Archive for October, 2009


Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Doing a little exploring after class and came across this David Wiley video. Enjoy.


The business side of Education

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I came across a video yesterday that caught my attention because of how the artist decided to tell their story. The video was about copy right infringments and the idea of intellectual property. The artists in the video uses Mash up ‘s or a multiple layered visual compilation to tell a story. This is another area where open source networking has had a major impact and has in turn generated a lot of questions around intellectual property rights. The video approaches the idea of creative thought being a commodity, something tangible to own or to purchase. I immediately applied this to education and how textbook s are seen as the source of classroom knowledge. This is an example of how the past is dictating the information flow of the present. Schools are bound to textbook contracts and are under a watchful eye through NCLB laws that apply Adequate Yearly Progress standards to schools. Not meeting this adequate yearly progress and can lead to a  lack of funding further restricting resources at the school.  I see a huge information hijack here. We have open source educational sites because educators know the inherent value of sharing as to not reinvent the wheel, and don’t even try to tell me that has not been uttered in your presence at some time or another. There is now a large group of people creating Mash ups who are sharing and reinventing the wheel every time they compose their work. Teachers do the same with every lesson, unit and idea shared through open source education sites is a reinvention of sorts.  I feel students have the right to an expanded version of the knowledge that exists and a more entertaining interaction with that information is required for sustained growth. The time it must take to make a Mash up and the technical aspects of the programs they use must take an enormous amount of learning. Isn’t that what we want to inspire?

I have also included the original RiP! A Remix Manifesto video link and if you have some time I recommend you watch it.

Gaming in Education

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Why has the use of games in the classroom become a “hot” topic in education lately?

The use of games in the classroom has always been around in education. I have memories of playing games as a student and have tried to incorporate games in my own classroom. Every educational conference I have attended has always had either sessions dedicated to games in the classroom or there were vendors pushing the latest educational games. However, the use of console style games in the classroom is a bit different from the educational games of the past and present. Video games are a multi-billion dollar industry and continues to grow. Not only is  it a lucrative business but the high level of engagement we see in gamers while involved in game play has made educators jealous. Teachers are always looking to make our classrooms and lessons more engaging for students and when a student sits willingly for hours on end playing a game it shows “time on task” engagement and teachers have become interested in using this type of learning as a motivating tool. Teachers may also see the advantages of students engaging in other world environments and making decisions within those environments. Educators believe student exploration within virtual worlds can enhance current frameworks in their decision making process. Strategy games help students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills they can apply to various situations in their real world, hopefully with success.

I was recently directed to a video on TED by David Perry. David is the mind behind such famed video games as Earthworm Jim (in which a bionic suit-clad worm saves the galaxy), Messiah (in which a rogue cherub hijacks creatures’ bodies to defeat sin), and best-selling game adaptations of movies like Disney’s Aladdin, Terminator and The Matrix. He has designed tie-ins for international brands such as 7-Up and McDonald’s, and now works on a group of massively multiplayer online titles for Acclaim.

A programmer since childhood and a lifelong gamer, Perry has a special understanding of the mechanics that make games fresh, fun, emotionally involving — and addictive. A sense of humor and a visionary outlook make him a sought-after adviser in the industry, and he also heads several websites on the art and business of game development, including, and the Game Industry Map. I highly recommend watching the following video presentation from David. Pay particular attention to the student video he shows near the end as after the video I have posted some follow up comments.

Post video comment:

The next generation of games will have a profound effect on our culture. As the student video ends he says… “I am not sure what the implications of my experience are, but the potential for using realistic video games stimuli in repetition on a vast number of loyal participants is frightening to me.” If we are to use video games in our classrooms need to be aware of the impact using this media could have.

Right in front of me

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Yesterday Sylvia talked about how boys were more aggressive when computer time is offered. I had some classroom coverage today and it allowed me to post this while in class observing students. I had worked with a couple of really fast working students and we decided to go explore some games found on the links shared last night in class. Once the computers were open for use immediately a group of five boys gathered around two computers and closed off the rest of the class. The girls in the room maintained their positions at the classroom tables and showed no outward interest in using one of the computers.  As class time merged into lunch an even larger group of boys gathered to discuss strategies and achievements during game play. Although it was very cool to listen to the interactions amongst the group of boys it was unfortunate that the group of girls were completely shut off from being able to use either of the computers. Some of the back channel discussion last night spoke directly to this phenomenon of excluding girls from computer use in the classroom as boys take over the computers. Very politely the girls in the room reverted to reading their books and having quite conversations amongst each other and never really drew attention to this inequity of computer use. Maybe these middle school girls are the polite wall flowers we assume they are. I hope not! Computers and games are not just for boys, there is a definite dynamic that needs to change to make sure girls feel equally entitled to use technology.

I took a quick break from this post and went to talked with the group of girls, I wrote about above, to see if they agreed with this inequality. For the most part they agreed. However, one girl did proclaim “…if I wanted to use one of those computers I would go make one of the boys get off and take over.” Unfortunately her response was the exception to the rule rather than the standard. I also asked the girls what style of games were of interest to them. For the most part girls listed problem solving and strategy games that draw highest interest. The problem solving aspect was very different than the “shoot’ em up” explosions based games the boys get into. As a real time experiment I had all the students return to their seats and offered the computer only to the girls in the room. Several girls took the opportunity and proceeded to explore the site for games that were of interest to them.  Equal time must be a part of our plan for computer use in the classroom as I saw today when we leave it to open aggression and the claiming of a computer unfortunately the boys take over.

Applicable Knowledge

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Just running a little test to see how polls work. Keep your RSS feeds active because if this works you may see a couple more polls in some posts in the future.

Oregon Trail

Saturday, October 17th, 2009
Life on the Trail

Life on the Trail

Oregon Trail is one of my earliest memories of educational gaming. Down at the end of the hall of my elementary school existed the most cutting edge technology of the 80’s, the Apple II computer.  I recall spending many social studies periods as well as every free minute of time at school perched on a hard orange computer lab chair fighting my way through the perils of pioneer life. We were the core group of Trailians using our recess time to hit up the lab and beat the trail before hazards like, measles, snake bites, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, exhaustion, and diarrhea killed off our travel party. Along with avoiding ravaging diseases we were also struggling to feed our people. Purchasing food supplies was a good start however, there were limited supply stops along the trail and we had to resort to hunting. I assume hunting on the trail was exactly like how the true pioneers experienced it, firing small pixellated bullets and Buffalo, bunnies, squirrels and either deer or elk depending on the version you had. Some hunts were fruitful others fruitless. And for those vegetarians on the trail, well they were out of luck all together. The hardest part of the journey was definitely the river crossings. A lot of work goes into converting your land based wagon to a river worthy vessel. Again whole caravans of pioneers were lost due to lack of swim lessons offered on the trail.

These decisions were quite a lot to deal with at nine years old. Many pioneers did not survive the journey to Oregon and whole parties were lost along the way. We persevered on until we represented the true pioneer spirit and made it to the promise land of Oregon. At the conclusion of our journey we could choose our life’s passion of being a farmer or a carpenter. The right choice could actually double or even triple your score so we had to choose wisely. I always ended up as a framer (triple points) so that I could continue on providing food for the surviving pioneers.

Although I had a lot of fun playing this game and I m sure my teacher also loved claiming it as a means of differentiation in the classroom. Students were only allowed to play the game if we were done with all of our class work. A reward for the punishment of endless worksheets piled on us daily. What if any lessons did I take away from my days on the trail? Definitely the first lesson was that it sucked on the trail and I was supposed to feel fortunate that I lived in such a modern society where decisions were not so life and death. The problem solving aspect of the game helped to form somewhat of a decision-making process in my childhood brain but I remember the true motivation being the attainment of the highest score and not a greater understanding of pioneer life. I do have to acknowledge that since I have such strong memories about Oregon Trail it must have resonated with some aspect of my development or else why would I be sharing all of this with you.

Oregon Trail was not only a pioneer’s virtual journey but also a start to the integration of technology into my educational world as a student and as a budding educator. Even with the many upgrades in computer technology and 3D graphics there is still a perceived lack of true educational value in video games. I am an avid gamer and am happy to see the video game industry attempt to incorporate real world knowledge into their games. However, I would have a hard time convincing parents that playing a first person shooter game like Medal of Honor is going to help their child learn about the historical battles of WWI and WWII. How would I measure this attainment of knowledge? Would a student surviving the game and finishing their missions count as success in gaining new knowledge? What about the violence issues in World War orientated games? Can we remove the reality of death and murder within war scenarios and still get across our intended message? Is a rubric sufficient to evaluate this style of interaction?

I believe until we can develop a more fine tuned way of content delivery within video game interaction in the educational field the majority of these questions will go unanswered. The real challenge is getting parents to see the value of video games in the classroom setting. I know the majority of students have the ability to separate video game violence from real world violence when facilitated properly and I think a deeper level of understanding of real events can be attainted. Emerson within the virtual world can lead to understanding of real world events. I have felt this through video game play. Whether it’s the layers of understanding an adult can apply to games or the knowledge gained from game play there is something worth value within games. It is all in how we present this gamer style education to parents and administrators. The exact manner as to how to achieve this I am still exploring. We are still on the Oregon Trail of educational technology and soon we will reach the promise land. Unfortunately we may lose a few people along the way, a lesson I still hold from my days on the virtual trail.

Just a Monday

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?

As you glance over the posts prior to this you may notice a more formal style of writing… maybe not. Thought and reflection are a very important aspect of my learning. I think… read… think… write… read… write and finally post. What a process I have made this for myself as this is the attention I thought every post deserved. This thinking has brought me to a point where I now want to further my exploration in the 2.0 world and begin to apply and blend resources out there hoping to affect change in my classroom. I am looking for reflections from other middle school teachers (all subjects and disciplines are welcome) about any positive or negative aspects of their using blogging in a traditional classroom setting. Success? Failure? Parent outrage? Termination of contract (ouch!)? Ultimately what would you have done different in both the set up and the initial presentation to the students? During student engagement? As a means of generating grades for  report cards? And any other anecdotes you would like to pass along. Thoughts?

Network Connetions

Thursday, October 8th, 2009


Learning in networks involves each participate becoming a source of material/content or review of the material presented in order to ensure the best product is provided. In contrast to this is the classroom. I am approaching this from the perspective of a 6th grade middle school teacher where generating this type of interaction with students is quite a process. In a traditional classroom teachers are bound to the textbook or course materials bought by the school system and feel an obligation to use the workbooks and consumables. Some just find it more efficient. I have had the opportunity to experience the excessive waste traditional schools generate when they continue the antiquated notion that textbooks hold the answers. I had 120 seventh grade students during one of my teaching assignments and was provided 2 new textbooks per student. One textbook for them to take home and another textbook for the classroom. I inquired as to the cost of one set of books and was blown away by the 80 to 130 dollar response for something that will be replaced four years later. I then went to the head custodian and inquired as to how many boxes of unopened or unused textbooks he either threw away or had to send back once a new textbook was adopted. Again the answer confounded me. The custodian told me a story about having to send back 12 unopened boxes containing an average of 10-15 textbooks. Such a waste when the money spent could have been put into technologies and online resources for open education content and connecting networks.

Networks seem to be more interconnected with participants playing a variety of rolls, as a classroom seems more static and roll defined. Professionals bring a level of expertise and interest to the networks and are eager to provide feedback to the community. Middle school students are a bit more hesitant to participate and be active participants in their classroom. Tons of encouragement and modeling this higher level of content interest help to create an inviting environment however it can only go so far in a traditional setting at this point. Students are so molded into procedures and routines that when presented with a more open learning experience they use technology in the only way they have experience, for play and social connections. Our priority should be to establish a new set of guidelines, which allow students to utilize social media in an educational application. The students will then become the designers of their experience in their pursuit of knowledge.

I also believe that transparent learning throughout the professional social media sites will further the placement of curriculum and guidelines to help ease the furthering of 2.0 educations. Active participation in review of current trends and cognitive research studies can guide this progression and the communication amongst a larger researched based network self generates guidelines based on required needs and functions in interactions much like real world social interactions.

Teens and Technology

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Cultural anthropologist Danah Boyd’s presentation on teenagers living and learning with social media completely captured my attention. As She begins discussing the implications of social media as it relates to teenagers and their social constructs She delves into some preconceived notions of a changing youth culture. She goes on to reframe the change of youth culture as no actual change at all. The same social forces drove teenagers in past generations just as those forces do today. Teenagers still want to hang out with their friends, gossip, flirt and participate in youthful activities just like past generations. It is actually the larger social context that has changed around teenagers and they are only responding in attempts to meets their social desires. In today’s society more and more parents are restricting their kids face to face hang out time, which leaves teens no other option but to utilize the technology surrounding them. Social sites are a lot like the soda shops and roller skating rinks of the past as parents are now scared to let their kids go to the present day equivalents of these social hangouts.

A lot of the friends teens have in their real world are the same individuals they are friends with on their social sites. They are continuing their friendships and chit chat conversations via the virtual existence they create online. Their online interactions work to generate the same social dramas that exist within their real world experiences. Comments on sites are a way to gain acceptance within their real world friend circles and everyday generic conversations are a means of social grooming as this interaction is the building blocks of adult relationships. However some of the interchanges between teens are in the form of bullying which is quite often based on underlying social structures and the dynamics of social class, which is embedded within the users of social media sites. As teachers we must be careful not to reinforce those inappropriate interactions through improper use of social media in our classes. It must be our goal to show how the system works and use it to further inquiry through the development of critical thinking skills. Most adults believe since kids know how to use the technology that grants them access to their online friends that they can also apply those skills for the acquisition of knowledge and make meaningful connections. Some teens may translate their search and capture skills to academic studies but for most it is a means of extending their social life.

As teachers we must be aware of the perceptions each generation carries with their social connections. Teachers should not be intimidated by technology nor should they feel inferior to digital natives, as this is harmful. We must further our role as facilitator in the technology world and model proper use of these technologies. How to execute this I leave for your thoughts.