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Monday, December 7, 2015

Breaking OUT of the everyday with BreakoutEDU

It's been a while, but I am back with a bang! About a month ago I stumbled onto a site called
If you haven't heard of the latest craze of escape games, you should google it. I have included to links to the Big Bang Theory and Conan OBrien Show as they both did a segment on escape games.

Big Bang Theory escape room                                      The Conan O'Brien Show

Well, this amazing thinker named James Sanders @jamestsanders  and some friends figured out a way to put the escape room idea with curriculum and make it tangible for kids. He and a group of friends started BreakoutEDU.  This site provides the box and amazing set of starter locks, and links to several games. The basic idea is that you solve riddles and clues to get a code. You use the code to unlock some padlocks that will help you to break into a box.

Now the idea of playing a game is, of course, engaging for students. The mere mention of "game" and ears of all ages perk up. But the main idea is for teachers to begin to design games around their curriculum. And so with that in mind I worked with another teacher (@SGeldes) to create a game around our geometry unit. It is appropriate for about 3-6 or even middle school students who struggle with the concepts. It covers quadrilaterals, classifying triangles, classifying angles, measuring angles, and identifying polygons.

I am being gifted with the opportunity to share this with my districts staff at our January PD day, lead my fellow designers and users of BreakOutEDU @SGeldes and @Manning0812. We are looking forward to seeing how our fellow teachers work together to solve the puzzles to get out.

Check out for more information, and if you know of a game going on, try and get in on it! It has endless possibilities.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Twitter?

Why? What is the big deal about Twitter?

I hear this question often when I am talking about my favorite chat #bfc530 or any of the other chats I pop in and out of during the week. It is difficult to explain the power of Twitter to those who are closed off to this particular brand of social media.

I am spending the next two weeks teaching, modeling and explaining the fine art of Twitter and Tweetdeck to a colleague who is thinking about giving it a try. This colleague has shown me the misnomers that still exist about Twitter.

1. Twitter  is just a "lipstick and hair do" social media. 
...and then I asked them to
curl my eyelashes

It is not just to show off your latest shade of lip cover, or the cool braid you managed to get your bangs pulled into. Twitter is truly to grow and learn when used for professional development. Now there are those out there who are using it to show off lipstick and hair. Also there are those who are using it for self-promotion. And still others who may be using it to allow their fans a more "real" the fans can "stay in touch" with the stars or icons. But for educators, or administrators, it is a connection. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard and said, I got this cool idea from one of my "tweeps" or people I follow on Twitter. There is so much out there that we have not been able to tap into, and Twitter provides the vehicle with which we can share ideas and learn from each other.

2. Twitter is a time waster. 

How many admins would shudder if they heard this statement about a professional development
I'm Melting, melting, melting. 
meeting?  How many times have we said that a PD meeting was a waste of time? Twitter PD is what you decide it is. If you decide to spend every waking minute on Twitter,  pulling down the screen to refresh continually, then it may be a time waster. Every person needs to decide what fits into their lifestyle. I have a great bunch of people I hang out with in the mornings. Called the breakfast club. There are two installments: one at 5:30 eastern time (4:30am my time) and the other at 5:30 mountain time (6:30am my time) You can find it with #bfc530. It is called a spark chat. It is one question, and only 15 minutes long. It is great fun and always starts my day off with a smile, and a spark of confidence. It is amazing. It is created by Jessica Raleigh from CO. (@TyrnaD). I also check it over sometime after school but before bedtime.  I probably spend a total of 30-40 minutes a day during the week, and very minimally during the weekend. Again, It is going to be what YOU make of it.

3. Twitter is a place to rant and bully. 

While this again CAN be true, I have found it to be a very positive, encouraging, uplifting, and enlightening place to connect. I will tell a quick story. I have been on Twitter about 3 years now, and have really started utilizing it in the past 18 months, so I am just a newbie still. I learn new things each day. Last week I came across a math teacher I follow and his tweet was abrupt and kind of rude to another person. I was taken aback at the posting, and was (not going to lie) I snooped. I went to the other person's page and started to back track through the conversation. It was terrible. There was name calling, insults, and rude talk by the other person and the math teacher I follow had just had enough. I could not figure out why I was so aghast at the postings. Then I had an enlightening AHA moment come a few days later...

I was listening to a new podcast (my first one EVER, by the way) by a new Twitter pal John Mason (@Jhnmason) called #BeardEdU and his first one is all about the power of Twitter, the PLN, the connection, the ideas...

But then he mentioned the one thing that truly hit home. Positivity. It is the unspoken aura that draws me in and I never even picked up on it. It immediately brought me back to that rude, insulting experience that I had dipped my toes into the week before. Of course I was so shocked because the people I flood my feed with are all encouragers. People I look to to help me feel better, have confidence, smile with over a cup of coffee. These folks start my day off with a smile for sure, but sometimes even a laugh out loud! That is what Twitter can be for you. 

Cuppa Joe?
So final take aways: Twitter is social media. It can suck away hours of your life. But it is what you make it! It is your happy place! Twitter is your learning place! It is your love place. Follow the right people. Use it wisely. Have fun. Be yourself. And people....get to tweetin! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

NO Rules

I moderated a wonderful spark chat this morning #BFC530. The topic was based on a video about a school in New Zealand. It takes a bit of time to watch, but presses hard at the boundaries that adults have towards our kids and their play. 

This principal has taken the risk research and pushed the boundaries to an extreme that makes many uncomfortable. But isn't that where change happens? Where we are uncomfortable? This idea that we just continue to "molly coddle" our children and develop these helpless beings who need to be told what to do, and how to solve problems scares me for the future of our world. 

One of the participants in this mornings chat was Abner Oakes (@aoakes4) and he proposed this article from about a year ago in The Atlantic (@TheAtlanticEDU). Called 

Then another participant, William Green (@7wgreen7)  posted his blog 

This topic is one that was so intriguing to me that I proposed it to my students. They (of course) had an opinion too! So I encouraged them to blog about it, and they were pretty insightful. 

During our class discussion, one of them said "I would love to see this happen Mrs. Boyce, but it never will at our school, because Parents wouldn't let it."   She used the word "Parents" like it was the giant from the Jack and the Beanstalk story. This entity which dictates how we teach. 
Oh wait, it does. 

Between fitting in curriculum between testing, worrying about how the scores are panning out, and how that is impacting our profession, in addition to trying to stay on top of what the legislature is doing at the local and federal level, we are losing the whole reason we are employed. 
The kids. 

As a teacher I am always trying to stay on top of what is best for kids. Isn't play what is best for them. I mean, curriculum is helpful, but doesn't play teach too? I think lessons learned from peers and play are some of the best teachers. What are we doing by taking away more and more play time, so we can assess? Is this right? What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Powerups by letting go.

Kids are living in a video game culture. They like the idea of "power ups". The question before us today is about powering up our classrooms. How to build a more powerful classroom by letting go? Letting go of what? Control? Schedule? Curriculum? This idea leads down a dangerous precipice that can quickly go awry. I believe there is great freedom in giving up some of the control to the students about their learning and their timeline.

This idea is the basic principal behind
"genius hour" suggested by Don Wettrick's
book Pure Genius. This innovation education
allows the students the freedom to choose
what they are learning about.

We are always asking student to put on their creative hats on and
"think outside the box" but often educators are asking them to
do this within the constraints of curriculum or within boundaries
set by the teacher. This can be open ended, but more often than not, it is restricting for the students to have to try their hand at creative
thinking within the confines of the teachers expectations.

This is one reason I love blogging. When I began this process a year ago, I wanted to structure it so that I was always telling them
what to write about and when to write. I quickly learned this is the fastest way to shut down the writings. Since then, I give a suggested topic, but allow for freedom in the writing. I still expect them to write, but there is freedom in choice.

I like to give them an interesting photo
and ask them to ponder and comment,
or write their thoughts. Here is an
example of one of the pictures I offer
as a suggestion...

If a person were to look at this elephant from the top down, it gives a different perspective than if you start at the feet and work your way up. I may pose this drawing with this question...How can this change in perspective apply to your life?

So I feel like this is pretty random. But in general it begs the question, what do you let go of to inspire your students to have greater power in your classroom?

Friday, April 24, 2015

I love my school because

I love my school because we are a great big family. It is a place that I can call home. It has wonderful smiling faces that promote a positive environment, even in the face of all the testing, curricular demands, and stubborn learners. We encourage, enlighten, inspire, and promote each day. Not everyone participates each day, but the helping hands along the way, make it a place I want to come back to each morning. We stretch each other and make them grow, improve, or seek. We teach and learn honor, integrity, and the power of a hand up, not a hand out. I love my school because we are a family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Social Media Challenge

Today's blog challenge was interesting, and timed perfectly. It was "How has social media changed your classroom?  Personally? Professionally? With students? Families?"

WELL, allow me to enlighten you as to the brass tacks of my students and their relationship with me! Last week we were having another discussion about digital citizenship and I was sharing my twitter (@boycem3)  page with them so they could see it. (a few of them did not even know what Twitter was) and one of my darlings said, "Hey Mrs. Boyce, I saw that you had an instagram account."  

I replied with "why yes, I do. (also boycem3) "   His quick fire response was..."and you only have one picture and it was taken 17 MONTHS ago!!" (obviously a cardinal sin...) 

He then proceeded to challenge me to make it a class account and then further extended the challenge to take at least one picture a day until the end of school.  Talk about being shown up by a ten year old. Well, not me. I immediately accepted the challenge and we hashed out the requirements as a class. 

1. Must take one picture every day until the end of school 
2. Must be about school or for the students in class. 
3. Multiple pictures in one day will not count toward upcoming days 
            (tried to negotiate this one today since I took like 40 pictures of our field trip) 
4. Must tag children in it if they have an account. 
5. Must save all pictures taken to our shared google drive account for any students who do not have access to instagram (about half of my students) 

Their job...sit back and hold me accountable. 

As you all know, when trying to take on something is tough. So blogging once a day AND getting photos into Instagram has been daunting (good thing I am in the DAUNTLESS faction!) 
So my job for the last 27 days of school? BLOG, and CLICK!! BLOG and CLICK!! BLOG and CLICK!!  Here are a few from the last two days.

This is a shot of them yesterday listening to make a list of sounds they could hear outside our classroom door. They are in the process of writing a poetry book, and sound poems (or list poems) are one of them.

The caption on Instagram said "they are like Easter Eggs on hidden in the grass." Aren't they sweet looking?

We also ended up writing a haiku poem to this...

Like eggs in the grass
Hidden on Easter morning
Each student listens

Here are a few of today's field trip and their captions....
Roasting Marshmallows for our "No Fire- No S'More" activity

Getting ready to kayak, learning how to paddle

A view from the kayak...No one went swimming! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I was presented with the question "Why do you teach?"

It made me pause. Why do I teach? Well, I... so many reasons come gushing to the surface, I need to take a moment and sort them into some coherent thoughts.

1. Because God created me to teach. I know it sounds arrogant, but it is one of my spiritual gifts. I entered the world as a teacher. That is the first and most important reason.

2. Because I want to make a difference. I know it is cliche. But I do. I have always been a relational person and I want to affect people in a positive way. It has taken me years to focus and build up my skills to encourage, inspire, and work hard for the good of others, but it is vitally important to me that people believe in themselves and aspire to do more for the greater good.

3. To see the learning. There is no feeling like watching someone "click" into what is happening. I do not get to see it from every student every day, but usually at least one. It is so fulfilling watching a kiddo "get it" and know that you have opened another door for them and their future.

4. And selfishly, I teach because it opens opportunities for me to learn. I know there are some people who are "forced to learn" but because of my field, I "get to" learn. Like that hotel commercial.  It is incredible what my mind can grasp and adapt to. I am excited and passionate to find new things. (in my comfort zone, and directly outside of it, of course) I won't be cutting anyone open to find out something new, or dropping myself in a new country, alone, to learn a new language, but the idea is intriguing. (of the travel, not the surgery)

It is so funny, the answer to the question comes easily but requires explanation. Why do I teach? Because I am.