a Peek in my week

A Peek in My Week: Games, Mattering, Questions, Laughter & Learning WHEW!

Sometimes as you teach others, you end up changing yourself. It is happening so much lately to me. Here's a peek.

Game based keyboarding. My keyboarding classroom is completely game based using ClassCraft (thanks, Shawn Young) and the kids run to class. They love it. I've never seen anything like it, and I'm thrilled (they are too.) I just heard so many experts like Michael Matera, Lee Sheldon, Kae Novak, and Lucas Gillispie talk about what they are doing that I had to test it out.

Gamification is not just points and badges “chocolate on broccoli” as Kae Novak calls it. Gamification is a full-on change in approach to how you “do class.” I'm sending tremendous results in my eighth graders in their accuracy, speed, excitement to come to class and more.

You never know what will happen when you delve into turning your whole classroom into a game (and a class like keyboarding is an easy place to start.) Today, the whole class is looking forward to the jousting semifinals between Sir Salad and Sir Bacon. (Maybe I need to blog about how I did this.)

Student questions. I'm starting to ask kids to create questions, inspired by George Couros' talking about questions and Angela Maiers talking about the same thing from a different angle recently on last week's Mattering Monday. After kids had watched Angela's keynote, they each turned in to me an important question on an index card. Wow – here are a few.

[callout]Important questions from Students This Week

  • What kind of apps can we use to change the world?
  • How can we get kids want to change the world?
  • What can we create to change the world?
  • How can we help change the world with more than just an app?
  • Why do we have heartbreaks?
  • Why do people stop caring after high school?
  • Exactly how can we use our talents to make a difference in our world?
  • How we make an app known around the world?
  • What can I do to help someone?
  • Are we going to get to work with kids around the world or just the ones in our school?
  • How can we get less wealthy countries to join in this project?
  • How can coding help end world hunger?
  • How are people going to do this together with a barrier like time?
  • What happens to the people who want to change the world that never get a chance to?
  • How can you get people who don't think they matter to let that person know they do matter?[/callout]

Mattering Monday. But, I've realized through my recent work with Angela that just saying “You Matter” and incorporating lesson plans every so often is not enough. Each Monday, I intentionally include a small mini-lesson or activity designed to help students know and realize that their work matters and that they matter.

I loved Angela's recent keynote for the kids on MAD about Mattering (embedded below). Later in, she says

“I'm not telling you that you matter just to make you feel good about yourself, but because the world needs you to do work that matters…”


Meanwhile, in my classroom, we are having conversations that matter. More than any project I've ever done, MAD about Mattering is pushing me to think. Right now, student recruitment for heartbreak teams has begun. Students need ten people per team for a team to move forward.

Yesterday, I saw two teams competing for a very talented, creative student. The “recruit” was sitting in a chair in study hall. One team pitched her the heartbreak of how people with special needs are treated like they don't matter. The other team pitched the heartbreak of how many kids are dropping out, sick or struggling because of stress at school. (You can't make this up.) Both teams had done their homework and were having conversations about what matters to them.

And the kids are talking to me everywhere I see them. Asking me to come after school. Asking me to come early. Inundating me during lunch. I told myself yesterday, “It's happening again.” This type of engagement and excitement always happens when we collaborate globally. However, I'd level this up several notches because these heartbreaks MATTER to kids and they want to improve the world.

We're working to find suitable mentors for the groups. (Feel free to contact me, if you'd like to volunteer to help with this project. We're working on a scalable model to level up in the fall.)

Do you apply what you learn?

So, in some ways, while I'm creating work for teachers — all of these conversations have changes my teaching. (MAD about Mattering wouldn't have happened if Susan Bearden and a precious girl named Kennedy hadn't shown me Crescerance at ISTE 2014 for the podcast.) The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn. And in the end, if something works DO IT.

There are recurring themes in what is working in education today:

  • cultivating an innovator's mindset (thanks, George),
  • choosing to matter (thanks, Angela),
  • game based learning (thanks So many game based experts including Lee Sheldon and Michael Matera, who are showing us the way), and
  • making human connections with kids (thanks, Pam Allyn for pointing out that technology isn't always the solution for struggling readers.)

The way I see it, when you learn something new, you can either be transformed by it or you can ignore it. And to be transformed, you have to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. You have to mix up your habits and make room for new ones.

Teaching isn't easy. But those filing-cabinet fixated teachers who are just pulling out the same stuff they've been using for the last twenty years are missing out on some great opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with students. I'd rather be student focused, not filing cabinet focused. It is what do the students need to learn next, not what is the next handout in my filing cabinet. I'm not saying filing cabinet teachers are not good teachers; I'm saying that they may just be missing the opportunity to be great by ignoring the voice and thoughts of students.

I also think that those teachers who wholly depend on technology and never get outside, never have kids do person to person activities, and don't relate to their kids miss out.

You've got to relate before you create because you can't build learning on hate. (Pardon the grammar, but it rhymes and is true.)

Blended Learning Works

As the recent blended learning research shows — it ‘s not entirely online learning that is best, but a blend of online and face to face. There is always room in this world for the master teacher. We should feel more empowered and excited than ever. The tide seems to be turning on standardized testing conversations, and we may just swing back in a more reasonable direction of teacher empowerment. To keep things in that direction, we as teacher-craftsmen, teacherpreneurs as I like to call us, we need to level up and show our craft. We can't use it as an excuse to be lazy or not do the work. We should use any freedom we may earn as an opportunity to do great things.

[callout]I challenge you to take something you've learned and apply it in your classroom this week![/callout]

Videos This Week

Here are two screencasts and a parody video made by my students.

Adding Humor to Help Retention and Learning

Here are just two of the videos and topics we've been covering in my classroom lately. (See my YouTube channel for more.) Perhaps these tutorials will help you. I'm also pointing them out because I have found that unexpected humor engages my students far more. They want to laugh, they want me to be their teacher, but they also want to be surprised. I find if I just make fun of myself, it works, and I don't mind. It's me – whatever it takes to teach them without injuring myself or going against my beliefs; I'm there.

How to Use Discussion Forums

[callout]You'll see that I'm beginning to use humor at the beginning and ending of videos with my students. It keeps them listening and laughing and I find they learn far more when I do.[/callout]

What is a Wiki?

[callout]To keep it simple, I filmed this in front of my Jtouch Multitouch Board (didn't have time for greenscreen) and made the video in ScreenFlow (thanks Tony Vincent for getting me on this tool. I also used Screenflow on the keynote above using video from my Zoom Room.)[/callout]

Westwood Handshake Video Parody

[callout]Meanwhile, I had some students wow me with this parody they made. They had just 2 days to create a “handshake” video for MAD about Mattering. I have a group of students who are quite the comedians who got permission to make a parody video. I let them. I'm quite impressed with their editing, acting, and camera angles. These students have come a long way in the last year. It is humorous and MEANT to be funny. [/callout]

Whew! This is a lot of learning and work to cram in lately. And in the midst of this MY HARD DRIVE DIED on my computer. Fortunately, I had everything in Dropbox (almost), but it still added complexity.

There is always stress. I'm always too busy. But the day I become too busy to innovate, create, and do different things with kids is the day I should retire. I love these kids, and we have a blast, and we LEARN so much. There are incredible teachers on the MAD about Mattering project, and my kids are excited about meeting the others. We laugh and learn and talk about what matters.

Teaching is hard but teaching is worth it. We learn so much, and I love them.

Somedays I wonder how I'm going to make it but then the first period comes flooding in and I wake up and realize that it is seventh period, and I'm done for the day. Here we go again; got to hit post so I can enjoy another Friday. We play in the state quarter finals in basketball tonight, and it will be exciting. It will be another long day, but it will be a day full of meaning and doing work that matters.

Now, get out there. Do work that matters. Tell your story. Level up, learn. And remember educators who care, share. You can do this.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Mitzi February 26, 2016 - 10:22 am

I would love more details on how you gamified your keyboarding class.

Vicki Davis February 27, 2016 - 1:12 pm

OK, Mitzie – you and Carla both have me thinking I should share this! ThankS!

Mitzi March 4, 2016 - 11:20 am

Yeah! I am working with some teachers that have a keyboarding learning station that students use daily. I think gamifying would enhance it to make it more student learning style. I could use some help!


Vicki Davis March 5, 2016 - 7:13 pm

Will pull together but am using class craft.

Carla Schierholt February 27, 2016 - 10:03 am

Vicki I loved this weeks blog post. YES, please blog about how you implemented ClassCraft with your Keyboarding Class.


Vicki Davis February 27, 2016 - 1:12 pm

OK, Carla, I will do!!!

Donna October 30, 2016 - 8:16 pm

Vicki – My Student Learning Objective for the year will be gamifying keyboarding so my students have fun taking it seriously! Have you written a post about your Class Craft keyboarding game?

Thanks for all you do,

Vicki Davis November 8, 2016 - 6:00 pm

I need to! Not yet!


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