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Ditch that Textbook

Not sure what you think of when you hear “ditch the textbook”, but for an art teacher it’s not so unusual. Of course, we use books as references – yes, even art textbooks – but the best part of being an art teacher is the ability to utilize our own creativity to carefully craft our lesson plans. All of this to say, we weren’t too sure what to think about Matt Miller, author of of “Ditch that Textbook”, when we ran across him on Twitter. However, we quickly found he was one of us: creative, collaborative, innovative and all about leverage the power of technology to enhance student learning. We connected with Matt originally on #tlap and loved the conversation, so of course we had to ask him to host K12ArtChat and he said yes!

Matt, thank you for hosting K12ArtChat for our terrific PLN. The chat was hopping and great resources were shared. (Here’s a copy to the transcript for those who missed it.) We wanted the community to have a opportunity to connect with you further and appreciate you taking it step further and writing this post with us.

We know from your twitter profile that you are: Teacher. #DitchBook Author. Textbook ditcher. Google Cert Innovator #GTAATX. Blogger. Speaker. Christ follower. Happy husband/dad of 3. Livin’ the dream. (We totally relate as educator parents of 3 too!) What else should we know about you?

I hope that people realize that I don’t have all of the answers and that I’m learning alongside everyone else in this big education world. I felt “stuck on an island” in my own classroom for so many years. I love figuratively rowing my rescue boat out to teachers’ islands and connecting them to resources that help them thrive.

Now that we know more about you, we need to know a little more about your book. Why, “Ditch that Textbook?” What’s the premise and why did you feel inspired to write it?

I wrote “Ditch That Textbook” after digging myself out of a teaching rut, and I didn’t want others to be stuck in it, too. I didn’t realize that it was OK to try new things, to innovate, to implement crazy creative lessons whether I knew they’d succeed or not. I wanted to make sure that other teachers knew that they didn’t have to march chapter by chapter through the textbook like so many other teachers have.

As you know our chat is an art chat but we really focus on creativity. In fact we make an effort to invite all teachers, we want to encourage arts integration and tech integration. What are you go to ideas for helping teachers break out of the box and be more creative in the classroom?

I love to get inspiration from everything around me. I’ll be inspired by real-life things like entrepreneurs or crafty things I’ll see on social media. If it’s fun and catches my attention outside of school, there’s a good chance I’ll find a way to bring it into the classroom.

One of the things that we noticed early on with your tweets is that you sketchnote! Tell us a little of the backstory about your sketchnoting. Are you self taught or did you have a great art teacher at some point?

I’ve had wonderful art teachers as a student and have collaborated with great ones in the schools where I’ve taught. However, sketchnoting was a direct result of my interactions with educators on social media. I first saw Amy Burvall’s sketches and thought they looked like fun. Like so many new ideas I’ve found, it was just “Let’s give that a shot!”. It did take a lot of practice to improve. It’s a skill like anything else. I like to tell people that sketching is (to some extent) like shooting free throws in basketball. You can’t make them if you don’t practice!

To take is a step further tell us how you use sketchnoting in the classroom and how you share it’s effectiveness with teachers who might say, “but I can’t draw a stick figure.”

There are two main areas where sketchnotes can benefit. One is for students to take visual notes of what they’re learning. It forces them to boil everything down to the most important ideas. Plus, it transfers their new ideas into images, which are more brain friendly. The second is for teachers to use visual thinking when teaching. Teachers sketchnote everyday — on their whiteboards! Adding little sketches, charts or drawings to notes on the board can have huge benefits. Plus, something as simple as dividing your board into three segments for a three-part lesson helps students organize that new material in their brains.

Time for a tech-y question, as a Google Certified Educator, what is your favorite Google Classroom tool and why?

I LOVE Google Drawings. It’s so simple. It just uses text, shapes, lines and images. But there’s so much you can make with Drawings. Students can gather their ideas in graphic organizers. They can create infographics. They can create interactive digital posters. Talk about making learning visual … Google Drawings does it!

Some of the teachers that follow K12ArtChat are very tech-y too, virtual reality has become a hot topic. Have you used VR in your classroom and how? And since you are a Google guy have your tried Tiltbrush? We are dying to try it!

I haven’t tried VR much myself aside from playing with some Google Cardboard apps. I’ve seen Tiltbrush too and am dying to get my hands on it!

One of the last questions we like to ask, is what was your favorite question from the chat? Was there something that stood out or surprised you about the responses?

The first question was fun for me: What was art instruction like for you when you were a kid? Did you love/hate it? This is something I don’t think we do enough of as teachers — remember what life was like for us as students. Often, when we think of the most memorable lessons we had as students, we aren’t creating enough of those experiences in our own classrooms. We can learn a lot from our own experiences!

Matt, the chat was wonderful, as was this opportunity to ask you a few in-depth questions. What parting words do you have for the K12ArtChat PLN?

We are better together. Keep learning and sharing with each other!

Thank you so much and we hope to continue to connect in the future!

Wishing you creativity, Matt & Laura Grundler


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