Tonight I am emotionally wrecked in the best possible way. Today was the Senior Tunnel; one of my very favorite traditions at South Medford High School. To commemorate the last day of high school classes for seniors, students make their way through a tunnel of staff members to say their goodbyes. But in order to fully understand the significance of this day I must first explain what happens four years prior as these seniors enter high school as freshman. Anxious frosh enter the gym and into a tunnel on their first day of school formed by enthusiastic staff members welcoming them with loud cheers and clapping. Awkwardly avoiding gazes and high fives, these young adolescents hurriedly file through the tunnels in hopes that they won’t be noticed.
Let’s fast forward to the Senior Tunnel assembly held on the last day of classes their senior year to celebrate this special rite of passage. To kick off our assembly, an amazing organization called the Sparrow Club announces how much money was earned for our school Sparrow “a local child in medical need” through student’s community service. It’s heartwarming to see the reaction from the Sparrow’s family as well as from the students knowing that it took a school community to put love and service to action and make a life changing difference for a child. Just when you think that the emotional climate of the gym couldn’t be elevated another notch, the lights dim and a video begins. The video is footage of the senior class walking through the tunnel as freshman to begin their high school experience. Tears and laughter fill the air as students recognize their younger awkward selves. It’s precious. As the video comes to an end we hear the words seniors have been anticipating for months, “It’s time to form the senior tunnel”. Staff from all corners of the gym make their way to find their place in the two parallel lines that form the tunnel from one end of the gym to another. The tunnel looks just like the one we formed at the beginning of the year for freshman, but the emotion that will soon fill this tunnel formation is a stark contrast to the emotion of the August tunnel. The air gets a bit thicker as everyone anticipates what comes next, “Seniors you may enter the tunnel”. Students fill the tunnel and tears begin to flow as they make eye contact with the teachers and staff members that have made a significant impact on their high school years. With each embrace a flood of memories come. For the student, the joys and challenges of the high school experience. For the teacher, the joy and challenges that come with supporting and teaching a young adolescent to adulthood.
For the past thirteen years, I have woken up on Senior Tunnel day, applied my waterproof mascara, and entered the gym with my Kleenex box in hand to say goodbye to students who I have loved and cared for throughout their high school experience. This year was different. I woke up today not as a high school teacher, but as a district Tech Integration Specialist. With my morning agenda booked solid with a four hour planning meeting I didn’t think I’d be able to attend the Senior Tunnel assembly. However, even if I could would I feel awkward standing in the tunnel since I was no longer a teacher at South? Would kids even stop to say goodbye since I wasn’t part of their Senior year? It may sound silly but I was even thinking, will they remember me?
As I walked into my morning meeting I quickly realized I couldn’t focus because all I was thinking about was the Senior Tunnel and how sad I was that I would be missing it. After voicing my thoughts to my colleagues, they said, “You should go.” I didn’t have to be told twice. When the time came I left the meeting and made my way to the high school just in time for the assembly to start. Once I entered the gym it was confirmed that I had made the right choice. How could I have even considered missing out on this special tradition. As the announcement was made to form the tunnel, I found my place in line like I had for the last thirteen years. However, this time I wasn’t carrying a Kleenex box. Secretly I was thinking, it will feel different this year. I won’t be nearly as emotional. I couldn’t have been more wrong or more blindsided by what took place next.
As the Seniors began to stream into the tunnel a student who I had for three years looked at me and did a double take. What came next literally took my breath away. She gasped and immediately burst into tears, embracing me with the biggest hug that she wouldn’t release. In this moment I knew I had made an enormous mistake by not bringing my Kleenex box. The flood gates had opened and my tears wouldn’t stop. What surprised me even more was all of the similar student reactions that followed; gasps, screams, hugs, and uncontrollable tears. Though I hadn’t been a part of the class of 2019’s senior year, they hadn’t forgotten me; the connection we made was lasting. It was the most amazing and powerful experience and hands-down the most emotional. It even trumped when my daughter walked through the tunnel, at least then I was prepared for the emotion.
Driving back to my meeting at the district office, the tears were still cascading down my cheeks. What I had just experienced validated all that I believe about education and my “L” of MAGICAL: Legacy. The emotion that filled today’s tunnel wasn’t because students crushed the OAKS test or mastered all of the content standards. The tears flowed because students had found a home within our school walls due to a loving staff that pour their heart and soul each day into the lives of kids. Freshman enter our school with fear and trepidation and leave as seniors feeling connected and a part of a school family that loves and believes in them. That’s powerful!
It doesn’t matter what role in education you play. Don’t ever underestimate the difference you’re making in the life of a child. Build relationships with kids, listen to them, give them a voice, show them you care, believe in them, love them, support them, give them a safe place to learn and grow, create unforgettable experiences that immerse and empower them. Your students may not remember all of the standards or the lessons learned, but they will remember that you made them feel special and how much you believed in them. Our role is so vitally important. You hold a magic that is all your own and are leaving a legacy that will last forever.
This week I received BIG news! My Tedtalk was accepted to present in the Tedtalk Masterclass Showcase at ISTE 2019! To say I'm excited is an understatement. I was given an amazing opportunity to be part of the ISTE Tedtalk Masterclass course this year. Each incredible session equipped us to create our own Tedtalk that we could submit at the end of the course to ISTE for the opportunity to be selected to present at ISTE 2019. I was excited to apply all that I learned to create my own Tedtalk and receive feedback from the community, but I never dreamed my submission would actually be selected! I had to read the email at least five times to prove to myself it was actually true! I walked into my office in tears as I blurted the news to my colleague and spent the entire day in shock and disbelief. In fact, I'm not sure I remember anything else I did that day. Along with the excitement came a healthy dose of fear. Sharing my Tedtalk at ISTE feels like jumping out of an airplane and trusting my parachute will open so that I will land gracefully in awe of the experience rather than plummeting to my death! But, when I start to feel that fear raising it's ugly head I have to remember all of the leaps I've taken over the years and what a wild and exciting adventure they've taken me on.
These past few weeks I've talked to various teachers in my district that have shared the leaps they've taken by trying new strategies, games, and digital tools in their classroom to amplify learning. In each encounter the teacher said something similar to this, "I was scared to try it, but I'm so glad I did. My students loved it! It was so worth the leap." This is exactly where I was 5 years ago. I was a dialed in, burnt out educator, that was in desperate need of taking some leaps and bringing joy back into my journey. I made a decision to strap on my aviator goggles and take a leap and I'm so incredibly glad I did. That first leap led to another, and another, and another. Each one bigger, scarier, and more exhilarating than the one before. With each leap my confidence grew exponentially and I learned more than I ever dreamed possible. The best part, is I've given up the need to be perfect. I've taken lots of leaps without everything tied up in a beautiful bow. That doesn't mean I don't take the leaps seriously or am not prepared, I am! But, if I wait for each bow to be tied perfectly there is a good chance I'd never leap in the first place.
For all of you scared of leaping, I get it! I know it's scary. But let me encourage you to do it! Strap on those aviator goggles, trust your parachute and take the leap. Breathe in the fresh air, take in the beautiful view, and SOAR! You are in for an exhilarating adventure that will take you places you never dreamed of going!
I'd be honored if you could join me at ISTE for the Tedtalk Masterclass Showcase! I'll be presenting on June 25th at 1:45pm. I also have two other sessions as well.
Finding new and exciting ways to bring the joy of learning into the classroom is my passion. There is nothing better than seeing the sparkle in a students eyes when learning becomes magical. Recently I discovered a digital tool called 3DBear and my eyes sparkled as I marveled at all of the incredible ways that this Augmented Reality app could bring magic into classroom learning! It’s awesome!! In fact, you should check it out for yourself. The app costs $9.99 a month for a classroom subscription, and you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking HERE!!
Anytime I learn about a new digital tool, I think about how it could be brought into the gamified classroom. Over the past five years, I have layered story and game mechanics into my classes to create a gamified classroom experience for my students. I have witnessed the transformative power of gamification and play and the immersive and empowering learning experiences it can create. 3DBear is an Augmented Reality application that weaves beautifully with a gamified classroom environment. Let me share a variety of ways that you could integrate this amazing digital tool with gamification!
This quick tutorial video that shows the basics!
TEAM PROMOTIONAL VIDEO
Building trust and a sense of “family” is essential in my team-based gamified classroom. Providing experiences where students can bond and learn about each other’s passions and unique abilities is critical to a positive and memorable beginning. When students create team promotional videos within 3DBear, it is a fantastic way for teams to get to know each other. You can try this, too.
Have each team create a video introducing their team to the class. Using the 3D letter models, teams will spell their team name. Each team member will select a 3D avatar that best represents them. Using the video feature they will introduce themselves, sharing something that they are passionate about and a unique skill or personality trait they bring to the team. These videos can be either shared with the teacher through an LMS or mirrored directly to the screen through the device. The characters they create can be used in other projects throughout the year.
I love bringing a little mystery into the classroom to pique students’ curiosity. Creating a classroom character within 3DBear is a fantastic way to reveal special quests and challenges.
Building onto the idea of secret messages, 3DBear would be an awesome way to create classroom scavenger hunts! Here are a few ways to do it!
Scavenger Hunt Using a Google Form
Here's a video on how to create a 3DBear scavenger hunt in Google forms!
The opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know in a creative way are endless in the gamified classroom and 3DBear allows students to take their creations to a new level. In my classroom, students have opportunities to accept a Side Quest to demonstrate their understanding of the essential questions in the unit. The Side Quests are optional. However, if they complete them they earn Experience Points (XP) that help them “level up” in the game. 3DBear is an awesome option for a Side Quest. Using 3DBear, students can create in a variety of ways using varying backgrounds and models to demonstrate their learning, similar to what they would if they were building a diorama but in Augmented Reality. In addition, they can bring in models through other applications like Thingiverse truly making the opportunities for creation limitless. Students could also create videos or photos within 3DBear and then bring those creations into other apps to smash their creations together. So many possibilities!
3DBear is an extraordinary Augmented Reality application that can add magic to any classroom environment through amplified collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking! I know I have just touched the surface of ways that 3DBear can be integrated into the gamified classroom. I can’t wait to continue exploring the possibilities with 3DBear and Augmented Reality!
One of my favorite things about my role as a Tech Integration Specialist is bringing new ideas and strategies into classrooms. This week I visited high school AVID classes and taught them one of my favorite note taking strategies, sketchnoting. I discovered this form of visual notetaking about 4 years ago at a conference and immediately knew that this was a strategy that could transform the way that I took notes forever. After spending the summer sketchnoting Youtube videos, podcasts, and book chapters, my prediction had proven true. I was hooked on sketchnoting and I would never look back.
I love incorporating games into the sketchnoting sessions I facilitate. Some of them are adaptations of ideas I've found over the years and many were inspired by a session facilitated by Sunni Brown at IntegratED in Portland, Oregon I attended 3 years ago and her book The Doodle Revolution. My session participants, young and old, enjoy them so much I thought I’d share the games with you. I use Pear Deck (love, love, love this digital tool for making your Google slides interactive) to present my sketchnoting sessions. These games can be done within a Pear Deck presentation using the interactive drawing slide or on paper. I’ve done it both ways, and often do a hybrid of both.
Idea from Doodle Revolution, by Sunni Brown
For this game, students grab a piece of paper and pen and closing eyes, poise the pen over the page. When you say go, they make a haphazard wild mark on their page with at least one change of direction in it. Once the mark is drawn, they open their eyes and make a face from it; eyes, mouth, and nose. This is a great way to get the room relaxed and bring a smile to everyone’s face.
BIRD ON A LINE
This variation is same as Face It, except instead of making the line into a face, you make it into a bird with eyes, a beak, wings and feet. I came up with the name, but know I found the idea somewhere just can’t for the life of me remember where!
Idea from Doodle Revolution, by Sunni Brown
For this game, students are given 20 seconds to doodle a word that you display on the screen. Often times I will start with more concrete words like coffee and apple and end with more abstract words like idea or brave.
If using paper: After the 20 seconds are up, have students pass their paper around the table until each person gets their paper back again. If the room is set up in rows, students can either trade with the person sitting next to them or pass their paper back through the row and the last person passes the papers back to the original owner.
If using Pear Deck: After the 20 seconds is up, show the responses on the screen scrolling down through each one. Students love this because they are able to see everyone’s creations!
I love this activity because it helps students visualize the images in their head. It also shows that everyone visualizes things differently. There is no right or wrong way to doodle an image. The important part is that it represents something to the person who is doodling it.
Often times I will choose words for this Graphic Jam that are in the video clip they will be practicing sketchnoting with at the end of the session. By doing this, participants will be able to pull that image more readily when doodling it again.
In my sessions I explain how to incorporate text, images, and structure into sketchnotes. The following games are a great way for students to practice these components.
NAME IN LIGHTS
Idea from Doodle Revolution, by Sunni Brown
This game I typically have students play on paper. I tell them they are going to practice a word they’ve been writing since they began school, their name. After explaining text and some of the possible font variations, they write their name on the paper using whatever font they choose. When done they can color their name and add lights or any other symbols that represent them. I love seeing all the different styles students come up with. They have a lot of fun with this. I usually give them about 3-5 minutes for this, but time can vary.
5 SHAPE DOODLE
This is another game I discovered over the years, and can't figure out where! For this game, students are given 2 minutes to find something in the room and doodle it using only these 5 shapes: triangle, circle, square, dot, and line. This is a great way to explain that we don’t have to be artists to doodle. If you can draw these 5 basic shapes, you can draw most anything!
Variation of Sunni Brown’s Stickify This
I came up with this variation based on the game below. I call out an emotion and students draw a face expressing that emotion within 1 minute. I love how this illustrates how much we can convey just with a simple emoji.
Idea from Doodle Revolution, by Sunni Brown
This game is much like Emoji This. I call out an action word and the participants have to doodle a stick figure demonstrating that action. As with Emoji This, it is a wonderful way to illustrate how a simple stick figure can convey emotion as well as action.
At the end of every sketchnoting session, I have participants practice. I usually select Youtube videos that have steps and are no more than 5-10 minutes in length. Sometimes the videos are connected to the content, sometimes they aren't. It depends on the learners and the class that I'm facilitating the session for. I find that scaffolding their first practice session is really important. When you learn something new all your focus is taken learning that skill, so it's hard to absorb any additional content. By scaffolding the sketchnoting process the first few times, it helps the learner focus on the content being sketchnoted as well as the process of sketchnoting itself. Without the initial scaffolding, I've often found people get frustrated and are less likely to give it a second try thinking it must not be for them. Click HERE for an example of a video I've used.
To begin practice, I give students a few minutes to write their title, cite source, and set up the structure. I tell them how many steps are in the video so they can write them on their paper in whatever structure they wish. I also will give a list of words that they may choose to draw during the video so they can start thinking about the image that comes to mind. As mentioned before, I use some of these words when doing the Graphic Jam game so they've already doodled these images once. Once the video starts I pause it for a minute after every step so they have time to complete their notes for that step. I find that by doing this, students feel more relaxed and can process as they go.
One of the most important parts of this process that often gets overlooked is reflection. By allowing 5-10 minutes after the video is over for students to finish their sketchnotes gives time to shade in, add more images and text, and reflect and process what they just took notes on. This step has been extremely valuable to me as well as my students and others that I've helped teach this process to.
This past week when I visited classrooms, I had a few students in my session that had been in my session in another class. When they saw me, they said, "Are you teaching sketchnoting again?! That was the best lesson I have had all year! I love sketchnoting...it's helped me so much!" It made my day to hear this feedback. It truly is a game changer for many students, I know it was for me!
If you are interested in learning more about sketchnoting check out my resource page with additional blogs and templates below. Also, make sure to follow my inspiration for many of these games, Sunni Brown, and check out her book The Doodle Revolution! This book is rich with inspiration, content and lots more doodling games and activities! Also, make sure to follow other sketchnote extraordinaires, Carrie Baughcum, Monica Spillman, Sylvia Duckworth, and Nichole Carter. They are all amazing and have lots of resources, inspiration, and experience to share!
My husband and I hit the road 2 ½ hours before the sun arose this morning with coffee in hand to attend the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute competition in Coos Bay, Oregon where three of my former students were competing. This event had been on my calendar for months and there was no way I would miss it. These students had been in the culinary program at South Medford for three years and this would be their final competition in high school. All the skills they’d learned so far lead up to this moment.
When I left the classroom to be our district’s Tech Integration Specialist this School year, I knew it would be magical moments like these that I’d miss most. All of my student’s hard work culminated into authentic experiences where they have the opportunity to challenge themselves beyond what they think they are capable of; shining for the world to see. Today was most definitely a magical moment and I was so overjoyed I was invited to be a part of it.
As I watched my former students with incredible pride, I thought about all the skills they’d learned in my classroom over the years and how much they'd grown. I thought about the fun memories that were made. The laughter and tears that were shed as life happened. The good. The bad. The happy. The sad. I also thought about the memories made this year without me. At first it made me sad. Sad that I hadn’t been a part of their Senior year. Sad that I’d missed a portion of their journey. However, that sadness was soon replaced by joy as I witnessed my former students interact with their new teacher. She was reminding them of the techniques they had practiced, and of all they were capable of. She believed in them, just as I did. I realized that by passing the torch this year, I had empowered a new educator to share her gifts. Her skills. Her passion. Her story. I had played a part in igniting my students' passion for cooking and now she was fanning the flame, giving it oxygen to burn stronger.
Sometimes life brings us new adventures. It doesn’t mean that we are abandoning the people that we serve, but instead providing new opportunities for learning and growth. As we embark on these new adventures, we are able to expand and amplify our impact. The transition to a new role is emotional at times. I poured my heart into teaching my students and developing a culinary program. I absolutely loved it. However, this new adventure truly has empowered me to expand and amplify my impact. I’ve been able to share my passion for magical learning with new people. I’ve been given the awesome opportunity to spark joy and I am so incredibly grateful!
As I watched my former student, Bailey, walk up to accept her first place trophy and $4000 culinary scholarship today I was overcome with emotion. In a few short months she would be embarking on new culinary adventures with a new set of educators here at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute. New skills. New experiences. New opportunities. I felt so honored to have played a part in her journey of discovering her passion and so grateful to her new teacher for nurturing it and bringing her to this moment where she had been given the opportunity to chase her dreams.
To make this day even more special, I ran into a former student who was attending the culinary institute at the competition. She would be graduating with her culinary degree in a few months and it seemed like just yesterday she was in my classroom. As she shared about her culinary instructors, opportunities that she had been provided, and the incredible learning she has experienced, I thought about the "L" of my MAGICAL acronym: Legacy. Each day is an opportunity to make a positive impact on those we serve. We are writing our legacy one magical moment at a time. If in your your journey a new opportunity arises that allows you to expand and amplify your impact, embrace it. By stepping out on a new adventure, you just may be giving someone else the opportunity to fly. What an incredible gift we give students when our legacies are intricately woven into a beautiful design that empowers students to leave our schools and go leave a legacy of their own.
Bailey, Kara, and Grace, I am so incredibly proud of you!
Thanks for letting me share in your journey.
Valerie, I couldn't have passed the culinary torch to a more qualified, caring, and talented teacher. You are making an incredible impact and leaving a legacy that will last forever.
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.