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Sep 20 14

More Direct Instruction

by Alfonso Gonzalez
Teddy Rised-Some Rights Reserved

Teddy Rised-Some Rights Reserved

I started this year off pretty well. I had some activities for students to work on such as the Marshmallow Challenge on the first week of school so I wouldn’t be talking too much or going over our rules and procedures right from the start.

For the last few years I’ve tried to talk less and have students get right to learning and working. I did that after getting feedback from students that I talked too much at the beginning of the year. I found that a lot of students floundered without more direct instruction so I tried to balance that this year with more direct instruction. I think I’ve done too much because for the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking a lot. I’ve already heard that from a few students.

Part of the reason I’ve been giving so much direct instruction, besides to provide more guidance and support for all the new things students are learning in my classes, is that this 6th grade group has been very well behaved. They have a pretty strong work ethic and a strong sense of how to behave in a classroom full of people. Sure they have times when they talk while I’m instructing, where they are off task, and where they are less than kind to each other like any group of students. But overall they feel remorseful and work to do better the next time more so than other groups of students. It’s a phenomenon that exists when there is a majority of kids that kow how to behave in a classroom versus groups where the majority of students tend to misbehave. The class climate is determined by this majority and when more students pay attention to instruction and value helpful classroom behavior then the overall effect is quite positive. This group has so far made it easy for me to talk at them so I’ve tried to be really engaging and use visuals when I present and instruct.

My plan is to front load a lot of what I expect of them and as we move on with our school year I’ll talk less and less. My goal is for students to know my expectations clearly so they know how to be successful and have a positive learning environment. I also want to show them how to use the technology to learn and how to show me what they’re learning in different ways so they all have an opportunity to thrive.

There’s so much I want to do with them and I tend to be impatient by jumping in before kids are ready. This year I don’t want to make that mistake again so I am forcing myself to go slow. Having 80 minute periods instead of 50 minute periods has helped a lot.

We do have our four day camping trip to Camp Cispus next week and that might set up back in terms of all we’ve done in class so far, but our trip is also a great way for kids to bond together and practice teamwork while doing some fantastic outdoor learning.

When we return from our trip I will do some talking again to remind students of our expectations and what we need to be successful. In order to create an environment where students can learn at their own pace and share their learning in exciting ways we did an activity to develop Class Promises by Bill Ferriter. I really enjoyed that activity (thanks, Bill!) because the idea was to generate three promises for me and for students to have a safe, happy and fun classroom!

I am excited with our class promises and I start every class by reminding students to practice keeping their promises so we can have a safe, happy and fun classroom. Here’s what each class came up with:

Period 1

Period 2

Period 3

I’m so excited about this school year and after my experience last year I really needed this. :)

Sep 11 14

ClassDojo or Classcraft #gamification

by Alfonso Gonzalez

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So far I’ve only been using ClassDojo and Classcraft for a few days but I’m liking them both. I’ve been wanting to try ClassDojo for a while now and this year I finally took the plunge (I also have to admit that this is the first year I’m using Remind as well instead of using Facebook Groups like I did last year because I didn’t get very many parents joining my Facebook Groups and so far I’ve got more than half of my parents signing up for Remind). I decided to use ClassDojo with my three 6th grade Science classes and my decision was partly based on being able to use something that both complimented 3D GameLab and didn’t create too much more work in addition to 3D GameLab.

ClassDojo can be used pretty much daily because it’s very quick and easy to use. If the whole class does something well you can select all and give them all the same feedback, which helps. I told students that I would give them feedback on their behavior using ClassDojo a few times a week and not everyday because that way they never know for sure when I’ll be providing them feedback. Besides, I don’t think they will need feedback for every little thing they do. In the beginning, as they are learning our routines, I plan to use it more often and as they get better I’ll provide less feedback, maybe once or twice a week unless more is warranted. As with any reward-like system tapering off or weaning them off is the long-term goal so they begin to internalize the behaviors and rely on my feedback less and less.

The reason I referred to ClassDojo as a reward-like system is because the feedback comes first and foremost in the form of positive, green points for the good behaviors we want and negative, red points for the behaviors we don’t want. They can practice some math if they get positive and negative points. My main concern was that students would focus on the points and not read the actual feedback. Luckily, I’ve heard students mention the actual feedback and not just the points while I’ve also heard some just check to see if they’re totally or mostly positive. One reason I finally decided to try ClassDojo is because I read on a blog that you can edit the feedback narratives and add your own! The presets are pretty good but I added a little more detail after observing my students and seeing what they need like this:
Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.16.35 PM

Same with the behaviors that need work:
Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.16.44 PM

It cuts off when you write too much but parents and kids can see the whole feedback when they mouse over their pie chart:
Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 7.52.24 PM

So far I only have slightly more than half of all my 6th graders’ parents signed up but I’m going to keep encouraging because the parents who are checking it are loving it. They get more feedback about their child’s behavior than I’ve ever been able to give. For me that has been invaluable because they’ll know so much about how their child is behaving in Science when we finally meet for a parent-teacher-student conference! We’ll be able to focus on academics and the learning of Science!

ClassDojo uses cute monster avatars that the kids can customize and they get points, which are the game mechanics that make providing behavior information gamified. So far I’m really liking it.

I thought Classcraft was going to be similar to ClassDojo in that it was a gamified system for providing kids points to let them know how they are doing in my course. It looked very cool with more video game-like avatars and the use of powers with experience points, action points, hit points and power points so I was very motivated to try it out. So this year I started using it with my 6th grade exploratory class, which is basically my 1st period class coming back to me 4th period for the Peace4Kids curriculum.

The first thing I learned is that Classcraft is not like ClassDojo. Classcraft doesn’t do as good a job at letting kids know how they are doing in my course because there is so much else going on. It does provide them feedback if they gain or lose points but what it does really well is it turns your course into a game. Really. 3D GameLab does that too but not in quite the same way as Classcraft. Classcraft provides students an avatar that is either a Mage, a Healer, or a Warrior. Depending on which character class they choose they benefit their group in different ways so Classcraft really encourages teamwork and cooperation.

Here’s a typical team. Kids are encouraged to balance their teams because as things happen in class, such as random events from Classcraft that I, as the teacher and Gamemaster, chooses or from making poor choices by being off task or bothering others that causes them to lose hit points (get to zero and you’re dead). As players take damage (by making poor choices or from bad luck) Warriors use protection powers to take the damage for a teammate because they take less damage than the other character classes. Then Healers step in and heal those who are low on hit points. Using those powers cost action points and Mages are key because their powers restore action points to their teammates.

Lots of fun and very motivating. The kids and I are loving it. And the coolest part is that kids get points and feedback by doing their classwork (much like 3D GameLab). It takes a little bit of time at the start of class to pick a random event. Then kids react to it if teammates need healing or action points. After that class runs normally. I can go around and give feedback by choosing a behavior much like ClassDojo and give kids XP (experience points) or deduct HP (hit points or life) but so far I’ve been doing that after class. There is also a discussion forum where I can share information with the class.

Classcraft is free with a paid version available with features kids love such as being able to earn coins to customize their characters and train pets. They also have a freemium option where kids get coins and it’s still free but at home the students can ask their parents to spend real money, up to $5, on the class coins. I offered the class that option but we agreed to not spend real money because it wasn’t equitable for those with money to have well equipped characters next to those who are just doing all their work (sorry Classcraft!). I know Classcraft, as a valuable resource, needs money to keep the service going but I can’t send kids home asking their parents to spend money at the same time I don’t want to deny kids something they love. It’s quite the quandary.

The class that is using Classcraft is enjoying it so much that I’m considering adding it to my Science classes. That would mean that kids and I would have to juggle a 3D GameLab account, a ClassDojo account, a Classcraft account, a blog account, and a class discussion forum account all the while learning and doing Science! I think it’s all worth it. I’ll be reflecting here on how it all goes.

Sep 7 14

Great 1st Week!

by Alfonso Gonzalez

Our first week was four days long because of Labor Day and we got off to a great start! I had been teaching all three 6th grade Science classes and two of the three 8th grade Science classes but this year I only have all three 6th grade Science classes plus a 6th grade exploratory class, so I’m just a 6th grade teacher! This first quarter the other two 6th grade teachers and I will be teaching the Peace4Kids curriculum to all our 6th graders, basically we each have our 1st period homeroom class again during our 4th period. Peace4Kids is really cool and I’m excited to help 6th graders with some awesome strategies. For the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter I’ll teach each 6th grade group the WoWinSchools curriculum! Exciting!

Being only a 6th grade teacher has some advantages especially when it comes to being part of just one grade level team but I’m going to miss getting my kids back in 8th grade before they go off to high school. Even though our schools are small, only about 240 kids in grades 6-8, and our high school is right next to the middle school, many kids are embarrassed to “know” me once they move on to 7th grade and beyond. There are those who still say hi and even those who talk to me but so many of them seem embarrassed to talk to their 6th grade teacher. Not having them in 8th grade will make it harder to re-connect with them in their last year of middle school. We’ll see how that goes this year.

We also had quite a change to our schedules this year. We went from roughly 50 minutes periods to about 80 minute periods! That means I get 30 more minutes of Science each and every day! I’m expecting to do great things with that extra time and I can’t wait to do labs in 80 minutes periods! Because of that extra time I’ve started off the year slowly. The first week we basically took a personality test, did a cool activity (the Marshmallow Challenge, and did an activity to determine how we can have a safe, happy and fun year together. I found this fun 5-minute personality test from someone’s blog I read (sorry, I can’t remember whose blog I got it from) and it was great. Walking around helping kids understand the words on the test was also a great part of the process.

I had intended to have kids re-arrange their teams to get more balanced after finding out their personality type but kids made the teams they chose on the first day work by knowing which personality types they were dominant in and which ones they were strong in even though it may not be their dominant type. They made their teams work and were aware of the different personality types that are needed for successfully getting work done in a group. It was a win-win!

The Marshmallow Challenge went great and kids loved it. They were all on task, participating and working very well together! Then I had kids do an activity that I got from Bill Ferriter to determine how we can have a safe, happy and fun classroom. It’s a great way to have kids learn what they each need to learn in school. We’re still kind of working on it because even with 80 minute periods it still takes two to three periods.

I’m trying out ClassDojo for the first time and so far finding it very useful. Kids really do want feedback on how they’re doing and for parents who want to know how their kids are behaving this is one way I can totally let them know regularly. I love how I can edit the behavior presets to provide detailed feedback.

I’m also trying out ClassCraft with my 4th period Peace4Kids exploratory class and so far kids are loving it! It has taken us three days to get started using ClassCraft and kids are ready and excited to start learning the Peace4Kids curriculum to level up their avatars! Our 4th and 5th period exploratory (like elective) classes are still around 50 minutes so these go really fast.

Next week I plan to start introducing my students to blogging and using our class discussion forum. I’m still going to start slowly by having them start on paper first, to practice. After last year’s disaster where kids hated using technology I’m waiting to have kids use the tech this year and training them more, which having more time in Science really helps. I’ll get them using 3D GameLab soon too.

I’m really enjoying my new 6th graders and am so excited for this year! And on top of having great kids my daughter is in 6th grade and since I’m the only Science teacher I have her in my 3rd period class! :)

Here’s a glimpse into our Marshmallow Challenge:

Aug 29 14

Differentiation Training

by Alfonso Gonzalez

One of the math teachers and I attended a BER Conference on differentiation to meet the common core. We got some really great ideas for helping all our learners engage with our curricula. We presented the first part of our three or four part training with ideas for offering more student choice. Here’s the Prezi we put together for our session:

We put together a packet of resources in a Google Drive folder to share with some handouts teachers can use to offer their students some choices in how they show their learning. The two main ideas we shared with our staff was RAFTs and Lit Log Codes.

Lit Log Codes or Literature Log Codes are different ways that students can write about the content they are reading. Do a Google search for Lit Log Codes and you’ll get many examples that teachers are using. Lit Log Codes aren’t only for English or ELA classes though. Our course instructor noted that Lit Log Codes are also known as Thinking Log Codes by other disciplines such as Math, Social Studies, and Science. For differentiation offering students choice as to how they reflect on what they’re reading satisfies our kids’ need for autonomy while satisfying our need to have our students write and engage and show us what they are learning/thinking! They are great, just make sure to teach each code and not just assume that your students will know how to respond to each code.

RAFTs are pretty awesome and are totally new to me. RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format and Topic. Basically, RAFTs provide fun, sometimes silly, unique options for kids to write about any topic they are studying by taking on different roles for different audiences. The format adds another level of fun by having students write friendly letters, news shows, speeches, ads, etc. Here are some RAFTs I created for our Mt Saint Helens learning.

By even offering two different RAFTs for kids we give them choice and make it so we get more enjoyment and engagement with our content. Plus it makes reading and/or listening to their responses more fun because you aren’t getting the same thing from all your students.

In our training we offered teachers the following RAFT choices as an example of how they work:

Here’s a template for creating your own RAFTs. And this website, Writing Fix, has random RAFT generator for creating your own RAFTs! The link goes to Science RAFTs but if you dig around you can find the generator for other subjects. These are just too much fun! I can’t wait to start using them with my 6th grade Science students. :)

For our next session we will probably share ideas for differentiating modes of learning or using tiers for differentiation.

Aug 28 14

Innovative PD Grant!

by Alfonso Gonzalez

Our school was chosen as one of 45 schools added to a WA STEM innovative PD program! I will be sharing our professional development model soon.

Here’s the official press release:

Chimacum middle school to participate in Initiative to fuel professional development FOR TEACHERS in STEM education

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2014

Chimacum – Chimacum Middle School has been selected to be among 45 schools across Washington state to participate in a cutting-edge initiative to provide teachers with stronger professional development in math and science teaching aligned to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

Chimacum Middle School teachers are very excited to begin working together on this innovative professional development model to help all students learn and be successful!

Washington STEM’s professional development initiative for STEM teachers, called STEM-PD, builds on a pilot project in the Anacortes, Nooksack, Bellevue, Renton, and Highline school districts. The professional development initiative uses state-of-the art technology that enables teachers to take charge of their own professional learning. Additionally, six teachers, with a history of excellence in teaching, will be participating and sharing their practice as they explore new ways to use technology in their professional learning. With this technology, teachers can collaborate, share and learn from one another, and even request real-time coaching. For a statewide list of schools participating in the initiative go to

STEM-PD is part of Washington STEM’s nearly $4 million in investments announced today that support innovative, regionally based programs aimed at improving teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and math across Washington state. The statewide nonprofit’s investments have two main focuses: (1) Continuing the growth of regional STEM Networks across the state and (2) Expanding its cutting-edge professional development initiative to help teachers with implementation of the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Washington STEM is investing $2.5 million to expand the STEM-PD initiative to 45 schools statewide, the majority of which are in STEM Networks.

“These investments will bring STEM professionals, educators, and communities together to improve STEM education and prepare our students for the STEM careers that drive Washington state’s economy,” said Patrick D’Amelio, Washington STEM CEO. “The Networks will improve STEM education coordination in their community and across the state; and rigorous, high-quality teacher professional development will help ensure students in the classroom are STEM literate.”


Chimacum Middle School
Home of the Eagles!

About Washington STEM

Washington STEM is a statewide nonprofit advancing excellence, equity, and innovation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Launched in March 2011 with support from the business, education, and philanthropic communities, our goal is to reimagine and revitalize STEM education across Washington. For more information, go to

Aug 28 14

Why do teachers resist change?

by Alfonso Gonzalez


There are some factors that we need to take into account when we face teachers who resist change, specifically the changes that are possible by integrating technology for 21st century learning. One big reason teachers resist change is that our identity is being a teacher, often being a SUPER TEACHER. Add to that the way we were trained, which often mirrored the classrooms us old timers went to school, the factory-model, 3 R’s, sit-and-get, one-size-fits-all pencil and paper and textbook.

So you have people whose experience was 19th and 20th century style teaching and that style of teaching is part of their identity as a teacher. That is the filter through which their beliefs and actions about the way teaching and schooling should be goes. So when you throw changes at that teacher you rock their foundation! Change your grading method, watch what you praise, are you fostering a growth mindset, you need to be integrating technology, but are you integrating technology in transformative ways???

How can we help teachers either see that they don’t have to teach the ways they were taught or trained or that by changing the way(s) they teach to meet their learner’s needs does NOT mean they are less of a superhero teacher?

The above picture is my first attempt at creating my own graphic! I have a lot of room for improvement! Superhero clipart public domain.
Aug 18 14

Gamification: Where to Begin? #gamification #3dgamelab #gbl #arg

by Alfonso Gonzalez
Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology - Some Rights Reserved

Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology – Some Rights Reserved

I’ve been getting questions about where to begin if you want to gamify your classes and I thought I’d share some of what has worked for me here.

To begin I just want to say that gamification can happen without spending any money. I think the most important aspect of gamification be a change in how you run your classroom especially the way teachers traditionally grade, assess, and show students how they are doing. Gamification refers to using some form of game mechanics from video games in a non-video game setting. It could mean points, typically experience points or XP, questing (which just a gaming term that means completing assignments), maybe badges and/or achievements to show students what they’ve learned, and maybe things like leaderboards to show students where they stand if you want to make your course competitive.

The biggest difference I see between gamification and traditional grading is that in a gamified setting students start with a zero or they are a level 1 player. As students learn they get points and level up. In a traditional classroom students start with an A and chip away at that A every time they make mistakes. That seems so counter-intuitive. You are learning new things and get penalized every time you make mistakes! What? In a gamified approach students can make all the mistakes they need to learn the material. It’s when they show that they’ve learned something or successfully completed assignments that they get the XP. I really like calling points experience points because it gets the idea across that you have to gain some new knowledge or skills or EXPERIENCE. Kids are encouraged to take risks in a gamified classroom because taking risks gets you points and you level up faster. In a traditional classroom taking risks can cost you points and your overall grade average will drop. Not good for high achieving students!

If anyone is getting started in gamification I highly recommend that you read Lee Sheldon’s book, The Multiplayer Classroom. That book shows many different ways to gamify a course. It really helped me after I floundered trying to do it on my own.

If you have the technology, or rather your students have access to devices or computers, and you find that you could use a learning management system (LMS) to keep track of assignments/quests, points, badges, etc, then I highly recommend using 3D GameLab. Using 3D GameLab made my life so much easier. It has become my one-stop place for keeping track of ALL my students’ learning, assignments, and an excellent way to provide each and every student individualized, narrative feedback when they need it. It does cost money though. I pay for my account myself because for me it’s worth it. Here’s a webpage I put together to explain to parents how they can use 3D GameLab to keep track of what their child is learning in my class.

I have seen and would like to try a free option for gamifying a course and having an LMS type resource, and that is ClassCraft. It looks great and so far it’s free. I’m thinking of trying it out on a new one quarter course I’m teaching in the Fall just to see how kids respond to it.

All the posts I’ve written about gamification can be found here, including all my Diigo Gamification links.

I’m going to add another subsection of gamification, one I’m not so familiar with (not that I’m very familiar with any of this, I am, after all, a beginner with only a few years of trying these things out) which I’m calling Alternate Reality (AR). Here are my AR Diigo Links. Now my Diigo links will also have Augmented Reality links in there, I didn’t think that one through all way when I first started curating all the links, so here are specifically Alternate Reality Game Links. For me and what I’m going to do this year is to add a story element to my gamified course. That is another game mechanic, a story that the game takes place in. I’ll be blogging more about that later as it unfolds and evolves.

Now if after reading the above you are thinking, “but what if I want my kids to play games to learn my content?” Then you’re thinking of the related but different Game-Based Learning (GBL). GBL refers to using games, either educational or commercial off the shelf (COTS) games, in school for learning of the content. There are so many games for different content areas and different grade levels.

I have collected a bunch of links on GBL on Diigo, check them out. And if you are thinking of using games such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 with your students you have to check out the WoWinSchools Wiki and if you’re thinking about using Minecraft check out the Minecraft Wiki.

Using games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) or Guild Wars 2 (GW2) allows students to work together in these alternate realms to complete cognitively demanding tasks. The amount of research kids do outside of these games to better play the games rivals anything they do in school! That level of engagement is what those of us who are looking to GBL want. Games such as WoW and GW2 are known as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and the name says it all. Those are whole worlds complete with very rich and complex story lines. I see it as having my students take control of the main character in the story instead of merely reading about the main character. It’s the reason so many of us are drawn to gaming, because we get to be in charge and control the destiny of our characters!

Minecraft has some aspects of MMORPGs but instead of being massive and instead of being a role playing game, Minecraft is more of what is being called a sandbox game. It is truly a universe where the player can create or do anything he or she can imagine. As for a teacher, we can build any world for our students to play in and learn whatever we have to teach. See also for information on school accounts at a reduced price. Here are more Minecraft Links I’ve curated on Diigo.

Aug 14 14

Getting Ready for School!

by Alfonso Gonzalez

BackToSchoolI will start off by saying that I have been having an enjoyable summer. Even after spraining both my ankles and being laid out (sprained one and healed it enough to go to the WA state Zombie Run where I sprained the other one on a night run – at least I made it through the day run!), I’ve had a nice summer with my family.

I started off with that because I feel like I’ve been preparing for the start of the new year quite a lot so far and I’ve barely scratched the surface!

  1. I started by reading a Star Trek novel and a graphic novel series to get ideas to add a story-line to my gamified Science course. I was not willing to undertake writing my own story but taking an already made story was doable! I’ve made it so that students will get parts of the story whenever they see new QR codes suddenly appear around the classroom. Some of them will be a choose your adventure type while others will be continuation story line. I worked on that for quite some time after reading the books.
  2. Then I had to complete two grant reports for the two grants I got last year.
  3. July 14 – 17 I attended an awesome BER conference on a Train the Trainer Differentiation to Meet the Common Core. Now the teacher I went with and I will be training the rest of our staff on what we learned during that conference. We are starting with a 3-hr session on Wednesday, August 26!
  4. After that I took and completed an online course on Standards-Based Grading and Formative Assessment from Marzano Labs.
  5. July 30 and 31 I participated in a bunch of awesome Gamification webinars! Good stuff.
  6. Then I worked on making sure the WoWinSchool curriculum was ready and that I could follow along for the 6th grade exploratory class I’ll be teaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarter. I got the course on 3D GameLab from Lucas Gillespie and Peggy Sheehy, legends in the WoW and Minecraft in schools arena, and I just can’t wait until 2nd quarter to start working on it! :)
  7. I put together a presentation yesterday for our August 14 tech planning session. Our district tech committee is putting together an all district staff tech training for the last week of August to start off the new year and kick off our new three year Tech Plan.
  8. Today I just finished putting together a Cispus slideshow for our Cispus Orientation sessions when parents come to register their kids on Thursday, August 28.

The above tasks seem to consume quite a bit of my time and attention. Thanks goodness I had fun working on all of the above! I usually do a lot of prep over summer and catching up on reading but this summer I feel like I’ve done more than usual. And I still the following left to do:

  1. Have to make the Camp Cispus schedule and make sure the roads to Mt Saint Helens will be open when we’re there.
  2. Attend a Peace4Kids training on Monday, August 18, because I’ll be teaching that to 6th graders for the 1st quarter of the year for the first time ever. We’ll also be using the Peace4Kids curriculum with our advisory classes.
  3. Attend a summer institute for some awesome classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 19 and 20.
  4. We will have our building and district staff days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, August 25 – 27 (where I’ll be co-leading the district tech training and our building differentiation training).
  5. Attend a Standards-Based Grading (SBG) meeting to prepare for our SBG pilot (I’m one of the four teachers this who will be piloting SBG for our building).
  6. Prepare our professional development plan and begin training our staff for our new PD model this this year (soon I’ll be able to write about the grant we got to do that).
  7. Find time to read The Restorative Practices Handbook and Restorative Circles in School in preparation for our PBIS initiative.
  8. And I still have to start preparing for my classes and reorganizing some of the 3D GameLab quests that didn’t quite work out last year! That in itself will take some time.
  9. The prep for the start of school, Sept 2, includes prepping the new Peace4Kids course. I would like to either use 3D GameLab or try out ClassCraft and see how that one works.

Yeah, I think I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew. I’ll just do what I can and try not to stress. At least with two sprained ankles I can’t go off running so I can sit and get some of the above work done. But then again, I can’t go running and release the stress!

Image licensed under Public Domain.
Aug 11 14

One Road or Many Paths

by Alfonso Gonzalez

I’ve been drawn to the song Am I Wrong? by Nico & Vinz. If you haven’t heard it check it out (here’s the link in case the video doesn’t play):

I thought it had to do with true love until I watched Vinz and Nico explain what the song is all about (here’s the link in case the video doesn’t play):

Turns out this song really explains something we as educators face every time we work with our students. We teach kids who, like Vinz and Nico, have a dream, a vision of what their future is going to be whether that means being a movie or tv star, a famous musician or singer, a major league, NBA, or NFL sports player, a doctor or anything else kids can dream of. We also have kids who change their mind but at any point in their lives have a dream of what they want to do with their lives. We also have kids who don’t know what they want to do, yet.

Do we teach each of the above groups differently? Imagine those kids in your classroom like Nico and Vinz. I teach Science. They may have determined that they don’t need Science. Their experience in my Science class will be very different from kids who want to be scientists or doctors or something where they are interested in Science and realize that they need to learn it to achieve their dreams. The kids who don’t know that they want to do might be convinced to learn Science because they either may need it in the future OR by trying it out they might just find that ONE thing they want to do! Maybe. More than likely it’s what most teachers know, we need to make the learning experience relevant, interesting, fun, exciting so that kids will want to engage with and learn it.

That’s how I approach whatever I teach: try it, you might like it. :)

But I keep thinking of Nico and Vinz (well, the students I’ve had who like them have a dream and a vision). From the song Vinz says:

Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay?
Am I wrong for saying that I choose another way?

I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing
Just cause everybody doing what they all do
If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow
I’m walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home

And Nico quotes himself in the above video:

Walk your walk and don’t look back, always do what you decide
Don’t let them control your life, that’s just how I feel
Fight for yours and don’t let go, don’t let them compare you, no
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, that’s just how we feel

Now both these talented young men made their dreams come true and it’s a pleasure to behold. I like how Nico tells those who feel like he feels, “don’t worry, you’re not alone.” That’s pretty awesome. I’ve heard teachers worry because the reality is that compared to the number of people who go into certain industries, like the music industry, very few actually make it. Even with shows like American Idol, which gives newcomers a shot at making their dreams come true, thousands audition and only a dozen or so get enough air time to be discovered. At least discovered big time.

I bolded the part where Vinz says, “I’ll fall but I’ll grow.” He knew that even if he failed at his dreams he would grow. He knew that failure is nothing but a learning experience. Such a Growth Mindset! Isn’t that what we want of kids? So do we encourage kids to follow their dreams even if that means not engaging with our curricula? I see the whole Fedex Day, Passion Day, 20% Time, Genius Hour trend to be teachers finding ways to let kids explore their dreams. Their visions. The way I see it even if you don’t, “make it big,” there’s a lot to say for living your dream.

Not all of us know right off the bat what we want to do in life. And some of us think one thing and then find our true path. I fell into education quite by accident. Going into college I wanted to be a veterinarian. I struggled with the courses needed for pre-vet but luckily for me I was able to teach the new incoming students at my martial arts club when I reached a high enough belt. I fell in love with teaching. When I switched gears after a few years of failure and struggle I experienced success! Everything changed for me because of that experience teaching white belts. I never even saw that coming and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

So some of us find our dream early on and we stay true to that one path. For Nico & Vinz it was music. Maybe along their path Science, Math, and other subjects weren’t as necessary (maybe, I certainly don’t know but I do know that I’ve students who felt they really didn’t need Science so they really didn’t do much in my class). So even if kids like Nico & Vinz don’t engage in our classes they can still be very successful. Even if they don’t make it big like Nico & Vinz if they get to play music everyday and make people smile and enjoy themselves, they are still successful. Then there are those kids who may change their minds because of something we do in our classes! Or maybe we can just help them enjoy learning our subjects.Whatever their future holds there will be multiple paths to get them there and our subject might be one of those paths. We as educators expose kids to our curricula just in case they’ll need it or that it will help them do whatever they will end up doing.

As Nico & Vinz say, “If you tell I’m wrong… I don’t wanna be right.” That’s just how I feel too.

Aug 2 14

Apple and Google Changing Education

by Alfonso Gonzalez

Google Apple Education

I didn’t know what to think about the above infographic. I was thinking it was strange how Google and Apple are making changes to education and not the those in the trenches, namely teachers and students. But that seems to be the way it is for education, those with the most money and influence are the ones who are determining where education is going and educators are just going along for the ride. Maybe but maybe not because it’s up to educators and students what services they use and continue to use. So while Google and Apple have their visions of what education should be and could be those of us who are educating students day in and day out do have the last word by the services we choose to use or not use.

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