taking it a step further because I’ll be showing students the MERGE cube experience that goes along with Amanda’s book. We have spent a couple months at the end of the year partnering with MERGE to explore the logistics of having MERGE cubes and MERGE VR headsets available to students and teachers for checkout! As part of this partnership, we have 25 headsets and 25 cubes available for teachers to check out from the school library as a class set! These are only used within our school building. We also have 25 headsets and 10 cubes available for students to check out from our library and take home with them as they ideate & prototype through their own thinking. When we return to school, I look to really amp up this partnership and students will be using these materials and CospacesEDU to create their own explanation of design thinking to share with others. It’s going to be a ton of fun, and will help students to really deepen their understanding of the design thinking process!

I loved this picture book and look forward to more from Zom-Be Zip and Amanda Fox! Definitely connect with Amanda (and Mary Ellen) on Twitter so you’ll know all the latest in the world of Zombies! Added bonus: Zom-Be Zip has his own Twitter account! Be sure to follow him here! You can also follow along with all things Zom-Be using the hashtag #zombeDT. Now hurry along and grab your copy of the book using this link! In fact, go ahead and grab one for each of your PLC members! It’s that adorable!

#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.


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!