#DBC50Summer 26/50: Shift This

You know the saying “It’s all downhill from here”? I just spent the last little bit in an internet time warp looking up what that meant. It’s one of those rabbit holes. There is discussion online (apparently, a LOT of discussion online) about whether this is said in positive or negative connotation. I’ll spare you the details, but I choose to see it as a cyclist who has made it over the highest hill in a race, meaning things will get easier from here on. That’s what I thought would happen when I reached halfway in #DBC50Summer. I’d reached the top of the #DBC50Summer hill and could see the “end” (waaaaayy off in the distance). It’ll be easier now that I’m halfway, right?

Things. Are. Definitely. Not. Easier.

I am continuing to be stretched and challenged as an educator to truly know my educational beliefs as I read these books published by Dave & Shelley Burgess! I’m having to be more thoughtful about creating an implementation plan for these books that is realistic and attainable, while still making big waves. (Because, you know, Pirate ships do that – Pirate Pun, check!)

Book 26 was an empowering book! I’m currently ready to run through the halls yelling to the top of my lungs that I’m making changes and I want everyone on board. I’m ready to use my word from Lead Like A Pirate and be relentless in not accepting the status quo from teachers or students that I have the pleasure of serving. Shift This by Joy Kirr was so incredible that I have actually read it TWICE since last night. With that said, just go ahead and get your copy now! Seriously, it’s that good.

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Here’s a little tidbit about me. I don’t like confrontation, in any form. I very much dislike arguments. I am a people pleaser (Yes, me too, Joy!) If someone confronts me face-to-face, I typically just bow out of the conversation with the quickest escape route I can find. If I do manage to find the guts to stand my ground, it usually ends with me stumbling over my words and tears. Mine. It’s embarrassing to be honest. If the confrontation is digital, I avoid that person like the plague until it blows over (or an appropriate amount of time has passed).

This book equips me with so many options for coaching teachers, and dealing with the dismissal and pushback that will likely happen (which in my eyes feels like confrontation – remember I take everything personally even though I shouldn’t). Finding a teacher’s comfort level in making changes in their classroom is so important. Allowing teachers to be in charge of their own changes makes change seem less intimidating. That leads to a higher success rate through sustaining said change. Thanks to Joy, I now have 4 scaffolded levels of change for topics that are very near and dear to my heart. These topics include:

  • Classroom Environment
  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Grading
  • Social Media
  • Student-Directed Learning

Each of these includes small changes that feel “safe” while making a ginormous (yes, I’m choosing to use that word) impact on student empowerment and lifelong learning. I could easily see where I was in regards to the sliding scale of shifts on each topic and could find a shift I can make in the new year to make an even greater impact. I love that Joy repeatedly states that this was not an overnight large-scale change! She mentions frequently that the changes she has implemented in her classroom are from YEARS of small changes. I also respect that Joy speaks about the next step she is going to make as well! It shows that she’s not done growing and changing, and I appreciate that so much!

This book is like taking a snapshot into Joy’s classroom, seeing it from Point E to Point L, with the understanding that the story was already in play (Point A to Point D) and it continues to evolve now (Point M to Point “Retirement”). I’m sure even at this point, Joy is making small shifts for the her school year and that’s incredibly powerful to me!

I have got to meet this lady. We share so many educational philosophies and through my first reading of the book, I spent the majority of the time standing on her soap box with her, agreeing with every passionate sentence she wrote (sometimes even agreeing out loud). I would love to sit and discuss these beliefs about student empowerment, grading, homework, etc with Joy! There would be a lot of nodding. That’s for sure!

The second time I read the book, I read it through the eyes of an instructional coach. I could literally place every teacher I work with on the sliding scales included with each topic and can see what small change could be made in the coming school year. I want the teachers to be comfortable with the changes because, as Joy says, “Whatever you do has to work for you. If you are not comfortable with something, the students won’t get out of it what you hope for them.” Through discussion and reflection (both with students and within themselves), these changes can be tweaked to meet the needs of their classrooms.

Here are some quotes that I absolutely loved from the book!

 

 

 

One of the things I love most about the DBC, Inc books is that the resources shared within the book, and readily available after reading the book, are abundant. Joy’s book is no different. She includes links to all kinds of goodness via tinyurl.com in her book! I’m looking forward to diving into these links even more, as I know they will provide “a-ha” moments beyond what I read (which is already impressive).

As I mentioned, I can seriously make an implementation goal for every single section within the book. For example, in regards to grading… I have the luxury of not assigning grades to students as I am the media coordinator but I do provide feedback. Joy makes me want to shift this to have students select the work they’d like to turn in for feedback. That small shift gives students choice and allows me to see their best work. I appreciate that!

The implementation goal I choose to complete is related to social media. As I read the section of the book about social media shifts: lurking, then sharing I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Joy and I have very similar stories about our first experiences on social media. (I, too, came home from a conference and spent hours checking out the hashtag when I got home, Joy!) I have reached a point in social media where I’ve been thinking what’s next? as I already share my own content and blog and get new resources and have an amazingly supportive Professional Learning Network (PLN). Joy gives me the next step though, and it is so obvious for it to be the next step (couldn’t see the forest for the trees kind of obvious)… hand it over to the students. Give them the opportunity to blog and tweet out their own content! The best part about this… my principal and I just had a similar discussion this week in which we’ve decided to generate a social media team of students who will get the ball rolling with student-led blogging and social media. We’ll get to see the school from the eyes of our students, and we’re both so excited about what this will look like at the end of the year! The initial social media team will work out the kinks, set the parameters (with some guidance from the principal and I on policy and student safety) and teach other students how to write a blog and share on social media. This group of students will also fulfill one of the implementations from Your School Rocks, which was to create a school hashtag (we had one, but I didn’t put two and two together, so I’m sure the students hadn’t either… now the new one will be clearly stated and shared). We are allowing the students to use their voice by sharing their hashtag ideas for our school, then vote on their favorite to select one! It’s going to be awesome!

I am excited with and empowered by this book! You should visit Joy’s website which has incredible information, including the resources for the book, blogs about shift stories where teachers have shared their stories about their own small shifts leading to big changes, and podcasts with Joy including The Wired Educator. The community on Twitter uses the hashtag #ShiftThis (Be careful with that one, ha! Joy has a funny story about that!) and the chat will resume on August 21, 2018 at 8:00 pm EST! We will meet (almost) every Tuesday night after that. I have the privilege of moderating the chat on December 4, 2018 about Shifting Mindsets! True to Joy Kirr fashion, she is shifting how she moderates Twitter chats, so click here for more information about that small shift! I’m expecting it to lead to massive impacts!

As always, the flipgrid is wide open for global collaboration! Share a story about a small shift you’ve made and how it impacted your classroom. If you should need a password, use DBCSummer to access the grid. A massive thank you to Andrea Paulakovich, a superstar educator from Kansas, for sharing the genius idea to open a global collaboration space for every DBC book!

Book 27 is Unmapped Potential by Julie Hasson and Missy Lennard, the Purposeful Principals! I just purchased this book at the beginning of July, so I’m thrilled to read it for the first time! Look for the blog soon!

 

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?

Media Makeover

There’s a saying “form follows function”.  I’m sure you’ve also heard “if you build it, they will come”.  Basically, my media center needed to reflect the changes that we hoped the pilot would bring to the culture of the school and the vision for media centers throughout the district.  The media space at my school was perfect for the school when it opened in 2000.  Based on new trends in education, and push for Future Ready schools, the use of the space was no longer adequate.  The physical space desperately needed to be updated and the collection needed to be heavily weeded.

Makerspace

We started with a good-sized classroom off the media center.  It previously functioned as the technician’s workspace, but I immediately envisioned a makerspace there.  It already had a sink, tile floors, a solid wall, and lots of storage.  I was also trying to break the habit of sending broken chromebooks to the media center, so I felt that having the technician in that space was counter-intuitive.  The technician at our school graciously moved to another space in the school, and a fresh coat of paint, in some pretty cool colors was the beginning of a makerspace.

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Before

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Before

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After: painted and ready for materials

Virtual Reality Room

The next room on the list was the periodical storage room.  This room was full of classroom book sets, old magazines, manipulatives, old textbooks, and so much more.  I found that teachers didn’t even know what all they had at the school as it was all stored in the media center.  So many teachers were excited to come pick out what matched their curriculum and take it back to their classrooms.  As a teacher, unless I saw it in my classroom, I would forget it was available to me.  I think many of these teachers operated the same way.  Now the manipulatives and many of the book sets are in classrooms.  Textbooks were sent back to the district warehouse.  Old magazines were placed in the makerspace for projects and teachers were directed to the online content.  What teachers did not want, or no longer matched with the curriculum, the students took home.  We transformed this room into the Virtual Reality room (more information on that in a later post).

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Storage

I won’t add images of the storage space as this space was used as a storage space for the school it seems.  There were so many pieces of outdated or broken technology that I asked our central office to sort through the materials and properly remove anything that could be removed.  My assistant superintendent was also kind enough to help me sort through the professional collection to focus on our district initiatives and provide our staff with the most current literature from well-respected educators.  There is an ancient white computer that has become a discussion piece as we still use it to power the poster maker!  My students love to glance in the storage room at the “dinosaur” and I have used the floppy disks that accompany the computer as talking points in several lessons.  Otherwise, most of the space was cleared out and now that all Chromebooks have been turned in for the summer, the once empty shelves are full of Chromebooks waiting for school to start again.

My Office

I really struggled with what to do with my office.  I’ve never been the type to sit in an office to work; I’d rather be visible in the media center.  I considered turning this space into another student space, a quiet study room or a space for reading.  The more I considered the space, I decided to keep it as my office for now.  All of the equipment to repair books, prepare books for circulation, and any files that needed to be kept are housed in my office.  I also keep the professional books I have purchased here so that they are separate from school-funded books.  Any materials that are not ready to be placed in the makerspace and my breakout boxes that I loan to teachers are also housed here.  Finally, I house my more expensive equipment here, behind the locked door to prevent theft or accidental breaking.  This space may eventually evolve into another space for students, but for now it remains my office.

Media Space

This space deserves an entire blog post in and of itself.  For now, the quick version is that after weeding due to age, condition, and circulation, and after adding another shelf to each case to eliminate unused space, I was able to remove 2 12-foot long bookcases, 1 9-foot long bookcase, and 24 feet of bookcases on the walls.  The corners of the media center were dark and everything felt so cluttered.  Now it is open and airy and there are so many exciting places for students to sit and read, work on projects, collaborate, and have class.  Look for a post in the near future about specific changes in the media space.  For now, enjoy some pictures of the space from my first day at work to phase one of the media space changes.

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What comes next?  This year I am installing a Minecraft lab of 10 computers.  These computers will likely run an eSports league as well.  I’m excited to build a large Lego wall and extend the makerspace with the help of my Makerspace Mentors.  I am also looking to begin the transition to having all my furniture on wheels.  Because my school is located near the center of our district, the media center is frequently used for large meetings.  Furniture on wheels would make things so much easier!  I’m also eager to put in a comfortable reading area in one of the alcoves near the interior windows.  There will be more “comfy chairs” (students’ words, not mine) available in the media center as well.  Finally, on the big screen TV, I will have announcements of happenings around the school, as well as a showcase of awesome work from students and teachers.  Stay tuned!