Thursday, November 1, 2018


One of the most important things aspects of being an educator is having a growth mindset, being one of these early adopters who gravitate towards the technology or a new idea because it provides a meaningful experience for our kids.  Even if we're not those early adopters, we at least need to have that mindset of being the part of the early majority who are going to really tip that new technology on its head to make sure it's meaningful and and beneficial to all students.  I was an early adopter of Google Glass, don’t judge me. I didn't buy Google glass to be like “WooHoo it's the new fancy thing and I want it!” No, I had an idea behind that purchase and the idea was to utilize the Google Glass as a back channel into the mind of my students while we are discussing a topic during class. I was always finding that I had many students who would not raise their hand to ask a question or I had a lot of students who were just passively listening, but they were not being part of the discussion in any way. I knew I had many learners  who wanted to ask a question but they were fearful to talk because of their accent or that they didn't have the best grasp of the English language to string together a sentence that they felt they share to the class. So what I actually did was I took those Google glass and I attached them to a Twitter feed for my students, #MarquezScience, and we started to do something called Twitter in the classroom. The feed actually went through my eyepiece and so when a student had a question instead of raising their hand they would tweet at me and I would see their question in real-time and I would be able to answer it in real-time without them feeling like they were being singled out. I was uncertain if this idea would work, but i knew i had to give it a try.
This is the kind of idea that I'm looking for with early adopters. Innovating with new technology to find a way to best fit the needs of our students. It's that innovation that excites me. Innovation that challenges my teaching norms and forces me to transform my classroom to meet the needs of all my students. I always find myself asking this question “Would my students still be in my classroom if they didn't have to be there if after attendance was taken? If there was no repercussions of getting up and leaving how many students would still stay because they found it meaningful to them?”  I always fashioned my lessons towards with these questions in mind. Because there's no one-size-fits-all in teaching, we have to find and utilize technology that's so malleable, so that you can embed things into it that is that truly meets the needs of all types of learners. Visual learners, auditory learners , tactile learners. All these different kinds of learners have to be thought about when creating a lesson, no matter if you're an English teacher, a science teacher, a social studies teacher or PE teacher. All of our lessons need to be accessible to the students so they have a pathway to have their voice heard and learning amplified.
When I start looking in all this tools that are available to teachers today, I get excited! In fact, I actually heard a term a while back called TAMASHA which helped me to understand why i was so excited to be a teacher today. I heard this term in one of the most unlikely places, it was a documentary for cricket. Don't ask me how I started watching this documentary on cricket, lets just say it was a long layover at an airport one night. In the documentary  I found out that India wanted to find a way to take this British game and make it their own. Take this British game that could last up to five days and and truly make it a faster paced game where a younger generation could enjoy it. They transformed the old outdated game, into something similar but new called T20 cricket, a fast paced game with a Bollywood style atmosphere, they said the game was now TAMASHA. They say now it is called TAMASHA because cricket in India is fun, exciting and important but also uncertain with an outcome that they don’t know.  

When I heard this story it deeply resonated with me. It reminded me of my desire to take the older methods of teaching and mash them together with something new and innovative. This is the way teaching needs to be transformed in a manner that fun, exciting, important and uncertain. TAMASHA is Teacher. As a teacher you have to have fun while you are teaching. That doesn't mean every day you're gonna walk in and be the super excited teacher,  it would be awesome if you were. I mean there's gonna be times you're like “It's many more days until the weekend?”, which by the way the answer to that question is always five, there are always five days until the weekend if it's Monday. You just need to have that air of fun inside you, no matter what, because if you're not having fun, if you're not happy to be there, if you're not excited that you have an opportunity to change the world on a daily basis,  if that's not you, then maybe you should look for something else than being a teacher. TAMASHA also says you have to bring excitement into the classroom. Excitement doesn't mean you have to jump on your desk and and scream at the top of your lungs or or be this entertainer. Excitement means that you're making learning meaningful to the students. It means your learning, as Dave Burgess says, has a hook to draw your learners into your story. This is where you have to ask yourself, is my lesson exciting enough to keep them on the edge of their seats? For the students to want to hear more about our topic? What excitement also means is you have to make sure your lesson is important to them now, today. I remember when I was in my seventh grade math class and I was asking my teacher  “why do we have to know this?” and I was told “In 20 years you're gonna…” Students don't care about “in 20 years” They want to hear it now how is this affecting them now. Finally, and I think this is one of the most important aspects about TAMSAHA, uncertainty. As a teacher you don't have to be certain your lesson is going to work. You don't have to be certain that you know how to use a tool 100% perfectly. You don't have to be certain at all, you just have to be willing to try new things. I think a having a portion of uncertainty in any lesson is incredibly important when you're looking at teaching in the classroom, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact I always emphasize a great teacher doesn't mean perfect teaching, right? A great teacher is somebody that loves what they're doing, makes the learning meaningful and important to their students and tries new things to make it relevant for them. That's it. That’s TAMASHA. How are you going to embody TAMSAHA in your classroom?

Save the Mavericks

This past week I had a great chat with my lifelong friend Ron Severson. We were discussing the need for difference makers in our society, individuals who look at their profession differently. Individuals and leaders who are willing to buck the system and differentiate from the status quo. My friend Matt Miller would call these individuals Mavericks. A week later Ron forwarded me a letter from his Navy Commander with a very specific message on this exact same subject. Here is an excerpt from this letter:

"I heard a great story while in San Diego  and there's a lesson in this for
all of us.  Many years ago, behavioral scientists put five monkeys in a
glass living enclosure, hung bananas from the ceiling and provided a ladder.
The monkeys, of course, quickly figured out how to move the ladder under the
bananas.  However, when they got about 2/3 of the way to the top they got
sprayed with cold water.  All five monkey quickly figured out not to go up
the ladder because they didn't want to get sprayed with the water.  Then
they started replacing the original five monkeys one at a time.  The new
monkey would almost immediately start to climb the ladder before he/she was
tackled by the other four monkeys who knew what was going to happen next.
Eventually, all the monkeys who were sprayed with the water originally were
replaced and what they found was that any new monkey who tried to climb the
ladder was tackled even though no one in the group had ever been sprayed
with water.  Why did they do that?  Because they were afraid of getting
sprayed with water?  No. It's because that's what they were taught to do.
How many things do we do each and every day because that's what we we've
been taught to do even though we have no idea why that's the rule or policy?
I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when
we have no idea why we do it that way.   It's the only real way to get
meaningful change that will truly move the needle.  

This leads to the topic of mavericks (not the
Top Gun version) and the value they can provide to an organization and is
right in line with my consistent message that we've got to think differently
about things if we're going to get the 5X even 10X improvements we'll need
to continue to expand the advantage."

Quote:  "As we continue on this change journey and particularly as we try
and scale it, one of the key actions we all need to do is to protect our
mavericks.  They are essential to moving the organizational forward and
enabling us to get jumps in improvement, not just little steps.
Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the
auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them
out and kill them. I see this as a particular risk in the DoN culture.

That is where I need you to ensure we are not killing them off individually
or systemically. That is an essential part of leadership I am expecting out
of each one of you

As leaders, we must protect (and attract) mavericks or we will
sub-optimize for the sake of conformity and pleasantry - that is exactly what
our enemies want.

I am expecting you to step up and give your mavericks space to operate and
organizational cover for mavericks to challenge assumptions, drive change,
and enable us to compete and win."  

This message fits right in with what can happen in an educational system which is not challenged by new ideas and fresh eyes. How the norm can become the norm, not because it is right, but because it is the way that has always existed. This happens when a new educator is given material and told here you go, no need to reinvent the wheel.  When this norm is challenged, the change makers or MAVERICKS may become chastised or criticized for rocking the boat. Sure there may be newer teachers who will gravitate towards these new pedagogies and applications of skill, but there may be others, the old guard, who may not want to see this change take place. Why such resistance? It may be a simple FEAR of technology. FEAR of the unknown. FEAR of losing relevance. FEAR of becoming obsolete. These FEARs can lead to excuses and excuses are the enemies of innovation.

This blogs hits deep in my heart as I have worked hard at becoming a lifelong learner and changemaker on my campus. The need for change was not just to better myself, it was a  necessity to create important change to my student’s learning environment. I needed to include new skills and communication techniques my students were already using in their personal lives. I needed to bring in these changes not to change the way I could teach my kids, rather it was to create a new way to REACH my kids. My success in the classroom allowed for others on my campus to follow suit and I was asked to become a 7-12 TOSA in my district.

Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them out and kill them.”

After years in this position i was told by the new high school principal I would not be returning the following year in my TOSA role. The reason, he told me, was that I knew too much and the teachers were afraid I would make them change as much as my Jr. High teachers had. I was told my forward thinking ideas intimidated the staff so i needed to be removed. I was rooted out, but i refused to be killed. My innovative spirit will never die.

“I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when we have no idea why we do it that way.”

I will never stop being a forward thinker and I will always strive to be the best I can be to change the lives of as many students I can reach. I strive to meet, converse and befriend as many educators I can to collaborate on their journey to change the world. I truly believe if we walk with the wise, we will become wise. Let’s continue our walk together. Let’s keep our innovative spirits alive no matter how many hits we take. It is our time to save the Mavericks and root out the true destroyer of education, monotony. Lastly let us remember, a great teacher is not a perfect teacher. A great teacher is a teacher who is willing to take risks and try something new to impact their students education journey. That’s it.

“It's the only real way to get meaningful change that will truly move the needle.”

The One-Pager: Amalgamation of APPsmashing Awesomeness

The One-Pager
Amalgamation of APPsmashing Awesomeness

One of my favorite extracurricular activities is finding ways to APPsmash
multiple GSuite Tools to produce a collaborative, creative, student centered
lesson. APPsmashing is a way to bring in multiple tools, such as Google Docs,
Google Slides, and other Google friendly apps and meld them together to
create an amalgamation of awesomeness. One such lesson that I love to
implement multiple times a year is my “One Pager” activity. In this activity
I assign 3 to 4 current/relevant articles to my students from sites such as
NewsELA, and ask students to independently annotate the articles to dig
deep into the meaning of the text. This annotation can be done through
pencil and paper, or entirely in a Google Doc using add-ons and extensions
(See Redefining Annotation Blog) . Once the annotation process is complete
the students move on to the “One-Pager” Google Doc to collect their thoughts
and summations of the article. As the students complete this “One-Pager” they
gather into groups of 3 with other students who also read the same article. In
a group setting, the students then discuss their findings, difference, and similarities
in what the article was trying to convey. During this discussion students realize
that even though they were reading the same text, many of their takeaways from
the article could be completely different.


Once the articles are discussed, the group then creates a Google Slide
presentation/lesson on their findings. By allowing the students to share
this document and work collaboratively, each student's point of view will be
heard and the lesson will be created in a student's authentic voice. Once the
collaboration process is complete the students need to practice their
presentation, but how can this be done effectively so they can critique
themselves on their delivery? Screencasting, as I have discovered, is the
best way to go. By getting the Google Chrome extension “Screencastify”
students can record their screen and voice, then watch their presentation
to make adjustments to slides, timing of delivery, and the addition of more
visual resources. Once the students are happy with their presentation, we
add another layer of awesomeness by turning the Google Slide into an
interactive lesson via Nearpod. By using the Google Chrome extension
“Nearpodize” we can, in one click, transform our static lesson into an
interactive presentation. Through Nearpod we can add questions, videos,
drawing activities and more with the simple click of a button. Now the
students are not just listening to a presentation, they are becoming part
of the lesson. Through this “One-Pager” activity we are actively cultivating
the idea that students can become the creators of content, all the while
participating in a fun, collaborative, creative process.


In preparing for this lesson we have to remember, as educators using
multimedia and technology is a great addition to traditional methods,
but all technology should be looked at through the goals and
achievements you have in mind for your students. Going digital
does not mean to go 100% paperless, it only means to begin to
leverage the digital techniques our digital natives are already using
outside the classroom walls.  Many educators will continue to point out
studies that show pencil and paper allow for more measurable growth.
These studies may show writing notes to be more effective than typing
notes, but that is not what we are doing here. In fact the integration of
integrated/manipulable/hands on technology use is still in its infancy
and studies are just beginning. Data is hard to gather based on the
many variables at play with technology use such as the tools being
used, who is teaching/implementing the technology in the classroom,
and the activity being studied. Blended learning is the best model to
look at when implementing technology into the classroom.  Correct
use of technology in the classroom allows for the instructor to make
the learning more meaningful by allowing their students to interact
with the lesson, not just consume it. It allows the students to become
creators of content, not just a passive audience. When used correctly,
technology can become a powerful tool to enhance and empower
student growth. Anything new will cause pause in our community,
but remember no one ever became a leader by following the status
quo, and you can’t be a leader if there is no one following you.
Through implementing technology in the classroom we can consistently
uphold our mission as educators: To be lifelong learners and to prepare
our students for tomorrow, not just today.