The Mask and the Task: How Martin Landau helped me in my classroom

From Youtube:CosmicHobo

Elena Maria Del Barra: Señor, uh, Miller, how long have you been selling laboratory equipment?

Rollin Hand: Oh, long enough to know that I can sell you.

This year my classroom will be run like an RPG.  A lot of it has to do with millions of hours of video game play, but a fair amount goes to Rollin Hand. The classic television series, “Mission:Impossible” has influenced the way I have conducted my classes for a while.  As I embraced design thinking more and more, “Mission: Impossible” provided a blueprint for planning versus a plan and solution seeking behaviors.  It was Landau’s character (Seasons 1-3) that is in many ways my patron saint.

 

https://giphy.com/embed/j03Jxg4BkZZGE

via GIPHY

 

Rollin Hand is such a great character because his function in the Impossible Mission Force is generally to be someone else.  Whether through use of make up and prosthetics or by assuming another identity, Hand slips effortlessly between personas, convincing even most hardened counter espionage agents that he was the “Real McCoy.”

But what does this have to do with education?

1. A “Confidence” Scheme

To solve problems, one must have the confidence necessary that one can find a solution.  To achieve my goal, I have to believe it.  In show after show, Rollin walks into certain doom with air of confidence that he’s not playing a character, HE IS THE CHARACTER.

Many times it’s necessary to think like someone else in order to ascertain possible answers to questions.  Students (and teachers) should be comfortable enough to know that thinking like “myself” might not solve the problem, but if I were to think like Maryam Mirzakhani, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Ken Burns, I might be more successful.  Having the “masks” available can result in divergent thought.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon educators to offer a myriad of stratagems, archetypes, and “characters” to choose from when working in class.  There is no one way to reason through a solution.  Concepts like challenge based learning, project based learning, and design thinking are “open worlds” where students can be free to try on different masks in order to be successful.

This also frees us from the “I’m not good at blank ” excuse.   That’s great that you’re not good at math.  Let’s put on our Mirzakhani mask and try this thing, again.

2. The Mask Should Match the Task

This also forces students (and teachers) to consider the “mask for the task.” Which character do I need to become in order to be successful in this particular enterprise? Why would I choose to think like this particular person as opposed to another? Could I take different aspects of different people in order to find solutions?

The metacognition is oft mentioned, but undervalued.  Having conversations and structures in place that organize thought processes in classrooms is imperative if students are to see themselves as successful.

3. Following the Leader

Everything’s a remix. Season 4 of Mission:Impossible opens with Landau and Barbara Bain absent.  Landau is replaced by Leonard Nimoy’s Paris, a character with a similar bent for disguise.  He performs the same function.

When we see people employ a strategy that works, we all want to try it.  Having students observe how others work, converse with one another, and employ new strategies allows all stakeholders in your classrooms to access the strategies that lead to triumph.  Observing how a peer uses the “right mask” for the job, makes it less of a competitive unapproachable task, and more of one that able to be grasped.

 

Emoji Madness

Emoji Pics .gif

Emoji Pics Composer

Emojis are ubiquitous.  Even Duolingo has a emoji course. They are a modern take on hieroglyphics that give learners the ability to communicate their feelings and understandings VISUALLY.

Here are three ways to utilize EMOJIS in your classroom:

  1. Telling stories- Including stories during writing is magical especially if students blog regularly.  Emojis can be accessed through the keyboards on mobile devices and with hotkeys on computers.  Using apps like TextingStory, will allow students to write including emojis in a very fluid way.
  2. Health Checks- Emojis are great to display quickly how one is feeling.  Using them to determine how students feel at different points of a lesson or a day can be both impactful and fun.  Apps like Assembly, Emoji Me , and Emojify=You + Emoji , allow students to customize their emojis to insane levels.  Emoji Exit Ticket
  3. Exit Tickets- As aforementioned, emojis are visual.  They are so concise.  Leveraging these allows one the ability to create exit tickets that can be created quickly, delivered quickly, and assessed quickly.  Emojis are versatile enough to be used in any program or app that allows access to the keyboard.  In addition, tools like Emoji Pics Composer, gives one the ability to create a visual timeline of learning that can be turned in at the end of the lesson.

 

Follow up: Follow up

Last episode, I talked about inboxing.

Once you have the list of all the things rattling around in your brain, you have to sort through it. Set aside an hour or so the first time you do it so that you’re not rushed.

The #1 rule is NOTHING GOES BACK IN THE INBOX.

This isn’t like going through Grandma’s attic where you can just put something back once you’ve touched it. If you look at an item, it gets dealt with in one of four ways.

 

DO
If it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it right now.

DELEGATE
Can you or should you assign the task to someone else? Then, compose an email, make a call, send a text and let that person know. Record who was delegated the task and make a clear deadline with deliverables.

Example: Janine, Will you please contact Moore’s Ice Cream Parlor about providing ice cream for the Harvest Festival by Wednesday morning’s committee meeting? We will need to know how they charge and a ball park figure based on their rates for the 3 hours of the Harvest Festival. You’ll be sharing with the committee on Wednesday. Contact me if you have any further questions.

DEFER
Don’t need to do it right now? Set the due date to one week from now and check in on it again then.

DELETE
Things have changed or the deadline passed, delete the item so it’s not taking up valuable list real estate.

There you have it. How to deal with the inbox list. The first time it might take a while. However, you should spend 5-10 minutes at the end of the day reviewing your inbox and you’ll find it will go faster and faster.

In a box

Inboxing. 
Dumping all those thoughts that bang around in your head out into a place. 
It could be an analog place like a dedicated notebook (bujo anyone?) or a collection of sticky notes affixed to your desk or monitor. 
It could be a digital dumping ground like Omnifocus, Habitica, or Todoist. Maybe even the good old reminders or notes app or a cloud solution like Google tasks or keep
What matters is that you do it consistently. 

To the same place anytime you think of something. Then, you revisit that list. That is for another post though. 

Choose your weapon right now. 

Paper and pen will do. 

Write down everything rattling around in your head no matter how big or small. 

Great job. 

Now grab some hot chocolate and watch some Hulu. 

Anchor Yourself

You came back!

I’m excited you’re here.

Let’s talk anchor charts.
Why are they good practice?
They reference processes, procedures, and concepts.
They are easily accessible.
How would going digital extend their effectiveness?
They would be accessible when kids (and you) are not in the classroom.
They won’t get damaged or lost.
They can be remixed.
What tools would you use to build them?

Powerpoint/Keynote/Slides

Canva

Piktochart

Paper by 53 (iOS)

Try one of those. Tomorrow.

Build one chart. Take something you already made and make it digital. Don’t feel like it has to be brand new.

Oh and good job today. You nailed it.