creativity

Minecraft with a 5 Year Old: Round 2

A lot of folks really enjoyed the last time that I posted about playing Minecraft with a 5 Year Old, so I thought I’d continue with another update on what Reed and I have been up to since the last time.

Reed and I have not often been in the world together much since the last time, as we have different schedules, and he had trouble going down for his afternoon nap/rest the last time he played at my mom’s with me in the world. We took a break, but Reed got to try again today and did much better.

Prior to this, he had not often built much on his own when it was just him in world. He would make a building here and there, or add some interior touches, but it wasn’t much. With him earning the chance to try again with me in the world at the same time, I knew I wanted to get a lot accomplished.

Someone asked me last time how we decide what to build in our world. Mostly, I lay out the foundation for the buildings and begin building up. Sometimes I leave the interior unfurnished and let Reed have fun with that. Other times, I finish the entire build on my own. Below are some examples of Reed’s interior decorating:

Today it was more of a tag team effort. I would lay the foundation and begin the walls. I wanted to see how well Reed could follow a design and continue patterns, a skill I knew he’d need for kindergarten. I would start the layers and he would find the block and continue building what I had started. He was able to figure out how tall the pattern needed to be as well. Mind you, he and I have no way to talk at this point in time, so he was watching what I had done and then continuing the work on his own.

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Here’s an example of Reed completing patterns I would start. I would start the layer and he would finish, doubling the layer if needed.

Reed still liked doing the interiors, and sometimes he’d pop inside to add his own creations. We didn’t work on those much for the most part, as I wanted to build as many new buildings as we could make in the time we had, which was about an hour together. I know he’ll work on them on his own time later, and I leave those to him. I have noticed him using some of the skills that he’s picked up from me. There are times when I put in floor and destroy one layer of blocks to add in the colored floor blocks. He’s been doing that. Another time, the door was one block too high, and on his own he found the stair blocks and placed one so that it was easy to climb to the door.

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Reed’s solution to the door problem.

There was one particular building where I laid a foundation and Reed immediately had an idea and began the second layer. I followed him with the next layer in the pattern, and we continued building up and up until he seemed satisfied and I added the roof on top.

I always love laying out the pathways, lighting, and benches between the buildings, so I have plenty to work on now and add to so that our little city is easier to navigate. Since it’s Friday, Reed will get a chance to play with me this evening again, so we’ll see what he does. I’m going to keep making random foundations, and this time I believe that I will keep making them and see if he takes over building up and designing.

Here are the updated images of our city, currently dubbed “RayReedville”. It has grown quite a bit since you last saw it!

Do you have something you’d like to challenge Reed and I to add to our city? Comment below!

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Telling the BETTER EduStory: Evaluations vs. Digital Portfolios

(Before I get too far into this blog post, I want to make it very clear right away that this post is not advocating for doing away with evaluations of any type, student or teacher. It is, however, advocating for them, but with a heavy emphasis on a digital portfolio.)

Raise your hand if you received an evaluation this year? Raise your hand if you had multiples? What about multiple evaluations that culminated in an end of year overall evaluation.

What can you tell me about you as an educator based on your evaluation? Sure you can tell me you scored 2s or 4s in an area. You might say “I got a 3 on professional development. It means I’m proficient.” Someone else might look at their evaluation and say “Well my evaluator told me I had got a 2 in the area of instructional goals because I made an inconsistent effort to include the standards in my lesson plans.”

Does the above describe you? I mean, really describe you as an educator. Does it provide explicit details about your activities, your thoughts, and your learning throughout the year? Does it showcase the work with students and how you personalized learning? Would the above even mean the same thing to an evaluator in another district?

Chances are, you said no to the above questions, just as you’d say no to the end of year state exams describing any of your students. Evaluations are merely pinpricks of time, dots on the school year. They give tiny snapshots and glimpses of work, but they never tell a full and detailed story. They don’t showcase the learning and growth that has truly happened, unless you want to play by numbers alone. That would be foolish.

Some of you have been reading for awhile. You’ve seen my work here and on my Twitter feed, @tisinaction. I have been sharing actively for a few years now. This year I was in a district where I was actually given an evaluation for my position. It was the only one I received all year that would go into my file. There actually wasn’t a suitable evaluation form for an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, so the form for Instructional Support Personnel was used instead. Let me show you my evaluation:

Yes, I shared my evaluation with you. Do you know much about what I did this school year? Does it talk about my explorations and learning as I researched professional development? Does it talk about my travels to different trainings, conferences, and workshops? Does it talk about my connected educator status and how I use Twitter and my blog to showcase my learning and work? It does not. There is so much that this evaluation does not show. Based on this alone, you’d have no idea if I was any good or not at my job unless you went by these arbitrary numbers. You would have no idea of the things I could bring to your district, or even if I was the right fit. You’re only getting a tiny, microscopic summary of my educational work!

If anyone really wanted to see my growth and learning, I’d invite them to this blog and my Twitter feed. My blog posts are also shared on my Facebook feed, and always made public to the world. I want you to see them. If you’re an administrator and you stumble on my page, that’s the first thing I want you to see. I want you to see how I came to develop FlucoTECH. I want you to see how I taught Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I want you to see the things I saw and learned at VSTE, Copenhaver Institute, and 2 different edcamps this year. You want to see my work leading new initiatives? Check out my work on school branding! Oh what about my commitment to continually learning? Look at the book reflections I’ve written and the Twitter edchats I’ve participated in. The list goes on and on…

The point is, my real story is not going to be found in my evaluation, but in how I have shared online with my colleagues and the educational community at large. If you really want to take a look at my growth and learning, this work is where you’ll find your answers, not in an arbitrary 3 on a piece of paper.

This is why teachers should create a digital portfolio. How they choose to share their work is up to them, but they should be sharing. Share your successes, your fails, your learning. Create a video, write a blog, take a picture and caption it. Just start sharing. You may never be famous or have many people view it, but it is there to document your educator journey, and that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

When teachers realize the importance of the digital portfolio for telling their stories, then they can have students do the same. The portfolio should be ongoing, never ending. Students should be able to contribute to this portfolio often, not only a few times a year. They should share their school items and have a chance to showcase some of their passions and interests. They should have times where they can choose how to share their stories. What would make more sense to parents? A piece of paper with a list of words read aloud during an oral reading session, or three separate videos that showcase the oral readings instead?

When it comes time for conferences, students can choose their best works from their digital portfolios to have showcased. They can use a website such as Storify, or even create a post in their blog that links to their best works. There are many ways.

If one were to go even further, a teacher could easily use the digital porfolios to learn more about students that might be in his or her classroom in the fall. The portfolio gives a better overall picture of the student, instead of just the test scores that get passed on. Teachers would be able to begin figuring out ways to connect with the incoming students before they even arrive!

If you’ve never tried a digital portfolio, now is the time to get started. There’s no reason not to have one in this day and age of being connected. Learn to use it for yourself, model for students, and then have students utilize. It will change the way you look at being evaluated!

Minecraft With a 5 Year Old

As many of you know, Minecraft is a passion of mine, and one way I connect with students. I lead workshops on building and design, and am always improving. I also love playing to relax because I can control my world and be creative.

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Reed and I, June 2017

Meet Reed. Reed turned 5 in February of this year. I had been wanting to teach him Minecraft, and 5 became the magic number. I came home to visit family the very next month, and spent some time with Reed. We booted up Minecraft PE on my iPad, and Reed was off. He did what all kids are apt to do when they first begin to play: blow stuff up with TNT and set fire to the world. Yes, he just wanted to watch the world burn.

He loved the game so much that he wanted to buy it for his tablet. His mom told him he would have to save up the money to buy it. He had a joint birthday party with his brother that weekend, and he was adamant that he would get enough to buy the game. Sure enough, he stuck by my side at the party, and any time he got money, he would ask if it was enough to buy Minecraft. He easily earned his money, and was happy to buy the game.

Reed learned to play Minecraft on his own from that point. He had help from his mom, and he sometimes watched YouTube videos as well. He apparently loves Stampy Cat, and I made sure to tell his mom that pretty much any Minecraft video is safe for young eyes. He loves to try to build things he sees. He would build houses, and one time he played with the railway tracks.

He also had a lot of help from an older daycare boy named Caden. Caden is heading into the 6th grade now, but he came to daycare once a week. He and Reed would play on a LAN world, and Caden would help Reed learn to create or find the tools he needed to build. Caden gave Reed someone to look up to, and someone to ask about Minecraft things when he couldn’t talk to me or his mom didn’t know.

Reed also knew that I was coming home to visit in June, and that I would play Minecraft with him. He was excited to play with his “Ray Ray”, and I was ready to introduce him to Realms. I wanted to be able to build with Reed, and now that I knew he was hooked on playing and building, it seemed perfect. It would be our way to keep in touch while I was so far away. We’re separated by about 3 hours of car travel (give or take), so we don’t often get to see each other.

For those unfamiliar, Realms is a simple server setup where players can get together to build. I purchased the 2 player model because it was only for Reed and I. During my visit, I introduced him to the world and the ground rules- no destroying other people’s hard work and no TNT. We began building while I was there for a brief period, and Reed loved that he could play with Ray Ray and make cool stuff.

After I went home, Reed was eager for me to build in the world. When I finally started, he loved finding the stuff I made. He flap his hands in joy, would look around, and then build new things to add to our little world. I am pretty sure his mom is learning little by little as well, since I know Reed isn’t the one spelling on the signs!

The first time I built something, I was unable to finish it. I left it for later. Imagine my surprise when I logged back in that evening, only to find that Reed had finished it for me! At first I was caught off guard, but then I thought about it from his point of view. He got to finish something that Ray Ray started, and he got to decorate it and put up signs.

With that thought in mind, I began another building, again leaving it unfinished. I am curious to see how Reed will finish it. I left a sign telling him to do what he wanted to finish it. I plan to build some other things today that I will finish. I may also start leaving signs giving Reed build challenges to see what he can come up with. I want his creativity sparked and I want to see how he approaches building. So many kids lose their creativity as the years go by, and I don’t want that to happen to him.

I am learning to just let my imagination fly wild. I am not the best builder, and on the fly building is new for me. I’m used to planning or attempting to build things I see. But Reed doesn’t care about any of that. He only cares that his Ray Ray is adding to the world and making things, just like he is. He doesn’t care that a building isn’t perfect, or that the roof is flat. He doesn’t care what materials he uses. He just wants to have fun and build.

This is our world so far:

We have built houses for each of us, and then Reed turned the one building into both a church and office. I added in the pathways and lighting to go from building to building. Some of the buildings are for animals I believe. I’m not sure. Knowing Reed, there’s a story behind each thing he’s built. I may have to see about capturing some of his ideas later on.

We should all be more creative, and just let our imaginations run free. We should build what we like and share the ideas and stories behind them. We should all be more like Reed!

 

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 2 & 3

Day 2 dawned early, and I felt well rested after my early bedtime the previous night. I had a lot more sleep, so I was wide awake and ready to go. I met up with Heidi for breakfast and we talked of looking forward to hearing George Couros speaking. I knew how passionate he was about opening sharing and being connected through social media, such as with Twitter. Based on what I’d seen so far on Twitter from the Copenhaver hashtag, very few people actually used Twitter regularly. It had been disappointing because I was so used to seeing other people’s notes on learning.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed when it was time to hear George speak. He even recognized my face, and realized that he had been reading my tweets a little while ago. I was pleased. I love being recognized. Then again, who wouldn’t? I had a front row seat, and settled myself in with my Chromebook for some great learning.

George made many educators uncomfortable in the room. He totally threw them out of their comfort zone, and it was amazing. He wanted them to connect, share, and take risks. He did not apologize, and in fact, he said himself that he would make many uncomfortable and didn’t care. I would giggle to myself as I tweeted out bits of learning here and there.

A large portion of the time was spent on detailing why educators should share online. There is no longer an option to say “I can’t” because technology is so easily available to teachers. Teachers make the choice not to, and they harm themselves and their students in this regard. They are not regularly exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, or a connected network that they can reach out to at any time, not to mention the myriad of resources that can be found.

Discussion also focused on being open when it came to educational things. There is no separation of personal and professional online lives. Just because you think that your Facebook is locked down, doesn’t mean it truly is. It never will be, and to think otherwise is to have a false sense of security. There isn’t any need for a locked Twitter account. What are you hiding there? Why do you not have a bio, a good profile image, or a digital portfolio of any kind? What is holding you back? Are you the one holding yourself back?

When educators learn to use Twitter for educational purposes, they unlock a new community of educators, resources, and ideas. These educators are willing to grow and learn and try new things. They are also willing to help others as well. George even said at one point that if you can’t learn to use Twitter then you shouldn’t be an educator. It’s a very strong statement, but true. Why keep yourself away from 24 hour access to amazing things? Why harm your students in that way?

If you’re looking for ways to get started with Twitter, but aren’t really sure how, then there is a book you can read. I actually picked this up at Copenhaver myself so I could have it for the resources for other teachers. It does give you tips on getting started, and ways to use Twitter as well.

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You can find it on Amazon

 

George certainly did not hold back. He moved on to talk about a balanced lifestyle. We always hear of folks talking about leading a balanced lifestyle, juggling work, hobbies, family, etc. What is balanced for one person is completely unbalanced for another, or is not something they consider important. Instead, one should frame it as “Do I lead a meaningful life?” This way it can be adapted to anyone. Each person decides what the most meaningful things are in their lives and then determines how they fit together. If you can answer “no” to that question, then you need to reconsider your life and what you consider to be meaningful.

The final part of Couros’ presentation focused on leadership. He talked of how one person can make a difference within their faculty. Of course, that could be a good or bad difference. Twitter can help those who want to become better leaders, as well as books, such as Lead Like a Pirate. I haven’t read it yet, but my colleagues who have say it’s fantastic and worth it. I don’t want to be an admin at all, but I do want to lead better in the role that I have as an ITRT.

After George’s session, I was able to get my book signed and speak with him. He’s a great guy, and if you haven’t seen him before, you should. Be prepared for his brutal honesty though because he doesn’t hold back, and he doesn’t hold hands. He expects you to think and work the way that we want our students to think and work.

After that, it was off to the afternoon sessions! There were two this time head for, and I chose to hit up “Innovative Tools and Strategies that Solve Problems and Inspire Creativity” as well as “Books to Promote Creativity”. The innovative tools one was interesting, though many of the tools were things my district does not have the funding for or prefer. There were iPads that were driven by robotic legs, Google Cardboard, and an augmented reality sand table that focused on topography. The augmented reality table was built by hand, and after I shared video on Twitter, I ended up with instructions to build my own. Yes, Twitter is that amazing!

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This table was programmed to teach topography. As one manipulated the sand, the topography would change and update. It was a lot easier to see how changes to the land affected topography. I wish I had this as a kid!

When it came to “Books to Promote Creativity”, the session had so much to share, and so little time to share it in. The presenters talked about how it takes just one book or picture or phrase to spark something in a student. After all, most of us could recall our favorite books as children, and the impact they had upon our young selves. Many books today can be found on problem solving, creativity, and failure. These books fit perfectly into the innovator’s mindset that we want our young ones to take on. I would say STEAM/STEM, but this is truly a mindset that we want others to carry with them in all aspects of their lives. There were many extras to pick up at the end of this session, but I didn’t have time because I had signed up to join a crew on the River Walk. I hope that in the future they provide time between the final session and that so it’s not such a rush to get there!

Day 3 was mostly a reflection day, followed by a lunch and awards ceremony. We spend the morning reflecting on the things we had learned, and were able to travel to other rooms to see what had been generated. We basically were split into elementary, secondary, or admin groups, and in each room were bits of chart paper with headings. I actually was disappointed to see this, as George had mentioned the dreaded chart paper in his presentation. I posted a picture on Twitter, and was called out on it:

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I was happy to respond. Chart paper is always used to gather ideas, but is never used further than that. Often, it’s just tossed in the trash. The point of the paper in this case was to gather our ideas on what we had learned on different topics. It would then be typed into a list and shared on the Copenhaver website. This list would give no further ideas or details. There was no examples to go with it to show how or why this learning was relevant. It is an outdated mode of learning. Instead, why not show this learning in a video, a tweet, or other fashion and then link to that instead? It’s just a list, nothing more. What will you do with the information on the list? That’s what really counts.

Finally, there was the dinner and awards ceremony, which was nice. I did try asparagus soup for the first time in my life. And I won a nice prize as well, which never happens. At this point though, I was ready to head home (or to my parents to visit, in this case) and let the things I had learned marinate inside my head.

Copenhaver was definitely a blast, and I learned a lot. I’m so glad to have had the chance to hear Burgess and Couros speak, and to have met up with some amazing educators. This is exactly the kind of workshop I live for!

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 1

I just got back from Copenhaver Institute today, and man is my brain on fire! I loved this training, and am so glad that I had the chance to go this year. I’m so glad that my district helped to sponsor so that I was able to go on scholarship. I couldn’t miss, and in fact, I would have been so disappointed if I did. The only reasons I wanted to go to it was because both Dave Burgess and George Couros were going to be there. I knew it was a rare opportunity to see both men in the same place, so I happily volunteered to go.

I arrived early Monday morning around 7:15. This was a task in itself, as I had had a concert the night before in Richmond and didn’t get home until 11:30. Then I had to get up at 3:45 AM and hit the road by 4:30 AM. I was tired and sleepy, but my coffee was finally kicking in. Check-in was easy, and I was able to take my gear to my dorm room (yes we stayed in those!) before things got under way.

Day 1 meant welcoming Dave Burgess to Copenhaver, and he did not disappoint! I had known he was high energy and passionate, but nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed during the morning session. I kept joking that there was something extra in his coffee and that “Teach Like a Pirate coffee” would be a good seller for teachers.

Dave lived and breathed his presentation, and he definitely had us on our toes. He talked of how to incorporate the PIRATE system into teaching methods, and even demonstrated some ways to do/not do lessons. Educators had to learn that they cannot compete with the media and gizmos that students have today. Their content is not some raw, bitter pill that they need to make students swallow. If they don’t take risks and try new ways to teach, then they will never get better at their craft. An educator’s work isn’t supposed to be easy, but it is supposed to be worthwhile and fulfilling.

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Now why might he have this Victoria’s Secret bag?…

For the first time, 3 hours passed very quickly and I was in awe of the things that he covered. I wanted to bottle that passion and enthusiasm for myself. I decided that I would begin working on a plan for my WVSTC presentations. They would become my test run.

The afternoon was filled with workshops. We attended one with Dave, and then one with other presenters. The latter were first. I chose to attend the sessions geared to middle and high school educators, since I work with students and teachers in that area.

The first session dealt with creativity and technology, and it was horrible. It introduced both learning streams and hyperdocs to attendees. Learning streams were no good for me, as my district is working with Classflow. However, I was disappointed with the hyperdocs setup… I love hyperdocs, and this presentation did not make me want to go any further with them. It was cut and dry and bland. The presenter wasn’t engaging either. I had hoped for better.

Thankfully, before Dave’s session, I met up with some other educators who felt the same as I did about the session. We split ways, but I ended up staying with a wonderful new friend, Heidi, who had also attended the session. Heidi and I became fast friends. We shared very similar views on Dave and George, and we lived and breathed learning and expanding our minds at these sorts of things. People began to think that we had known each other before Copenhaver, but were surprised to learn that we had just met. It was great. Give her a follow on Twitter, especially if you teach foreign language at the secondary level or love technology: @htrude07.

Our second presentation was with Dave. He let us have a question and answer session with him, and he gave us some feedback based on his experiences. I think a lot of people started to shut down when they found out that he was no longer going to be in the classroom. He is working on building his publishing company and getting the word out about the PIRATE system. Another part that shut down educators was the discussion on homework. They did not agree with him, but that’s all right. However, I think for some it was the final straw.

A reception was held at the end of Day 1 for Dave. There were plenty of drinks and food. Dave signed books and took pictures with folks. He also had other books from his publishing company available. I could have totally picked up quite a bit. However, I only bought 140 Twitter Tips for Educators. I had been eyeing this book on Amazon, and it was the only copy left that Dave had brought with him. I took it as a sign and snatched it up. As he signed it and my Teach Like a Pirate book, he told me that tip #127 was the best and the most powerful in the book. At the table I discovered that it was not only powerful for it’s words, but also because Dave wrote that particular tip. I asked him to then write something witty for that part, so he did.

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Dave’s powerful tip!

The reception ended with Dave performing some magic for us. Heidi and I were right in the middle of the action, and she helped Dave with the card trick that he was doing. Even while doing magic, he was able to incorporate some of his hooks into his little show. I was glad that I got to witness it. He had presented this vibe all day, and I was still reeling from it even after heading for dinner. I couldn’t wait for the second day to begin!

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Dave performing some magic for us!