I am someone who loves hearing ideas about connecting the contemporary world with my classroom. I used to love playing Jeopardy in high school as a review game. I now love seeing, hearing and using modern concepts of game shows, or reality TV in my classroom or helping others to create these for their students. A colleague Josh Gauthier @mrgfactoftheday did a presentation using the Amazing Race and Google Maps that was really cool. It like many of the concepts I want to discuss here, added the element of competition. It was amazing sitting in a room of educators and seeing how much the atmosphere of the room changed once the idea of a prize or winner was introduced.
I want to share some ideas, some that I have heard from other people and may had added some of my own twists to. I hope if you find something interesting here and use it that you would share with me the way you used it and how it went. I love hearing how things are used so I can learn and grow. I don't ask so I can take credit. I shared a concept about using Speed Dating about a year ago and had lots of responses about how people were incorporating it into their classroom content as well as PD sessions and lesson planning. I was amazed at the creativity and imagination applied to these applications. I was so appreciative that people shared their incarnations and results with me because I shared those ideas with other teachers who then used or tweaked the new methodologies in their learning environment and more and more people benefited from the sharing and conversations around a simple concept. With that in mind, I want to share some of the ideas about using Reality TV in the classroom.
EDIT to post- I put this post down for a couple hours today to grade some papers from my grad class and hang out with my kids while they were in the pool when I saw #edumatch chat starting up. As part of this it was mentioned the idea of Shark Tank and I commented I had a post in the works about this. Then I saw a link to a post about someone else's take on it. What I found as I began reading it is that unlike my post that is based on the concept, and discusses the potential, this post discusses what was actually done with teachers and students participating.
Here is the link to Shark Tank goes to school by Natalie Orenstein outlines Mari Moss's 8th grade class as one example.
What follows is my post with the concepts of both Lesson Plan Shark Tank and Students being put into the Shark Tank as presenters themselves. I wanted to give credit to those who initiated this idea and acknowledge their efforts. I appreciate the ingenuity and contributions to furthering education.
Shark Tank Reality Check
Shark Tank- the high pressure environment of selling yourself, your idea, and your hard work. In the end you are evaluated, judged to be worthy or unworthy of someone else's money. So how can we use this premise in Education?
I read a tweet or heard someone share the idea at a conference of having teachers engage in a Shark Tank Environment. I brought this up to teachers in my grad class recently and saw the look of terror come over some of the teachers in the room. So what kind of environment could we create that would make teachers visibly uncomfortable? Ask them to enter the Shark Tank accompanied by their lesson plans. When the doors swing open they see the three to five chairs elevated slightly and sitting in these chairs are their students. Stop, pause, reread the scenario if necessary. You walk in and students are sitting in the judges' chairs. Your task, like those on the show, is to sell your ideas to the panel of investors, this case your own students. What are your ideas in this case, are your lesson plans. Now to actually make this work, you would bring in one lesson plan and sell sell sell your vision. Another concept might be to present your vision for the course, present an overview of your vision for the term.
Students would listen to your proposal, ask questions, probe you for information, and give you feedback. This feedback could be constructive, or brutally honest and devastating depending on the student just like the judges on Shark Tank, their personalities and interests vary.
Realistically it would be a challenge to do this with all of our lessons, BUT if we don't consider our students reactions to our lessons, we are less likely to succeed. If when considering this scenario we are truly scared of student's responses, or if we know their responses wouldn't be good, we need to scrap those lessons and rethink what we are doing. We should be student centered and always consider how this will be perceived by our students. Telling students I know this is boring, or really tough stuff and then lecturing at them doesn't cut it. We can do better!
Now that I have thrown out the challenge- I must admit much like when Dave Burgess proposed the question would students come to your class if they didn't have to, or could you sell tickets to your lessons would not have resulted in favorable responses. It was like a kick in the stomach. I thought good things were happening, but Dave set a pretty high bar. Very similarly, the idea of having students evaluate our lessons is scary and I don't know that many of mine would have had unanimous support. I share my shortcomings because admitting that you have growth potential allows you the freedom to achieve those higher standards. I worked hard in the past few years to increase the number of ticket lessons and creating an environment students wanted to be a part of. Each year I set a goal to improve, to have more ticket lessons and to continue to build relationships with students so they knew I cared. I am still a work in progress, and the idea of presenting our lessons in the Shark Tank is to get us to do a self evaluation and make a plan for our personal growth.
If the idea of entering the Shark Tank is too intimidating, but you still feel that student feedback is important, then enlist students to be your sounding board. In the past few years when we tried new lessons I spent some time debriefing with students about what they liked. What went well and where I could improve the lesson. I set up expectations for the conversation to be constructive but honest. I told them that I was always trying to get better and needed their help. There were sometimes that things were said that I didn't like, but overall students had insights that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. They had experienced both the in class work and the outside of class interaction with both the content and peers that helped shape their experience that I wasn't privy to. All of this helped me reconcile my perception with reality and make change. I would encourage you to debrief with students, not only about the content, but more importantly the learning experience.
Shark Tank 2.o
Using Shark Tank with students in the classroom where their work is evaluated by a panel of experts. My first idea is not very divergent from the show. When I taught Economics as a student teacher, we had a class that was called Economics and Entrepreneurship where each student had to propose a product and their classmates voted on which to build. The class was set up to create a business with manufacturing and marketing groups.
Economics - What if instead of building the product and business, students present a business plan. They come up with an idea for a new product, service, etc. and after doing research, they present before a panel of business people from your community. Something to benefit the students in this process would be to bring in business mentors who could assist students with their research and development. This economics lesson could be very elaborate involving a multitude of people and actual products, or more in the realm of visionary. Who would make up the judges would depend on who you have access to in your local community.
Social Problems - I worked with a colleague this year on a service project where we used the KIVA micro-loan project. I wrote a post about it earlier (May). Students researched one of the potential campaigns and then had to present before their class to decide which would be funded. The cool thing is that there was real money available for the winning cause. The class had three students who were the judges and make the final decision. I wasn't able to see the days of voting, but I would definitely push for these to be set up more like the Shark Tank model where the judges are tough but fair. They were in charge of real money and making investments that would make a difference in real people's lives. From what I saw the days I was in the class, students were taking if very serious and working towards making their presentation the best it could be. An extension could be to partner with local businesses who would be willing to pledge their own funds to the project and hear what questions and ideas these individuals might have.
History - There are many opportunities for students in history to use use the concept of Shark Tank to create real world presentations. I did one that could easily be turned into the shark tank if I had given my intended audience a little push to be more skeptical of the presenters. Two years ago I had students present before the head of the school board, the superintendent and my building administrators as to what they thought should be taught in schools about how the world came to be. This could be Scientific explanation, the Big Bang Theory, or Intelligent Design, a higher being creating our universe, or a combination of ideas. If I had changed the scenario slightly I could have created a much more intense venue for the presenters to not only share their ideas, but be in competition somehow for the votes of the audience. The votes should not be based on what idea was presented because it is too controversial, but rather how well the ideas were presented and how well they were able to defend their position. This would have been an assessment of their content knowledge and their ability to persuade. I think this could have been very good for some students and very difficult and challenging for others. As it stood, I found myself more of a cheerleader for my students than worried about which stance they took. I wanted them to succeed and knew some students hadn't had a lot of academic success prior. Turning this into the Shark Tank for some would have been an exciting experience and for others a traumatic event.
Math- I am not a Math teacher nor do I pretend to understand the complexities of math. But after watching shows like Numbers and Big Bang, I was thinking about the way they discussed math. Math was a way to solve problems and there were a multitude of methods at their disposal. My thought here was if teachers created a problem based activity for students to delve into there could be opportunities for divergent thought. Some students or groups might attack the problem one way while others look at it another. Some might use one formula or others apply it differently. My vision was for students to present their plan of attack to the sharks in the tank. This could be a panel of experts from a local business, engineering firm, etc. who recently had to solve a similar problem. The students could present their plan of attack to the sharks, get some feedback, but not necessarily be steered away from their thinking. At the end they present their final solution and here would be where the sharks vote on which solution they think would have completed the task most satisfactorily. I apologize to the Math teachers out there who might be thinking that is a poorly constructed lesson plan. I am not a math teacher, but putting my thoughts out there, I hope you say- I can do better and do it! Make it happen for your students.
Science- Maybe this is because I liked the show House, but this idea came to mind. Students would be presented with an illness, a case with symptoms that the patient is exhibiting. Their task would be like in the show House, to present their idea for the best method of treatment. In the show House, the main doctor used to have brain storming sessions where his team would discuss the symptoms and make a case for their best course of action for the patient. In this case the sharks would take the place of Dr. House. This is probably pretty advanced thinking for high school students, at least it would have been for me while in high school biology. But think about experiences where students could apply their knowledge of science and have to defend their thinking.
The Wrap Up!
If you read this post to the end, you might be thinking that the lesson ideas that I tossed out there would not fair well in a Shark Tank Lesson Plan show down. I don't disagree. I didn't spend a lot of time building up the plot lines or adding hooks to grab student's attention. I didn't provide much in the way of detail or learning targets. The lessons were simply my brainstorm session trying to comprehend how Shark Tank could be used with students as the entrepreneurs in the scenario.
What resonates with me about the Shark Tank idea is that there is Real, Meaningful, Honest feedback by people invested in the outcome. With lesson plan sessions, we get that by brining in the students in our class. They are definitely invested in what we do because it directly impacts their experiences in school and life. What about providing students opportunities to do things where their audience is directly invested in the outcome of their learning journey? How can we create activities where students are doing things that matter to people beyond the school building? How can we flip the experience to be one that creates community involvement in a multitude of subject areas? How can we tap into student passions and desire to learn, create, and develop a sense of investment in what they are learning and doing?
These are all big questions that I don't have quick quotable answers to. I struggle with this but want to help make this a reality for students whether it be in the buildings I serve, or students across the country or world. I want to see students engaged in learning that matters.
My First ISTE and IGNITE Sessions
I attended my very first ISTE earlier this year. I have to start by saying that finding ISTE on Twitter a couple of years ago was a game changer for me. I followed the feed and feverishly bookmarked the links and favorited the tweets being shared by the amazing educators. I spent much of the rest of the summer checking out the links, connecting with the amazing educators who shared out, and changed the way I taught as a result. Well this year I made the transition from having my own social studies classroom to being a tech integrator and I owe a huge thank you to ISTE and the educators who help me learn about things I had never heard of. If not for that learning opportunity I wouldn't be where I am today.
My ISTE experience kicked off with an amazing IGNITE session. If you unfamiliar with IGNITE sessions they are 20 slides and 5 minutes with no animation, video or other supports. You are in the room that was set up for the key note. So picture the largest room you have ever seen add 2 of the biggest screens maybe short of Dallas Stadium I have ever seen and then add the pressure that the audience if filled with your peers. Oh and don't forget you are 1 of 15 amazing educators many of whom could be the keynote speaker and there you have an ignite session.
What made this IGNITE session so amazing? Besides being my first ever because that in itself makes it phenomenal, but add in the amazing pool of presenters and you have a powder keg of awesomeness. However that isn't the key ingredient of spectacular. What put it over the top for me was seeing a colleague Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike present his keynote on being a Karaoke Kid. He is such a humble person that he didn't tell the rest of us about his IGNITE session himself. I am continually struck by the awesome things my colleagues are doing, many times hidden from view. What I mean by this is many times educators don't advertise their efforts. They simply do great things as part of their every day existence.
Sorry for this little sidebar, but it was this presentation and then my experience the rest of the day that provided my ah ha moment and the reason for this post. Jon discussed ---- putting yourself out there- being a Karaoke kid-- Please take a few minutes and check out Jon's Ignite session. It was unique, it was entertaining, but most of all it has a message that resonates
My ISTE was filled with evenings of Karaoke. This was not in my plans when getting on the plane and leaving Wisconsin, however it seems fitting that this would be how the week would go. After watching Jon's Ignite, I started thinking about how I wanted students to view me? I wrote another post about Get up and Dance that talks more about that relationship. Jon's vision to me was able taking risks, having fun, doing things that might be unexpected, and knowing it's okay. This is something that some people in the world of education with High Stakes testing, Educator Effectiveness etc. might cringe at. What does he mean take risks, we are being told what to do and when to do it. This may seem to be the case, but you are still in control of what happens in your classroom. You get to decide if you want to make Fun Friday, or make Fun every day that ends in DAY! You can introduce GeniusHour or Genius YEAR! You decide how you engage with your students. You get to decide if you will be and allow your students to be a Karaoke Kid!
Otus Gathering- let the magic happen!
I am sharing these images from the Otus Gathering at ISTE- they created an amazing event with, you guessed it, Karaoke! I included images that I hope demonstrate my vision for this post, the risk taking, and support shown by complete strangers. It is not my intent in anyway to embarrass any person in the photos.
Karaoke and the Lessons of Life!
The message from Jon's Ignite of taking a risk and be daring for your students was already resonating with me, but then we went to the Otus Party and saw educators dressing up, (I did and there is a pic I just couldn't find it), jumping on stage, and signing and dancing whether on stage or not. Watching the interactions of these people, many who had just met this week, that day, or during the event were joining together to support each other and create an epic event. This got me thinking and led to my thought about how a Karaoke Jam Session could connect to education. Here goes:
What do we want our classrooms to look like? What do we want to be as educators? How do we want our students to feel about themselves while in our care? How can you create that learning environment where students are nurtured, challenged to be great, supported in failure and will never ever not even for a second not believe they matter!
As I watched the multitude of people jump on stage and sign, many very well, some made me think I could potentially get up there, I realized a few things. Those who were signing were taking a risk. They were likely getting out of their comfort zone. They were likely nervous and a little anxious about how well they would do, especially if they followed someone who could be on American Idol. I also watched the crowd, and if you look at the images, you see people clapping, singing, dancing along with the singers. You see that they were there supporting perfect strangers. I was among this group. I was having an amazing time no matter who was singing or how well they did. The crowd chanted, cheered, sang along to fill in the melody and threw their hands up. They did whatever it took to make the people on stage feel like they were a champion. I watched this go on performer after performer for hours. I saw the reaction by the crowd never waver in support. I can only imagine how amazing it must have felt for those on stage. And then a question hit me.
Do our classrooms look like this? Do our students feel this support in everything they do? If not why not? If not now, when? If not, what needs to change? How can we make that change? Can you do this alone, or do you need support? Who will you seek out to help? I do not ask these questions to call anyone out, but to rather broach the subject. Why would perfect strangers support people singing Karaoke at and educational conference but we don't always see this in our classrooms, faculty lounges, etc. We can do better!
It is time that we put kids first- we need to stop testing and start supporting them. We need to stop judging or labeling them and care about all of them. We need to embrace that education is not about content its about the person, the individual. It was No Child Left Behind, not we must teach every factoid. We aren't creating Ken Jennings to rock Jeopardy because Jeopardy is not our students reality. Don't prepare students for when they will be in the real world. They are in the real world! Students go home to a variety of living conditions. Some are nurtured, loved, accepted, many face a different reality. This is still the real world it is real to them, it is impacting them. It is impacting all of us. When they enter the doors of your school and your classroom will you embrace them as your student, your child and someone you are going to invest your time and talents into nurturing their abilities to see them grow and succeed, or do you see the multitude of labels our world places upon all of us. Where we come from, our circumstances, our mistakes and failures do not define who we are. It is how we respond to those shortcomings that do. Remember this when you deal with students. Be forgiving even if the person hasn't said they were sorry. teach them how to be problem solvers, inquiry driven individuals with a quest for learning and creation. Don't sell them short, don't sell yourself short. #YouMatter and your students matter most. Make sure you tell them and show them everyday that matter to you and to this world.
While at ISTE earlier this summer I went to a number of social events with co-workers, colleagues and just amazing people in general. Over the course of the five days in ISTE, we had opportunities to connect with so many people. I talked education, technology, and where to get the best Philly Cheesesteak in town. I have to admit if we didn’t find the best it wasn’t from lack of trying. My doctor would frown at my dietary choices. To the point, I was presented an opportunity to attend an amazing conference with thousands of passionate educators and there were so many choices I had to make each and everyday. Each would determine how my experience would unfold and what I would be able to take away from this opportunity. I could write about the laundry list of takeaways from ISTE, but I wanted to focus on one simple idea that stuck with me. Shut up and Dance!
A group of educators found ourselves at a social gathering where karaoke was rocking so loud we heard it from down the street. When we got there, a few in the group immediately signed up to sing. That is not something I do because I know I can’t sing. However I made the choice to dance- to get out on the floor and have fun. I knew there could be cameras there - this could be posted- this could be embarrassing- I danced in front of coworkers when I wouldn't do this in front of family members at a wedding. What is the difference between the two situations? I made a choice. Simple as that I made the decision to have fun, to dance to be part of something bigger than myself. I took the cues from those around me that this was a safe place to "let my hair down" and dance.
Listening to a great IGNITE presentation, and yes I might reference this a few times because I am thoroughly impressed by this young educator I have been able to work with over the past year, Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike. In his presentation he references the idea of being wild and crazy for the kids. To do things that are a little different and wild. This is an area in my life both in and outside of the classroom that I struggle with. Many times I put on my teacher suit that confined me to the persona of a professional. Now I am not saying that being a professional is negative, but in my case it meant building a wall between myself and my students. While I think we all have a border to maintain proper relationships, my wall was too often too tall and too think. Picture the Great Wall of China. It didn't allow me to show my students who I really am. I am someone who can relate to the quiet kid in the back of the room who knew the answer but was afraid to draw attention to themselves. I relate to the student who feels overwhelmed in math class but is afraid to ask questions because they don't want to feel stupid. I connect to the person who could be the class clown and someone who at times takes risks.
I was all of these people at the same time and yet only show my students one snapshot of me. Unfortunately, early in my career, I never took off my teacher suit in front of my students. I continued to let this wall stand between us. In the last ten years, but more honestly the last five or six I really began to make the transformation from my old rigid teacher suit to more of a leisure suit. A more flexible, hip, (at least I hope) and honest presentation of who I am. I am still a work in progress, but I am continuing to make the decision to connect with my students, get to know them, build relationships and grow.
I made the choice to dance. I hope you will too!