#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!

#DBCBookBlogs: A Passion for Kindness

Holding open a door. Saying hello to a stranger. Stopping by a fellow teacher’s classroom during your planning period to see if they need anything. Offering to cover recess or lunch or car or bus duty for someone who seems a bit overwhelmed this week.

All free. All require very little effort. All require 25(ish) minutes or less of your time. All are amazing acts of kindness that we can do for others. All sound like exactly the kind of thing Tamara Letter, author of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc book 65 – A Passion for Kindness, would do!

PassionforKindness

Having been a huge fan and follower of Tamara for a while, I was so excited to see her book released on Valentine’s Day. Her tweets and Instagram feed scream positivity, kindness, and compassion for others and I just couldn’t wait to get into her book and learn more about her. Through DMs on Twitter, I knew we shared similar struggles. Sure enough, as I read through her experiences of miscarriages and the loss of friends way too early, I sat with tears streaming down my face. Then, as I read about the kind acts that promoted healing and the compassion she was shown and the families of the lost loved ones were shown, the tears came again. This book is beautifully penned and oh-so-touching. One doesn’t have to be an educator to appreciate Tamara’s stories; one only needs to be human.

When I was a sophomore in high school, one of my sweet friends, Brittany, was killed in a car accident. We played softball together, we were cheerleaders, we were both going to be teachers. She was a year older than me in school, her mother worked in our front office, and her younger cousin and I were in the same grade and were best of friends. I will never forget that day; it was like a bad dream that I will relive over and over again. Every February 15 I wake up filled with dread knowing that something isn’t right, then I see a calendar. This year, on February 15, my copy of A Passion for Kindness arrived at my front door.

Like every other DBC book I’ve read, it was exactly the right book at exactly the right time. You see, every year on February 15, I have sent Brittany’s mother a message on facebook letting her know that I was thinking of her, I loved her, and share a happy memory of Britt. This is the first year I wasn’t able to do that. Brittany’s mother passed away unexpectedly in November. I was lost. I didn’t know how to handle my grief this year because sending Brittany’s mom a message was a way to grieve, and her mom had shared that it was a way for her to heal as well. Midmorning, I decided to message her younger sister: “Hey P – usually I send your sweet mama a message today to tell her that I’m thinking about you all and that I love y’all so much and today I feel a little lost because I can’t send your mama a message. Your family has always meant so much to me. I remember cheerleading practice with Britt, throwing you up in different stunts with her while your mama would just shake her head at us. I love you to pieces sweet girl. You & your daddy are in my thoughts and prayers today & every day. Brittany certainly isn’t forgotten, and your mom won’t ever be either. Both of them live in your sweet smile and beautiful spirit. Love you!”

I wasn’t sure how it would be received. P was so young when Britt passed and her mom’s passing is still so raw and new that I was worried I may have upset her.  Late that afternoon I received back, “Oh thank you so very for sending me this!! Britt touched so many people, and loved everyone! Her and mom are in a wonderful place and I know they are both watching over us all! And one day we all will be reunited together!”

Throughout her book, Tamara speaks about wanting to be certain that those who hear the stories know she is never trying to put the spotlight on herself, but on kindness because she has a real PASSION for Kindness! I believe her wholeheartedly! I share that story, not because I ever want anyone to say anything positive about me, but because someone may be in a similar situation and have the same worries I did about how a message would be received, or how to grieve, and maybe even is it still okay to grieve all these years later. Tamara shares story after story of kindness, and highlights so many others throughout her book in sections of Kindness Cultivators! She truly makes the world a better place to Lead, Love, and Learn and gives her readers the tools (garden tools even) to create the same environments in their own classrooms, schools, and communities. Please do yourself a favor and get this book! It’s heartwarming, beautiful, and inspiring!

Implementation

So…. I may, or may not, have already implemented this book… okay… I did.

Back in early January, Karen Caswell (@kcasw1) sent me a message about being a host class for a Kindness Read Aloud in February called #KindnessCrewCRSS. My students were so excited to join in and eventually we chose The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. We implemented this Kindness Read Aloud this past week and had a blast reading answers from around the world; schools from Canada, Australia, and the United States joined in to answer our questions, and all of our students also answered the questions via Google Form. It was great to have time to discuss acts of kindness. Finally, each student was tasked with thinking of one act of kindness they had witnessed someone else do (adult or student) or completed themselves while on school campus. They wrote them on index cards and turned them in. On Monday, I will finish our newly decorated bulletin board by putting these examples of acts of kindness on the board as a constant reminder to Be The Good! This intentional focus on kindness throughout the remainder of the school year and beyond will be our continued implementation of Tamara’s book.

Tamara’s heart is good as gold. Everyone has rough days and I am sure she is no different. I feel certain that those closest to her know that there are days that she gets down and out, frustrated with the system and all the things that frustrate the rest of us. What I love most about her is that she doesn’t let it keep her down and that’s not what she chooses to share publicly. She is clearly compassionate, kind, generous, loving, and always doing what she can to make the world a better, more positive place to be. I can’t wait to give her a big hug for that! By the way – if you do nothing else… check out this precious video of her getting to hold her book for the first time… you see her joy coming through and it’ll make you want to rush out and buy your own copy! Trust!

One of my favorite things from the book is the sketchnotes from, not only Tamara herself (you should see the tomato, y’all – it’s precious), but also from THE Julie Woodard! I have been a fan of Julie’s work for a LONG time – you’ve seen it all over Twitter; she did a beautiful job taking Tamara’s words and bringing them to life in the book! If you want more from Tamara, check out her website here! As always, you’re welcome to contribute to the flipgrid, which the amazing Andrea Paulakovich allows me to co-pilot with her. This was her incredible idea when #DBC50Summer started back in June 2018, a space for global reflection for every DBC book. There will be a prompt, but you certainly don’t have to stick to it! Just share something awesome you got from the book!

Below are tweets, tweets, and more tweets from the book. I made myself quit tweeting about halfway through the book so I could finish it. HA! You’ll have the same problem; I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See what I mean… I had to MAKE myself stop tweeting about the book! So so so good! Go grab your copy so you aren’t missing out! A Passion for Kindness is the perfect 65th book!

#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, 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!