Mustang Madness

Teaching to an empty room

This quote is at the heart of the book Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. (Shoutout to Shelley Burgess for creating this beautiful graphic!)

When I read about Ryan McLane‘s Teach Like A Pirate Day, inspired by this quote, in the book he and Eric Lowe co-authored, Your School Rocks, I knew I had to figure out a way to make it happen! It quickly became one of my implementations for #DBC50Summer even though I had no idea how I was ever going to convince the teachers I serve to give up a day in their already busy calendar.

The Plan

In early August, I met with my principal and explained this day centered around celebrating a love of learning. The more we discussed it, the more her eyes lit up. (Side note: I love that she is constantly finding ways to let me lead & grow. This was just one example of that. She rocks.) We discussed that this would need to be brought to the School Improvement Team (SIT), so we made a plan for me to pitch it to them at the next meeting. Little did I know that I would be elected to serve on SIT just a few weeks later.

Every month we have a Mustang Madness Day built into our schedule. These days are usually held on dates with early release schedules or at the end of the quarter when we’d be holding our awards programs for academics and athletics. The members of SIT seemed eager to develop this idea further, so we preemptively looked for holes and concerns our teachers might have. We scheduled the first attempt at a #tlap day for the Mustang Madness day before Christmas vacation. Then… life happened.

In late November, I sent our SIT chair and principal an email asking if we were still moving forward with the date as scheduled. Getting the green light from them, I began organizing the day with as much structure as possible, as suggested by SIT.

Here’s how it went down…

Every teacher in the school shared their activity on a Google Sheet. Using that sheet, I created a form for students in each grade level to rank their interest in the activities (1st choice, 2nd choice, and so on). Here’s an example of a form.

*We decided to keep students with their grade levels to streamline the process this time.*

During media classes in early December, students completed the form. It took about 5-7 minutes in each class. Using those responses, I created schedules for every student (yes… every. student.) making sure to respect their 1st and 2nd choices in the core classes and 1st choice in their encore classes. No child ended up with anything less than their 5th or 6th choice!

On Wednesday, two days before our Mustang Madness date, I printed a copy of each teacher’s class lists for each class. Teachers still had their planning period in tact and would be going to lunch at the same time. On Thursday afternoon, I emailed every student their schedule for the day.

Let me just tell you, the hype was REAL! Kids were pumped to be at school the next day! I could hear them discussing which classes they had and trying to figure out who they would be in class with!

*When students completed the form, they did not know which teacher would be doing which activity – I wanted them to choose based on activities only to eliminate any preconceived notions about their own interest level. When they received their schedule, they only got the name of the teacher! So there will still so much suspense around what they’d be doing the next day. It was so much fun to listen to them guess which teacher was going to do which activity.*

Then… it was time.

Signs were placed at classroom doors with the name of the activity and the teacher’s name. I hung up poster-sized schedules with 1st period locations to prevent confusion among students, especially our 6th grade students. The bell rang and the excitement in the halls was palpable. By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, but in the best way! I had FUN teaching! To my knowledge, there wasn’t a single behavior issue the entire day. I asked students and teachers to complete a survey at the end of the day and responses are still coming in. This is the preliminary data.

That’s HUGE! Do you SEE that? From what I’m seeing, 62.5% of students CAME TO SCHOOL (on a snow make-up day, no less) because they were excited about Mustang Madness! Yep – that’s making kids want to tear down the walls to get INTO school, rather than to get out! In my eyes, that statistic alone makes the day a huge success.

Here’s some other feedback I received:

From students

What did you love about today?

“it was funner than school has ever been”

“having teachers i don’t normally have”

“I loved the fact that we could do what we chose and that we could choose our own schedules.”

“everythang”

What would you change?

“nothing”

“make it longer”

“If i could change anything i would make the option for the students to have more access to which students there going to be placed with in there classes because some people may have got no classes with there friends and people that may have really wanted to have this day together couldn’t so i would love to see more accessibility towards that part.”

“Today everything was fun and we don’t need to change anything today.”

From teachers

What did you enjoy about today?

“Getting to do lessons that we are really passionate about, and being able to meet new students that we normally do not see.”

“The vibe of the school is so much fun.”

“How much the students engaged in something that was an “out of the ordinary” experience.”

“Getting to have fun with the kids and see them at their best.”

What would you change?

“Not much, the schedule worked great but having a little more input or access to the sign-up process would be nice.”

“Do it on a full school day; may need more time with some activities”

“Let kids sign up during homeroom so we can catch the ones that are absent.”

*It is worth noting that 100% of teachers said this is something they want to do again!*

So… what’s next?

I would love to see this run like Ryan did his. Students report to first period for attendance and announcements, then disperse throughout the school for classes. I think that once a class is full, the teacher will shut their door and any remaining students who wanted that class can go to their next choice and try to attend the class they missed in the next block of time. I’m excited to see our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students mixed up within the classes. This was something our teachers were very hesitant about; I mixed grade levels in the media center with no trouble, and am hoping that will serve as a model for the next iteration. I believe that allowing free movement and not having a “schedule” ahead of time will give students the ability to have more classes with their friends. Also, if we have it on a regular school day (not an early release) students and teachers will have more time in each class.

Some of the best feedback I received from this day came from three different people.

One teacher said, “You didn’t know it, but I needed this day so bad. It reminded me why I love teaching. I had forgotten.”

One of our custodians said, “My favorite part about today was seeing teaching today. Every time I walked by <his/her> classroom, <he/she> was so excited! I’ve never seen <him/her> teach like that.”

My administration said (and this meant so much to me), “Today was the very best, smoothest last day of school before a break that I’ve ever experienced in my 17 years of education. Thank you!”

As kids were leaving the school, the halls were vibrating again. It wasn’t necessarily from excitement to leave. It was from students yelling their “see you laters” and “Merry Christmases” to new friends. I believe they will be excited to be back on January 2nd, and that they will be looking forward to our next Mustang Madness.

Enjoy a few of the pictures of our day celebrating a love of learning! This is just a sample of what our incredible teachers and students enjoyed. Thank you for this incredible idea Ryan, and for sharing it in Your School Rocks! Just another example of how #DBC50Summer is changing my world, one book and one implementation at a time.

For more on this idea of #tlap day, check out Ryan’s blog! He has so many resources and has done this many times! It’s a wealth of knowledge and he’s super helpful if you need anything that you can’t find there!

Top 5 Must-Have VR Experiences

I have spent the past year using the htc Vive to help teachers give students experiences that they cannot possibly have otherwise.  Through this year, I have compiled a list of five of our must-have VR experiences in SteamVR.  (Note: I have not added pricing information as it can change, but check for sales!)  These are in no particular order as they all served their purpose extremely well!

Google Earth VR

romancoliseum

The Roman Coliseum in Google Earth VR

It started out shaky; I’ve got to admit that I hated it at first.  I was not a fan at all.  It made me nauseated and it wasn’t very user-friendly.  With the addition of the search feature and the newly rendered locations, I am in love with Google Earth VR, and so are my students.  We’ve used this in several classes.  We explored the Roman Coliseum, enjoyed a tour of London, and stood at the summit of Mount Everest.  We found and labeled various biomes, went to Pearl Harbor to discuss why this was so important to our military during World War 2, and of course as everyone does, found our school!

theBlu

theblu

This was my very first VR experience and will likely always make my top 5 list.  It would have to be a mighty contender to knock this one out of the top five.  I used this with every science class to discuss different content in each grade level.  With one grade level, we discussed bioluminescence using the experience called Luminous Abyss.  In another, we used the experience Reef Migration to discuss water pollution and migration of animals.  Finally, using Whale Encounter we discussed the magnitude of the oceans and ocean water.  This is also my go-to for the first encounter for others in VR.  It is a quick experience that shows exactly how immersive today’s high-end virtual reality has become.

The Lab

thelab

This experience is brought by Valve, and has so many easter eggs included that it automatically makes my first list of top five.  I spent an entire afternoon just discovering easter eggs!  I have also used several of the experiences within The Lab to explore content from the classroom.  There is a human body scanner, which is fairly impressive to see the heart, brain, and lungs.  The solar system within The Lab is perfect to share inner and outer planets, planetary motion (both revolution and rotation), the asteroid belt, and to discuss size of planets.  Bonus – you can pick up the planets and throw them around like bouncy balls.  There is an adorable robotic puppy in The Lab that my students have loved playing with; he will even fetch!  Finally, and easily my favorite experience in The Lab is the Slingshot!  Imagine… you’re in a cardboard factory with boxes on top of boxes.  Placed between some boxes are loads of TNT explosives (yes, I know – so cool!).  You are given “cores” to calibrate, which just means that you are launching these spherical objects into the factory and the more damage you do, the higher your score.  Your score is given in dollars of damage! It’s great!  Two tremendous parts of this experience – tracer cores and core personalities!  Yep – there are boxes (they look like blue box fans to me) placed in the factory.  Hit one of those, and you can aim your tracer core shot – great for hitting the TNT in the distance!  In ELA, this game is perfect for point-of-view and characterization!  Each core has it’s own personality and talks to you.  They are hilarious, so turn up your volume!

Tilt Brush

tiltbrush

Another goodie from Google is Tilt Brush.  This experience is perfect for students to draw settings of stories, create 3d sculptures, generate nonlinear and linear graphs, and thanks to Jimmy Fallon – Tiltbrush Pictionary is a thing and can easily be done using vocabulary words in class!  This takes a few minutes of practice to learn the controls, but it is well-worth the time and money.

Water Bears VR

waterbears

Do you remember the app called “Where’s My Water?”  You had to dig through dirt to clear the route for water to reach a bathtub for an alligator… please say you remember that.  It was one of my favorites until I got stuck on a level.  Anyhow, this puzzle game is very similar.  You are given pipes and a water source, and these absolutely adorable animated gummy bear looking creatures in a bubble.  The goal is to use the pipes to move the water from the water source to the water bears to free the bears and move on to the next level.  It is super cute!  The levels get progressively harder and there is critical thinking and problem solving that must be used.  My personal favorite thing about the experience is catching the water bears when they are released and listening to their laughter at being released.

Bonus: Vivecraft

vivecraft

Let’s face it.  I can’t just do 5 must-haves.  I’m sorry!  Go get Vivecraft and let your students build and mine on Minecraft IN virtual reality!  They get to experience it through the eyes of Steve/Alex!  How cool is that?  Want to make it even cooler???  The coolest thing my students did this year with Virtual Reality was to create their own splash pads to scale, designing in class, building in Minecraft, then experiencing in Virtual Reality using Vivecraft!  It was pretty epic and the students (and teachers) loved the experience!

Comment with your must-haves from SteamVR!

 

 

Virtual Reality: htc Vive vs Oculus Rift

One of the most frequently asked questions….

Which do you recommend: Vive or Oculus?

I will admit up front that I have a pretty in-depth knowledge of the htc Vive and a pretty limited knowledge of the Oculus Rift.  Which means this post may be totally biased.  However, it’s been asked and I feel the need to share.  Because I know it can be argued, I’d like to point out in advance that there are other options, but right now, these are the front-runners.  I will not address those I haven’t personally tried.

In the beginning, it was Oculus.  I never had the pleasure of wearing the first Oculus, but I hear the motion sickness was something else.  My first experience was the htc Vive.  I was finally able to try out the new Oculus a couple weeks ago.  Here is my verdict.

Headset: Vive

To me, the Vive is sturdier.  I’m using VR in education with 450 students and teachers and I’d like to know my headset isn’t going to break into pieces if a student hits it on accident.  I will say that the Oculus feels nice on because the headset is much lighter & it looks super sleek!  The Vive feels better on my face (using the included face cushion) and allowed less light in when adjusted.  The adjustments on the Vive are smoother and easier to handle than the Oculus.  The Oculus has a very small strip of velcro while the Vive has more substance to it.  I also like the headphones on the Oculus, which are adjustable.  However, the Vive has a port for headphones behind the head, and if the deluxe strap is ordered, it’s a moot point for Oculus.  So for overall headset, I’d have to choose the Vive.

Controllers: Oculus

I love the new Oculus touch controllers.  These were an incredible add to the Oculus headset a few months ago.  These touch controllers feel so natural in your hands, and are easy to maneuver in experiences.  I also love that in the majority of Oculus content, the controllers have the same commands using the controllers.  Another cool feature is that you can give various gestures (like a thumbs up, point, etc) using the touch controllers that you can’t give on the Vive (yet).  With that said, it’s not enough to make it an automatic Oculus win over Vive.  Especially since both have pretty cool haptics.

Room-Scale: Vive

One of the coolest things about the high-end virtual reality equipment is the ability to have a room-scale experience.  This means that you are able to move about the virtual room in the same way that you move around a physical space, with your feet.  Prior to this, it was teleport only through a button on a controller, or the motion of your eyes or head in the headset.  The ability to do room-scale VR is what set Vive apart from their inception.  The idea that you could actually walk around was amazing.  Now Oculus has leveled the field in this respect by offered room-scale using base stations similar to Vive. However, having used both of these room-scale options, I like the Vive best in this regard.  Both the Vive & the Oculus offer their base stations/sensors with the original kit, but while two base stations are sufficient for a good room-scale experience with the Vive, the Oculus really needs three sensors to give you an equal experience.

The Experiences: Tie

I hate when people do that on one of these “which is better” posts, but honestly… I have to here.  I would be very interested to know the opinions of my peers on this.  The limited experiences I have in the Oculus were pretty consistent with what I had experienced in the Vive as far as graphics, response, etc.  I don’t really use Viveport (the Vive platform) nor the Oculus Home (Oculus platform).  If I based the choice on my limited experience in both platforms, I’d have to give it to Vive. The Oculus Home doesn’t allow you to move about, and I desperately want to move to change the radio and look around the patio you’re on, but I can’t (yet).  Instead, I typically use SteamVR and search for VR enabled experiences only.  I look forward to seeing the Home and Viveport evolve though, as there is quite a bit of change coming it seems.

Overall: Vive

So overall, I’d have to tell anyone who asks that I’d recommend the htc Vive over the Oculus Rift – for now.  With the constant changes and the incredible advances in both the look of VR and the experiences offered, there are only awesome things to come in the future of VR in education!