engagement

#TLAP: Tone Makes a Difference

It’s been a crazy time, and last week school started for staff in Fluvanna County. Ever since Monday, it’s been a flurry of activity, but I have had time to begin incorporating new ideas and projects into my work already. One thing I have already done is changed how I present to staff, and the results were fantastic. Let’s travel back to August 1st…

On August 1st, I was at the high school to attend the opening day faculty meeting. I had been scheduled by the principal to present since the end of the previous year. Over the summer, I had developed a Slides presentation to introduce FlucoTech, and later I’d tweaked it to add in stuff about my role as an ITRT. My presentation already used Bitmoji images, as they are fun and draw the audience in. The only thing left was how I would present all of the information.

After meeting both Dave Burgess and George Couros in the early summer, I realized what a difference the way information is presented makes. This was further demonstrated by the Bowtie Tech Guys at WVSTC. How we share that information is just as important, and after this summer, anyone who tells me that students should simply learn the information because they have to should think again. As Burgess discusses in Teach Like a Pirate, we’re competing for students’ attention from so many outlets. If we can’t go with the flow and hook them on our material, we have lost them and we have lost out.

As teachers, we have attended professional development sessions where we loved hearing the presenter, and others where we’d rather gouge our eyeballs out because it was so boring. Think of how those sessions were presented though. Did they engage you? Did they draw on stories, jokes, imagery, videos, or some other form of showmanship? Think of how the “boring” sessions were presented now. Was it simply a presenter speaking in a bland manner while referring to some kind of slide presentation?

For my presentation, I grabbed my pirate flag and hat. This alone had folks curious. The image on the title screen of my slide was a bitmoji that said “Let’s taco about it”. My presentation was the last one scheduled on the agenda… over two hours into the faculty meeting. By this time, people are ready to go, they’re done, they’re bored. My teachers were high school ones, and they were quite a large group.

I immediately start with “Ahoy there!” and get a lackluster response. I remark to the principal that his crew must be dead, and then do it again. This time I get a much better response, and from there we are off and running. I’m loud, I’m animated, I’m working to get them to laugh. The information itself is not the most interesting to many of them and I know that, so I draw them in in other ways.

When I was finished, I heard many compliments from my teachers, and how they enjoyed the presentation. Some told me it was the best one of the morning, others appreciated the way I made them feel comfortable. I have since heard many more compliments, which lets me know I’m on the right track with engagement. I also had a lot of teachers reach out to me for help after that, which really contributed to my busy schedule at the high school last week.

In contrast, I have yet to do such a presentation at the middle school, and I do feel this has made a difference with the staff I have interacted with so far this year. The principal has mentioned having me present at a faculty meeting next week, but this is not set in stone just yet. We will see what happens when I do though.

Overall, I have found that tone and showmanship make all the difference. I am definitely heading in the right direction with my work, and will keep building on it throughout this year. All it takes is a small spark to make a big difference!

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#IMMOOC: Empowerment & Fluco Game Designers

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“Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.” – Innovator’s Mindset, pg 98

As I have mentioned before, I recently started a game design club at the middle school where I work. I ended up with a large group of kids. I am supposed to have 66 if all kids show, and I had 55 last week at the first meeting. I’m crazy and nuts for keeping my group so large, but I do have 2 parent volunteers and as long as the behavior is good, we’ll keep the large group.

Keeping so large a group is a tricky little beast. The students meet in the library and are seated at tables that hold 5. I use one particular tool for most of my management, and that’s so I can get the students’ attention quickly and easily when I need to give guidance on the next topic. If you’ve heard of Kagan strategies, then you know about high five. Basically, the teacher holds up a hand, says “high five!”, and the student response is to hold up a hand in return, mouths closed. A bit of compliance, yes, but simply so the group can regroup and move forward.

The goal of the club is to teach game design, and a lot of that is done through quests (via Gamestar Mechanic) and then the students’ own projects. I want the focus of the club mostly on student designing, so I am carefully scouring the lesson plans provided by Gamestar and using that to create my own. I set up the week’s plans via Google Classroom so that all of the students can be on the same page. Gamestar uses 5 simple lessons to get things started, and then students can branch from there. The basic 5 lessons are meant to teach basic concepts. Once that’s done, there are many routes to take.

For example, this week, students focus on the elements of game design, the big backbone for all of their future work. Every game designed always features the 5 elements- mechanics, components, space, goals, and rules. I want to make sure to hit this one on the head, but I don’t want to make it all lecture. That’s boring and the students don’t get to do much with that route. The lesson I found details it as where I introduce it, then the students complete episodes 3 and 4 to play games that utilize it, and then we come back together for discussion.

Because this lesson is so important to game design in general, I want to add in some empowerment, and may extend the lesson further into the next week. I’m thinking of having the students first focus on one particular element and create a game in their workshop focused around that, asking them to blatantly ignore all other elements in their design process. Then I want them to design a game where they focus on all 5 equally. Since they won’t have finished the first quest in its entirety yet, they won’t have all the sprites from it, but they can still use what they  have to make something. I need to mull it over and put it into my plans.

Looking toward the future in the group, I want to have a lot more projects where students are given the basic parameters and then set free to create while I work on facilitating. It will help prepare them for the STEM Video Game Design Challenge in the spring. I also want to borrow the idea of an Identity Day for game design. I want to see what games students identify with and are passionate about, what their influences might be when it comes to their games that they’ll design. Influences are important, no matter what field, and I already know this crew loves talking about their favorite games.

I used to think engagement was key back when I was in the classroom. Oh, I was good at getting the students’ attention all right. I loved being a goofball, and using that to design lessons that grabbed the students’ attention, such as my Power Rangers Rock Cycle demonstration. Looking back now, that wasn’t all I needed to do. I should have engaged, yes, because that got their attention initially. What I failed to do was take that interest from being engaged and use it to empower the students to take control of their learning, which is what I should have been doing. I know better now. Engage first, but empower more than anything. I’m going to demonstrate that with Fluco Game Designers. I can’t wait!