#DBCBookBlogs: Block Breaker

My oldest daughter and Minecraft are the roughly same age. In May 2009, Minecraft (Classic 0.0.10a) was released and in June 2009, Bailey was born. Take a minute to guess which one held my focus that year…

It wasn’t until 2014 that Minecraft really got my attention. Lucas Gillispie came to my district talking about this video game with blocks and creepers and that I definitely needed to get this going in my school. Um… no, thank you. However, after a “quick” (aka 2+ hour) Skype session while downloading Minecraft and getting into the inevitable flow state that ensues, I was hooked. I, too, wanted to break “just one more block”. He was right… I needed to get this going in my school. I saw so many possibilities in classrooms! Minecraft Club became a thing, classes started using MinecraftEdu to teach volume, coordinate grids, perimeter, area, setting, etc and I was in love. We even had our 4th grade classes create our state as their culminating product for their research project. Read more about that in an earlier blog post here.

So when Brian Aspinall asked me if I would be interested in endorsing his book Block Breaker, I immediately said yes! I loved it the first time I read it and couldn’t wait to have my hands on the final product. Now YOU get to read it, too!

SPOILER ALERT… It’s NOT really about Minecraft!

BlockBreaker

Because I could literally write a book about the goodness of this book, I’m going to attempt to stay focused by sharing my tweets and a quick thought… we’ll see how this goes, okay?

It’s here!

I was so excited to finally get my copy! Of course, Brian is the sweetest person and rather than celebrating that his book was out, the first thing he told me to do was find my name. I’ve got to admit; it’s the first time I’ve seen my name in print like that, which really tripped me out a bit. I shared it with my students and they were pumped because it’s a Minecraft book, which automatically gave me street cred as a “cool teacher”. Thanks for that, Brian! LOL!

Hello, World

Oh my goodness! Brian just puts it out there as soon as you start reading! We’re not even in Chapter 1 yet and he’s already inspiring, encouraging me to push beyond any limits that I have placed on myself and others.

Chapter 1

Brian tells a story in chapter 1 that touches my heart. His “why”; his reason behind using Minecraft in the classroom is one that you will want to read again and again. It brought tears to my eyes and challenged me to consider what else I can do to reach every student I encounter. Brian specifically states:

“This book isn’t really about Minecraft; it’s about personalizing learning and meeting each student’s educational needs.”

Chapter 2

Specifically speaking to math and Minecraft, Brian gives an abundance of evidence as to why this video game is the way to reach students. Best part: as educators, we don’t have to know a thing about how to play Minecraft! Let the kids teach each other!

Chapter 3

So this chapter escalates quickly! Check out the blog post that inspires the controversial topics Brian discusses here! It’s all good… REAL good!

Chapter 4

So this chapter is as close as it gets to becoming a Minecraft book. Redstone is in the title of the chapter. But what this chapter is really about, is 1:1 relationships, getting to know your kids on such a level that you’re not focusing on their weaknesses, but on their strengths as a way to improve their weaknesses.

Chapter 5

I loved this chapter for two reasons.

  1. Brian discusses the difference between computational thinking, computer science, and coding. Those three words are not all interchangeable; they do not reference the same things.
  2. There’s an interview with Steve Isaacs. The aforementioned Lucas introduced me to Steve several years ago via Twitter and I got to meet Steve face-to-face at a Minefaire two summers ago. Super awesome guy doing pretty epic things! Go check him out on Twitter.

Chapter 6

Mic. Drop.

Chapter 7

Brian doesn’t just share this thoughts in this chapter (although, for my money, his thoughts are research enough for me…), he shares research. He takes me back to my educational psychology class (that I wish I had paid more attention in), back to the teaching of Piaget. Giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty, both figuratively and literally, allows them to connect with content. Giving them choice provides them with the opportunity for ownership. Brian even says it breaks down walls to provide equity. Wow!

Chapter 8

You’ve heard of something being a “labor of love” (or a “labour of love” as a shout-out to my sweet friends outside of the US)… that’s what this chapter focuses on. #DBC50Summer was so much Hard Fun that I chose to continue it with #DBCBookBlogs. It can be tough – finding the time to read the books and write about them. Not only devising a plan to implement, but then finding the time in my schedule to implement it… but you know what? I LOVE IT! It’s exciting and I’m growing. When I grow professionally, others around me grow as well. It’s Hard Fun.

Chapter 9

Feedback vs Grades… this is a big topic in my book, not my figurative book, lol. My actual book. I have been in a position without grading for three years and I love it. I give feedback. Students share their projects with me, not because they want the “A” or because they “have to”, but because care what I think. I could talk for days about grades and how they are for the parents. What baffles me is that educators feel that grades are unfair, students hate grades, parents get upset about grades… it seems like so much focus is on “the grade”… I wonder what would happen if GPA information was eliminated from college/university admissions? Just thinking out loud.

Chapter 10

What does your class culture say? What’s the best way to find out? Ask your students! Ask them tomorrow! Support them. Maybe you think you are, but it’s not coming across to them that way. Their perception is their reality.

Implementation & Final Thoughts

As I said, this book really isn’t about Minecraft at all. There are Minecraft ideas embedded throughout and lots of examples of how Minecraft applies to various topics at hand, but this book is so much more than a “how-to”. If you’re not a gamer, please don’t let that stop you from purchasing this book! It’s a short, very fast read and has sooooo much ooey-gooey goodness for educators that I’d hate for anyone to miss out because you’re “not a gamer”. (I see you with Candy Crush on your phone, btw…)

I am in the middle of a PBL with my sweet friend and colleague Holli Hudson (7th grade math teacher) in which students are designing a dog park and creating it in Minecraft. I will write a blog about it (and our past PBLs using Minecraft, which are pretty incredible) as my implementation for Block Breaker.

By the way, if you’ve been sitting here the entire time wondering why you know the name Brian Aspinall, it’s because he wrote Code Breaker (DBC Book 34). With two amazing books already out, I feel a trilogy coming on and I can’t wait to see what he shares with us next!

You should definitely check out Brian’s Instagram because his stories are on fire (his random airport air drops are everything) and he shares his travels with his followers. For a limited time, Brian is offering his Scratch Coding course for free. I’m not sure how long this offer will last, so jump on it now. Finally, check out Brian’s website here and his TEDx Talks here. (While you’re at it, go ahead and subscribe to Brian’s YouTube channel here.)

As always, there is a flipgrid to share reflections and ideas. Huge thank you to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space for global collaboration on every Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book ever. Be brave, take risks, be the first to create a video! It’s the PIRATE way, right?!

Why are you still here?! Go get Brian’s book, Block Breaker!

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!

#DBC50Summer Book 31-40 Recap

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 3.54.07 AM

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! Here we are – entering the final stretch for #DBC50Summer with books 41-50. The official end of summer is on September 22 at 9:54 pm EST. Are you thinking there’s no way I can do it? Are you thinking that this lady has less than 14 days to read, develop an implementation, and blog 10 more books? I have a secret! You’ll have to check out the next ten blog posts to find out my secret(s)!

This journey was born out of creative alchemy. I had probably half of the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc on a shelf and came home with five more after meeting Dave in April. I thought my husband would flip his lid when I came home with five more books to essentially fill space on a shelf. I’d wanted to read them, but never had the opportunity. There was always something else to do. I also wanted to get back into blogging. I remembered the growth I experienced the summer that I did the EdTechSummer series on my blog. It reframed my mindset and provided an opportunity to be intentional about viewing “outside” technology as tools for use “inside” of education. Sharing it allowed me to expand my PLN that summer as well. Finally, I desperately wanted new ideas for the new school year. After my students shared their hearts in a survey at the end of the year, I realized that I wasn’t doing all I could to make school the very best experience they could ask for. New ideas would motivate, inspire, and excite me as I prepared for 2018-2019 with them. Put those three things in a cauldron and stir it up… you have the ambitious plan for #DBC50Summer – reading, choosing at least one thing to implement, and blogging reflections about each book. See Summer Recap 1 on books 1-10 here and Summer Recap 2 on books 11-20 by clicking here. Summer Recap 3 on books 21-30 can be found here.

Since I’ve been back at work several have asked why I did this journey with #DBC50Summer. I’ve been given “the alien look” from Kids Deserve It. They want to know why I put so much time into it? “What’s in it for you,” they’d ask.

Seriously? What’s in it for me? It just sounds so selfish. Yes, #DBC50Summer was my idea (an insanely crazy one, but mine nonetheless). But it’s not about me. This has never been about me! This has been about my students, my staff, my school by making myself the best educator I can for them! It’s been about knowing there’s a lifeline out there and grabbing hold with all my might. It’s been about relationships. It’s been about bettering teaching practices. It’s been about inspiration and motivation. It’s been about making 2018-2019 the very best school year I possibly can for those around me. It’s not about me. It’s about them. Dave Burgess has his six words that drive him crazy… I guess I have my own version now… five little words.

What’s

In

It

For

Me?

Well… if you really want to know – here’s what was in it “for me” as they say.

*#DBC50Summer is in order of release dates according to authors, blogs, and tweets. This was intentional so I didn’t just grab the books I was interested in reading first and neglect the others. There have been so many books that surprised me – books I probably wouldn’t have read due to content that was seemingly irrelevant to my current position. Now I can look back on the past 40 books and say that they were all relevant.*

31 – Ditch That Homework by Matt Miller & Alice Keeler: Giving students an authentic audience pulls them deeper into the learning. Homework isn’t a bad thing if it’s relevant to the student. It’s not about the philosophy of homework, but the type of homework given. If my homework after reading these books was to fill out a worksheet sharing the title, author, theme, conflict, setting, etc, I would have never even started. I have an authentic audience and am making the content relevant to my world.

32 – The Four O’Clock Faculty by Rich Czyz: Giving teachers opportunity to have choice and voice in their professional development makes a world of difference in attitude and experience for adults, just as giving students choice and voice does the same. Reflecting on the best professional development I’ve had, it’s been voluntary, collaborative, relevant, and has had some sort of follow-up. This book gives oodles of examples to make PD better for educators by taking charge of your own learning.

33 – Culturize by Jimmy Casas: This entire book was an eye-opener. It tore me apart, then put me back together. It’s a must-read for every educator. It makes us take responsibility on the individual level for the culture of our schools. Rather than complaining about our culture, if we start with the “(wo)man in the mirror,” we can make effective change toward a positive environment for students and staff alike.

34 – Code Breaker by Brian Aspinall: I am fortunate to be able to provide my students and teachers with incredible opportunities to develop coding skills through robotics, computer science discoveries, and MinecraftEdu. We have evolved way beyond “Hour of Code” and are starting to work toward coding being about the critical thinking and problem solving. This book gave me multiple ideas for lessons as I work with teachers to create cross-curricular project-based learning opportunities for students.

35 – The Wild Card by Wade and Hope King: Every student has been dealt a different hand in the cards of life. How can we be that wild card for them to make their hand better, not worse? How can we give them the extra boost to get to the next round? There are no excuses for mediocrity. I should want to go all out for my students, doing everything I can to make middle school the best years they’ve ever had. What advantage can I give each student and teacher I work with?

36 – Stories from Webb by Todd Nesloney: So I’m going to write a book. This book is about my epic fails in teaching – from fails with parents, other teachers, administrators, and my students. We all know that hIndsight is 20/20, but what should I do differently next time? What could other teachers learn from my failures? What could they identify with and realize someone else has done something similar? Todd and his teachers, parents, wife, and other stakeholders inspired me with their stories, and I look forward to writing mine. It may never see the light of day in its entirety, only living on my Google Drive. Some of it will likely work its way into a new blog series though! Stay tuned!

37 – The Principled Principal by Jeff Zoul and Anthony McConnell: I have to be the calming voice of reason when others are in a frenzy. When people talk to me when they feel as though they are in a hurricane, I should be the eye of the storm, calm and peaceful. Hopefully I can help with whatever is on their mind, but if not, I certainly don’t need to add to the wind and rain, but be their few moments of sunshine. This was one of the unexpected gems of DBC for me. With no desire to be an administrator, I expected to get nothing from this one. Instead, I identified with almost every single chapter in the book! Don’t let “Principal” scare you; it’s about leadership, and if you’re an educator, you’re a leader.

38 – Google Apps for Littles by Christine Pinto and Alice Keeler: If you get nothing more than logistically managing devices from this book, that’s enough! Christine blows my mind with all that her transitional kindergarten students (four and five year olds) can do! This book is about believing in kids. Give them the opportunities to prove they can do something rather than shutting the technological door as they walk up to it. So many excellent strategies and tools in this book, no matter the age of the student!

39 – The Limitless School by Abe Hege and Adam Dovico: These North Carolina boys brought the house down with their book. Removing limitations by breaking down barriers is what Abe and Adam do. They show you how to do it, too! Another must-read for all who want to improve the culture of their school for your students and staff – and let’s face it. We should all want to improve.

40 – The EduProtocol Field Guide by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo: I loved my second trip into this book! Listening to my students’ feedback, I knew I needed to revamp some of my media lessons and I’m thrilled to have read this the weekend before having my first media lessons of the year. Overhauling this week’s lessons, with the help of Marlena herself, to include Smart Starts and fast-paced mini-lessons has me enthusiastic about heading back to work tomorrow! It’s a fresh start and an immediate look into things to come for students and staff from my #DBC50Summer journey.

Well… isn’t that interesting? Every single one of those books gave me something to change, do, or continue doing for my students and teachers. What’s in it for me looks pretty good if you’re a teacher or student that I have the privilege of serving, doesn’t it?

If you want to see what’s in it for you by hopping on the #DBC50Summer journey with me, do it! You don’t have to commit to reading the first 50 books published by DBC! You can read just one! Just one book and implement something you learned. Share your reflections, your implementation plan, and then reflect on it upon completion. It’s that easy!

That leads me to two things I need your help with!

A) The flipgrid that Andrea Paulakovich and I are copiloting is silent. When Andrea mentioned this digital space for global collaboration for all DBC books, I was blown away by her creativity! Still am! Would love to have your thoughts added to the flipgrids. We will release the link to the grid itself once we are finished with the books and blogs. (We’ve also got a couple of awesome things in the works so stay tuned for that, too!) For now, you can use my implementation plan which includes the links to individual topics within the flipgrid!

B) Summer is over in less than 2 weeks. I will finish the final 10 books in the first 50 books published by DBC. I have no plans to stop reading, reflecting, and implementing something from DBC books after book 50. There are incredible books waiting to be read and shared after book 50! So how do we rebrand #DBC50Summer? Help me think! Tweet out your ideas for a new hashtag that can remain relevant no matter the season or book number, or add your ideas in the comments below.

When I started this journey in June, I had no idea what it would look like. I figured no one would ever read these posts, and that it would essentially become a notebook of reflections that I could refer back to as needed when supporting teachers and students. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined my summer would turn out the way it has. My PLN is incredible. Absolutely, mind-blowingly (not a word, I know), insanely spectacular! I am beyond thankful for each person who has read even one word, tolerated my incessant tweets (and e-mails for those who are subscribed to receive emails for each new blog), encouraged me, and supported me. You have inspired so much growth through your conversations and kind words and I can never thank you enough. But it’s not time to get sappy yet. This isn’t the acceptance speech, because we’re not finished yet.

Just as the first 40 were, these last 10 are for my students and staff. What’s in it for them?

Ten books, less than 14 days… and I’ve got a secret. Let’s go!