Friday, December 9, 2016

What I have learned from BreakoutEDU

In October, the North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders (NDATL) gathered in Minot, ND for the Fall Face2Face Conference.  For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of being the president of this great group of ND educators!  Lucky me.  The great people in my home state have lived through and tolerated all of my funky ideas for conferences. I have learned a lot along the way--that is a topic for another time.  Today, I am writing all about BreakoutEDU.

So, back to October.  At NDATL, I played a game that I wrote for BreakoutEDU, that I call Bond, Ron Bond. I wrote this game to honor my 6th grade choir teacher from Columbia Falls, Montana. Mr. Bond, as I called him when I was 11, was and remains the best educator I know. He is full of life, he is passionate about music, he makes the best of every day, and he has high expectations for himself and those around him. That being said, he wasn't an "easy" teacher. You needed to live up to his expectations--he had criteria and he didn't accept excuses. In 1997 when I lost my father to a heart attack, I decided to let Mr. Bond know how important he was to me.  So, I sat down and wrote a letter to him.  He wrote back and we have been in touch ever since that time. Mr. Bond is an avid hiker and most summers when we traveled to Columbia Falls, we would drive to Whitefish and hike the Danny On trail, or drive somewhere into Glacier National Park and check out a new trail there. Sometimes we just went out for breakfast or lunch.  Through the course of these years, he has met everyone in my family. My husband, my children, my nieces, and my sister. All of my friends know about him.  He is included in the big news of our family--weddings, new dogs, dance recitals and new musical instruments and lessons. Why?  Because after all of these years he became my friend and not just my teacher.  He role modeled the best kind of instruction.  Love and passion for his curricular area and people. If I get lucky enough to follow in his footsteps I will be grateful.

Bond, Ron Bond is the game I wrote in his honor.  I combined his love of Glacier National Park, hiking, fishing and the great outdoors into a great geography challenge.  Writing this game was a challenge; but I had a great time figuring out clues and linking them together. Writing the breakout forced me to research; just like I ask students to do. I also figured out a way to include a video of Ron Bond in my game--which was awesome! In Minot, it was great fun watching my colleagues figure out clues, dig into national park information, look at Amtrak schedules, think about latitude and longitude and figure out locks.

Every chance I get, I take pictures and capture Bond, Ron Bond moments. I can hardly wait to share all of my game experiences with Mr. Bond and tell him about all of the learning that is occurring. He would love to hear that people are learning all about the national parks; but he won't be happy that people aren't breaking out on a regular basis.

BreakoutEDU causes excitement and generates a different way of thinking, cooperation, and collaboration. BreakoutEDU allows students to operate with a different skill set and sometimes the kiddos that get all A's struggle harder with this concept because they have to think outside of the "box."  Ultimately I have learned that conventional learning isn't the best way to learn and that one of the reasons I admired Ron Bond the most is that he wasn't conventional. He was, however, passionate about student learning and seeing students do well. BreakoutEDU allows students a little bit of that same experience.

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