This year brought about BYOD in our classrooms, and so I decided to embrace this new opportunity. I will admit that I was a little nervous, and still am about the potential risks, but I have just completed my lesson on the FISHBOWL and am excited at the results. So you should be asking, what is the FISHBOWL, well before the year began I was looking for music for my classroom, and I have blogged about that already, so to the point, I stumbled upon the song, Welcome to the Fishbowl, by Kenny Chesney. I had never heard it before, but after listening to it, I realized there was a ready made lesson to begin my year.
This week I attempted something new with the students. We collaborated on a policy to implement BYOD into the classroom. My hook that really grabbed their attention occurred on the second day of the discussion when I took away all of their devices and told them this will be a no technology zone. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. I told them that there were too many problems associated with the use of the technology in class to be worth the few opportunities to use them in a positive manner. I did give them the final chance to change my mind. They worked on creating a list of potential uses, and the ideas were amazing. They thought about using it to set up homework or important reminders. They could use it to collaborate on projects, look up information to help them complete tasks. They thought about the potential for contact, and even suggested using skype for students who were sick or absent a day to keep caught up with the class.
As the discussion continued over the next couple of days, I did have a few instances that happened in class that were used as great examples of reasons why we need to have a policy of expectations. Some students' behaviors exemplified the potential misuse of the technology, now no serious issues of concern happened, but they were great demonstrations of behaviors that we needed to address.
The students took this process very seriously, and were engaged in earning their devices in the classroom. I am very happy to say that we created a policy for use.
The basic principles of the policy are as follows:
The use of the device is at the discretion of the instructor who should be asked for permission to use the device during class. In this, the students should explain exactly how they will use the device during class time unless directed to use it in a particular way by the instructor.
Taking pictures may be allowed if the following conditions are followed:
Ask the person(s) in the photo for their permission, explain the purpose of the image, show them the end result, and do not alter the picture from what has been agreed upon by those in the image.
Students thought using images to take notes, for their portfolio, or of activities and tasks would be appropriate use of taking pictures, and the use of sharing them for their educational portfolios would be acceptable use.
Texting is strongly discouraged as it creates a distraction to the student and potentially other students and classrooms. The exception was if contacting a parent or an absent classmate were necessary for school related purposed as decided by the instructor.
I plan on using the devices as part of the class. There are multiple ways students can utilize these devices from taking notes, looking up information sharing answers and ideas, communication, and increasing engagement that I think the benefits from using these in a sound educational manner is too great to pass up.
The final aspect of the policy is the enforcement. Students have agreed to first abide by the rules, second help support others in following the rules by encouraging those who are not following the rules to stop those practices, and they are willing to accept losing the privilege of using the device if they refuse to follow the policy they created.
In true Pirate style, Day 2 is supposed to keep student's attention and cultivate the behaviors of an exciting, nurturing and relevant classroom. Dave Burgess starts out acting out scenes similar to what I created in the video clips above. I am not as comfortable as he is with the stage. While I know I need to push myself to let my guard down more, I also realize I don't need to be a parrot of Teach Like a Pirate, more of a cultivator of its intentions.
Day 2 begins with the video presentation followed by the Survivor Island Scenario. Students are assigned to groups and then discuss who will be rescued and who will be allowed to be saved. I also tried playing the song "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now," as they began their examination.
The students ponder the situation, discuss, and then work to create a collaborative group decision that they can justify. This activity provided a lot of great teaching moments. First we discuss the idea of consensus. It was important that all students agreed, which also meant that they had the expectation of all sharing and being heard. I made a group leader who was responsible to ensure all were actively engaged. Students were give 15 minutes to discuss then we listed their results for who would be rescued and who would be saved.
This actually took us to the end of the hour for Day 2, so our discussion of the results was carried over to Day 3. What an amazing day this was. Not only did it provide opportunities to again reinforce expectations for group work, but it also helped students understand what I mean by justifying or supporting your ideas. I emphasized that there would be no right or wrong answer, but they would be evaluated on their rationale. Having never done an introductory task with so many possible answers, I was nervous about what I would hear from students. What did help is that during the discussion process I did make it around to groups and listen to their discussions and ask questions, or even play devil's advocate at times to spark extension of conversations.
The whole class sharing was enlightening. Students had so many different approaches to how to solve the task. Some looked primarily at who should be saved and the others were left to fend for themselves, others focused on making sure those on the island would have the best chance of survival, and finally, some tried to make it possible for all to survive balancing at times those they thought should be rescued with the skills they could provide to those stranded on the island. The analysis of how they went about tackling this task became a topic for discussion that I used to further the idea of how critical thinking varies for every student. There isn't a right approach, or one right answer.
Another area that led to some very cool discussions was what to do with the murderer. I learned so much about how people perceive the idea of a murderer. Most students saw this person as a male and someone who was prone to violence. They viewed him as a threat to those left on the island and many sent him home to save those on the island. Others still viewing him as a threat, or a bad person, left him on the island because they had a hard time giving him the seat of someone they felt more deserving. In the end we discussed their views or perceptions and had a very cool conversation that I think opened the door for future dialogue about perspective.
This activity is another piece of the framework I am hoping will fit together to show my students that my classroom is different, this year is different, and I, as their guide, am unique.
Teach Like a Pirate Week Begins!
Here I am with the classroom movie posters I made for the hallway outside my room.
DAY 1 - I wish I could have the cool effects like the X-files where the ideas type in those cool green letters because I feel like what I experienced this week was crazy exciting!
Okay, so if you have read anything else I have written thus far, you know that I am a huge fan of Teach Like a Pirate. I took the challenge to be a Pirate this year, and my year has begun with the first week activities that Dave Burgess outlines. I got on Amazon, asked my wife for permission to use the card and purchased the biggest pack of play-doh I have ever seen. 36 cans of funky stuff that can be molded into some of the most creative objects I have ever witnessed in my life.
Day 1 for most teachers begins with some introductory or get to know you activity. I have been doing something for most of my career and enjoyed the activities. Students although sometimes reluctant to share, always provide something that could be used to build rapport and relationships with them. So what is so revolutionary and exciting about using play-doh? Nothing! Absolutely nothing in terms of the idea of a get to know you idea. It isn't the play-doh that makes this activity, it is how and what it is used for. As I said, I always did an activity to begin the year, but this year my approach was markedly different.
The difference to some may seem subtle, but it was really a significant change for me. In other years, students had shared things about themselves, and I have even learned some very personal things about my students through questions they had answered. Day 1 this year was no exception. Where the difference came in was in many cases how I learned these ideas. While students were making their projects out of play-doh to represent something about themselves, I focused on asking them questions, talking to them, and sharing with them. I heard their stories directly from them in a conversation that I could react to and they could see and hear my thoughts, ideas, or in some cases compassion for their lives. This was missing in the past where students answered questions just for me and I was reading those in isolation of them. I still react, still feel for them, still want to connect, but they never saw those reactions, and thus the moment of me being a real person and not just another teacher was lost.
So the best and worst of the sharing and lessons learned. I realized after trying this with my first class, that the need for explaining that the object had to be something important or significant to their lives resonated with most students, but I did have one that tried to push back against this. His object was a chicken drumstick because he said he loved chicken. Not exactly what I was going for. He and I talked before he was to present, and he modified his sculpture, but I think he was still trying to be the class clown. I learned from this and the rest of the classes I emphasized that I was looking for something significant to their lives. It yielded better results, although I did have the hour where half the class talked about sports, where I again had to adjust my questioning to why were sports so important to them. Why would you spend hours doing something, what are the rewards to this activity in your life?
Those were the ones that didn't quite meet the mark, although with the exception of the chicken example, they did a good job explaining their ideas. I included images above of just some of the objects. There were 3D objects, activities as mentioned earlier, even including music and dance. Then there were the ones that really showcased what this was all about. The handful of students who talked about the connection to others in their lives, or how something was almost vitally important to them. I had a couple of students use symbols like a rainbow to discuss their being homosexual, or their connection to the Gay Straight Alliance. I also had a student share a very personal story about how she has been affected by suicide. She made the semi-colon sculpture above. I didn't know it was the symbol for suicide, but I did know about this student's story before she shared. I was overwhelmed that she shared it with the class. I was very emotional at the end of the day hearing so many wonderful and powerful stories about things that impact my students' lives. It caused me to really reflect on my responsibility as a teacher to honor their courage to share, and to do everything I can do to make my classroom and this year a safe and nurturing one. I struggle with the fact that I do not know that I am up to the challenge of helping students who have the realities outside of school that some of my students do. I pray I have the strength to be the teacher they need and deserve.
This post is dedicated to my wife and family who I feel so blessed to have in my life.
Yes I know a corny title, but it struck me this morning as I was thinking about my summer. I spent a lot of time with my kids this summer, a lot of time learning, a lot of time stressing over getting things done, and even squeezed in some fun on a short family vacation. As the final weeks before school approached, I was reminded of a post I saw late at night just before going to bed. It went something like, now that the chat is over, I am going back to being a father for the rest of the long weekend. It struck a cord in me, the idea of shifting between roles, this is something that some can do seamlessly, while others struggle.
To Be or Not to Be, that is the question. And while I can't say as a student I was a fan of Shakespeare, that line always stuck with me. I am drawn to this idea to either be or not. I read and have jumped into the ideas of Dave Burgess and his philosophy of Teach Like a Pirate. The ideas ring a cord in my life, and yet I am struck by how far I have yet to go. The connection to my ramblings today is the Immersion. To be present in where you are; what you are doing; and who you are with. The challenge is to BE everything that is expected of each of us. Every moment we are asked to be present in our multiple roles. All of us, educators, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, friends, or whatever role you are in are asked to live up to certain expectations. We are asked to be so many things in each of the relationships that we form. Educators today are asked to be masters of their content areas; entertainers; role models; disciplinarians; comforters; creative innovators; tireless and passionate; grateful for the opportunity to interact with kids; pushed to learn and do more; slayers of apathy and boredom; and so many others as the list continues to grow with SLO's and RtI and high stakes testing to name a few. While being asked to do more and be more we have other facets of our life that also deserve our time, and best efforts.
When I was hired for my first teaching job, there was an expectation that I would coach, so I did. I spent hours learning the offense and defenses, the strategies, and how to coach teenagers. I spent countless hours trying to hone my craft in the classroom as well. Shortly into my first year, I met Andrea, the woman I am happy to say has been my wife for the last nine years. I tried to be in the moment and spend as much time with her as I could. So here I was fresh out of college, with many hats already. Each with their own expectations and rewards. Each carving out a little bit of time from my life. The years have passed and I have added more hats to my wardrobe. I am the father of two wonderful little girls who melt my heart melt when I hear them giggle.
I have found it difficult to be completely immersed and be present in the manner I should truly be. If I only had more time. I have found this to be my common thread for my blog so far, TIME. People say if it is important, you will find the time, or better yet, make the time. I love that concept, in fact I want to find the person who has the TIME Making Machine, walk up to him say thank you, and then punch him in the face for not sharing it with the rest of us. No I don't advocate violence, but the idea that we can just make time irritates me. As I mentioned earlier, I spent time with my daughters this summer as I was unemployed like most teachers, at home working for free, and taking care of my children. As I played with them, listened to my oldest read, or work on finally riding her two wheeler without training wheels, I found myself sneaking peaks at Twitter, or looking something up online, or trying to get something done between the next activity. I found myself not fully immersed in the situation. I didn't enjoy all of the things that were happening around me because I was consumed by the feeling that I wasn't getting enough done. That there wouldn't be enough time to finish all of the projects and tasks this summer.
My revelation of this summer - okay to be honest, I should be number them and to be fair this would probably be number 10,364 but whose counting. The big take away was that I can't be all things all of the time. I can't be dad and teacher in the same moment and truly enjoy either one. For me at least, I started to write that I found... but I had to cut that out. I haven't found the answer, what I did find is that I haven't done it well. I haven't been the husband, parent, friend, or teacher that I want to be. I am determined to work on being all of those things in a new and better form. I have to give up some of my career expectations to be a family. I had to step away from coaching opportunities that brought me happiness, for the chance to be present in the lives of my children and experience true joy in my life. I had to be kicked in the stomach by my wife when she told me I was failing to live up to my responsibilities to my family. I am passionate about teaching and working with kids, I need to demonstrate that same passion for my own kids because I want my family to feel and know the passion and love I have for them everyday of my life.
Today I understand that my to be or not to be refers to what do I want to be? What have I been, and what do I need to do to get there? I have worn many hats in my life like most people, it comes with the territory. However I look back at my life, and I can't say that I owned them all very well. I begin this new school year with more expectations and less time. I don't have any answer for anyone dealing with similar issues, in fact I am open to suggestions. What I promise my family is that I will always do my best to Immerse myself in them. To be passionate about them forever!