#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: Lead Beyond Your Title

Thinkerbell…. My SuperHero name is Thinkerbell. A dear friend and colleague nicknamed me Tinkerbell as a joke one day because of my (slight) obsession with all things Pirate. (I’m still trying to figure out why she thinks I am that into pirates. HA! Kidding! Love this Pirate Fam!) Every once in a while, she’ll even reply to my Twitter posts with a Tinkerbell image or gif. It doesn’t really bother me because Tinkerbell is a pretty amazing little character! She’s stubborn, small, and sassy. She is a problem solver and likes to, well, tinker. She learns best when her hands are moving, and I’m the same way. I changed up the nickname to Thinkerbell for my superhero name as I analyze everything and focus on learning everything I possibly can. I ask [too many] questions and am sometimes accused of being a “creeper” because I can do insanely fast research and excel at deductive reasoning. (I am pretty good at Sudoku.) I thrive when I’m thinking. So I embrace the pirate obsession & overanalytical nature as strengths rather than deficits. Thus, Thinkerbell.

Why in the world am I creating SuperHero names and what does it have to do with #DBCBookBlogs? You’ll have to read the latest Lead Like A Pirate guide, Nili Bartley‘s Lead Beyond Your Title, to truly understand – it’s the perfect mix of inspiration and practicality!

leadbeyondyourtitle

Nili shares with us her journey from classroom teacher to technology integration specialist, using clear examples of leadership in every role. What I love the most about this book is that she is leading by empowering others to lead using their own superpowers. She shows specific examples of this throughout each page. Whether she’s talking about the exceptional students in SuperPIRATES of Crew 202 (Seriously, you’ve got to read about these kids in her book!), the teachers she serves, the administrators, or even her superintendent, she leads by passing the mic. It’s like the whole book is bragging on the awesomeness of others, which is exactly the kind of leader I want to be. I never want others to get the vibe that I’m a “Look At Me” leader, but rather want to known as a “Look At Them” leader.

When I was teaching in the classroom, I never would have considered myself a leader. Isn’t that ironic? I literally led dozens of 10 and 11 year olds every day, but never thought of it as leading. Every teacher is a leader. Truly every person is a leader. In some way or another, we are leading others. Even my 2 year old nephew is leading; my niece wants to be exactly like her big brother! Whether we choose to embrace that role as a leader is what makes all the difference. I choose to embrace my role as leader because it will allow me to have a more profound impact on those who feel empowered to lead based on my example. Nili did just that! She embraced her role as leader, regardless of her title. The president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc, Dave Burgess (author of Teach Like A Pirate) says you can’t announce change from the podium. In other words, true change will come from grassroots movements. Who are the grassroots in education? Teachers and students. This makes me pause and ponder, does a title actually give us a diminished authentic influence? Just food for thought.

Nili encourages us to lead through conversation, developing relationships. She speaks of building trust and rapport with those she is leading. She shares phenomenal and practical examples of opportunities she gave others to lead (students and teachers alike). She talks about defining and crafting your role. This particular chapter hit home for me because I am in the final year of a 3-year pilot position in my district. I was asked in the Summer of 2016, by my superintendent, to read a new job description which formally merged the roles of media coordinator and instructional/digital coach (aka, my dream job). After a couple of hours of wrapping my head around what he was asking and realizing that I would have to leave a school that I very much loved, I accepted the position. I had no idea what I was getting myself into – this new position meant that no one really understood what my role was. After several discussions on where we wanted to go with the position, we crafted a road map and made some big changes to “the way we did it last year”. The first year was one of the worst years I’ve ever had in education. I wanted to walk out more times than I can count. It was like no one was getting it. Well, of course they weren’t – we hadn’t even shared what it was, what the endgame looked like.

Standing here, looking back on the past 3 years, I am in awe of the changes that have occurred at my school with the students and teachers I serve. I am so proud of the exponential growth and the willingness to constantly move forward and get better. I love the educators I work with and the students are the reason I never feel like I’m going to work. Instead, I’m going to fun. This didn’t happen accidentally. I’d love nothing more than to sit down with Nili and hear more of her story and compare notes. We have so much in common. I knew I would love her book from the moment I saw the title, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least by the content within the covers!

Check out these phenomenal finds in Lead Beyond Your Title!

 

 

Now the question is: how do I implement this book? This is a tough one, and not because it’s not practical. It’s TOO practical. I believe I could literally take any of these examples and tweak it to meet my needs and find success. This adventure (#DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs) is more about pulling back and doing one or two things intentionally. One thing I did immediately to implement this book was check out Thrively.com and SuperYouFun.org! Both are as awesome as advertised! In Thrively, I completed my strengths profile (a real superpower discovery tool), and found it to be spot on with the other profiles I’ve done in the past. The best part is that the assessment questions to discover your strengths are written in kid-friendly terms! I love that! I found out that I am 110% Thinkerbell! Check it out!

Man oh man can you think your way out of anything!! You are like a Vulcan, breaking down problems piece by piece, even talking them through out loud if you need to. You are very logical and have a mind that works like a computer. You can analyze situations and problems with the best of them and will not let your emotions rule you. Distraction? Complexity? Too many moving parts? All in a day’s work! Problems are to be solved, and you are the one for the job!!

-Excerpt from My Thrively Results

My other implementation is getting students involved in professional development for teachers. I haven’t thought through the actionable plan just yet, but I want to make this happen. Whether it’s by survey, video, or having students physically join us to lead workshops, I feel that their voice needs to be heard. Nili shares this passion and offers examples of each of the options I mentioned. Stay tuned to see how we make this happen!

I highly recommend you go directly to Amazon to purchase this book. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. (Man, wouldn’t $200 be nice right now?! Can I get a witness?) Jump in the conversations already happening on Twitter about this amazing new book using the hashtag #LeadLAP and follow Nili at @nbartley6! Be sure to check out the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website for a preview of the book and more information about how to connect with the community! As always, the Flipgrid is available (thanks to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space) for your reflections. Feel free to share your thoughts there, comment below, or connect with me via Twitter! I look forward to leading beyond our titles together!

My #OneWord2019

Last year my community group from my church did a book study on the book My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. It was the first time I’d ever heard of using one word to define the year, and I loved it! I rarely made New Year’s Resolutions because I knew I wouldn’t keep them, no matter how good my intentions were. The idea of only needing to remember one word was intriguing to me.

Last year, my word was moderation. I laugh every time I think of that being my word because reading 60 professional development books would likely be considered anything except moderation. My reason for choosing that word was that it applied to many aspects of my life. Financial moderation, moderation in eating unhealthy foods, moderation at work, etc, etc. I’m a bit obsessive when I put my mind to something. My focus is laser-like (to a fault) when it comes to achieving my goals. If I want something, I will push and push until I get it or until I’ve exhausted all options.

Jokingly I mentioned that I had failed miserably at my word for 2018 during a #MakeItReal Twitter chat. Denis Sheeran (author of Instant Relevance) shared this with me.

When he reframed it, I couldn’t help but agree that my epic fail was actually success through a different lens. (Thanks, Denis!) Also, I lost 40 pounds in 2018 and managed to make fairly decent financial decisions! Yay!

2018 was a year to remember for sure! Many amazing things happened, like being elected to the NCTIES Board of Directors, celebrating 12 years of marriage with my husband, meeting Dave Burgess, growing through #DBC50Summer, presenting about #BookSnaps, Twitter, and NCWiseOwl throughout my state, attending Badge Summit in Chicago, taking our family on a Disney cruise, and connecting with all of you, as well as some trials and setbacks, like our youngest daughter being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. With 2018 being so amazing, I really questioned how 2019 was going to top it.

Then, my word for the year practically fell in my lap. Now, I know how 2019 will top this year! I will connect with others!

connect

I will connect on a deeper level with the students and teachers I serve. I will connect students with curriculum by making it relevant. I will connect my students with other students from across the world. I will connect with my family by spending more quality time with them. I will connect with my PLN through Twitter chats and on Instagram. The part I’m most excited about is connecting face-to-face with people in my PLN. I can’t wait to see the incredible educators of NC at NCTIES in March. I’m hoping to attend an event in Houston this spring, and am begging my husband to let me go to ISTE in Philadelphia. I have absolutely no idea how we will be able to afford it (the aforementioned Disney cruise pretty much drained any savings we had, but it was oh-so-worth-it), and I am definitely a country girl. Being in the city makes me so anxious – I need wide open spaces and pastures with cows, haha. But if being in the city gives me the opportunity to meet some of my absolute most favorite people, I will smile through the busyness of the city & get after it! Now… anyone have suggestions for getting to ISTE for cheap? HA!

I can’t wait to connect with each of you! If any of you are ever planning to be within driving distance of North Carolina (anywhere around north of Atlanta, NC, SC, TN, VA, and even parts of western KY), let me know! I love taking a road trip & will do everything I can to meet you for dinner! And if you’re speaking at a public event around here, send me a DM!!! I totally want to learn from you in person!

Here’s to 2019, friends! Let’s go get it!