January 1

#clmooc #2016bestnine photo review

To wrap up 2016, Kim Douillard challenged the #clmooc community to curate #2016bestnine photos. I’m not an avid Instagram user, so the collage the app created (below) was collected from a small selection of the photos I took this year. My phone also exploded this fall, so I lost a bunch of photos, including the Mt Hood shot.

Nonetheless, Instagram and I agree on some of the themes I explored during the year. As part of the #clmooc #silentsunday thread, I look for subjects that represent my surroundings and my interests.

The first photo (collage) I chose is of my son tipping off at a basketball game. He played competitive travel basketball for five years, and this summer decided to abandon the sport. Part of me still grieves, because he is a talented player, and I feel like he is walking away from something which has much to offer him, and to which he has much to offer. I also developed friendships with many of the other parents, and think the loss of those hours sitting on bleachers in solidarity with them is what I miss most.

This next shot grosses some people out :-). An orb spider in his/her domain. Spiders creep me out as well, but nonetheless they are magnificent beings, and (as Ms. Frizzle informs us all) beneficial for eradicating other insects.

I love the defiance of this leaf, standing up in the grass.

These next two were taken this fall, in the same area. I love the symmetry of the two paragliders, and the study in light and shadows and reflections.


After a glorious, mild autumn, we were abruptly shocked into winter with the first snow. The accumulation of heavy, wet snow provides a magnificent frame for the tree branches and decorative crab apples.

Perhaps my favorite shot of the year is this self-portrait taken as a fluke. In this blog post, I describe the circumstances, and the subsequent analysis and connections related to it.

To cap it off, I selected these two shots of lights. The first is soft, the glow of candles in a darkened room. The second is more dramatic, part of a light and sound show presented by the Morton Arboretum in the Chicago area.

  

Thanks, Kim for inciting me to think about the photos I took this year, and what they mean to me.

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November 29

2016 #CLMOOC #DigiWrimo #AltCV

As I mused about creating this season’s #AltCV, a recent interaction with #CLMOOC friend Stephanie Loomis came to mind. She was wrapping up a project related to social media profile pictures (you’ll have to ask her for the details!) and messaged me with some questions. She asked me for my interpretation of the following Facebook profile picture:

farm-profile-picture

To which I responded:

stephanie-2

I hadn’t consciously analyzed the photo before posting it as my profile picture. However, when Stephanie asked me what it represented, I came up with my description easily, with very little thought. So, the analysis and interpretation were already there, just at a subconscious level.

I was also somewhat astounded by the similarities in Stephanie’s interpretation:

stephanie-3

She and I “know” each other only in virtual spaces. The photo spoke for itself.

As Stephanie and I chatted further, we explored the blurring of lines between “professional” and “personal” identities:

stephanie-1

stephanie-4

In reality, our professional and personal lives co-existed before social media. The difference was that on our resumes, and in presenting our “professional face,” we emphasized our skills and experience vis-à-vis the position we held, or wished to hold. We downplayed our personal lives, only divulging details to our closest colleagues.

Given we are holistic beings, this new era of transparency is refreshing. When we fracture ourselves into multiple personalities (Sybil anyone?), we are inauthentic. So here I stand. Strong, hopeful, and as documented in this 2014 #CLMOOC avatar, a warrior.

warrior-avatar

November 14

#DigiWriMo Storyjumping Part 18: The Cold November Rain

This is part 18 of a storyjumper for Digital Writing Month. To read the whole story (so far):

Part 1 Bruno’s blog started us off with a personal narrative.

Part 2 Kevin’s blog began the story.

Part 3 Maha’s blog continued…

Part 4 Sarah’s blog…

Part 5 Ron’s blog…

Part 6 Tanya’s blog…

Part 7 Kay’s blog…

Part 8 Ron’s blog…

Part 9 Dana’s blog

Part 10 Tania’s blog

Part 11 Maureen’s blog

Part 12 Sue’s blog

Part 13 Rhonda’s blog

Part 14 Yin Wah Kreher’s blog

Part 15 Scott’s blog

Part 16 Jeffrey’s blog

Part 17 Wendy’s blog

For a geographical map of participants, click here. If you would like to participate, add your name to this Google Doc.

Previously:

[As they turned the next corner they could not believe their eyes. Their two friends Smidgy and Wry were walking towards them! They ran towards them with huge grins and a laugh. The first thing they said was …..]

…”Smidgy! Wry! What’re you doing here? We thought we were the only legal aliens here!”

They hugged each other fiercely, feeling centered for the first time since arriving here in this odd Times-Square-that-was-not-quite-Times-Square. They stood in the drizzle, talking excitedly, until Haras realized she was drenched, and chilled to the bone. “Keith and I were looking for a tea house. Do you know where we could go?” “Ah, I know exactly the place,” responded Wry. She led the way as they hopped the subway to the West Village.

Bosie Tea House
http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/bosie-tea-parlor-new-york

Once inside the tea house, Keith and Haras were unsettled to see a blind man sitting and running his fingers over a tattered map. “Um, guys,” said Haras, “maybe we should go somewhere else.” “Oh, no worries,” replied Smidgy, “that’s Facino Cane. He plays the clarinet and has been looking forward to you two bringing your sax and uke to jam with him. He’s been standing outside holding a candle in the cold November rain, hoping you would show up.”

Still uncertain, Haras approached the old man. “Excuse me, sir, who are you?” “Haras!,” he replied. “I’ve been waiting for you. There was a scuffle somewhere… it’s all fuzzy, but I think Keith was involved…?”

Keith approached even more cautiously, remembering the altercation at his house. “You know, old man, even though my fear has subsided somewhat, shadows still remain. I mean, we’re not even really in New York, I’m not really Keith, and you died like 200 years ago.”

Abruptly, the old man jumped out of his chair and grabbed Wry*. “Where’s the other map?,” he demanded. Whirling, he turned and faced the other three. “If you don’t hand over the other map, your friend here dies. You think you have two weeks to figure it out, but here where we are, it’s November 29th.”

[Over to Wry*, aka Mariam Shoaib]

November 5

#AltCV and #DigiWriMo

Phew. That’s all I can say. When the #DigiWriMo folks issued the call to create an “alternative CV,” “based not on degrees and position and peer-reviewed publications, but on what we think is most important about who we are and what we are genuinely most proud to have accomplished,” I decided to make the exercise a challenge. More of a challenge than I anticipated, really.

Animaker is a tool I have barely glanced at, but which has fascinated me for some time. So, I decided to use it to create my #AltCV. Thus the adventure began. Animaker has an eleven-and-a-half minute tutorial. I watched it once. Fumbled through assembling a few “scenes.” Several things did not come together as I wanted them to. Went through the tutorial again, to find the explanation for the nuances I was missing. Like all good learning experiences, the process was iterative. I would make some modifications, replay the video, identify the improvements I needed to make. Again and again.

In my work as a PBL (project-based learning) coach, this is an aspect I impress upon teachers. Students need to be given feedback on their work, and the time to revise. Not only once, but multiple times. My all-time favorite example of this is Ron Berger’s video of  Austin’s Butterfly:

It is all too common for educators to get caught up in the but-I-have-all-this-content-to-cover mindset, so students don’t have the occasion to delve deeply into any given topic, nor do they have the opportunity to reflect on their work, and to make improvements.

This year in our Meliora group, we are studying World History. To some, I will sound like a heretic, but I care little about what these students carry away in knowledge and facts about World History (well, I do hope they remember “les grandes lignes,” the major points). What I mostly care about is that they develop deeper thinking and analytic skills. We spend significant time discussing events in history, and making connections to today, to my students’ reality. By using open-ended questions, “why?” and “how do you know?” being perhaps my favorites, the students are required to think, and to defend their rationale.

I also care that the students learn to reflect on their work, and to actively find ways to improve it. As they develop projects, I offer feedback throughout the process. They also conduct peer reviews of each other’s work, so they can learn to critique using “kind, helpful and specific” (a phrase coined by Ron Berger) feedback.

As I went through the development of my #AltCV, I was also applying Standford’s d. school ideology of “iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that get you closer to your final solution.” As they further explain in the excerpt below, iteration is fundamental to good design. Interestingly, they discuss iterations within a process, in my case the complete video, and then within a step, in my case a single scene. That is exactly how I tackled it, narrowing my focus as the flow began to take shape.

d school design thinking excerpt

I would argue this design process can be applied to many, if not all, academic disciplines. When I work with Meliora students on their history projects, we first look at the big picture, their overall argument/thesis, then over time narrow the focus to particular details that need fleshed out and refined. Likewise, when solving a math problem students need to learn to determine the process to be used, then drill down to the detail. And so forth.

And, now, for my #AltCV:

 

July 5

#CLMOOC 2015 Make #2

I have enthusiastically charged into #CLMOOC again this year. Although some of my efforts seem more like limping along than charging!

For our second “make,” we were invited to “consider how the media we compose within (like print, sound, still and moving image, or objects) influence how we communicate and interpret.” Furthermore, we were asked to “mediate and re-mediate and reflect on how the affordances of different media impact our choices, processes, and meanings.”

Simultaneous with the beginning of this make cycle, I was brooding over the recent tragedy in South Carolina, where Dylann Roof killed nine people. Although I was feeling sad about those pointless deaths, I was even more sad that a general reaction was to get rid of all Confederate flags.

I understand that the Confederate flag is a symbol of racial hatred, and stirs negative emotions in some people. But, it is also part of our history. If we try to ignore or bury history, we will encounter even more dire consequences.

So, I decided I would use that topic for this week’s make. After some consideration, I settled on ThingLink as the platform, because I wanted to develop some proficiency with it, and to analyze its potential is as a teaching and learning tool.

As I have noted in the past, free versions of software tend to be limited, limiting, and frustrating. This is definitely true of ThingLink. In the end, I chose to upgrade to “pro” with a 14-day free trial.

What I learned as I worked (fought?) with this tool is that my process for creating this multimedia “essay” was similar to what I would do if simply writing a text essay. I needed a thesis. I had to research, looking for credible primary and secondary sources. I needed to organize my argument, and support it with evidence.

What was different than a traditional essay is that I could incorporate images, videos, and music in further support of my textual argument. By using numbered “tags,” I could also draw the audience through my argument in a logical, coherent sequence.

Much of what I was able to accomplish I quite like. I am, however, frustrated with the inability to clip video or audio segments. I would like to incorporate only the pieces that are most relevant. I could download a video, edit it, re-upload it to YouTube and then include it in the ThingLink. Ditto for music from SoundCloud. It seems like an awkward, time-consuming workaround.

ThingLink does allow the (pro) user to upload images from a computer. Why is the same capability not available for video and audio? I could edit the elements to my liking on my laptop, then upload them to ThingLink.

I also dislike how the viewer of a ThingLink image is forced to click on tags and media elements within tags in order to initiate a response. I would much prefer that the creator be able to control the response at all entry points. For example, when the viewer hovers over a tag, music utomatically starts playing. Or, when s/he clicks on a tag, a video begins.

ThingLink also seems designed to encourage the viewer to interact in any order on the image. In the case of my essay, I want the viewer to follow a given sequence, to be able to logically follow the flow of my argument. So, I imagined numbering the tags as a way of creating the proper flow. However, the number icons, both native to ThingLink and others I found readily available, all end at 9 or 10.

Since I have more than ten tags, my next hurdle was to create an icon set of my own. That was another learning process that chewed up hours of my time. I will, however, be much more efficient whenever I face icon creation again!

I can imagine ThingLink as an effective teaching tool. Teachers can incorporate multimedia elements, offering students information in a variety of formats, from many different sources. By diversifying the presentation of information, teachers create a richer learning environment, which may improve student engagement.

Editing a ThingLink image is also straightforward, so it would be easy to update a presentation with new, different, or additional information without reengineering the whole design.

Conversely, students could use ThingLink as a tool for exhibiting their learning. It would allow them to organize their evidence of learning and easily present it to a broad public audience. It has many potential uses, not just for persuasive writing. A few examples:

My next effort with ThingLink will be to create or redesign professional development I do as a #PBL (project-based learning) coach so that I can model its use.

To take a look at my finished product:

 

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January 5

“Frissons”

The San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) graciously included me in their list of invitees to the currently-underway Writing Thief MOOC, a deep examination of Ruth Culham’s book The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing. As I explained in my introduction to the MOOC participants, I’m an outlier in the group, as I am not a formally trained writing teacher. My passion is project-based learning, which encompasses all disciplines, and which is itself an (albeit quickly growing) outlier in educational methodologies.

I had encountered a number of the Writing Thief MOOC leaders and participants during the summer 2014 Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC). I learned tremendously from that experience. I received an introduction to many technology tools available to incorporate into writing experiences (as well as other disciplines). I encountered other professionals’ views on teaching and learning. Perhaps most importantly, I discovered that interacting with this virtual community of similarly-minded people is good for my soul.

Therefore, I was eager to join the current conversation. Similarly to #CLMOOC, The Writing Thief MOOC consists of a number of “make cycles,” in this instance related to topics and themes contained in The Writing Thief.

In the second make cycle, we were asked to “find a quote (or quotes) from The Writing Thief that resonates with you,” then “[l]ook at it closely and dissect it” before letting the quote inspire our creativity. We were also told to “give yourself permission…” As I browsed through the “makes” that others had posted to the G+ community, I realized that I would not be satisfied to simply gussy up a quote and call it complete. I needed to give myself permission to dive deeper, and to have fun.

A word Culham used multiple times (nine, to be exact) in The Writing Thief is “frisson,” how we feel “frissons” as we and our students discover great mentor texts, and discover ideas we want to write about. I think my attention was caught by the word “frisson” both because it is not commonly used in English, and because, as a French speaker, the word was familiar to me.

So, the investigation began. One of the beauties of e-readers is they make it straightforward to search for words and phrases. Once I had found all nine “frissons,” I needed to decide how to present my reflection about them. I chose the tool Haiku Deck, both because I had some experience using it, and because it was well-suited to my purpose.

Initially, I thought arranging the nine quotes into a “deck” would be easy. Ha! I had to create an introduction, so off to take photos of the definition of frisson from both French and English dictionaries. Oh, wait, the first quote needed a preamble. Then, some of the quotes didn’t want to fit anywhere. I arranged and rearranged them several times, attempting to find a narrative flow. Finally, I got stuck trying to figure out how to conclude the presentation. Not to mention choosing the images that best portrayed the sense I wanted to give to each quote. As I was working, I realized this was the same process that any writer encounters as s/he creates a piece of work. Although I was simply remixing (thieving?) words written by someone else, I was nonetheless seeking to tell a coherent story. After all, that is what humans like to do – tell stories.

My finished story may be found here: https://www.haikudeck.com/p/9PC9br3xby/frisson.

 

October 24

How can I help students “level up?”

I recently completed a five-week MOOC offered by Coursera, called Advanced Instructional Strategies in the Virtual Classroom. Successful completion of this course, three other courses,  and a capstone result in a Virtual Teacher credential, which is my goal.

As is the case with the other courses in the stream, this short course required only one assessed assignment. In keeping with a #PBL fundamental, we students had voice-and-choice, with three assignment options. One choice was to create a short welcome or instructional video, with an embedded interactive element.

I took the plunge… Due to the intriguing work/play I conducted in the Connected Learning MOOC (#CLMOOC) last summer, I have a heightened interest in understanding how media tools can be used to enhance engagement and learning in students.

In this course’s assignment description, a suggested list of media tools included “Zaption, ThingLink Video, Camtasia, YouTube Editor, Mozilla Popcorn,” although we were at liberty to use any tool that got the job done. I had encountered work done using Zaption during the CLMOOC, so charged ahead with that one.

Along my journey, I encountered many obstacles, and was thankful I had begun work on the project early! I ultimately prevailed, although my end result lacks finesse. I have two major observations from this experience.

Firstly, free versions of products tend to be severely limited and limiting, contributing to the level of frustration I felt as I put the elements together. I understand the purpose of free versions – a risk-free way to try a product and see if it is a good fit for what one wants to do. However, once an organization goes through this analysis process, I think it makes good business sense to commit to the product(s) that best fit the needs of the organization. Otherwise, there is an abundance of time wasted on learning a new tool which only partially satisfies the creative drive. Which ultimately means the creative drive is not satisfied at all!

The other realization that hit home with me was “Where is the instruction manual?” I reflected on this periodically for several days. My first career was in software development/support/project management, from the mid-70’s to the mid-90’s. There was always an instruction manual. Today, however, there is rarely a traditional instruction manual. Technology tools come with FAQs and “?” functions that (generally) lead to a searchable database.

Perhaps as a result, I observe that most young people jump right into the middle of a new app with no prior knowledge or explanation. They simply start using it, and if they get stumped, they try alternative approaches. When all else fails, they invoke the help function. I posit that students often use this same methodology as they tackle new academic material.

In their 2009 work Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Jenkins, Purushotma, Clinton, Weigel & Robison identify what they call new media literacies, among them “Play – The capacity to experiment with the surroundings as a form of problem solving,” “Simulation – The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes,” and “Appropriation – The ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.”

When students jump into the middle of a new game or app, they immediately began experimenting, to figure out how it works. They use prior knowledge of other apps/games they have played, as well as real-world knowledge that may apply to this particular experience. In general, they are not at all intimidated by the fact that they have no guidance in their introduction to this new functionality, but expect that it will in some way have connections to something they already know.

Maybe we need to apply this reality to teaching! Instead of using a traditional instruct-drill-test process, why don’t we ask our students to solve an authentic problem or situation (another essential PBL element)? As they plunge in, they will encounter points where they do not have adequate knowledge or skills to continue further. As instructor facilitators, we can at that point provide the instruction needed (including the use of community experts and resources), in what I term a just-in-time model. Students will be receptive, because they recognize the need for learning, in order to be able to “level up.”

For the brave of heart, you will find my Zaption assignment here: http://zapt.io/tggknnx3.

 

July 21

Connected Learning MOOC (#CLMOOC) Make Cycle #6 – The 5-Image Story

The theme of the final week of #CLMOOC 2014 is “the 5-image story.” As I browsed the examples provided by the CLMOOC team, I began to ponder how authors decide on the stories they are going to tell, regardless of the tools they use. I know for myself, the story needs to reflect something about myself; things/people I value, ideas that intrigue me, pursuits I enjoy, etc.

So, for my “big” 5-image story project, I decided to reflect an activity that has been integral to my life for the past several years. My 15-year-old son has become serious in his pursuit of basketball. Once a “dabbler,” he now plays with a travel league, and spends time off-season improving his skills and conditioning. He and I have spent hundreds of hours on the road, attending practices, games, and tournaments.

I have never played team sports, and am clueless about many of them. I know something about basketball, at least the basic rules. The nuances… not so much. So, I began this journey with my son as an observer and sometime cheerleader. I still fill those two roles, but have also acquired a better understanding of the game, and have established some fine friendships with other parents.

Therefore, I felt that highlighting basketball would reflect a portion of my everyday life, my love for and support of my son, and a sport that is relatively prominent in the landscape of our country.

basketball collage

Interestingly, I posted this collage of five photos in the #CLMOOC community, and the universal response was that my photo story emphasizes the vertical aspects of basketball. Wow! I did not consciously focus on this, so maybe my “mind’s eye” was guiding me?

In verbal terms, I was identifying some components of a basketball game: the huddle, the tip-off, individuality, moving the ball around the court, victory. I was trying to identify the dichotomy of individuals seeking to differentiate themselves, whilst also contributing their unique capabilities to a team effort.

In some respects, I find this illustration parallels the American culture. We identify with this nebulous ideal of “American,” including flag-waving and cheering on our favorite sports teams, while simultaneously asserting our right to be individuals, with divergent values and goals.

As I evolved my collage of five still photos into a more fluid story, I encountered the frustration of technology-that-does-some-good-things-but-not-others. I first tried ThingLink, but quickly became frustrated. I need to consult with my CLMOOC compatriots to figure this out. Maybe the lesson for me as an educator is to ensure I have a basic understanding of any of the tools I ask my students to use.

Then, I turned to Zeega. Initially, I was under-impressed, but continued to experiment. I figured out I could superimpose audio using Soundcloud, and that I could use Flickr images and Giphy .gifs to enhance my story. The chosen elements are layers that can be added, removed, and “faded out” with a few keystrokes. After a bit of a learning curve, I began to get the hang of the tool, and started to have fun.

The beauty of the many technology tools available to even the novice user is that there is instant feedback on one’s creation. I went through several iterations of adding elements, deciding I liked them (or not), then modifying my Zeega to correctly reflect the story I wished to tell. I chose and discarded elements with abandon. This was not a methodical figure-it-all-out-and-put-it-together, but rather a free-flowing trial-and-error approach.

My final result (http://zeega.com/167226) is not “perfect,” but overall it depicts my most important ideas about the sport of basketball. I would love to hear your reactions!

July 20

Connected Learning MOOC (#CLMOOC) Make Cycle #5 – “Light”

One of the challenges for this  week’s #CLMOOC make cycle was to add a (made-up) constellation to a group “sky.” The project, initiated by Kevin Hodgson, consisted of two parts; designing and adding the constellation to a map, and writing a myth to explain the constellation. I hemmed and hawed around all week, thinking about how to combine some traditional myth(s) with what CLMOOC is all about – using creativity, imagination, and play as components of learning.

I easily concluded that Raven would be my mythological character. In Norse mythology, Odin has two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory). They act as his attendants, and fly around the world, delivering information and gathering other information to report back to Odin. Many Native American tribes depict Raven as a creation and trickster god. This includes the Haida Indians, who are indigenous to southeast Alaska, where I grew up. Among other things, they attribute Raven with creating all the objects we see in the sky.

I also knew I wanted to intertwine the reasons we CLMOOOCers are spending our summer writing, making, and tinkering into my story. When I eventually sat down to actually write, the words came easily. I spent very little time editing, because I liked the result. My muse had spoken.

However, and here I get to the crux of this post. After I had submitted my story for the public to see, I began the harsh self-critique. Maybe I should have put a comma here, or used a different vocabulary word there. I quickly stopped, and asked myself: “Does the story portray what you wanted to say?” (Yes.) “Would changes in mechanics or using synonyms REALLY change the meaning of the story?” (No.)

My tendency to negative self-talk is rooted in a childhood where I was incapable of meeting my mother’s exacting standards. A deep-rooted “I’m not good enough” developed, and decades later still has the power to dis-empower me, if I let it. I am quite sure I am not the only person on this planet that has ingrained saboteurs of this type. Some of our students fall into this category.

My own self-reflection was a strong reminder of how useful structured self-reflection is for students. It gives them a framework for evaluating their own work in a positive, supportive way. Instead of nitpicking the small details (that others may not even notice), how does the whole appear? If the student is not satisfied, based upon an assessment process, it is time for a revision cycle. If overall, the product is pleasing, let the rest go. Perfection does not exist, and if perfection is our goal, we will simply end up in modes of paralysis and procrastination.

My story:

Corvus Cogitandum

In the beginning all children were curious about the world around them. They explored with all their senses, and developed great knowledge and understanding. They were surrounded by supportive adults and older children who encouraged them, and gently guided them. Then, a pseudo-wise man declared, “Ah, I have a better idea. Let us treat all children identically, and seat them in rows, and impart knowledge by droning on for hours.” And, it was so.
Initially, the pseudo-wise man’s plan worked well. Children grew up with a common understanding of events, and dates, and formulas. The identical graduates marched off to their identical jobs in identical places of employment. The sky was dark.
Then, one day, the rebel RAVEN plopped himself in the midst of a chemistry classroom. “What IS this?,” he squawked. “Where is imagination, and creativity, and individuality?” He grabbed the mound of phosphorous resting on the teacher’s desk, exploded through the roof, scattering the material in the sky. Thus began the first light of the stars.
The next day, many people discussed this startling event. Some of them, despite the naysaying tongues, began to nod their heads, and to think more about the light. The illumination created cheeriness and positive energy, and they wondered how to ignite it even further.
So, they gathered the children, and led them to the maker lab. The children began combining all sorts of materials and ideas. Some of these experiments resulted in big explosions, and dust all around. Some fizzled into forgotten-ness. But, one day, a group was inspired to create a great ball of gases. RAVEN carried it high into the sky, and the sun began to illuminate each part of the earth for half of the day.
Some makers were frustrated, as they wanted some form of brightness for those middle-of-the-night hours when their tinkering powers were at their peak. So, they created an object that could reflect the sun. RAVEN carried it to the heavens, and placed it in just the right location. Thus, the moon was born.
More and more people saw the light, both adults and children, and began imagining creations of their own. RAVEN visited these brave, hearty souls and soared into the heavens with their inventions of galaxies, and black holes, and dark energy.
Some of the boldest souls gathered together to participate in #CLMOOC, where all are connected. No idea is too large or too small, and LIGHT abounds.
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July 7

Connected Learning MOOC (#CLMOOC) Make Cycle #3 – “Games”

The #CLMOOC theme this past week was “games.” Board games, electronic apps, word games, photo games… The reflection challenge participants received was: “What did you decide this week about yourself, about games, about learning, and about play?”

I love games. As a child, growing up in a large family, it was common for Monopoly, Risk, Yahtzee, etc. to be dragged out, since there were always other people to play with. We also played a lot of outdoor games – tag, hide-and-seek, softball, fox-and-geese (winter game in the snow – illustrated here).

My children have grown up in a much smaller nuclear family (fewer game-mates) and in a different time. Instead of board or card games, many of today’s children turn to video games, whether online multi-player games, or stand-alone games. I sometimes try to coax them into playing an “old school” game, but am often unsuccessful.

Games serve many interests, “winning” being only one of them. Through game play, young children learn concepts such as taking turns, their colors, and being a gracious loser (that is so hard when you are 4, or 5, or for some, 45!). Older children, when faced with strategy games, chess being a classic example, develop deeper thinking skills, as they have to identify and execute moves that build their advantage.

In the current age, “games” often refer to video games. The debate as to their relative worth for kids’ development is ongoing, and probably will never be definitively agreed upon. Via one of Kevin Hodgson’s posts, I found this MindShift article entitled The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing. The author states categorically that we adults need to enter the video gaming world. He says “Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about ‘The Lord of the Flies’ without having learned to read.” He further states we need to connect these games to books, movies, TV and the real world inhabited by our students. Furthermore, when we encourage students to discuss and analyze games with their peers, we help them enlarge their perspective and ideas.

Many of us are aware of Minecraft, an open world sandbox game that has taken the tween world by storm. Over the past couple of years, it has also entered the education world, seen as a tool that helps develop problem-solving and collaboration skills. The education version also provides the teacher with a lot of control over the game play and the worlds the students use. I found this description of a teacher’s experience enlightening.

As I reflect on games in general, I realize my attitude is that games and play are for kids. Games may emulate the adult world, but once we move into the adult world, we need to put games and play away and be “responsible adults.” I think this attitude has been detrimental to my effectiveness as a parent, teacher, person, and has also robbed me of much enjoyment! Although I do need to be a “responsible adult,” it does not follow that I need to put all fun needs aside. Helpguide.org informs me that “Playing… is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and improve your mental health.”

My participation in the “game” theme of this week’s #CLMOOC activities also reinforced a  fact that took me many years to understand about myself, which is I love word games! I happily engaged in both the folding story activity Kevin Hodgson sparked, and the #15wordstory inspired by Scott Glass. Both activities required me to use creative thinking, and were a lot of fun! I’m liking learning to play games again.

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