Steve Dembo Builds Bolder Schools

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Follow Steve on Twitter @Teach42

Whisked away from DENSI 2015 at American University in Washington DC to Intermediate Unit 21 in Schnecksville PA, and then back to DC for the DENmazing Race from 7–9 PM–all in a day’s work for Illinois native Steve Dembo. Co-author of Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching. Father of 2 children. Builder of Bolder Schools. For them. For us. Keynote speaker. At Classroom Techventures for K-12 teachers. Infuses the room with uncontainable energy, a knockout Prezi, and a vision to be the future–now.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 2.48.41 PMThe Legend begins. Participating in a unique tech coaster ride at high speed with a thousand thrills, his audience is so with him. The magic is everywhere.

His mantra: It doesn’t hurt to be first.  Steve relates what started it all for him: someone finding out he could fix a printer. The rest is history.

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We are at an exciting but stressful time because of the desire for transparency. Today we have accountability, and testing does not tell the whole story. The Press stacks the deck.

The parent speaks. What is Aiden’s most exciting memory? Line leader, because they make decisions. They’re first. The (former) teacher speaks. Our goal is to make students willing to blaze the trail, to lead. To be first. We need to challenge things and have a vision for where we are going, how we get there, NOW.

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New School Techbooks v. Old School Books

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Discovery Education began with creating digital textbooks, not pallets of books. DE hands out little folders. It’s not your traditional classroom. And it’s not about how many pages a book or “techbook” has; it’s about the experience you want your students to have. Books do not allow for the changing world; a techbook does. Social issues happening now are not reflected in a textbook; it takes most districts 7 years to “refresh” their textbooks. Books are stacked for use for 10+ years. They don’t die; they don’t update. And that’s the way of it.

Students get used to your jokes, your pattern, how YOU work. To interrupt that pattern, DE has a Spotlight on Strategies Series and this weekly digital media integration challenge provides a variety of simple ways to keep your students on the edge of their seats.

Asks the presenter: We do that with A E I O U.

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Watch the video

This activity opens your classroom as you make of video of their responses. Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 9.37.13 AMRemember: DE offers 202,462 results of images and videos enabling student to make their learning transparent while working within a safe vetted digital learning environment.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 3.46.32 PMRemixing and mashing DE’s Planet Earth lets student add their narration, to engage in narrator auditions. Finishing touches allow students and teachers publish their work while respecting district publicity regulations that protect students. Parents want to see the work their children do because that tells them who their children are. What they learn in school. How they communicate. Publishing what students do versus privacy protections are a “tip toe around” issue. Parents want transparency but schools want privacy protection. 

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.05.49 PMSteve loves wevideo, a free online video creation and editing tool. It’s intuitive, convenient cloud upload, and includes transition options, green screen and much more. Steve demonstrated how you can remix, mash, rip, edit to create a mashup of Discovery Education videos. Drag volume to zero and add narration by clicking the red “record” button. Wevideo’s free version lets a teacher add 20 students who can then make their videos social. It’s digital storytelling made so simple. And best of all, students can access Discovery Education videos or teacher-uploaded clips for. For a district about to take the digital plunge, having teachers upload videos for student use is a great way to begin.

Although he doesn’t usually suggest teachers buy premium versions of free tools, Steve suggests that wevideo at the premium level is a best buy. Here’s one reason why. Another reason: Discovery Education tools enable students to collaborate. Wevideo tuned into Google Docs and that lets teachers see student edits. You can green screen by layering with transparencies, so as you edit you pull up your layers and then you superimpose them. You can have as many layers as you want. It’s a drag and drop edit version on the main film line, and you pull from those layers as you drag and drop into the video you are creating.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.18.26 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-14 at 9.49.03 AMYou don’t always have to make a video. Blabberize is a fun tool. You can make anyone explain anything. In a minute. Literally. You could create a science lab with Blabberize. Imagine a series of frogs explaining something in an elementary science lab. Or you can engage students in a collaborative project with Padlet. Clearly one of the easiest ways to encourage team building.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.15.40 PMThen there’s Lodge McCammon who makes videos, writes lyrics and creates his own music on interesting topics, like Jefferson Davis. Lodge creates and plays the music, gives them lyrics, and makes them figure out how to make the video. See an example here.

Steve says the minute you import a video in iMovie you lose 3 hours with unnecessary decisions and then when you export it the first time, it almost never works and tomorrow never comes because you are just too frustrated. Making a video the Lodge McCammon way works. Try it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.03.24 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.10.13 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.10.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.10.47 PMBeing great quietly–no need for that in the 21st century. What is the right way we teach them to represent themselves correctly. How do they learn to build a brand when being great isn’t enough if they don’t know how to promote themselves. How do you become a hire–internet presence and LinkedIn. A bad internet presence is better than no internet presence. Without a social media resume, you are just a piece of paper.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.09.32 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.19.27 PMFacebook resume? Brandon Klingman has one. Show your personality, communicate with your media resume. A paper resume telling someone you are proficient in web management doesn’t cut it. Making a website on being a web product manager does tell his story. You get a sense of hungry and passionate. It tells a story from the get go.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.21.53 PMVine Resume” Woman Gets a Job. A 6-second video that probably took less time than creating a “look” and a background. Go on YouTube and search “superintendents” and you get a book rack behind them and a flag to the left. Boring. Vine is a Jeddi approach to get you to a conversation. You stand out from the black and whites. And it’s enough to show our shift in our communication.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.23.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.26.01 PMImportant is the brevity of a moment because sometimes it’s all you get. Vine in 6 seconds. See examples of the 6 second science fair. Today’s student needs to learn how to show learning, what they know. Homework. 6 seconds. You can see every single version in the class. Will it raise test scores. No. But they will communicate in the medium of their generation. did Wayne Gretsky become a legend? He skated toward where he thought the puck would be. What we do as educators preps them for the future. We show them how to skate toward the puck. Is Common Core important. Yes, but they/we live in a culture of participation. We need to think about HOW we get students skating toward the puck.

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Today’s students: non-linear learners.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.43.18 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.43.05 PMDiscovery Education’s Builder lets students link, import links, photos, text. Students can create a casual conversation, video the process and create a product. And it will be different. Non-linear communication. What they are best at…Each student creates without “red tape” and then demonstrates the learning through various ways. Digital videos, digital board, whatever. The teacher rubric doesn’t change; how you get to meeting the rubric changes. You are judged on how effectively you can communicate what you have learned.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.46.17 PMGive students creative briefs, not assignments. Board, Blabberize, Song…let them tell their story in their digital space and let student show how they learn. This will tell the story of the school. Scores are metrics of a school but showing parents what the students lean, when they can see it, that it tells a different story.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.50.40 PMWe need to create a culture of participation. A wall of text does not tell a story. Actually it creates a TLDR culture: Too Long Don’t Read. So grab 3 talking points and show parents what’s happening. Brevity. The power of a moment.

One Second Every Day is a great way to record a life, a school year. A great way to give a creative brief. Record a one-second video. Use the app One Second a Day to get a story of a month. In 360 seconds you get a year of Steve’s life.  In a moment Steve can pull out what he did every day of his life in these teeny tiny seconds. As a teacher in a classroom in a minute 40 seconds you would have a snapshot of the entire year. Have the students make a video every day of the year. Publish them. This will give a portrait of the school.

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3 Talking Points--MORE EFFECTIVE.

3 Talking Points–MORE EFFECTIVE.

The school board member speaks. It’s not where you take things from; it’s where you take them to. Do you want to read pages of a district board meeting report? Or would you rather have an email with 3 talking points. Creating bolder schools requires a vision. Skating where the puck will be, not where it was. Whether in board room or classroom, you create the new idea by remashing. You become the epicenter, the rock star in your version of your story. Then public perception of who you are as a school changes. You build a bolder school. Enjoy the goat mashups, remashing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 4.19.57 PMIce bucketing: you know the ending but you watch because it’s someone you know. It’s a remix of them telling their story. Parents feels the same way about their own students work and also the friends’ work. The friends become part of the story. It’s our chance to celebrate what’s happening in our community and it’s important for kids to become comfortable telling their stories. You need to publish. It’s not crazy. It’s a vision. People will change You can’t predict the classroom of the future.  But you can be the future now. And you can’t be afraid to be first.


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  1. Jeannine said:

    As I was reading I kept thinking what a wonderful concise yet all incompassing post. Of course it was written by RJ. Such a model of proper blogging/sharing strategies. Thanks for summarizing this all so well. I joined this session late. But reading your post I feel like I was there.

    • RJ Stangherlin said:

      Thank you so much, Jeannine. Very kind words. Steve Dembo makes it so easy; he always ignites his audience and takes them with him. Always a pleasure to be back at my IU #21 too.

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