Ditch Summit 2018

Ditch Summit 2018 is a wrap now! Did you participate? I love the Ditch Summit because I can never quite guess what the topics will be. I even avoid checking people out ahead of time because I love being surprised by the topics. The one that blew my mind was the final session with James Clear on habits. I am also re-writing my lesson plans for next week to include an activity that Matt thought up during the session on visual learning. Ultimately, I don’t think I’m the target audience for the Ditch Summit, because it focuses so heavily on technology integration in classes which just isn’t something I’m doing yet. That being said, I never know what amazing ideas or techniques I’m going to pick up. There is so much material presented in the sessions that I have found something invaluable every year. If you missed it this year, then you need to plan on it for next year! I know I will!

First, let me tell you about the new lesson I’m creating. Here is the context you need: I planned to read all of Capibara con Botas by Mira Canion with my 5th graders during the month of December. I laid it out so nicely, had two extra days in case we got off schedule (but the lesson schedule was beautiful, and would not have been a problem). Then we had THREE SNOW DAYS. You know how often it snows in December in Roanoke? Infrequently. You know how often snow accumulates in December? Almost never. For the first time ever I got seriously upset about snow days because they ruined my beautiful plan. I digress… Point is, instead of coming back having read an entire novel and having our slates totally clean for second semester, we have five more chapters to read. My bet? They remember very little about what is going on in the story. Worst of all, we aren’t going straight back into it, because we are going to talk about break first. Meanwhile, it will be three full weeks between reading chapter 9 and reading chapter 10. So, on Wednesday, after two days of discussing their winter breaks, we will work together to create an emotion chart. Like I said, this comes from the session on visual learning. On the Y-axis of a graph I will have a range of emotions, probably horrible, scared, sad, meh, content, and fantastic. On the X-axis I’ll list out chapters 1-9. Then we will go through the book talking about how a single character is feeling during each chapter and the students can watch the progression of emotions through time. We’ll chart each character in a different color, so they can all be on the same chart and we can see how they correlate (or seem to correlate) to each other. I think this is great! I can’t wait to see what they do with it, and I imagine it will provide tons of repetition for the events given that we must review each chapter from the perspective of five or six different characters (depending on how many we have time for). After this, I expect they will be totally ready for the last few chapters.

Now, my favorite session: Atomic Habits with James Clear. Atomic Habits is a book he has written about how to use mental habits to make life easier. He discusses the habits we have such as tying shoes, once it was very difficult, but after a bit of practice we can tie our shoes while simultaneously doing other mental tasks. This ability to “auto-pilot” through rote tasks allows us to be more productive, as long as we use this ability wisely. In the classroom, this can include tasks such as supply storage. Why waste time asking for and distributing, or even sharpening pencils? Keep a stash of sharpened pencils where you and the students can access it and let them grab pencils as needed or trade in dull pencils for sharpened ones. If they know the procedure, then they can even continue to be engaged in class while retrieving what they need. Passing out papers, opening class routines, and ending class routines can all be improved. Moreover, the way things are taught can be made into a habit as well. If students know the flow of class, they will be free to focus on the content. Focusing on the habits you want to form and the actions you want to discourage will help you evaluate how you set up your room and present information. The example James Clear gives is the television: if you want to watch less television then rearrange your living room to have a focal point other than the television or place your television in an armoire, like some hotels do, and put the remote away when the television is off. He justifies this by saying we do what we see, if you come home and sit on the couch then you will reach for the relaxation device that is most convenient. Put a book on the coffee table and you will probably read more, put a pad of paper on the coffee table and you will probably write more, but leave the remote on the table and you will probably keep watching too much television. Our classrooms are the same way, think about that if you are lucky enough to have walls of your own.

This was the third year of Ditch Summit, and I have to say, I think it was the best yet. Sure, I don’t have the access to technology to enrich my lessons with cool applications like Flipgrid, but at least I know what I could do when I do have the devices. There are plenty of reasons that I keep my classes low-tech, but I like to stay informed on what I could be doing. Maybe one day there will be a presentation that inspires me to incorporate laptops into my 30-minute classes, as I did when I taught 90 minute blocks, but until then Ditch Summit continues to provide me with low-tech brilliance while keeping me up to date with the latest in educational technology. If you want to know more about using technology to increase rigor and relevance in your classes, then definitely go check out Matt Miller at Ditch The Textbook. If you participated, what was your favorite session? What were your take-aways?

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