To say that the month of March has been surreal is an understatement. I had a lot planned that I was looking forward to. Two conferences. A trip to Disneyland with my bestie. Spring Break with my boys. Heading into the month, I had every intention of making it all happen. Tickets booked, plans made, I couldn’t wait. And then…Coronavirus hit the United States and everything changed. 23 days into the month all my plans have come to a halt, school is closed, and I’m scrambling to help my district create plans for anywhere learning. I feel like I’m on some type of parallel universe trying to make sense of it all. There is so much that is uncertain; so many questions I don’t have answers to. However, one thing I do know is that beginning April 1st our district will begin educating our students in a way that is completely foreign. No classrooms, no bells, no face to face interaction. Everything has changed, yet I know we will rise to the challenge. We will adapt, innovate, and explore new possibilities. Because, we must. Our kids are depending on us.
I was watching television with the family during spring break when I received a text from my college daughter asking, “Do you still have the Words with Friends app on your phone?”. It had been quite awhile since I’d played; in fact I didn’t have it on my phone anymore. But, anytime my sweet girl asks me to play a game I’m all in. I quickly downloaded the Words with Friends game app and before I knew it I was hooked. I had found a way to connect with my daughter across the miles. Before I knew it, I was finding other friends and family members who were connected to this game app too and I had multiple games going. By downloading a free game app I had found a new way to socially connect in a world that was socially disconnecting.
It wasn’t long before I began to make connections between this rediscovered game app and learning. Engagement. Connection. Vocabulary Acquisition. So much potential for this new digital landscape that we’re living in.
Let me introduce you to the Words with Friends Mash Up...
Do you have other Magical Mash-up ideas? Share and tag me @tishrich on Twitter @tishrichmond on Instagram using the #MLmagical hashtag. We're all in this together!
I am not much of a television viewer, but I do love a good reality show! Couple that with a singing competition and this girl is all in! I'll let you all in on a little secret. I can't sing to save my life, and I have always thought it would be so cool to be able to sing my heart out on stage. Shhhh! So, when I learned recently that there was a new show on Fox called The Masked Singer, I was extra intrigued. Singing + Game + Mystery….this is bound to be my new fav! Just as expected, I love it!
Let me explain this new reality show that has captured my attention and viewers from around the world. Over the course of 10 episodes, 12 celebrities anonymously compete in a singing competition by concealing themselves in a costume from head to toe. Each episode, the celebrities are paired off to compete against each other, by singing a song of his/her choice. After a panelist and live audience vote, the lowest scoring celebrity is put up for elimination. Throughout the competition, clues to each masked celebrities’ identity are given. The panelists are given time to solve the puzzle and are able to ask them a single question to try to guess their identity. At the end of the episode, the eliminated singer takes off their mask and reveals their identity to all.
Reality television shows have become a fundamental part of my gamified classrooms, so I can’t help but see them through the eyes of an educator and game designer. As I was watching an episode of The Masked Singer tonight with my husband, I began deconstructing the elements of this intriguing show and thought about how it could be brought into learning. Most reality shows have some key elements that draw us in. Challenge. Choice. Authentic Audience. Chance. When used effectively, they hook us and keep the viewer wanting to watch week after week. However, I am a distracted television watcher. It is rare that I sit through any show with my eyes glued to the screen. Often times, I’ll be on my computer or working on something else while watching. Tonight was different. I noticed I wasn’t working on my computer or anything else for that matter. I was immersed in the show. Why was this show different? One word...
From the beginning of the show to the end, I was drawn into the mystery of who was hiding behind the mask. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the celebrities mannerisms or clues that may possibly reveal their identity. I wanted to figure out the clues and solve the mystery! As I thought about this, I began thinking about the parallels between this show and a new favorite in my life...BreakoutEDU.
BreakoutEDU is like an escape room game for the classroom. Within the BreakoutEDU platform, there is an extensive collection of immersive learning games for all ages and content areas that require problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity to solve. In teams, students are working together to solve a series of clues that will reveal the code to break into a small and large box that is closed shut with various locks.
I have loved this immersive game ever since I entered the BreakoutEDU bus a few years back at the ISTE conference in Denver, Colorado. However, there was something about it that I had always found a little intimidating to facilitate on my own. That all changed when my friend Ann Brucker, a game designer and community manager from BreakoutEDU, designed a game for my book, Make Learning Magical, that she facilitated at the SOPTV Teacher Summit a few years back. (It's incredibly magical, check it out HERE!) Assisting her in setting the locks and facilitating this game, took the fear away and I knew it was time to take a leap. I needed more BreakoutEDU in my life. In my new role as Tech Integration Specialist, I had the opportunity to purchase a set of 6 BreakoutEDU boxes for our district. They came in just in time to reveal them to our innovation team before our holiday break, and they were a hit! When everyone returned in the new year, they were all fired up and ready to bring these immersive games into their classroom. There was no turning back. Any trepidation I had about getting started was short lived, because before long I was feeling like a BreakoutEDU rockstar and was setting locks and facilitating games like I’d been doing it for years. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… But seriously, why I had I waited so long to take this leap?! Each time I facilitated a game, I became more confident and the immersive and rich learning experience that I was witnessing blew my mind! Talk about the 4 C’s amplified….WOW! These kids were collaborating, communicating, critically, and creatively thinking at a high octane level! In an intense moment in one of the games I facilitated in a 5th grade classroom, a student exclaimed, “You guys! We have to be smarter than we normally are if we are going to figure this out.” It cracked me up! They were thinking really hard and they wanted to! That’s pretty flippin’ amazing! During reflection time after the game was over a struggling learner said, “Today was the first time in this class that I didn’t give up.” When the teacher asked what was different about this experience he said, “Because, I saw how hard the other students in class were working and it made me want to work hard too.” Wow! A true testament to something I believe strongly….learning can and should be fun and play is powerful!
What is the common denominator between what hooks kids into a game like BreakoutEDU and what hooks me into a show like The Masked Singer? CURIOSITY!!!! Whether it’s behind a mask or hidden in a box, we want to solve the mystery! As I thought about this connection, my mind began swirling with ideas. How could I weave curiosity into the gamified classroom with these new BreakoutEDU boxes in a similar way that The Masked Singer weaves it into a season of episodes? Then it hit me! Each unit could kick off with a new mystery and throughout the unit students would search for clues that would unlock the BreakoutEDU box that held the mystery inside! Clues would be hidden in the classroom or around campus, in invisible ink or digital text on their assignments, or randomly throughout the unit in daily activities. The clues would connect to the content being learned and would require students to dive deeper to discover the mystery within! In the gamified classroom, the opportunities are endless. You could give special badges or incentives to students or teams that opened the box first. You could even have a different badge for each lock figured out and a badge for the entire class if collectively they could open the box before the test at the end of the unit. In social studies, a historical figure, event, or secret location could be hidden in the box. In science, it may be a famous scientist, rare gem or invention. In math, it could be a famous engineer or mathematician. In culinary, it may be a rare ingredient, recipe, or chef that connects to the content being taught. The point is, it could work in any grade level or subject area.
When we bring mystery, wonder, and curiosity into learning, magical things happen. Our students want to be challenged. They want to explore. They are starving for a little mystery and excitement in learning. They are craving curiosity. As educators, we have an amazing mission to bring that magic to our classrooms. Whether it’s behind a mask or locked in a box, curiosity is magical! Let’s find a way to bring it into learning!
I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on curiosity lately. It's a topic that has always fascinated me. The Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as being, "eager to know or learn something". Imagine if our schools were full of students running into classrooms each morning eager to learn and leaving hungry for more. What a joyful sight that would be! Curiosity is the secret ingredient that can turn our classrooms from bland to flavorful. In fact, I believe it's not only the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient that is too often missing in our schools. Orderly and predictable classrooms are easier to manage and make us feel more adequate and in control as teachers. Curious classrooms are more inconvenient and messy. We run the risk of not knowing the answers or having our knowledge challenged.
My husband, Russ, and I took a fast and furious trip to Portland this week and I decided to bring the book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman along. I’ve read the book before. In fact I realized today that I actually had written a post about it this time last year (click here to read, The Magic of Curiosity Unleashed). I remember it resonating deeply the first time, and this time was no different. I had so many sticky tabs lining the pages that I finally gave up, as I realized I was nearly marking each one. A number of quotes stood out to me as I reflected on the power of curiosity in my own life, so I decided to reflect on each one and its importance to classroom learning.
“Curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility.”
Curiosity has afforded me so many incredible opportunities over the years. As I think back to when ipads entered my classroom 6 years ago, curiosity was the catalyst that launched me into my transformational journey. I had no idea how to use these devices in a classroom and I definitely wasn’t going to have them sit in an ipad cart to be used only for google searches. My curiosity propelled me to find a conference to explore ways to use the ipads to amplify learning. Going to my first edtech conference was a pivotal moment for me. My curiosity uncovered ideas that I didn’t know existed and sparked new ones.
“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity.
"Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation.”
Each idea that was sparked got my creative juices flowing which lead to innovative learning in my classroom. The questions prompted by my curiosity created an innovative and creative mindset shift. I was now thinking differently about teaching and learning. One idea, sparked another and then another. Before long learners in my classroom were more immersed and empowered than they had ever been before.
“Creativity motivates us to explore and discover.”
“Curiosity creates interest. It can also create excitement.”
As I explored and discovered new ways to teach and learn, my interest and excitement made me even more curious. I began connecting globally with educators around the world to expand my ideas and perspective and ultimately wanted my students to be as excited to learn as I was.
“Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage.”
When I look back on each experience since the ipads entered my classroom, it was ultimately curiosity that fueled me. Curiosity piqued is contagious. I can’t get enough. It powers me and makes me feel courageous and confident. That confidence leads to determination which makes me adventurous and excited to chase my passions and ambition. It also helps me stand by my ideas even if they aren’t the most popular.
“Creativity rewards persistence.
Persistence is the drive moving you forward.
Curiosity provides the navigation.”
Persistence has been required to chase after my dreams, but my curiosity has kept me on course and led me to some pretty incredible opportunities that I would have missed out on if it wasn’t for my curiosity to explore and ask questions. It also has helped me refine my ideas to make them better. Without curiosity my direction may have veered off course or maybe led to a dead end.
“Curiosity gets you comfortable being a little uncomfortable.”
As I’ve developed courage in my life, I’ve found that pushing past the status quo means being uncomfortable. We don’t grow by staying cozy. Being uncomfortable must start becoming your mode of operation.
“The best way to dispel fear is to face it, to be curious.”
Getting uncomfortable means doing scary stuff. Fear has reared its ugly head in my life way more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve found that it’s a liar. (Click here for a post I wrote about it) Fear is not going to go away, I have to face it head on with curiosity. The more I ask questions the more I am distracted from the internal butterflies and become more informed about what I am worried about.
“I consciously use curiosity to disrupt my own point of view.”
When we are intentional about asking questions and having conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences we can’t help but start to see the world differently. It challenges your thinking and beliefs and helps shape your own understanding of this wild life we live in. When I look through the eyes of another, I step out of my own narrow perspective. It’s easy to go through life looking at everything as it affects me and the ones I love. But, when I shift that vision off myself, I am able to see things in a whole new way. Connecting with my PLN through Twitter and other social media platforms has allowed me to step out of isolation into a world that is so much bigger than my day to day surroundings. It’s challenged my thinking and understanding of this world and to be more empathetic to and aware of the people I serve.
“Curiosity is what creates empathy.”
Recently I was at a party with many people that I didn’t know. I began engaging in conversation with a delightful woman who immediately captivated me. From the moment I was introduced to her I could feel her sincerity. She paid attention to my name and even repeated it to make sure she got it right. She began immediately asking questions about myself and my passions and would ask follow up questions to truly understand what I was saying. Her gaze never left the conversation and when the conversation ended she grasped my hand and looked me in the eyes and shared her appreciation for the conversation and my passion and said she hoped to have the opportunity to chat again. I felt from the beginning of our chat to the end her compassion and her genuine curiosity about me. She was invested in what I had to say. I felt valued and validated. I want to be more like that. Intentionally engaging in curious conversations by asking questions that truly allow me to get to know the people that I interact with. “Authentic human connection requires curiosity”
“Curiosity is power for real people, it’s power for people who don’t have superpowers.” There are always going to be lots I don’t know, but owning it and always being open to learning and growing broadens my world to unlimited possibilities.
“Curiosity isn’t just a way of understanding the world. It’s a way of changing it.”
Wow! This is powerful. I hope to not only understand the world that I live in and the people that occupy it, but I hope to be a change agent. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. Even more, I want to empower my students to be change agents as well and to foster classroom environments that breed curiosity; curious spaces for students to...
Be comfortable being uncomfortable
We’re all born curious. It’s up to us to awaken that curiosity in ourselves and our learners. When we unleash creativity there is no end to its power and possibility. Let's make our classrooms places where curiosity is not just the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient in learning.
I have been thinking of the word “BELIEVE” a lot lately. In fact, I’ve been noticing the word continuously throughout my day. In the grocery, at the mall, on commercials, and on social media. It may be because it is the holiday season or, possibly because it’s been on my mind so the word is jumping out at me more. I'm not sure. However, as I ponder this word that has been captivating my attention I reflect on its power in my life.
The past 10 years have been a whirlwind. When I entered this decade, I was a mom of 2 elementary school kids and was transitioning from part-time to full-time teaching. Wow! So much has happened in those 10 years. My daughter is well into her junior year of college, my son is a senior in high school, and my husband and I will soon be empty nesters. To experience our kids growing into adulthood and becoming their own people with dreams and passions to pursue fills my heart with such joy.
As we gathered with loved ones over the holidays, I heard many people make comments regarding how much our kids had grown and matured. Though we knew they had, we are with them much more often, so we don’t notice those subtle changes over time quite as significantly. It’s only when we look back over pictures and reminisce about past experiences that we can truly reflect on the transformation. The same can be true in our own life journeys. It is only when we reflect on our past pictures and life events that we can truly grasp the growth that we experience over time.
As I reflect on the past decade and more specifically the past six years, I am absolutely overwhelmed. The growth I've experienced has been exponential and has left me a transformed educator. Flashback six years and you will find a burnt out teacher contemplating leaving education, yet uncertain of what else I could do. I would not have guessed in a million years that a half decade later I would be more passionate about teaching and learning than I've ever been. So much has happened between now and then that has led to this transformation, but let me highlight the key milestones that have marked the road that I have journeyed on.
Brought 1:1 ipads into my classroom
Discovered Twitter and began building my PLN
Attended my first edtech conferences and made real life connections with my PLN
Brought gamification into my classroom learning
Presented for the first time at an education conference
Began blog writing regularly
Began co-moderating #XPLAP chat with author of Explore Like a Pirate, Michael Matera
Began writing proposals to present at conferences
Signed book contract with DBC, Inc
Began presenting nationally at conferences
Make Learning Magical was published by DBC, inc
Transitioned from Culinary Teacher to Tech Integration Specialist
Presented my first keynote
Published my first Make Learning Magical podcast
Began designing my first Grass Roots online workshop
There is one common word that all of these life events have in common:
Throughout my journey, I've had people in my life that believed in me and gave me courage to step out of my comfort zone and make each happen. As a result, with each accomplishment I began to believe more and more in myself and that my story is worth sharing. As I set my goals for 2020, I am overcome with gratitude for the multitude of people who have believed in me and walked with me on this incredible journey to pursue my passion for education. Some walked with me at the beginning of my journey, some have come along at various mile markers along the way, and others have been with me the whole time. No matter what role each person has played, every one has made an impact on the person I am today. When I look ahead to the dreams I have for the next decade, I know that five years ago they would have seemed unreachable. Yet, each milestone has contributed to a reservoir of belief that I will draw from to step out once again.
As you reflect on this past year I encourage you to take time to think about the milestones that have marked the road you’ve been on this past decade. Think about the events and accomplishments have impacted your journey, how much you have grown, and the people who have believed in you along the way, Your story has brought you to exactly this moment in time. Draw courage from your past experiences, surround yourself with people that believe in you, and be confident that you can make your dreams happen! 2020 is calling your name...
Believe in the magic of YOU!
As a little girl, I remember running into the house everyday excited to watch another episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood on television. The memories of this friendly little community evoke so many positive emotions. In fact, it’s hard to articulate how much of an impact it made on my upbringing and my life. Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was more than an entertaining children’s television program. It was a daily reminder that I was valuable, worthy of love, and accepted just as I was. I was lucky to grow up in a home where this message was echoed loudly. My mom would sing “It’s You I Like” as a bedtime lullaby and would validate my worth daily in countless ways. For that, I’m so incredibly grateful. I think about the homes where love and acceptance isn’t spoken. These 30 minutes a day may have been the only place a child was told they are special, valued, and that their feelings mattered. How many lives were shaped by a man who spoke love through a television screen?
Tonight I watched the new movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with my son. As I watched actor,Tom Hanks, play the character of Mr. Rogers, nostalgia wafted over me. The emotions of a sensitive little girl came flooding back and I started to piece together how Fred Rogers left such a profound legacy. It seems quite complex at first thought. There were so many values and life lessons he taught. Though when you really sum it up, it’s quite simple. It was never about him. He wasn’t in it for fame or celebrity status. He pursued a life of purpose, passion and a pursuit of making the world a better place because he cared deeply about people. He understood the incredible responsibility he had to his viewing public and he took it very seriously. He valued life and he lived that on and off the screen in numerous ways.
VALUE PEOPLE BY LISTENING
Fred Rogers taught us that each person has extreme value. When Fred talked to you through the television or in real life, you were the most important person in the room. As expressed in countless interviews and documentaries I've watched, he didn’t try to finish your thoughts or speak over you. He listened intently and fully and when he spoke it was slow and intentional. It is easy to indicate when a person is truly listening to me. I can tell when they are looking at me, but actually focused on another conversation around me; distracted with their thoughts, or trying to formulate a response before I’m done speaking. It feels horrible. It makes me feel disrespected and like what I’m saying is unimportant. It is horrifying to think that I may have made others feel the same way in past conversations. Am I truly listening with an open mind and heart when others speak? Am I giving them my full and utmost attention? I want to learn to listen like Fred and make people feel special and valued always. In education we are bombarded with distractions continuously. It’s easy to half listen because of the hundreds of thoughts and problems that are circulating through our mind at any given moment. I am guilty! But, it breaks my heart to think that someone could think that what I’m doing in that moment is more important than what they have to tell me. The reality is, sometimes we can’t give our full attention at any given moment. However if that is the case, we need to tell a person that and let them know when we will be able to. Listening is valuing those we serve and letting them know they are important and special and liked just the way they are.
VALUE PEOPLE'S EMOTIONS
Fred Rogers acknowledged that emotions are normal and gave strategies for dealing with them in a positive way. He talked about big issues because he believed that anything “mentionable is manageable” and worth talking about. I learned early that the big feelings I was hiding inside were normal and that talking about them was important. I remember being afraid of the events on the news and conversations I’d hear adults talk about. Listening to Mr Rogers talk about them in a way I understood, helped me process and understand them. I was fortunate to live in a home where emotions were welcomed and expressed freely, but even then there were emotions that I didn’t understand, express, or know what to do with. When Mr Rogers looked straight into the camera it was like he was talking directly to me. I felt normal and that what I was experiencing in my thoughts was validated. When the trolley entered the land of make-believe, I was entering a world where I could grapple with emotions in a pretend space that felt safe and non-threatening. Our students come into our classes with many emotions that they don’t know what to do with? How are we helping them process them? Our world can be a scary and confusing place and our students need to feel safe sorting out all the feelings that face them on a daily basis? Acknowledging that our students feelings are normal and giving them strategies to deal with them in a positive way is going to make a lasting impact on how they handle their emotions for a lifetime.
VALUE THE PEOPLE THAT HAVE BROUGHT YOU INTO BEING
In Fred’s acceptance speech when inducted into the TV Hall of Fame as well as the Emmy Awards, he paused for 10 seconds after asking this very important question, “Who are the people who loved you into being and shaped who you are today. Who made you the best version of you that you’ve ever been." It’s important to acknowledge the important part those who’ve loved us played in making us who we are. We don’t walk this life alone. There are people who care about us and want what is best for us in life. They believe in us when we doubt ourselves. They speak truth when we need to hear it. They love us when we feel unlovable. When we pause to recognize and appreciate those who have helped shape who we are, it also reminds us of the responsibility and privilege we have to love others into being as well. How can we help our students appreciate and acknowledge those that are loving them into being? Showing students ways to express appreciation and gratitude helps allows students to see the pivotal part that others are playing in their life as well as the impact they can make on others’ lives too.
As I watched a beautiful day in the neighborhood tonight I’m reminded of the power of a legacy. We each hold the incredible responsibility to live a life of purpose, passion, and to make this world a better place through our own unique gifts, skills, and talents. As educators we have the opportunity to love students into being. How cool is that?! We make choices every day that help shape the lives of the youth we serve. When we are present and listen fully, we are showing people that they are the most important person in our world at that moment; that they are valued, respected, and heard. When we validate our students feelings and create spaces where they feel safe to share and learn to express them in positive ways, we are helping them navigate a lifetime of emotions and handle them in a healthy way. When we appreciate and value those who have loved and shaped who we are today, we honor the legacy of others. In Fred’s acceptance speech when inducted into the TV Hall of Fame he beautifully expresses his passion and purpose of legacy that will live on for generations:
“Fame is a four letter word. And like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job is. We are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen day and night.”
“Life isn’t cheap. It is the greatest mystery of any millenium and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that. To show and tell what the good in life is all about. But how do we make goodness attractive. By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own. By treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat ourselves and by allowing that to inform everything that we produce."
“We all only have one life to live on earth and through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative and imaginative ways”
Read this again and replace the word "television" with “education”. I want to live my life like Fred. With passion, purpose, and intention, bringing value to a broken world of people that so desperately needs to feel accepted and loved. We all only have one life to live on earth. How are we going to value and encourage those we serve? Don't ever underestimate the power of your legacy. You are making a lasting impact on this world and generations to come. I want to live like Fred, but I know what he'd say. Live like YOU. Because there is no else like you on this earth and the world needs you, just the way you are.
This acceptance speech will touch your heart. Be prepared to shed a few tears. Tissues suggested.
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.