Yes I just said I hate Teach Like a Pirate! I admit it, I hate it!
Some of you might be astonished with this statement since I run #sstlap social studies teach like a pirate and have supported the Teach Like a Pirate movement for years. Now that I have your attention I think it is important to discuss why I hate Teach Like a Pirate. The reason is pretty simple but very important to my professional development.
I was teaching for years when a change meeting put me on a path to Teach Like a Pirate. I was looking for resources for my sociology class which I was teaching for the first time in my career. I found Reuben Hoffman's website with amazing resources and emailed him about using some of his amazing lessons. He shared his entire Google Folder and then pushed me to get on Twitter and read the book Teach Like a Pirate. This has forever changed my professional life.
I have written so much about how this has transformed how I approach teaching and professional development. It helped open the door to creating a Professional Learning Network that has been so supportive in my learning journey. The ideas helped me refocus on building relationships as the most important aspect of teaching. It has taught me more ways to engage students in the learning process. It has challenged me to do better and be better. I can't say how important reading Dave's book has been to reinvigorating my educational career.
Recently I have read Play Like a Pirate, Learn Like a Pirate, and have many other books from Dave Burgess Publishing that I am either in the midst of reading or on my night stand. I am a true believer of what Dave is doing to transform education.
So why do I hate Teach Like a Pirate? I hate it because I didn't discover Teach Like a Pirate until I had been teaching for about 10 or so years. In those years I wasn't teaching like a pirate, I wasn't focused on making ticket lessons and building relationships. I didn't have a PLN to support me or encourage me to take risks and learn from failure, or to share ideas with. This isn't to say that I didn't connect with students, or have good lessons. What I am saying is I wasn't as good as I could have been because I didn't know about being a Pirate. I didn't know how to change what I was doing to become the best teacher I could be. I am frustrated that I fell back on doing things the way I was taught early in my career and that was a disservice to my students. I wasn't asked- "If kids didn't have to come to your class would they?" If that was asked to me earlier I know I would have begun my transformative journey sooner.
I have read Play Like a Pirate and want to be back in the classroom using those lessons right now! I want to see what super powers my students would assign the presidents, or how we could use Ken and Barbie or Legos as learning opportunities. I also read Learn Like a Pirate and want to turn my classroom into a student centered learning experience where I get out of there way. I am no longer in the classroom daily, I am a Tech Integrator who works with teachers and their classes to create learning experiences. I promote the Teach Like a Pirate message and get to see their amazing results. However, I didn't get to unlock my full potential or that of my students while in my own classroom.
Why am I sharing this with you- I want every young teacher to know about Teach Like a Pirate! Share this with them, and transform their learning environment. Share it with veteran teachers and again transform their teaching and the experience for their students.
We can do better and our students deserve our best. Connect the disengaged student, motivate the unmotivated student through ticket lessons, passion, and most importantly developing rapport with them.
I was working with teachers this past year and we were discussing formative assessment for their students. I started to put together some examples using Google Forms. I was excited about what I had put together using images and videos as the prompt and text for answers. The teachers put the examples through their paces and quickly came back with their assessment. They didn't share my enthusiasm. They liked the concept, but didn't like the fact that the answers had to be words. They work with Kindergarten students who at the beginning of the year can't read and thus written answers don't meet the students educational needs. They asked if we could use images as the answers. At that time I had to regrettably answer no.
I had to deal with this setback for a bit before I remembered Alice Keeler tweeting out that if you want a feature, have a question, etc. that you should contact Google because they listen. Well I thought about this for a bit and decided, well what do I have to lose? So I took a couple of minutes and sent a feature request to Google.
About two days ago I saw some people posting about the new feature in Google Forms. Then I received an email from Google - see below. I think this is awesome! Google really does listen to people and takes their ideas for features and turns them into reality. And that creates opportunities for amazing learning opportunities.
So what can you do with picture choices? Let your imagination be your guide. My first thought was to have students identify Letter Sounds using images of fruit or animals or common objects as choices. Or which of the following objects doesn't belong which of these is not like the others? What about identifying shapes, colors, etc. You might be asking what about the students who can't read like my original issue. You could work through the activity as a class projecting the question while students are answering on their computers. You could set up the form to have sections so that students would answer one question at a time and not be distracted by other images or questions. You could create audio or video directions that students would click on to provide the question and instructions. These are just a few ideas that come to mind I will add more as I work with this new tool. I am still in the Holy Cow this is Incredible phase.
Here is a great playlist of Google Form Tutorials from Richard Byrne He has a blog FreeTechnology4Teachers site that has amazing resources that I go to regularly to learn new resources.
This week I had the privilege to work with a group of educators in a course called Communication and Collaborating with Google Tools through UWGB. I was asked to take over the course at the end of June and was given the syllabus to use as my guide. I spent the next few weeks creating the assignments and daily tasks that would guide us. I wanted the course to be self paced and put together a number of activities that participants could choose from. Here is the site if you are interested in seeing my vision - gg.gg/TechVenture. I asked the participants to complete and submit three tasks under each tool.
I went into the class thinking all teachers would have experience with Google Apps for Education. I thought they would have experience creating and working in Docs, their Drive, and likely Slides. I quickly found out that the level of experience and comfort level varied greatly. I had some students who had never created anything with Google Apps.
I wish I could say that everything went perfectly, that I did an awesome job inspiring these educators and they had no struggles with learning or using the technology. Unfortunately that isn't the case. There were struggles, there were moments of frustration and there were moment of failure. The reality of learning new skills, especially technology comes with failure. There were lots of questions being asked, most I could answer, but sometimes they wanted to do something so specific that while it could be done it would involve a level of complexity they weren't ready for. It taught me many lessons in how to provide instruction, to listen to these learners as both individuals and as a group. It gave me numerous moments to take pause and reflect. I also saw that same behavior with many of my students. I saw them think about how they could use the technology, contemplate ways to infuse it, or whether a different technology like Microsoft would be easier and more appropriate for them. I experienced their anxiety, their struggle to explore something new. Some dipped their toes in and others jumped in the deep end.
The struggles I witnessed this week remind me how important building relationships and trust are. I spent a lot of time working with these educators individually getting to know them and listening to their needs. I also incorporated a number of activities to help the entire group get to know each other. These activities had little to do with technology, but I think they made a huge difference in how well the course went, especially when the students had time of struggle and frustration.
I have to be completely honest here that I haven't looked at the products students have submitted beyond what they showed me while working on them in class. I don't think I need to see the final products of their labor to comment on the triumphs of the class.
I witnessed the journey of these educators as both a group and more importantly as individuals. I saw the student who had never created a Google Doc create a Site showcasing her work for the week. She also created a page of her awesome creations in a world beyond education. She quilts, creates stained class, and welds yard art to name a few. She brought in examples of her work and showcased a page of images on her portfolio site. She came in now knowing how the tools would fit her unique teaching circumstances to creating numerous lesson activities with a multitude of classes.
I worked with another teacher who took a Choose Your Own Adventure Google Form Template I created and built her own lesson for her 2nd grade students. She is going to create a writing prompt for her students that will allow them to choose which path their take and which story ending their friends wrote they wish to read.
An Admin in the class left thinking about how he could use QR codes to revamp his beginning of the year PD sessions. And most importantly I heard many ideas about how to provide students with a variety of opportunities to use their voice in the learning experiences.
The week was a bit of a roller coaster ride as we navigated our way through the learning process. In the end I am ecstatic to see the progress and final products of my students. I can't wait to sit down to make some tweaks to it and work with the next group of students.