Unleash Your Creativity

By Anna Wolfe

Are you one of those people who sometimes think to yourself, “if I had the time, I’d write a novel”? Here’s how Matthew Dennion is finding the time! On top of his full-time job teaching children with special needs, Matthew has published nine books, including Atomic Rex, Kaiju Corps, and Operation Roc.

Matthew’s creativity goes beyond the literary worlds of his imagination. He’s been getting creative in the classroom by using ONEder to help him track data, saving him time AND enhancing his students’ outcomes.

How has Matthew been getting creative with ONEder? Let’s find out.


Conquering Data

After hours, Matthew writes about Atomic Rex’s Conquest of Chimera but during the day he’s conquering data. One of the issues experienced by transition programs, says Matthew, is that “when we looked at other [platforms], is that they didn’t have a solid data collection component. [Students] just go out there and come back, and mostly it was anecdotal records regarding how well the kids did. So what I suggested doing is we took a look at what the kids are doing, make a task analysis of it, and then we were able to put that into ONEder and record the data from there.” Collecting and analyzing data has saved Matthew “hundreds of hours” of paperwork, and more importantly has allowed him to observe even slight incremental changes in a student’s performance. Seeing these changes has helped him to make data-driven decisions, and set better goals in the long run. For teachers “more dynamic records is one thing, but a graph where you can show step by step how the students are progressing are a lot more helpful to [teachers], so then they can see where the students need to improve as well.”


Reawakening the Corps

When you’re a teacher in the classroom, you’re the leader and your students are your corps. While the Kaiju (the gigantic monsters that Matt writes about) aren’t hiding under your students’ beds or desks, kids are facing the threat of the real world, and it is your job to help break down their skills and help them survive once their out of school. Matt has been creative in his teaching by using ONEder to create task analyses for a new transition program that sends students out to job sites with their teachers to perform ‘real world jobs’ like making online purchases, and preparing and serving food. When a student needs help with a particular skill, for example focusing on tasks with a defined start and end, like filling up a fruit cup (vs. say, washing a variety of dishes), Matthew is able to go back and reflect on the data, zero in on what the student is already doing well on and pinpoint “what’s the same here and what’s different here?”


Defrosting the Parents

Parents want to be involved, but sometimes it can be hard to break down your students’ day-to-day progress. ONEder has helped Matt at his parent-teacher conferences by streamlining his project reports, “…because I don’t have to go back through pages and pages of tasks and quizzes or anything else, it’s just quick. I’ll pull this graph up, and say, okay, they’re at 80% accuracy for this task. Or, if I’m doing trial by trial or trial data information, it comes across very — “okay, they’ve completed task A with 100% accuracy, 6 out of 100 trials.” …My [students’] parents were blown away. We discussed at parent-teacher conferences, where I was able to go through each and every task that the students were working on and show them multiple graphs about how they’re progressing.”


Matthew has turned his creativity to fundraising for cancer research. His “Kaiju vs. Cancer” shirts are a collaborative effort among authors in the giant monster community in honor of a friend who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. All proceeds from the sale of the shirts will be donated to St. Jude’s Hospital. For more about how you can donate, visit Matthew’s website.

How are you getting creative in and out of the classroom? We’d love to hear your stories!

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