Yesterday, I started writing a blog post about how ridiculous everything has become and how our students are suffering massively from leadership that has put fear above everything else. I'm really worried about what these lockdowns are doing to our kids. I realized I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with a post like that (which, somewhat ironically, is what I argued was our biggest problem right now, basic tribalism) so, why add to the negativity? Plus, as my pastor said this week, worry doesn't make tomorrow better, it just makes today worse.
Instead, let’s envision a Tomorrow closer to what Walt Disney wanted. Here’s how Walt dedicated Tomorrowland when it opened:
A vista into a world of wondrous ideas, signifying Man's achievements... A step into the future, with predictions of constructed things to come. Tomorrow offers new frontiers in science, adventure and ideals. The Atomic Age, the challenge of Outer Space and the hope for a peaceful, unified world.
That’s what I want for our future. I want to see hope, not fear on the horizon. With that in mind, I decided to have a game session with my students today. Nothing academic, just pure family fun. Of course, that's hard to do with kids in different locations but it's not impossible. So, here’s how I played Pictionary using PearDeck - PearDecktionary!
I made a very simple Google Slides presentation to use with PearDeck. I made a title slide and then a bunch of blank white slides (which, it turned out, I only needed two of and even one would have been fine.) Using the Peardeck addon I made them into Drawing slides.
One the title slide I had the message "If you are playing, send me an email with the subject line 'I'm Playing!'" I've been doing my distance classes using Google Meet and I didn't want to change with just 3 school days left. Google Meet does not have private chat like Zoom does. In order to send kids their words to draw I needed a private channel. Email made the most sense. By having them email me I didn't have to type up individual addresses as we played. I just hit Reply and boom, private message sent.
I started the Peardeck and had students join.
I loaded up the Pictionary Word Generator, asked for a volunteer in chat and emailed the word. I found the medium words to be pretty easy and my kids were able to get all of them fairly quickly. Hard was a bit better challenge. I also chose carefully as I generated words as some just seemed way too hard. When the artist started drawing I displayed their screen using the Peardeck show responses feature.
Kids "shouted" out guesses by typing them in chat and I egged them on with my constant "no" and "not quite." They had some hilarious responses. Within minutes I had tons of kids volunteering to be the next artist. I awarded bonus imaginary points for particularly astute answers.
Which leads to an important note - we didn't keep score. There were no prizes teased. No teams. No leaderboards. Just play.
My usual suspects were the first to volunteer. After the first drawing though nearly every student wanted to try. It was just simply so much fun. I could tell how much my students missed silly social interaction like this. One even commented, "I miss playing board games. Nobody in my house wants to play." I play board games multiple lunches a week with my students. This was a small taste of what we've been missing.
I figured the game would get old after about 30 minutes. Instead we went a full hour with kids still volunteering to be the next artist until I had to shut down the room.
Would this work with students that I'd never met in person, that I hadn't had a chance to build those vital relationships with? Don't know. I do know though that by the time we were finished playing we had a cousin, little brother and even a mom who had joined in to play with us.
I am horrified at what starting a year without physical classes will do to my students. Far more worried than I am about any virus. We can't even begin to fathom what this will do to their long term development and social and emotional health. Today at least gave me some hope that there are things we can do to limit tat damage.
Maybe Walt was right and tomorrow can be "a wonderful age." It's going to take work. It's going to take innovation. Our kids are worth it.