Posted in Classroom Community, Educational Technology, Emotional Intelligence, Home and School Connection, Online Safety, Social Emotional Learning, Social Media, Teacher Homework Project (THP)

Teacher Homework Assignment – Play Roblox

As the dust is settling from PARCC Season, I’m excited to jump back into my work with the Teacher Homework Project (explained here).  My third assignment was to download and play the online game, Roblox.  Roblox is an interactive, multi-player game that allows players to take on various challenges, while simultaneously interacting with players from around the world via the “chat” feature.  Players can enter worlds created by other plays, or create their own world.    Roblox is what happens when Legos, MineCraft, and text messaging all decide to hang out and have dinner together.

A short advertisement for the Roblox game is attached below, followed by my reflections of my experience playing it.

I grew up loving video games.  Super Mario, and most other Nintendo franchises, were my favorite.  That said, playing this game still took me out of my comfort zone a bit.  I’ve never embraced online gaming, which is something Roblox is built on.  As a kid, I enjoyed video games the most when I could play them alone and process them in much the same way I process a great book or movie.  I did have many great moments playing games with friends and family, but I also appreciated the time I had to explore, struggle, problem-solve, fail, and succeed while playing some of my favorite games in the privacy of my own room.

From what I experienced while playing Roblox, that type of personal experience is not possible, since you are always in the company of other gamers online.  This concerns me for two primary reasons:

  1. I personally believe that children of Generation Z/iGeneration grow up in a much more complicated, and less forgiving, world.  When I made a mistake as a child, they were for me to deal with, and usually for small groups of family and friends to experience with me.  Now, some of a child’s most embarrassing moments have the potential to be broadcast online for the world to see through social media and online gaming.  This is a dangerous, and real, issue.  It’s not insurmountable, and I believe that we as educators can work alongside parents to help children engage in online activities in emotionally safe ways.
  2. Online communication, especially with children, is still not as secure as it needs to be.  A friend of mine who reads this blog contacted me right away when he noticed I’d be writing about Roblox.  He did so out of concern, because there have been cases of online predators tracking down children who play the game.  [One such concern is expressed here.  Many more can be found by performing a Google Search of “Roblox-Predators”]  Creating accounts for games like this is easy, and students are incredibly crafty when it comes to creating accounts that bypass age requirements or other restrictions.  Children’s natural understanding of technology features coupled with a pseudo-secure online world, creates an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Having only played this game for a short amount of time, I know there are numerous positive points to Roblox that I am downplaying.

  • Interacting with others is a good thing.
  • Collaboration is a good thing.
  • Creating things, whether digital or physical, is a good thing.

Roblox does give children opportunities to do those things, but overall, I’m more leery of the game than I am supportive of it.

Thanks again for reading!

Posted in Classroom Community, Emotional Intelligence, Home and School Connection, Social Emotional Learning, Social Media

Teacher Homework Assignment – Create a Video

My second Teacher Homework Assignment from the Teacher Homework Project (explained here) was to create an account for the social media application,, and post a video of myself lip syncing a song of choice.  I chose the most manly song I could think of, Britney Spear’s “Stronger”…

The video and reflection of my adventure into this platform is below.  Feel free to skip viewing the video…  🙂

This assignment is something that would have scared me to death several years ago.  I naturally don’t like singing.  I love music.  Just not singing.  Being a father has softened me somewhat as I find myself singing Mickey’s Mouse’s “The Hotdog Dance” or Daniel Tiger’s “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” on a regular basis now, but before kids, you just wouldn’t see me doing it.  Other than breaking my comfort zone, this assignment caused me to think about several bigger topics related to kids growing up in a social-media saturated culture.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Followers, Subscribers, and Likes are very important to kids.  Several of my 4th graders have mentioned goals they have to reach a certain number of subscribers on their YouTube channels.  I’ve read other articles about the serious negative emotions people feel when a particular post they created on a social media platform was not received with as many “likes” as they had hoped.  This desire is serious, and it is real.  Somehow we need to be in the mix with this conversation as educators as these desires directly impact our students’ self-concepts, and ability to learn and grow safely.
  • Simple is king, and silly is cool.  The video I created is completely ridiculous on the surface.  I’m a thirty-three year old man, with a filtered beard, lip syncing to a pop-star song that was popular in the year 2000.  No talent was needed for what I did.  Yet, my kids loved it.  They thought it was awesome.  This speaks greatly to the idea that we don’t need to create the most elaborate hooks known to man to get our kids engaged in the learning process.  Fun, simple, and authentic work well enough.
  • Conversations about social-media use need to be facilitated between schools and parents.  I had no problem posting this video to my district-run YouTube channel.  Nor, do I mind sharing it with a larger audience through this blog.  However, if I were to rewind the clock and place myself back in my late-elementary/middle-school self, there is no way I would want this video shared with the world.  Social media can be a minefield of verbal assaults, critical comments, and negative feedback.  I can take that as an adult.  Most developing pre-adolescents/adolescents cannot.

That’s a wrap for this post.  Thank you all for reading.  My third Teacher Homework Assignment will be to play the game/application, “Roblox.”

It’s time to see out rusty my video game skills are…

Posted in Classroom Community, Educational Technology, Home and School Connection, Social Emotional Learning, Teacher Homework Project (THP), Teaching and Learning

Teacher Homework Assignment – View a Tanner Fox YouTube Video

My first Teacher Homework Assignment (THA) was to watch one video created by popular YouTube star, Tanner Fox.  The video I viewed is embedded below, and my reflection of THA1 follows.

After viewing Tanner Fox’s Vlog, there were a couple of thoughts that came to mind in regards to teaching and learning:

  • Students are drawn to people they can relate to and connect with.  Tanner Fox seems like a pretty likable dude.  He talked very naturally and with great energy (much like the student who gave me this assignment), and seemed to be speaking directly to a group of friends (which in this case are his 4,000,000+ followers).
  • Vlogging is cool, and I personally believe it has the power to change how teachers communicate with students and parents.  My own personal ideas are to Vlog a short version of a lesson that students can view repeatedly until they feel confident with a new skill.  Vlogging can also be used to update parents on happenings within any given classroom.  Typed newsletters have their place, but I do think Vlogging can serve as a positive supplement.
  • Storytelling is a power tool for connection, always has been a powerful took for connection, and will likely always continue to be a powerful tool for connection.  Stories around a campfire may have a special place in the childhood years of a person, but I do believe storytelling through Vlogs will continue to have a powerful stake in the lives of today’s youth.  It’s simple, accessible, and interactive.

That’s it for me tonight.  My next assignment scares me a little, and I will be taking the weekend to complete it.  My second Teacher Homework Assignment is to video tape myself lip-syncing a song of my choice using the social media application,

This could get ugly…

Posted in Classroom Community, Emotional Intelligence, Home and School Connection, Restorative Circles, Restorative Justice, Social Emotional Learning, Teacher Homework Project (THP), Teaching and Learning

The Teacher Homework Project

Jumping Right In

I’d like to start by thanking you for taking the time to visit to the Top Rope Teaching website and blog.  I’m grateful that you’re dedicating your time to join the conversation on all things teaching and learning related, and I hope to build a strong learning community with you as time goes on.  For basic information about my vision for this space, please click on the “About TRT” link above. 

For my first TRT post, I will describe the basics of a personal project I will be launching with my students this week, and what led me to the creation of this project.

A Little Out of Touch

Within the next week my biological clock will strike “33.”  I’m not someone who cares about my age, and the number, “33,” does not bother me in any way, shape, or form.  My indifference to growing up (at least age wise), doesn’t mean that I don’t reflect personally each time this year.  I do.  One realization that has concerned me this year is that I have grown somewhat out-of-touch with the outside lives of my students.  When I began teaching in 2007, I was a twenty-three year old who was:

  • Living in his parents basement (rent free)
  • Available and interested in playing video games (Wii Sports and Guitar Hero topped the list)
  • Dating an awesome woman who would eventually become my wife, and the mother of my two young sons
  • Overall – care free and clueless about how the real world truly works

Much has changed for the better since then, but one thing that timeframe did allow was for me to focus in more on what my students did outside of school, and in some cases, actually participate in some of those same hobbies and activities.  Nowadays, my moments outside of school consist of washing dishes, changing diapers, settling tantrums, washing dishes, working part time, keeping up with Curious George and Daniel Tiger, and…washing dishes!  Needless to say, hobbies are not high on the priority list, and playing video games or surfing the web are not activities I realistically have much time for. 

On a personal level, I’m okay with having less time for such things.  As a teacher of adolescents and pre-adolescents, I’m not comfortable with being disconnected from mainstream trends related to youth hobbies, YouTube channels, video games, movies, TV shows, and celebrities.  The bottom line is, I need to get back with the program and do what I need to do to place myself back in my students’ shoes.  Here is what I plan to do as a reboot…

The Teacher Homework Project (THP)

Over the span of the next two months, I will be taking on a series of assignments created by the awesome young people I am blessed to learn with on a daily basis. 

My students. 

They will each create a “Teacher Homework Assignment” that I will complete, reflect on, discuss with them, and then blog about.  Assignments will need to be realistic in time, cost, and purpose, and must require me to do something that will help me better understand who they are as people, what they are passionate about and interested in, and what drives them intrinsically on a daily basis. 

I’m entering this project with mixed emotions.  I’m excited to see what I will learn about the world we live in from our youth’s perspective.  I’m happy because I truly believe this project will draw me closer to my students, which will then help me better connect with them and serve them regularly.  I’m scared that I will find out that I am more out-of-touch with their world than I think I am, but that is a risk I’m willing to take.

Either way, I believe this project has the power to flip my classroom on its head.  In a good way.

Up Next…

That’s it for this post.  I’m off to start Teacher Homework Assignment (THA) # 1.  My first assignment is to watch an online video created by YouTube superstar and sensation, Tanner Fox. 

Here we go!