Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Give Yourself Permission to do Something Amazing #IMMOOC Week 1

This semester, I started my Computer Science Applications class a bit differently than it had been done before.  I asked the students WHY they signed up for the course and what they hoped to GAIN from being enrolled.

I know not all teachers and courses have the ability to change the course of, well, the course, but I do.  At least I gave myself the permission, for student feedback to steer my class in a big way.  Even if you think, "I can't do that!" My message to you is this: You can, even if it's in a small way.
Even when I taught math, I wasn't ever just teaching math.  We teach students many things and lead by example for much of the lessons our students learn about life in general before they don mortarboard caps and set off "into the world."  My students' favorite lessons were ones that brought in aspects of their lives and let them have some fun while learning.  My favorite lessons to teach were ones my students were invested in.  In geometry, we designed and built a "greenhouse" for our Tower Garden seedlings.  In pre-algebra, we discussed whether Black Friday deals really were good deals (or good purchases).  In algebra, we talked about lines--a lot--but we also visualized them as rollercoasters because much of my class enjoys spending time over the summer at Six Flags.  I previously wrote about using the Design Thinking process (inspired by Launch) with my summer school math students.  End result: Cardboard roller coasters for the win.

For a group of students who have been told they have to pass summer school or they wouldn't get to move on to high can imagine their less-than-excited view on taking math class forcibly.  Many of them surprised themselves by saying math was their favorite class.  This wasn't just during the summer session, but those I taught during the year too.  I gladly accepted the victory.

Coming back to the present--What did my students tell me for my CS Apps class?  They were interested in building apps.  Not surprising coming from a group of junior and senior boys (who can usually be found with phone in hand and a charging cable handy).  What was surprising to many of them is that my intention was to allow them to do just that.  Well, that and the amount of work involved with accomplishing this task on their part.  We are currently working through Apple's App Development with Swift curriculum and it has been an amazing semester so far, especially now that the smaller pieces are starting to come together.  This entire semester is steered by student interest.  The learning goals for this class are still being addressed, the students just have a voice in how we get there.

All of the amazing things I did in my classroom, I did them while still teaching the content I needed to teach.  At every turn, I had the option to do things the way they'd always been done, but I made the decision that is best for my students.  I gave myself permission to do what was best for my students.  Even when it's not something I feel 100% confident with, I'm willing to try it.  Change can intimidate some, I've found embracing it is a challenge I gladly accept.

"The most successful people in the world aren't defeated by change; they thrive on it." -Launch
One of my favorite quotes from Launch
Your change may be big or small.  It may be implementing new technology or trying a new room arrangement.  My classes are taking a journey into new territory, but I don't fear change.  I'm inspired by it.  I've had many opportunities to stop this process and go back to "the way we've always done it."  I pushed through in spite of illness, in spite of missing the first week this semester due to a concussion. If you don't allow excuses from your students, don't allow them from yourself.

What will happen when you are open to the possibility of something different?

What will you be inspired to do?

How will you inspire your students?


If you haven't already, join the #IMMOOC (Innovator's Mindset Massive Open Online Course).  You can find more information at

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