Category Archives: Nonesense
It’s cold and dreary outside. There’s the smell of snow or musty wetness attached to all your students as they come in from the weather. The dreaded “indoor recess” phrase is on everyone’s minds but what is a teacher to do? How many episodes of Koo Koo Kangaroo can kids dance to on GoNoodle? I mean, what’s the limit?
Worry not! Below are a collection of fun, engaging, and interactive ideas to get your students moving, grooving and learning in a different way. Many of the examples below are meant for classrooms that might only have access to a few devices and around the idea of mixing both hands-on with digital interaction.
Create an “Amazon Box” Village
The days that follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday can only mean one thing….TONS of boxes from the company with the little smile on it. As our houses fill up with these boxes filled with holiday joy, why not take advantage of all this material as a teacher? On Monday after Thanksgiving break, send a message home to parents to send in those boxes! (As a parent with an office full of these, I’m happy to comply)
Drawing inspiration from the Caine’s Arcade documentary, have students bring in a handful of boxes of varying sizes in order to design a small village. Each student will design a place of business and tie in components of financial literacy. Then, using markers, construction paper, glue and scissors, they’ll design their building facade and discuss its placement with the village commissioner (a student elected by the class). Students can write advertisements for the local village newspaper advertising their goods and services (tying in language arts) and even make commercials that can be tagged on the buildings using FlipGrid’s new Augmented Reality tool.
As the winter break approaches, slide the desks to the side of the classroom and layout your village for all to enjoy! Students can even record “flyover” tours of their village like those found in Apple Maps or even design their own mini-virtual realty tours using panoramic photos in Google’s Tour Creator.
Make a Virtual Realty Holiday Scene
It is important for students to understand that the holidays are much more than just Christmas or Hanukkah. Why not have students research the many different cultural celebrations of the holidays and then use a tool like Panoform.com to have them draw out a virtual scene?
As a teacher, this is a great mix of both analog and digital tools as you print out the grids from Panoform and discuss how items will need to be laid out to go from a 2D worksheet to a 3D virtual world. Students place important items from their holiday celebration throughout the grid then upload it to any device via the web to enjoy the new virtual world.
When everyone is finished, take a virtual gallery walk of each scene and have students explain the items they place in their virtual holiday celebration.
Use Brain Breaks to Open Up Creativity and SEL Skills
Most of the sessions I do at schools or conferences involve a WIDE variety of brain breaks. While movement in general is a good thing for awaking the brain (especially on a dreary day of no recess), many of these brain breaks also stimulate thinking while enhancing 21st Century skills like collaboration and communication. Here’s just a few of my faves that are good for any age or classroom and only take a few minutes which is great for waking the winter mind!
My favorite way for finding random partners is to play a song while students walk around shaking as many hands as possible. (You can also do fist bumps or high fives) As soon as the music stops, whoever they shook hands with last is their partner. I try and do this between or before each brain break activity. Think musical chairs, only without the chairs.
Thinking on the Fly
In pairs students are given one minute to generate a list of as many items that fit within a certain category. One catch – they must alternate responses. The teacher can either put the category up on the board or on the screen and to add to the fun/pressure, have a large timer somewhere that the kids can see it. Categories can range from “Things Found In Winter” to “Holiday Movies” to something more aligned with curricular topics like “character types found in a fantasy novel” or “settings found in books”. For those teachers that teach world languages, have students create their lists in the language they are learning!
I was inspired by Jimmy Fallon’s Three-Word Stories and have been using it as a brain break in many of my workshops. The idea is that you and a partner take turns telling a story using 3 words at a time, but here’s the catch, one of you has to get the other to say a particular secret word. I usually have the partners face each other with one of them with a back to screen where I flash the secret word on screen for a few seconds. Feel free to tie the “secret word” into any themes or units you might be reviewing and sit back and watch the hilarity ensue!
Starting in pairs, students make up the shapes or objects you assign them. After a few rounds, have the pairs match up with another pair to make a group of four. You can then have the groups recreate scenes from famous stories, make up math problems, or recreate historical events. Then have the groups of four merge with another group to form a group of 8. Larger groups, mean larger objects. Have them recreate the water cycle or Stone Henge, the choice is ultimately yours. Just be sure to emphasize and applaud the creativity as students think outside the box when creating their objects.
If you want to see some more brain break ideas, check out my giant Google spreadsheet of ideas here for free!
Have a Game Show!
Nothing like a little competition to raise the heat in the classroom. There are a wide variety of quiz gaming tools out there (Quizziz, Kahoot, Quizlet Live) but in this iteration, you put kids into teams of 3 or 4. If you have time, you can design your own Jeopardy! like game show using Powerpoint, Google Slides or Keynote, but to save time, I would recommend using a Flippity.net’s game show template. (Note: be sure to publish to the back-end spreadsheet to the web to make sure it works)
Then, students use mini dry erase boards or clipboards or a device to post their answers. The key here is making sure students are discussing their answers before posting them. Award bonus points as you see fit for groups falling behind or pick a random question as the “Double Jeopardy” questions for more points. This is a great way to review a unit and adds some competition and collaboration into the classroom.
Make the Classroom Into an Escape Room
One of the best activities for really getting kids to discuss feelings/frustrations is having them work collaboratively on solving clues using something like BreakOutEDU. Last year, when I got to substitute for my daughter’s 4th grade class, we busted out a few BreakOut kits for the kids to experience for the first time. Don’t have the means to purchase these? Check out the bevy of Digital BreakOuts available online for classrooms that have access to a few devices. While only half the groups succeeded in the particular challenge, what was amazing to me was the inability for some of the kids to persevere when faced with adversity and pressure. Some gave up and some argued with their teammates constantly.
This may not sound like a joyous time as a teacher, I found that the time we spent on discussion after the 45-minute BreakOut to be the most valuable. How can we do a better job listening to each other? How do we overcome adversity as a group and support each other?
In this day and age of social media discourse, disagreement and vitriol, spending a few moments to have an outward discussion around this would go a long way to handling arguments in the future while also promoting a sense of community in the classroom.
I hope some of the above ideas are useful in not only helping you survive the gap between Thanksgiving and winter break, but also as ways to enhance learning in your classrooms. Happy Holidays everyone!
Every year I embark on an expedition to either look brilliant or embarrass myself. (Let’s be honest, that’s more like every day in my life) Since 2013 I’ve set out to make a series of predictions, mostly in the Ed Tech world, that are bold. Now, let’s look at the definition of “bold” below before we get started.
While all of these certainly can be applied, I’m going to focus on the final definition and say that some of these predictions stretch the usual limits of conventional thought or action. Last year for example, I predicted that schools would start to implement self-driving buses. As crazy as this may sound, about a month after the prediction, a company in Perth, Australia, began to pilot the self-driving bus in their community. It’s only a matter of time before schools use them right?
You get the idea. Some of these are crazy, others actually just make sense, and some I just wish would happen. So, with that in mind and stressing that this is a “no judgement” zone, let’s proceed:
A Dual-Language school will open with coding as the second language
The immersive dual-language movement has been going on for decades. Why not treat coding as a foreign language? If we really believe that we are preparing kids for a global society, then why not teach them a language many of them will find useful later in life? This does not mean that learning an actual foreign language is any less important, it’s just that we should probably start to value coding and programming on that same level in schools. One sign that this would become a reality would be if a school district actually gave a language credit to those learning to program and code. Talk about taking “hour of code” to the next level!
The POTUS will use SnapChat to give the State of the Union
I’m not even touching the political side of this, but instead, let’s focus on the medium to which our future president will use to communicate the State of the Union with the masses. I get the feeling that Twitter will not be enough for him in the future. I mean, either they’ll have to change their limit of 140 characters (not likely) or he’ll choose a different way of communicating. Enter SnapChat! What a great way to make a bold statement and then have it disappear (sort of) just a few seconds later. Does this sound all that crazy considering where we are today with social media, politics and the recent election?
The Learning “Movement” will take center stage at this year’s iPadpalooza
Every year, iPadpalooza tries to center our attention around a certain theme. Last year we let the “Learning be with us” via a Star Wars-focused theme centered around looking into the future. This year, we take the PokemonGo phenomenon and flip it on its head with our “Learning on the GO” theme. I mean, what good is it to have all of these mobile devices in schools when kids are forced to sit in desks in rows learning the same traditional content the same traditional way? During this year’s event, there will be a whole lotta shakin’ going on with sessions centered around the theme and even a new type of session called a “Walk n’ Talk” where attendees will actually walk around the campus with a presenter sharing an idea. You’ll want to have a good pair of walking shoes before you join us this summer!
Someone will invent a PokemonGO type app for education
Speaking of PokemonGO, it’s only a matter of time before someone invents an app that has some of the same addictive…er…engaging pieces of the widely popular Niantic app. I know there already is a PokemonEdu Facebook group and Twitter hashtag centered around using the characters from the app in an edu setting, but I’m talking something bigger here.
Imagine it. As a teacher, you have access to a platform that allows you to upload little learning nuggets into a platform. Students then actually get up and physically leave the classroom to discover these learning nuggets. Working in teams, they put the nuggets together and get certain badges for completing certain challenges. There could even be time limits, based on the class schedule, so you don’t just have kids wandering the halls all day. It’s like taking the APPmazing Race to a whole other level….hmmmmm….
Data actually gets sexy
I’m always reading stuff about “Big Data” and hearing about some fancy things happening with the IBM Watson project, but in truth, I find data to be extremely boring in its traditional, spreadsheet-focused format. I equate it to going and getting a physical. You don’t want to do it, but you need to if you really want to improve your health. Let’s face it, unless you are an accountant or testing coordinator, you’d rather find something else to do with your time rather than pouring over hundreds of color-coded graphs.
But this year, I think that will change. Now, I’m cheating a little bit here as I’ve been privy to a new program (called CatchOn) that actually puts usage data in a simple, clean, fantasy-football-like format. Gone are the days of me logging into different programs to look up usage statistics and figure out the ROI of a particular program. In this not-so-distant future, we’ll actually be able to see everything that’s being used on a district or school level right on our phone and then adjust accordingly. As someone who delivers professional learning in my district, being able to see this data instantly and beautifully would be powerful in steering what we need to help train teachers on or what we need to get rid of. Now that would be sexy (and save us money)!
Mixed Reality makes it’s way into the mainstream classroom
For the past couple of years, there have been several one-off ideas of using some sort of mixed reality in the classroom. Maybe it’s virtual through programs like Google Expeditions or Nearpod VR, or maybe it’s augmented like using the Aurasma app to see hidden things (something I attempted to do with my book series). Either way, mixing realities can provide a powerful way to engage students into certain content areas and up until now, it’s largely been seen as a niche or fun side activity. As witnessed by this recent Kickstarter called the ZapBox, it’s not too hard to see a future where the holograms actually do pop up on the desk so you can interact with them. Now, if only they can invent a way to create virtual versions of those paper footballs that I used to flick across the classroom.
Piggy backing on the VR concept and expanding into pop culture, I see hollywood grabbing onto the VR the concept and expanding it to the viewer. Now, as someone attending a VR-enhanced movie, you put on the VR goggles, much like you do now with 3D glasses, and are instantly in the middle of the movie. You look around at all the characters around you and actually sit in the middle of the room where the action is taking place. Imagine sitting in a car from Fast and Furious 15 as it launches out of a plane and lands on a boat! Or imagine sitting in the living room during Halloween Part 13 and instead of yelling at the screen for the actor to turn around, you can actually turn around as the killer approaches? Doing it in a movie theater gives everyone the same shared experience and you could even make movies more “Choose your own adventure-like” where half the audience goes down one hallway and the rest go down the other. Sound crazy or genius? I’m not sure where I fall on this yet, but hope it happens.
The Classroom becomes “Smart” with Frank
With devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa really taking off in the consumer market, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that we would soon see an educational version of these tools. I think it should be called something like “Frank”. Frank would be like a fact-checking teacher’s assistant that all the students could also use. “Frank, when was the battle of 1812?” or “What is Bohr’s law?” or maybe “What is my teacher’s favorite treat?” All of these could be useful in saving time in the classroom and help dive into even deeper learning and higher Bloom’s level thinking. However, I imagine it might also come with a lot of new classroom management issues. But hey, for every challenge comes an opportunity, right Frank?
I finally publish my first children’s book…and this time I mean it!
Yes, I know this was on last year’s predictions, but I sort of had that whole Mobile Learning Mindset book series to finish first. With that series finally complete, I’m ready to embark on a new journey. I’ve got a lot of good ideas for a tech-centered children’s book that will definitely be some sort of mixed reality book too. It might even come with it’s own pair of VR goggles attached on the back. Like a virtual pop-up book of sorts. Now, if only I can find a publisher willing to take a risk….
There you have it. A few bold and bolder predictions that may happen this year. What do you think? What do you predict? Add your comments below and maybe together, we can make the future a better place for learning too!
Happy New Year!
There are very few moments in life when you know you are a part of greatness. I recently returned from a trip to the Youth Education & Technology Integration (Y.E.T.I.) conference and let me tell you, this was true greatness manifest in a conference. The event itself is kind of like burning man for educational technology (only with out all the fire and naked people). To keep mass-media and the twitteratti on their toes, event organizers actually keep the location secret until mere days before the event. Both the speakers and attendees are selected completely at random using a complex algorithm of Twitter followers multiplied by latest eBook ISBN number downloaded. I was lucky enough to be picked as both an attendee and panelist for this year’s event. An while I signed an agreement not to share what I saw (they have a Vegas-like motto of “what happens at YETI doesn’t get tweeted”) I can’t help myself. This event is too powerful not to share with others. So here goes my recap, I’ll leave it posted as long as I can:
This year’s event took place at the gorgeous [omitted] over a mild, partly cloudy weekend. Due to the natural terrain and the landscape of the area, no rooms were needed. Many of the natural grottoes acted as small meeting rooms and the larger caves served as auditoriums. The acoustics were incredible and because of the location being near the equator, cell carriers signals were amplified along the walls giving attendees incredible 5G WiFi connections.
Speakers & Sessions
One of the most incredible parts of this event are the absolutely ridiculous variety of speakers and educators they have on hand. I attended a session that was an actual a hologram of Bill Gates speaking to Jaime Escalante. Some sessions lasted only for only a few minutes and others, like Bill Nye’s lengthy monologue, lasted several hours.
There were no start or stop times for sessions too which was a little disconcerting at first. Sessions were declared over when an organizer or attendee elected to bang a giant ceremonial gong. To announce the beginning of a new session, a giant alphorn (you know, like the ones from those Ricola commercials?) would blow signifying a new session and new gathering of folks.
Another thing that sets this conference apart are the sponsors. With the terrain being what it was at YETI, sponsors got creative. Most of their “booths” were actually giant floating platforms, controlled by drones. I was excited to see that both Google and Apple were working in partnership with Facebook as sponsors for the event, even handing out free “Privacy Jackets” (a jacket that apparently blocks all outward internet traffic and data tracking from your devices).
I was asked to be on a panel discussing the legitimacy behind this new wearable idea called a “thoughtband.” The concept is simple. Wearing a piece of technology on their foreheads like a Bill Walton headband, students’ thoughts are displayed in scrolling LED fashion. Before we were even able to get into the discussion about data-mining or mind-mining for that matter, someone (who looked like a famous politician) got up and banged the gong, thus ending our session. I wish I knew what he was thinking…
Nothing is normal at YETI, including the keynote. This year’s closing keynote session started at midnight and lasted until the sun began to rise. The closing keynote was delivered by noted scholar and thespian Jon Lovitz. His message of prosperity, educational equality and the need for more 80’s rap music in education rang true with the crowd of thousands. Following his talk, he asked the crowd to initiate in an awkward flash-mob edu-rave of sorts. With the 80’s band Baltimora playing their one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” in the background, the attendees went into a sort of strange crowd-surfing/internet-surfing mosh pit of sorts. Culminating in one of the strangest multi-tasking activities I’ve ever witnessed as attendees danced and texted on their smartphones, responding digitally to YETI’s essential question for 2015: Will the wearable flip-flop change the foot of education?
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, my violation of one of YETI’s 7 tenets of attendance (though shalt not video-record) caused my immediate removal before the end of the event. Organizers wiped the video off my phone, but I was able to sneak back over a hill and capture about 11 seconds of the closing coronation where they named one attendee the Patron Saint of YETI15.
While I may risk prosecution or worse yet, not be invited back, I’m making this video public in the hopes that the rest of the world will have a chance to experience just a little taste of what I got to experience. Enjoy:
Happy April 1st everybody.
There are some movies I just love watching over and over again. I consider these types of movies “classic”. When I say classic, I mean a movie published before inventing of the smartphone in 2007, so it doesn’t necessarily mean going back to some black & white film or “talkie” from back in the day. However, lately I’ve been amused while watching some of my favorite movies. I start to think about how different it would be if they just had the internet or a smartphone.
What follows are some of my all-time favorite movies and a particular important scene that could have been severely altered if it took place with today’s modern technology. But rather than stop there, I’ll also offer the “2.0” version that could retain some of the major plot points despite modern technology. This isn’t all for entertainment folks…stick around to the end to see some classroom ideas for getting your kids to reflect on this as well. [SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t seen some of these films, I give away some major plot points]
This movie adaptation of a Steven King classic has many of the modern horror movie tropes: Damsel in distress, lack of resources, no one else around to hear, etc. A majority of the film takes place with the mother and child trapped by a large rabid St. Bernard in their Ford Pinto. Unable to escape, they are terrorized throughout before finally making a narrow escape at the movie’s end.
Cujo TODAY –
Discovering they are trapped in a non-working Pinto, Donna takes out her cell phone and asks Siri for help.
“How can I help you?”
“Contact a local dog catcher”
“Let me find that for you.”
Cujo 2.0 –
She’s trapped in the car, asks Siri for help only to hear repeatedly “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that” because of the growling dog in the background.
Silence of the Lambs –
In one of the more tense scenes, Agent Starling is trapped in a basement looking for Buffalo Bill. He kills the lights and dons a pair of night vision goggles adding to the tension.
Silence of the Lambs TODAY –
Agent Starling, shocked when the lights go out, calmly pulls out her phone and turns on her flashlight app, blinding Buffalo Bill and helping her save the day.
Silence of the Lambs 2.0 –
Her flashlight app requires an update to iOS8 that doesn’t work with the crappy wifi in the basement.
The Godfather –
When the family sets up the meeting between Michael and Sollozzo, a stressful sequence follows while the family tries to discover where the meeting will take place so that Michael can have a gun planted there. They discover the location right as Michael’s about to walk out the door and they are able to plant the gun in time.
Michael shares his Apple ID (KidCorleone@gmail.com) with his brother who uses iCloud and the Find My iPhone feature to locate where Michael is at. Michael doesn’t have to find a gun behind a toilet because now the gunman can just come in and mow everybody down.
The Godfather 2.0 –
Michael forgets to enable Find My iPhone…essentially keeping him off the grid. Luckily his brother discovers that Sollozzo is at Louis’ Restaurant when he inadvertently checks in on Foursquare and posts: “About to get my grub on (location: Louis’ Restaurant, Bronx)”
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner –
A great movie about early stereotypes and beliefs around interracial marriage, young Joey is excited to tell her parents all about her new fiance, John Prentice, only to be thrown into the turmoil around their prejudices when they discover the color of his skin.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner TODAY –
Joey’s parents may have still been shocked, but if she had created an Evite to the dinner invitation, they would at least have had a warning by seeing who was on the guest list.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 2.0 –
Instead his face on Evite, John Prentice just uses the default avatar, thus hiding his identity.
In one of the most quoted lines of all time, Cole Sear reveals that he “sees dead people.” This unbelievable declaration drives through most of the film and really throws the viewer for a loop when the final plot twist is revealed.
The Sixth Sense TODAY –
Rather than tell people he sees dead people, Cole starts taking “Selfies with Dead People” to prove he’s not crazy. (or “Cray-cray” as the kids today say it)
The Sixth Sense 2.0 –
He’s unable to post the selfies to Instagram because he’s not 13+, thus rendering his evidence useless since we all know if it’s not on Instagram, it can’t be real.
Norman runs the Bates Motel, a place that seems to have perpetual sudden vacancies and an inn keeper that doesn’t seem to be all there.
Psycho TODAY –
A series of bad Yelp reviews about the blood stains and peep holes drive travelers away from the motel. One yelper reveals “I’ll never go back here again. The owner guy’s mother can be heard hollering at him day and night. #soannoying”
Psycho 2.0 –
Norman’s mother creates a bunch of fake Yelp accounts and sways the rating and feedback to be overwhelmingly positive. One such dummy review states that “long, hot showers are a must” in the spacious bathrooms with tear-away curtains.
Breakfast club –
From IMDB – Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. A major point of this movie is Mr. Vernon checking on them to make sure they are obeying and sitting quietly not talking to each other.
Breakfast club TODAY –
The kids happily agree not to talk to each other, because that can just be plain awkward anyway. Instead they friend each other on SnapChat and have loads of “private” conversations without Bender ever finding out.
Breakfast Club 2.0 –
Shermer High School has a strict policy banning any and all cell phone use. The kids are now faced with an uncomfortable decision of having actual conversations rather than burying their faces in their phones.
When Harry Met Sally –
This classic Rom-com shows the main characters (Harry & Sally [Spoiler]) continually running into each other throughout their lives. These cause amazingly funny and quaint scenes where they share anecdotes of their previous lives and eventually lead to their following in love with each other.
When Harry Met Sally NOW –
After college, Harry and Sally stay connected via Facebook. While this means they can always keep up with each other, it also means that those charming little anecdotes can’t happen because they can always respond with “Oh yeah, I saw you posted that on Facebook.” They stay friends, but never fall in love.
When Harry Met Sally 2.0 –
Sally doesn’t believe in social media and isn’t on Facebook. However, her friends convince her to get on Match.com and her profile keeps matching her with the same guy over and over again, who turns out to be….her old acquaintance Harry.
While this is fun to think about and ponder, how could we apply this to learning? What if a classic fairytale got a modern reboot? Or how about contemplating how a major historical event would have changed if we had modern technology? You could even reverse it and try to get the kids to imagine a recent event and what would have happened if the same event happened in the 1950’s. Lots of potential here….post your ideas in the comment section below.
On January 16th, 2014 I held a press conference to announce my retirement. There comes a time in every person’s life when they know it’s time to move on. I’ve seen some of the most memorable sports retirements and wanted mine to be modeled in the same vain.
Unlike those memorable speeches held in stadiums around the country, mine was held in my kitchen around the table. No microphones or press (unless you include the 3 precocious girls running around at the time).
It was time.
And so, with a heavy heart I told my wife that I was retiring from the DJ business. Instead of tearful goodbyes and interview questions those athletes face, my exit interview was much more steeped in reality. My wife’s response was, “that’s great honey, can you change the baby’s diaper?”
From a career that had humble beginnings DJing a friend’s wedding as a favor in 2010 to the height of my career in 2012, I had a lot of joy in getting the crowd up and moving during a wedding. I’m not blessed with much musical talent and I’m notorious for singing the wrong words to songs. One thing I’ve always been able to do well is motivate an audience to get up and dance.
I realized something those last few wedding gigs – good teachers are essentially classroom DJs.
Think about it.
Your job as a teacher is to motivate the kids to learn. The good ones know when things are going slow, when the crowd is starting to get bored and they change the song. Sometimes, you even need to get out into the middle of the room and get the kids up and moving. I mean, if we didn’t do that, we could essentially be replaced by a really good Pandora station for learning. Here are four traits that really good teachers and DJ’s share:
Just as there are classic songs that we play, there are classic lessons that teachers teach. However, the same songs don’t always work for the same crowd. If I tried to play some hip-hop at a predominately country wedding, I’d get a lot of listless, slack-jawed stares. The same is true for the how we teach. I used Google Docs with the Bride and Groom to request songs for their ceremony in advance. This “formative assessment” told me a lot about their styles and tastes and I could tailor the music to fit their needs. I see teachers doing more and more of this in classrooms as they change the direction of a lesson based on the crowd’s tastes. Sometimes, you have to remix it, change the style and suit the interests of your audience.
One other thing I loved about DJing was discovering all the new music the “kids these days” were listening to. Keeping my material fresh and up to date was a big key to my success. There’s nothing more embarrassing than playing MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit to an empty dance floor. As teachers, we also must make an effort to stay up to date. The influx of technology and tools available on the web are infinite and sometimes mind-numbing. However, using these fresh tools can keep your crowd more engaged and often will save you time in your day.
This one was a challenge for me early in my career. I felt it was so important to keep people dancing non-stop for 4 hours that I never planned for breaks or mixing in slow songs (“drink-getters” we call those in the biz). A good DJ knows when to change things up by reading the audience. With the amount of content we are “forced” to get through in the classroom, it’s easy to put the petal to the metal for 180 days straight. However, you’ll leave your students exhausted and drained if you went at that pace every day. Instead, change it up a bit. Have a “slow dance” from time to time to allow kids to catch their breath, reflect, and then get ready for more.
Some of my most memorable moments of being a wedding DJ are when the crowd responds to a song. (The Isley’s Brother’s “Shout” being the ultimate audience response song) . Sometimes in the classroom there can be that magical moment where the kids are so engaged you can almost feel them learning together “out loud” as a group. While you can do you best to anticipate this by judging your audience, adjusting your music and pacing, sometimes, you just have to let it go and let them take control. Pass the mic around and let them sing their rendition of “Sweet Caroline” so they can make those memories.
While I may be retiring in name, I’m not retiring in spirit. My crowd has shifted from inebriated party-goers to teachers and administrators that are thirsty to learn. My music is now the infusion of technology and dynamic learning in every day classroom life. I still need to judge the crowd for interest, avoid the empty dance floors, and allow them time to get a drink every now and then. So, in a way, this isn’t a retirement, it’s a melding of my previous career with my current one. I’m teaching like a DJ.
And that is sweet music to my ears….even if I get the words wrong from time to time.
What started out with a bang, ended with a whimper on Sunday afternoon. I had made it nearly 19 days without interacting with email but the wheels were starting to come off some time late last week.
Our district is in the midst of it’s final iPad roll-out to 6th & 7th graders to complete an entire K-12 1:1 district. My position plays a key role in a lot of the decisions being made about these roll-out events and I have been out of pocket from these conversations to the point it was starting to hurt.
So, on Sunday (appropriately) at 4:53PM, I ended my ban on email by taking part in some discussions around the roll-out. My immediate reaction was a mix of depression and relief. I had made it a lot longer than many thought (including myself) and gained quite a bit of knowledge out of this experiment.
Logistics – If I had to do it all over again, I would have planned this better. I didn’t need 15 ways to get in touch with me. Turns out I only needed about 6 or 7. Every night while doing my counts for the day, I would catch myself skimming the previews of each email in case there was something exciting happening. While I focused my energy on my work email, I included my consultant email, my personal email and even my iPadpalooza account in the initial research.
Timing – It’s everything, right? At least that’s how the saying goes. While Lent seemed to outline a good amount of days to do this research, I had other events begin to get in the way. One was the fact that we were closing the early bird registration on iPadpalooza and the only way districts could register with PO was by emailing iPadpalooza@gmail.com. That meant I had to check those email’s and auto-forward them to our PO person. Not exactly fair to her.
Personally, I had two major events happen in my life within 12 hours of each other. I was named an Apple Distinguished Educator and became a father of 3 all in the same day. The ADE notice came….via email. My twitter friends quickly pointed that out to me. It was nerve-racking but once people started to tell me they were in or out, I had to sneak a peak.
The birth of my 3rd daughter meant time away from work, which meant the experiment and data changed course. Before I went on paternity leave, face to face interaction had definitely increased and in fact, led all other non-email interactions. Now that I wasn’t there in person (and a little pre-occupied) I had to rely on other means to communicate with people. To be quite honest, unless you were on Facebook, text, or Twitter, you probably didn’t hear from me for a while.
The Hypothesis –
The original hypothesis was that by giving up email as a primary communication tools, others would be forced to try out new means and hopefully expand their horizons. This both succeeded and failed in some senses. I noticed within the first day or two that while almost everyone was on board, there were a few that felt I was cutting myself off from them by not being on email. I got called to task about making others find different ways to get a hold of me when “email is just the easiest.” While that was the point of the experiment, I didn’t want it to negatively effect teachers who already have a lot on their plate, much less trying to figure out how to reach the tech guy.
Other (hopeful) outcomes –
I had hoped that I’d be able to do “more meaningful” work while not checking email. While I did get quite a few more personal chores done in the evening, work seemed largely unaffected. It seems much of my “meaningful work” came from the sometimes mundane tasks assigned to me via email. I feel like this wasn’t as much of a success also largely to the fact that I had to spend more time checking all the various methods of communication. (see Logistics above) That said, I was able to read an entire book for the first time since I can remember (World War Z – zombies of course).
My other hope was that not sitting behind my screen as much would force more face to face communication and collaboration. I can say without a doubt, this was the greatest success of this experiment. I spent more time with my family, talked to district staff I hadn’t seen in a while and even got to sub in a first grade classroom! While this seems like a simple idea, I was amazed at how touched people were by this concept of walking away from email to spend more time with others. I even had a small group of people (in admin no less) suggest we have an “unEmail Day” once a month to get out and see the kids, campuses, and staff. This will be something I employ going forward every month.
My last hopeful outcome was that I would have others communicate in different ways. Aside from a few folks that were stuck on email as the only method of communication, I felt this was a success as well. I had a principal join twitter, a GT teacher chat with me via Edmodo, and I got to chat with someone face to face (virtually) via Skype rather than a back-n-forth email exchange. I even had one parent communicate with me using smoke signals. The use of Dispatch for collaboration came in handy and will likely be a continued resource going forward with the team. I also finally got myself on Instagram (hookertech) since that seems to be the preferred communication method of kids. While the only letter I got was a printed off email, I really feel like making others aware of the alternative methods and the way kids communicate put things in perspective for most.
Final Data –
Thanks to Google Docs, I was able to track all the data on a spreadsheet. Final numbers:Unread email = 1545 Twitter conversations = 299* Facebook = 256 Face to face = 185 Text = 149
Next steps –
As stated, I’m going to continue to increase my face to face time in the district via self-imposed “unEmail Days”. I’m also in the process of sorting and labeling all 1500+ emails I received while I was away. Once I gather that data, I’ll go through and see areas that I can optimize in my own email to make it a more efficient tool for myself and hopefully others. While this social media experiment is over, I’m actually still in the midst of a 12-week social media diet challenge (via Facebook group). Only 5 weeks to go, but I’m down 25 pounds and in second place!
As for the next experiment, my wife has kindly suggested (or insisted) that the next challenge be giving up my iPhone for Lent. Just the thought of that makes my stomach hurt. How will I get anywhere? How will I contact people? That sounds a little too crazy for me. But then again, maybe that’s why I should do it…