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!
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!
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.