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Rap, Social Media, Anything to Help Students Learn

He’s a teacher who raps, an assistant principal who creates goofy, fun and educational zombie videos, and a school leader who will track down students, teachers and parents wherever they are to help spread the learning word.

He just gets jazzed about teaching.

Toby Price uses rap, videos and other techniques to educate students

“I think I get a rush from it, actually,” said Price, an assistant principal at Richland Upper Elementary School in Richland, Miss.

While he’s always been a dedicated teacher and full of energy, Price said he really began to see the benefits of different teaching methods after he had his own kids. He’s a proud father of three, two of whom are autistic. They learn differently and express themselves in unique ways.

His daughter, for example, couldn’t use a two-button computer mouse, but a finger swipe on the iPhone was no problem. Price’s son isn’t very verbal, but is able to show off what he knows and what he’s interested by adding photos to the family’s photo stream or using other apps.

“There are so many different ways kids can show you what they know,” Price said. “It just keeps going.”

He’s applied the same techniques to teaching and leading now for several years, getting ideas and energy from his own interests and his family.

He sees himself like Monk, the TV detective who could solve any crime except his wife’s murder.

“Well, sometimes I feel like I can fix any kids except for my own,” Price said. “That’s the reason I do it. The drive comes from the kids.”

Here’s a look at a few of his and his school’s projects.

Rapping

After Price discovered Larry Bell’s tips for helping kids solve problems and learn, he came up with a few raps to teach 12 words Bell believes help students show what they know on standardized tests.

“I figured I can’t remember my father’s birthday but I know all of the words to ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ” Price said, so he made up a rap to help students learn the words.

“It may be silly, but they are catchy and fun,” Price said. In the end, Bell picked up the idea. Price worked with others in Hawaii and New York to put together a package of songs around the words.

Grog the Zombie

Zombies are popular, Price knew that. He also knew that goofiness can help kids learn. So Price made Grog the Zombie and Sheep, a set of educational videos that review real learning situations including sentence structure and how to behave in certain situations.

At first, some people complained. Grog didn’t use proper grammar himself, they noted.

“It’s a zombie, for goodness sake. He doesn’t have a brain,” Price said with a laugh.

But the videos were important, not only because they’ve been picked up as far away as the Netherlands, but also because they taught Price an important lesson.

“At first some people weren’t very nice. I thought ‘I tried, that’s the least I can do.’ ” And then Price realized, “There are critics I have to stop listening to” if he hoped to try new things and put them out for the world.

Social Media

Price is a big fan of Twitter. If he finds something that works well for one of his kids, he shares it online.

“I know if it helped my son, it will probably work for someone else,” Price said.

He noticed though that many of the teachers he knew just didn’t use Twitter the same way. But, he said, they were on Pinterest. It was there that Price began creating boards for Grog and for many of the other resources he finds or creates.

“If they are going to be there and going to use it, I’ll put it on Pinterest, too,” he said.

He compared that to the school’s website and Facebook presence. The Facebook page reaches far more people.

“You have to be where people are,” Price said. It’s a motto that could apply to his effort with students, too: “Meet them where they are.”

He wants teachers who are worried about social media to shake that fear, because sharing helps make schools better

“Share everything. All my best ideas were really someone else’s ideas,” Price said. “There’s no reason not to ask help for either. There are literally thousands of other teachers looking to help you.”

In the end, all of the time Price puts into his work, his creating and sharing of materials simply re-energizes him.

With a serious laugh, he said, “We have a blast. I’m living a dream. We get to do this.”

Tap into Price’s ideas by visiting his YouTube channel, following his Twitter handle @jedipadmaster or checking out his project at www.about.me/jedipadmaster.

 

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