Review of Courageous Edventures

I recently finished Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation by Jennie Magiera. Let me first start by saying that I was extremely excited when Jennie announced she was writing a book, and then again when it was released because I find her wildly inspiring. I had been following her on social media, watching videos of her conference presentations, and then I was even fortunate enough to meet her at the Google Innovator Academy last February. Let me just say that her book did not disappoint, and it brought that same uplifting, doesn’t take herself too seriously, but incredibly smart and innovative mindset that has drawn me to her for years.

I’ll start with the audience. This book would be ideal for:

  1. Teachers and anyone else on the front lines of educating kids in the classroom
  2. EdTech Coaches
  3. Administrators
  4. Anyone who thinks that the effective use of technology in the classroom is simply to take notes on a machine or annotate a PDF worksheet and has never really seen the power of technology use in a classroom

For any of those audiences mentioned above, they will gain a whole repertoire of ideas for new class activities. Even if you don’t go on Jennie’s Courageous Edventure described throughout the book (although, I highly recommend you do), you’d be ready to rock ‘n roll with tons of strategies, tools and ideas. For those who go a step further and actually find a problem of practice to improve, this book will give you realistic steps to take and the confidence to take them. The book provides strategies for coaches and administrators that can be taken in pieces, or in full, to support teachers transformation in the classroom (or to improve their own practice). For the fourth group mentioned above, there would be no mistaking that technology can be extremely powerful for students’ learning when we transform how we do things in the classroom and take technology integration deeper.

Here are just a few (yes, really… only a few) of my favorite ideas and quotes from the book:

  • Concepts of FAILing and SAILing- meaning “First Attempt In Learning” and “Subsequent Attempts In Learning,”… This concept cannot be hammered home enough in our education system. It is OKAY to “fail” at something. Jennie’s encouraging metaphors for the words make it even more okay to fail. This is referenced and built upon throughout the book.
  • The “Gripe Jam” is a fun and constructive way to help teachers focus on the problems they face in their daily work. My favorite part is the fun song she plays while teachers are going through this process, but I’ll let you read the book to find out what it is! 😉  (loc. 501 on Kindle)
  • Power strips! Jennie suggests asking for power strips in your school supply list or adding them to your own back to school shopping lists in order to create a “juice bar” in the classroom for those inevitable low batteries. She also cautions to set up this “juice bar” in a less than enticing place in the classroom to keep kids from loitering. Just a small, but really impactful suggestion example that the book is chock-full of (loc. 904 on Kindle). She also goes on to suggest a full blown 21st-century supply list.
  • Asking students “Questdones” vs “Questruns“. A questdone is a question you can quickly get the answer to by doing a simple Google search. A questrun has no quick answer and requires much deeper critical thinking skills- research, analyzing, and coming up with your own meaning or idea (loc 1865 on Kindle).
  • Jennie provides excellent strategies for building classroom discussions, creating more student-led conversations, and helping students give one another feedback (loc 2109). In short, she takes a pen and paper, writes everyone’s name down in a circle, and then during the discussion draws a line to each person’s name when they speak. She also has students do this when they are working in smaller groups. This is a very visual way to see who is leading-or dominating- the discussion.
  • In chapter 12, Jennie describes the difference between project-based learning and problem-based learning, whereas the first is creating a project to answer an essential question and the latter takes it a step further by creating a solution to solve a challenge based around an essential question. She describes problem-based learning as a way to, “engage students in meaningful learning. It’s the mindset of no longer asking students, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ but rather, ‘Who do you want to be today?’ In this way, we are no longer asking students to wait to matter.” I LOVE this mindset (loc 2220 on Kindle)! Kids do amazing things every day… why do we instill in them that they have to wait to graduate, graduate again, get a job and be living on their on own before they can impact this world? I’m not advocating that we start letting 7th graders move out and get their own apartments, but there is truly something to be said by empowering people (kids included!).
  • There are some excellent tips for conference-goers to manage the information overload and to come back and actually implement the new tools you learn in chapter 14. Along the same lines, JennieAutumn Laidler, and Sue Gorman came up with the idea of a PLAYDATE (People Learning & Asking “Y” – Digital Age Technology Exploration). The PLAYDATE is an unconference style time for teachers to “tinker and explore” with tools and concepts they learn about but never have time to dive into (loc 2563 on Kindle). Time is SO important, and it’s what we always have the least of. I’m always working with curriculum directors to figure out where we can structure in time for teachers to work and build technology into their work. Not learning how to use the tool, but unstructured time to just do it. The PLAYDATE model would work beautifully for this. Anyone can host a PLAYDATE as long as it’s 1) free, 2) based on play and choice, and 3) there are no presenters or presentations. You can get resources to host your own event on the PLAYDATE website here.
  • And lastly, Jennie quotes a student who says, “‘teachers need to relax and have more fun with us. We know they’re human, they just need to show it more often.'” You mean students know teachers don’t live at school and they have lives beyond the classroom?! Of course (well, at least once they reach a certain age). Try something new, FAIL, SAIL, and take comfort in knowing your students don’t expect everything you do to be perfect.

The other week during the Twitter chat #satchatwc, the topic was rethinking interviews. One idea I really liked was giving new employees an inspirational book that reflects the mindset and culture of the school (or place of work). Courageous Edventures will be on my list of books I give to my team of Integration Specialists! You can purchase the book on Amazon here or on Corwin’s site here.

So what do you think? Have you read it? What was your favorite part? If you haven’t read it, will you check it out?

Tech To You Later!

Disclosure: I earn a small commission if you purchase this book from the above Amazon links. Your support helps me continue to share information with you for free- thank you!

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