I have begun my second year as a Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and I absolutely love what I do! To find ways to bring joy and innovation into teaching and learning makes my heart incredibly happy! Last year I formed a team of incredible teachers representing each one of our 19 schools in our K-12 district. These teachers were identified as "Spark Starters" because they exemplified the qualities I find crucial for sparking innovation: Courageous, Encourager, Sunshine Spreader, and Innovator. Read more about last year's Spark Starter launch HERE! This team blew my mind as they they sparked joy and innovation throughout our district!
As I start my second year in this position I absolutely can not wait to watch the sparks catch flame and begin a wildfire! And I must add...as someone who calls Southern Oregon their home, that is the only wildfire I want to see in our area!! Tomorrow we will kick off our gamified PD adventure for our first innovation team gathering and I am beyond excited!!! We have set sail for the Magical C's of Innovation! See the game plan below:
To launch this game I created this promo video that will kick off the game:
After the video we will be forming teams and playing our first team challenge! The secrets of the challenge are hidden inside this box! Shhhh!!! Lots of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking guaranteed!
I am truly giddy with excitement to begin this game and reunite with incredible team! One of aspect of the game that I can't stop talking about is this game app I created using GlideApps! My amazing friend, Jennifer Casa-Todd, told me about this app a month or so ago and I immediately thought it could be a perfect fit for gamification, and it is! This digital tool is LEGIT!! One thing I love is that it allows you to create your very own app without any coding experience!! In fact, the app is populated straight from a Google Spreadsheet!!! I am not even very Google Spreadsheet savvy and it was still super intuitive!! In fact, I think it is very safe to say that if I can create an app you most definitely can too!! To show you how easy it is, check out this screencast I created to show you the basics.
Isn't that cool?! In addition to this game app, I am also creating apps for my own productivity as I travel across the district visiting our 19 schools. I will share more in another blog post! I know I am just skimming the surface with the possibilities! I can't wait to explore and create as I learn more!
Our adventures have just begun! Hope you'll join me as our story unfolds navigating the C's of Innovation this year! It is most certainly going to be a MAGICAL adventure!
Today was one of those “teary” days. The kind of day where the simplest of things sends a waterfall of tears cascading down your face for no apparent reason. Can anyone relate? When a friend asked me if there was any particular reason I was feeling "teary", I really didn’t know. It could have been a myriad of factors with exhaustion being one of them. All I know is that when my emotions are heightened and sensitivities are acute it creates what I like to call the "perfect storm" for a downpour. Today wasn’t any different. However, it wasn’t until I was driving home with tears rolling down my face that I realized my "teary day" was actually quite serendipitous.
365 days ago was a MEMORABLE BEGINNING that I’ll never forget. It was the day I became a DBC, Inc published author of my manifesto, Make Learning Magical. Many of my women author friends relate the writing process to childbirth and it really is quite true. The day you learn your words will be published is a true celebration. I couldn’t believe that this dream was actually coming to fruition. The months to follow are like being on a rollercoaster. There are many ups and downs; days when you feel like you are gradually inching uphill and others where you are flying down at exhilarating speeds. There are also days where you feel like your insides are twisted in knots as sheer fear grips you. You spend countless hours pouring your heart out onto the page in hopes that it will come together coherently and resonate with the reader. Edits, sleepless nights, tears, and more edits all lead up to the projected due date when your book is born, Hearing the words, “It’s LIVE” is the most surreal feeling in the world. It’s incredible, mind-blowing, and also super scary. Sharing your story is vulnerable and terrifying. What if people are disappointed? What if people disagree with your viewpoint? What if people get to know the real you through your writing and don't like you? ...and the list goes on. However, when you receive positive feedback from people that connect with your message, there is absolutely nothing like it. It is pure joy to know that your story is impacting another.
I had a secret fear that my book was going to be published on September 11, a day that carries such terror and sadness, and it was. It didn’t dull my joy on the day it was published, but today when I woke up I must admit I was a little blue. I felt guilty to share any joy associated with my book’s first birthday since 9/11 conjures up so many negative and powerful emotions. Then I realized how wonderful it was that I had the opportunity to share a positive message with the world on a day that held such sadness. In my small way I was able to fight evil with good.
Today began at 4am when our family drove our Italian exchange student to the airport after a 2-week stay with us in Southern Oregon. Last Spring our son traveled to Alba, Italy with 20 other local students through the Alba/Medford Sister City Exchange Program. He stayed with a host family during his stay and their teen boy came to the US this past month so we could reciprocate the hospitality. To participate in this exchange of cultures is truly indescribable. Students are completely immersed in each other’s culture and lifestyle for the weeks that they visit. The friendships forged are powerful and lasting. To be at the airport this morning as families said their goodbyes was heartwarming to say the least. Italians are returning home knowing they will forever have a home here in America because of the close bonds that were fused through this experience. This is the ultimate example of AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE. The lessons learned from these global connections were real, relevant, and lasting. This is an experience that will never be forgotten.
Days packed full of social events with Italian guests coupled with a 3 am alarm has put me on sensitivity overload. I already have a sonar for fluctuations in people’s moods, body language, and even texting behaviors. Today my sonar was on red alert and it honestly made me mad! Internally I was beating myself up for being the sensitive person that I was created to be. As I walked out of the building to get a quick bite to eat, negative thoughts filled my head. I decided to go to a little fast food Mexican restaurant that I rarely go to so I could get something quick and still have time to run an errand. As I walked in, a man waiting at the door said hello and after doing a double take said, “Do I know you?” I recognized the man from attending school sporting events so answered, “Yes, I taught your kids.” All of a sudden a look of recognition lit up his face and he said, “You’re the culinary teacher! You taught all 3 of them! They loved you!” He went on to share how they are all utilizing the cooking skills that I taught them and how one even wants to become a chef and is saving up money to start his own business. Tears welled up in my eyes as I said, “I love all three of your kids, please tell them hi.” I ordered and he waited for his food. Then as he walked out the door said, "You made a difference in my kid’s lives. They won’t forget you." It took that magical encounter for me to realize that if I hadn’t shown my AUTHENTICITY to my students, I may not have made that same impact. The qualities that I find to be my achilles heel, are the same qualities that make me so passionate about making learning magical for students. It also made me realize that the opportunities for AGENCY that allow students to discover and pursue their passion contributed to my these three students developing a love for cooking and even pursue it as a career. If I hadn’t empowered my students with agency, would they have chosen to develop their cooking skills beyond my class? If it weren’t for that encounter today, I may not have known that they were still enjoying to cook or that the eldest was wanting to be a chef. We often don’t get a chance to hear those stories, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being told somewhere. Don’t ever underestimate the LEGACY that you leave. Our impact is powerful and lasting.
I came back to my office after my magical encounter and immersed myself in creating a new GAMIFIED EXPERIENCE for our innovation team with a new app I'm really excited about! More to come!!! I also collaborated on a BreakoutEDU experience that will most certainly pique student's curiosity in our new Medford Online program. I absolutely love supporting teachers in amplifying CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION, and CURIOSITY in their classroom and I feel so lucky to get to immerse myself in this exciting work everyday. I am continually pushing myself out of what's comfortable to bring INNOVATION and magical learning to all students.
As I drove home my tear-filled eyes came into clear focus as I began to realize how serendipitous the day was.. When each encounter and experience was woven together, it became a beautiful depiction of my MAGICAL acronym:
AUTHENTICITY & AGENCY
CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION, & CURIOSITY
Do you know what’s even more serendipitous? This morning I was showing some of our teachers how to use Pear Deck Flashcard Factory and I asked them to choose a word to model game play. Guess which word they chose…..serendipitous. It's true. A “teary” day turned out to be a day full of MAGICAL serendipity.
I love to create. It brings me joy and allows me to express myself in a variety of ways. As an educator, I get pretty excited when I find a tool that allows me to tap into that creativity in a new and innovative way. My mind starts swirling with possibility when I begin to think about what it could mean not only for my learning, but for students as well. In the past few months I started to explore a new digital tool called Buncee! As usual when I discover a digital tool that I love, the ideas just keep coming! The beauty of this tool is in its intuitiveness, functionality, and the variety of choice it opens up for creativity and demonstration of learning for students of all ages.
As I began to explore the possibilities, I began to think about my gamified classroom and how fun it would be to create cards and badges for my students with Buncee! One type of badge that I love to create is a mystery badge. This is a badge that has a mystery amount of experience points on it covered by a scratch off sticker. I give these out to teams or individuals that win specific challenges or accomplish missions in my class. Covering up the card’s worth adds a bit of mystery and wonder as well as encourages students to strategize. With all of the amazing features within Buncee coupled with it’s intuitive design, making Mystery Badges was a breeze and they look AMAZING! I created this tutorial video to show you just how easy creating Mystery XP Badges in Buncee can be!
Now let’s take it a step further and think about what this could look like for student learning! As amazing as it is to create your own badges and cards within Buncee, imagine how empowering it could be if students did the creating! When we let go of some of the control and put it in the hands of students they will amaze and inspire you! In this tutorial video I will show you how your students can create amazing mystery badges to use in your classroom.
Download student badges and upload them into the Google Drawing template as in the first tutorial. Now badges are ready to print, laminate, and cut! Place a scratch-off sticker over number and Voila! Your Mystery badge is ready to award!
The more I create with Buncee, the more my imagination goes wild with the possibilities for magical learning!! There are so many other cards and badges you can create as well!
Chance Cards: Think about what students are always begging you to do and turn it into a chance card! “Get out of homework card”, “You choose your seat for the day” card, “Cross off one question on the quiz” card., etc. You want chance cards that students are motivated to earn? Have them think about what they are always wanting and they create the cards!! When students demonstrate great employability skills, or win a classroom challenge they can reach into the box and draw one out to redeem at a time they choose. Students love them!
Badges: Create badges for completing certain tasks or achieving specific skills. Award the badges as they are earned! They may contain experience points (XP) that allow them to level up or maybe they try to collect all of the badges in a set. There are lots of ways badges can be issued. You choose what is best for your grade and content!
I have my students store badges and chance cards in a baseball card sleeve. They are durable, inexpensive, reusable and will clip into a 3-ring binder. You can find them HERE.
Card Game: I love creating card games for learning. Take the elements of your favorites and make your own! Better yet, have your students create the game! It’s amazing what students come up with when we give them a chance to unleash their creativity!!
I’d love to see you what types of cards and badges you create with this incredible digital tool! Check out the ideas lab for inspiration! It is an incredible source to launch you and your students into a world of creation! Share on Twitter and make sure to tag me @tishrich, @buncee and include #MLmagical!
My dear friend and author of, Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership, Jennifer Casa-Todd, posted this on Instagram today and it made me ponder how I portray myself on social media.
Do my friends, family, and professional learning network see the REAL me when they look at my social media feed? Or, is it always the best version of myself, the "filtered" me? My husband, Russell Richmond, and I had this conversation just this past week. On our recent get away to Sisters, Oregon he read me this quote from the book, A Craftsman’s Legacy: Why Working With Our Hands Gives Us Meaning by Eric Gorges, “We’re editing our lives to present the best version of ourselves, filtering it in a way that it shines abnormally bright and removes all the flaws. Our online selves create the illusion that we don’t have any of those; because others don’t show theirs, we are engaged in an arms race of impossible standards.” It is easy to scroll through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and only see the polished versions of others. The snapchat filtered pics, the final versions of our creations, and the most shining moments of our day. But, how often do we show our first attempts, our fails & flaws, and insecurities? I am totally guilty of this! In fact, I love the smooth glowing complexion that Snapchat gives me. :-)
It’s easy to fixate on the bright shining moments and incredible creations being shared by others and think, “Wow, they are brilliant! They have it all together! They are crushing life!” The trouble is we aren’t seeing the entire picture. We aren’t seeing the tears, the struggles, the self doubt, or the critics that may be trying to tear them down. We don't see the long hours that lead to their creation. I’m not saying that we all need to share all of our vulnerable and unfiltered moments. However, I do believe we need to think about whether the "real" us is being portrayed to the world and capture some of the unfiltered and "in progress" in addition to the final product. We also need to catch ourselves when we start going down that negative spiral of comparison and remember the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” There is a good chance that the very people who have posted their ideas and magical moments are racing against the same impossible standards that you and I are. In fact, you don’t know how vulnerable it may have been for them to share their ideas and thoughts in the first place.
Let me tell you I have lots of “less than magical” moments. I experience days where I am flooded with insecurity and imposter syndrome. Often I post a tweet, blog, or created resource and wonder if people will think it’s lame, “old news”, or disagree with what I have to say. I go days where I feel paralyzed and think I have zero creative ideas to contribute to the world. There are times I pursue giant opportunities and they don't work out and I experience defeat. I have to push past the feelings of self doubt that cascade over me and continue to be vulnerable and take risks, because I know how much I’ve grown because of each one I've taken. I have to tell myself that even if what I share resonates with only one person, it will have been worth it. Even if I fail, it doesn't mean it's not a good idea. It just may not be the right time or opportunity.
I have shared the video below, "Obvious to you. Amazing to Others" many times and very likely may have included it in a previous blog post. I love it because it’s so true. What’s obvious to you, may just be amazing to others. I encourage and challenge you to share your successes and fails, applaud others who share and encourage them to continue, and don’t ever let comparison steal your joy.
You each have a special magic that’s all your own.
Embrace it and share it with the world!
We need you.
We need each other.
Thank you, Jennifer Casa Todd for challenging my thinking today and always helping me to be better digital leader and the best version of me. I highly recommend her incredible book, Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership. Her book inspires and challenges us to help our students leverage social media in positive and powerful ways and to help them be digital leaders today!
Also, I want to acknowledge my good friend, Tara Martin, and her amazing book Be Real: Educate from the Heart. This inspiring read will help you tap into the power of being true to yourself and equip you with the courage to "cannonball" into the adventures of life. Thank you, Tara, for encouraging me to share my REALness with the world!
As a daughter of a college track and cross country coach, running is in my blood. It has been a part of my life since I was a little girl following my dad around on the track as he coached the runners on his team. The smell of the all-weather track surface, the sound of the starting gun, and the sight of well trained athletes crushing their goals flood my senses with a wave of nostalgia. Maybe that’s why I have always viewed the calendar year exactly like a track. A perfect oval with January and July on the exact opposite sides. It has always perplexed me that some people picture the calendar year as a squiggly line, or nothing at all. Because for me, it is very much a race track oval. However, an educator’s school rarely has the bouncy surface or predictable turns of a track that is so perfectly etched in my mind. To me it looks more like a cross country course with a combination of ups, downs, twists, and turns that require strategy and endurance to navigate successfully.
My dad spent most of his career coaching track and cross country at Mt. San Antonio College in Southern California, one of the most highly regarded track and cross country programs in the world. I’m so proud of him and the incredible legacy that continues to live on. A piece of the legacy my dad left at Mt SAC is the cross country course that he helped designed with his friend and fellow colleague, Don Ruh. It has a reputation of being one of the most challenging and famed courses in the world due to its incredible design mixed with a variety of complexity and difficulty. Let’s look at this historic course as a metaphor for the school year.
The Mt SAC cross country course starts out with a mile of flat asphalt and dirt called the Valley Loop where runners get a quick and energetic start as they make two half mile loops. Runners start out in a large pack and feel strong as they gain momentum, settle into their pace, and gain traction for the climb ahead. When we design our school beginnings with energy and enthusiasm our students are able to start out strong and settle into a natural momentum and pace. Creating fun and engaging opportunities to bond and develop trust as a class are essential in order to gain traction for the climb ahead.
As runners round out the second half mile of the valley loop and fall into a comfortable rhythm, they hit the Switchbacks that consist of four tight hairpin turns up the side of the first hill. This part of the course requires technical skill as the terrain is steep with loosely packed gravel and the runners are packed close together due to the energetic start. Strategy is required to navigate each stretch as each curve brings unknown challenges. The Switchbacks could be compared to the holiday months from November through January where students have lost a little of the steam they had in the Fall and are also experiencing the unsteady emotions that come with the holiday season. It’s important to huddle as a team and navigate the unstable terrain and hairpin turns leading into the holiday break together. At each turn tap into student’s curiosity by bringing in a little mystery and wonder. When we keep learning exciting by adding twists and turns it helps peak students interest and engage them as they make the steady incline in learning. When designed effectively, students come out of the switchbacks feeling empowered and ready for the challenges ahead.
POOP OUT HILL
By the end of the last hairpin turn, the tight pack of runners separate. The runners that navigate the terrain together, focusing on moving forward, and are able to keep a strong footing on the unsteady gravel are the ones that lead the pack as they approach the third part of the course, Poop out hill. Though this hill is short, it is the steepest of the course. This stretch is tough! You’re tired and everything is uphill. Without momentum and endurance you will live up to the name, and “poop out” before you reach the top. My dad shared this sage advice on how to conquer this historic hill, “You need to accelerate at the top of the hill, not the bottom. As you go up the hill you want to pace yourself so you have a burst of energy at the top. It will give you momentum going down. Runners who start too fast will lose steam before they reach the top.” The stretch from mid-January to April feels just like poop out hill. Testing has begun, the breaks are few and far between and we’re all just straight up tired before we even start making the climb. The good news is if we can just keep running slow and steady up the hill, we will be able to see the finish line in sight. Stick together, stay positive, and focused. We don’t have far to go now, or so we thought.
Reservoir Hill is a steady uphill climb that runners must conquer before the steep descent to the finish line. This feels like the longest stretch of them all and though the hill isn’t as steep as the last one, it is longer. It seems as if it may go on forever as the energy that was so readily available at the start has nearly been expended. Educators, can we relate? The months from April to June are brutal. Testing is finalizing, the calendar is packed full of events, and students (and staff) are suffering severe burn out. The end is in sight, but tensions are high and emotions are volatile. Self-care and positivity are critical in this stretch if we are going to make it to the end. Care for those you serve by showering them with encouragement and positivity; infusing fun and laughter whenever you can. It’s amazing what a difference this makes as they conquer the last learning climb.
As the runners reach the pinnacle of Reservoir Hill, the end finally feels within reach. Runners fly down with a new burst of energy as they approach the Norton 400 sign (named after my dad) a quarter mile down the airstrip to the finish line . This stretch is designed for speed and applause as it wraps around the spectator area for a finish that is both exciting and quick. This time of year is electric as everyone feels the culmination of all the year’s hard work. We fly down the hill reminiscing of all that was learned, the relationships built, and memories that were made. As we blast down the airstrip we celebrate with all those supporting us at the finish line applauding a job well done! Victory! We’ve made it and we should be so proud!
This famed 3 miles of dirt, asphalt, and trail, is well known and respected because of its design. My dad and Don Ruh put thought into each hill, twist, and turn to make sure the design tested the skill level and tenacity of each runner. Just as a good game has a variety of game mechanics, so does a good course. They designed it to have equal proportions of ups, downs, and flat ground with some unpredictable twists and turns throughout. How athletes approach those takes strategy. If you start too slow, you’ll never catch up. If you start too fast, you’ll never make it to the finish line. However, if you set a steady pace you will be able to weather each twist, turn, and incline, and end the course strong.
Navigating the course ahead of time is essential in determining what pace to set and how to tackle each turn. Runners who race without that preparation aren’t equipped and will be disappointed with their performance. Just as successful runners need a strategy and a plan to crush their race and finish strong, so do we. As educators we not only strategize and plan to design the course, but we help our students do the same so they can navigate each stretch and experience the joy of victory at the end.
Just as each cross country race is affected by weather and various other factors, we are going to encounter unforeseen circumstances and obstacles too. However, with a well orchestrated design, strategy and planning we will be prepared for the unexpected and cross the finish line victorious! As you begin designing your own course for the upcoming year, remember what a special and important role you play in students lives! You are leaving your own magical legacy!
Wishing you all a fantastic start and an excellent race! I will be celebrating with you at the finish line!
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.