Thursday, February 23, 2017

Subbing in Mrs. Dontje's Class!

Reflections on Subbing with Mrs. Dontje’s class
Note- this post is mostly for "myself", so it's super long!

On Friday, February 3rd, I ventured back into a strange, wonderful, almost forgotten part of my life- the classroom!  While I started my career in this exact spot, for the past ten years I have worked as a computer lab teacher, a technology / digital integration facilitator, and assistant director of technology.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with amazing teachers and students along the way, but each year that I’ve been out of the classroom I’ve felt more and more removed from the daily realities teachers face.  I’ve ALWAYS known and said that the hardest job in any school system is clearly classroom teaching and lately I’ve felt I needed to reconnect with my classroom roots in order to best serve teachers, students, and DIFs I work with.

So, I reached out to my daughter’s school principal, Mrs.Ciccone, and asked if she knew of any 2nd grade teachers I could sub a day for.  Having taught kindergarten for 2 years and 2nd grade for 4 years, I thought it would be best for me (and the kids!) to be as comfortable as possible.  I was shortly connected with an amazing 2nd grade teacher at Pinehurst Elementary- Mrs. Kelly Dontje.  Mrs. Dontje is a 3rd year teacher and clearly is on her way to becoming a master!  Her kids clearly love her and are excelling because of the relationships she has built.   Mrs. Dontje rocks!

So….after finishing this post I decided since it ran super long to come back to the top and get a main takeaways together:

Main takeaways
This experience made me remember...

  • The best way to keep kids on task is to plan and prepare for them to be engaged throughout the day.
  • How much I love teaching
  • How exhausting teaching is.  Managing all the different personalities, learning styles, and aptitudes is hard work.
  • That the hardest job in the school system is classroom teacher.  Never forgetting that makes me a better service to teachers.
  • Kids rock!  They can do a lot of amazing things if you give them the time and opportunity to show you what they can do.

And, finally, I would urge any facilitator, district, or school admin who has been out of the classroom for 5+ years to go back and sub for a day- it will reconnect you with our most important pieces of the school system- the teachers and students!



And now for the rest of the novel/post….

For the past 10 years I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of different classrooms- doing model lessons, coteaching, simply “being there” when teachers try something new with technology, and lately, observing our awesome DIFs working with students.  But what I quickly remembered when I subbed is that all of these things are just fundamentally different than being the teacher.   Before getting started with my day I felt something I haven’t felt in quite awhile- anxiety!  Nervousness!  What had I forgotten?  Could I still handle all the different behaviors, opinions, and ideas that were about to fly at me at a hundred miles an hour?  Could I get kids to work together?  How did I used to do that every day?  All of these thoughts ran through me as the day got closer and closer.

But then I remembered something about myself as a teacher (and, something I learned while teaching that has carried me through the entire rest of my career)- I feel most comfortable and confident when I plan and prepare.  I find confidence through the planning process.  So I started going through the structure of the day Mrs. Dontje left me- the timing of kids coming in and putting stuff away, when the day “officially” began, when kids had to go to specials, when lunch/recess were, and how those instructional times meshed together.  Then I started in with my ideas.

I knew I wanted to test myself.  I knew this wasn’t going to be a “normal” school day for these 2nd graders.  And I knew that I wanted to try some things out that I’ve been asking my DIF teammates and teachers to give a whirl in their classrooms.  I wanted to enrich curriculum in the same way, with the same tools.  I wanted to experience this firsthand with a real group of kids and a real clock on the wall that doesn’t really care about how cool your lesson is….  So I started with a list:

1.     Read a fun story and do something with it (I love reading to kids and miss that so much, so this was a gimme).
2.     Do some writing and story creation with Lego Story Starter kits.  I’ve watched DIFs and teachers develop incredible lessons around these kits and I wanted to test drive them myself.
3.     Have students create something with the iPads in the room (wanted to see how the equipment held up in the creation process).
4.     Work through an engineering lesson of some sort.  This has been a big push for us this year in K-5.  I wanted to build an engineering lesson with a high probability of failure on the 1st try so I could see for myself how kids react when their prototype doesn’t work out and they have to work through the improvement piece of the design process.

As I planned out the day, I got more and more excited.  I really connected back to my first love as an educator- planning the activities, playing them out in my head, thinking about what the kids that finish early would do, considering how to break in and out of groups, how to make sure each and every kid was engaged and accountable, and how to keep things fun.  I remembered something else that I had to learn the hard way when I taught- 95% of the behavior problems I had in my room were rooted in poor lesson design or not thinking through all of these things.  The best way to keep kids on task is to design your day to keep them that way. 

So I got my ideas together and then went and purchased all the supplies (another memory….all the money spent out of pocket!!!) and prepped them all the day before.  Heading into the classroom that morning I felt  much better, totally excited, but still hanging on to that nervousness!

As the kids started filing in, I greeted them and tried to get a quick read on who was who.  It was Friday.  And it was Mrs. Dontje’s birthday.  She started the day with us so it was great to see all of her kids love on her and show her the cards they made.  After Mrs. Dontje left, the kids finished their morning work and I called them all to the rug (when I taught, I was a big “rug” guy….I liked bringing my kids together often for stories, instructions, etc.). 

We started off with a story- The Runaway Pancake, as told by John Lithgow.  This was a book I had read with my 3 girls a couple years ago and loved.  It’s a hilarious story about a pancake that jumps out of an oven, rolls along singing a song while various characters chase after it….to finally be eaten by a sly fox at the end.  After reading the story, I put a Google Doc up for some brainstorming of their own stories.  I asked them to think of what else we could write a story about (The Runaway _________ ).  So we brainstormed different main characters, different secondary characters that could chase our main character, different antagonists (a new word!), and what other ways the story could end. 

Well, the kids were totally creative with their ideas.  So I asked them in partners to fill out a story planning page with the 4 pieces to it above.  Then, after they had filled out their story plan, I showed them the Lego Story Starter kits so they could create a scene from their story.

Kids love Legos.  They just do.  And they can take a story starter kit and make it fit whatever is in their head.  That’s why I love these kits- they are so malleable because kids make it work for whatever they need.  After going over some “ground rules” as this was their first time with them, they got started with their partners. 


The kids worked really well on their story scenes!  Now, did we have a couple kids that meandered and needed redirection?  Absolutely!  Did we have one that completely scrapped the story he came up with and build a most righteous battle scene?  Without a doubt!  But that’s a part of teaching I had to remember as I went along- there will always be kids who need extra help, and there will always be kids that do better with a little extra leash for their individual ideas. 

After the kids had their stories fleshed out, I brought them back to the rug to show them how to create stop motion videos of their scenes using the Lego MovieMaker app on the iPad.  This app is really easy and the kids picked it up with almost no problems whatsoever.  Within minutes they were busily recording their videos.  One thing that really hit me was just how natural this was.  Back when I was a classroom teacher (WAAAAY back in 1998-2005) I bet you could figure I always incorporated any piece of technology I could into my lessons.  Well back then, I remember doing a LOT more modeling (and very explicit modeling).  While I had to model expectations and some things with these 2nd graders, I realized they were ready to rock in short fashion.  So I let them!

And did they ever!  Check out the videos below to see what they came up with!

The Runaway Bacon
The Runaway Cookie

From here it was off to drop the kids off at specials.  While they were at specials and recess I got my engineering thread materials together, cleaned up a bit, and took a brief breath (for those that don’t know, K-5 teachers have the shortest time to plan throughout the day- especially after you consider other duties, PLC meetings, contacting parents, going through email, and all the million other things they have to do in such a short time!). 

Lunch was up after recess.  I had a blast eating and chatting with some of the kids.  I miss just striking up a conversation at lunch with kids.  I’m going to do this more often when I go into schools from now on.  =)

After lunch we came back and finished up our movies.  We also had a viewing party, which was great!  I love how proud kids are when they create something from start to finish.   I think seeing my own students react with pride when they presented their  early digital creations to the class really carried through me in my entire career….Looking back on it I’m pretty sure those experiences molded me into the “digital tools must be used to create” mantra I’ve been spitting out for at least 10-12 years.

Next up was our engineering lesson!  The idea was pretty straightforward- the kids would be given traditional materials (pipe cleaners, construction paper, toothpicks, marshmallows, tape) and, in partners, needed to create an oven that their Runaway _______ could not escape from (they drew their object on a piece of paper, which I’d tape a piece of string to and see if I could pull it out of their prototype). 

As I started walking through the engineering process, we talked about what engineers do and proceeded to start brainstorming ideas and drawing out our plans.  Before we got started, though, I was smacked in the face with that one harsh reality you can never get past in the classroom….the clock!  When planning, I had a feeling I might not get through this lesson and here it was staring me in the face.

Luckily, we have an amazing DIF assigned to Pinehurst Elementary- Deanna Boesch!  Before I left I asked Deanna if she could tag team with Mrs. Dontje to finish up the create/test/improve phase of the engineering process.  



By the end of the day, I got the room put back together with the help of the kids and allowed Mrs. Dontje to come back and take them to dismissal.  As the kids filed out I gave them high fives and hugs and told them I couldn’t wait to come back and say hello! 

Of course, I was absolutely exhausted.  Even though the kids did most of the “work” of the day, I was just so tired….  Part of it is being “on” all day, with kids right there depending on you to be on your game.  Part of it was the ongoing balance of behaviors  and unique differences each kid brought to the table and managing them all, every minute.  I came out of the day with a renewed confirmation that there is NO harder job in a school system than classroom teacher.  The work our teachers do every day making their classroom a warm, exciting place to learn is flat out amazing.  I’m so fortunate that I spent 6 full years as a classroom teacher, getting the chance to work with some amazing kids (who are all now graduated…I am old!!!). 

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Thank you to Mrs. Dontje and her kids for allowing me to sub for a day!  Thank you to Ashlee Ciccone, the principal at PES, who allowed me to come in and spend the day.  Thank you to Mrs. Boesch for being such an amazing resource as a DIF.  I won’t wait another 10 years to come back to the classroom for a full day and I’d encourage any facilitator, school support, or school/district admin to consider subbing in a classroom for a day- I promise you will reconnect to your roots and the experience will affirm your dedication to serve teachers and students each and every day!

Monday, February 2, 2015

How can One-to-One Chromebooks Transform a Classroom?


I've been lucky to have had contact with some great educational technology thinkers over the last 6 years or so.  One of the leaders I have heard speak many times, to rooms large and small, is Chris Lehmann.  Chris is the practical, down-to-Earth principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia as well as the founder of Educon.

For Christmas, my good pal Amanda Bullard got me a book titled "What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media", which was edited by Mr. Lehmann and Scott McLeod (another leader I've been honored to meet and talk with in the past).  The chapter in the book that spoke deeply to me was Chapter 7, entitled "One-to-One Computing", co-written by Chris Lehmann and Pamela Livingston.

It spoke deeply to me because it rings loudly with what we are working so hard to accomplish in Moore County Schools, where I work.  A great synopsis of what One-to-One computing in schools is all about is found on page 77 (emphasis mine):

"One way to think about the pedagogical change is that a 1:1 program should allow schools to make technology ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.  In a 1:1 environment, students have the technology with them at all times.  It does not require a special trip to a lab or signing out a cart.  This means that students can have constant access to the world around them.  Resources for creating, synthesizing, researching, writing, presenting, and publishing are solidly in the hands of the learner, not distributed by the teacher.  Teachers have to learn how to work this potential into their planning and classroom management.  Students have to learn how to manage the productivity potential of the device as well as the distractibility potential.  Used purposefully, 1:1 creates classrooms where teachers are facilitators and mentors, guiding students through learning and creation in powerful ways.  In this model, students can be empowered creators and synthesizers of learning artifacts...When all embrace their new roles, it stops being about the technology and becomes about the work.  When students and teachers stop talking about their laptops and instead use them in an authentic way toward common educational goals, a shared learning vision has been achieved."

This is the vision we have for our 1:1 Chromebook deployment and it has been from the very start.  We know the challenge is great and it feels great to be a part of a team that not only recognizes the challenges but works hard to overcome them for the benefit of students.

One-to-One Chromebooks can transform a classroom (and an entire district) by providing an equitable platform for ALL students to become expert collaborators, powerful creators, and empowered publishers.  Now that our students have Chromebooks at their fingertips both at school and at home, the world is open to them to chase down their passions and interests, grab them by the collar, and get to work fulfilling them.


The path to fulfilling our vision is long and filled with obstacles and challenges.  As a  member of an outstanding team, we can make this vision a reality together.  As a leader, the questions that drive me are:

  • What obstacles are in our way to fulfilling this vision for students?  What obstacles face our teachers?  Our students?  Our parents?  Our admin teams?  Our DIF team?  How can I purposefully identify and help eliminate them?  
  • In what ways can I continue to "say yes" when someone asks to try something new?  How can I focus on creating an environment where people are comfortable enough to share their innovative ideas?
  • How can we continue to make sure our efforts are focused squarely on student learning and opportunity?
  • In what ways can I continue to work directly with and gain valuable insight from students across grades K-12?  How can I help steer us toward an environment that truly values student choice and voice, instead of pay it lip service?
Together, with our heads and hearts in the right places, we can truly arrive at the transformative potential that One-to-One provides us.  Here's to the ongoing journey!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet Davis, a 4th grader inspired by the Global Read Aloud!

Cross-posted to another blog I contribute to, Chromebooks in Education

Sometimes in the everyday, enjoyable chaos that is the edtech world I get a stark reminder of why we all do this.  This always seems to happen when a student is doing something GREAT in school that has a huge impact on them, using tools that have never before been available.  These are opportunities that simply didn't exist for students before the tools and access caught up to our imaginations.

This is exactly the place I found myself when I ran across a 4th grade teacher named Ms. Kaylor Kaemba, who had a student that she told me had found a ton of motivation for reading and writing through their participation in the Global Read Aloud (read more about the Global Read Aloud, created by Pernille Ripp).  So I decided to go meet this young reader, Davis C, so I could feature him and his progress on our blog.  It was the highlight of my week!

So without further ado, I introduce you to Davis!

Davis is a 4th grader at Carthage Elementary School in Carthage, North Carolina.

This year, Davis' teacher, Ms. Kaemba, was exposed to the Global Read Aloud by the Digital Integration Facilitator at her school, Kelly Priest.  Mrs. Priest helped this class get started with the project and assisted in setting Davis' class up to also Skype with a class from San Diego.  The two classes engaged with each other via Skype and through Kidblog blogs, where they discussed the book The Fourteenth Goldfish.

As Mrs. Kaemba reports:

"Davis has so much to share but putting it down in words is not always easy for him. He did not eagerly participate in writing activities, that is, until Davis was introduced to a 4th grade class from San Diego via Skype.  After his experience with one student in that class, Davis began to ask to write on his blog.  He would eagerly check the comments left by students all over the United States.  Davis found motivation to grow as a writer and as a reader."



I found Davis to be an exceptionally bright and articulate young man, who gives an outstanding interview.  Below are the questions I asked him and his (paraphrased) answers.  I hope you enjoy him as much as I did!


How did you start blogging?
We read The Fourteenth Goldfish and got to blog with other people, kids, from across the world.  We were all reading the same book.  The other kids were way ahead of us at times but were nice enough not to spoil it.

What would you write about?
Things like our favorite parts of the book and we would ask questions of the other class.  It was cool to see what they thought about the same book and parts of the book.

What did you like about blogging?
I like blogging because it's really nice to know what others around the world are like and to know their names.

What was your favorite part of connecting through Skype?
We got to see them on the webcam!  There were lots of kids all over the place.  There was a student in the other class named AJ that I really liked reading his posts.  He would talk about his family and what kinds of things he liked to do over the summer.  When we got to see the other class I was really excited to meet AJ since I had read all his posts.  He looked a lot different than I expected and that was neat.

How has blogging and connecting with this other class helped you become a better reader or writer?
Before, I didn't really like to write or read that much.  I did write one comic book but that was about it.  I got to be a better reader because I saw that the things that others were blogging about were really interesting so I started reading all their stuff.  Now I like to write on my Kidblog blog.  And now that I'm reading better, I'm starting to read a series of books called The Amulet and it's really awesome- I can't wait to read the next few after they come back to the library!


So there you have it- it was a great experience for me to sit down with Davis and I can't thank Ms. Kaemba and Mrs. Priest enough for being bold enough to try something new with digital tools to make learning relevant and motivating for students!

And Davis- keep reading, writing, blogging, and connecting!  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Promoting Innovation, Creativity, and Design in our Schools (Pt 2 of 2)

Part One can be found here, where I went through the two main types of innovation we're working on.

Employers and college registrars are speaking loud and clear when they say they need more creative people, more problem solvers, more critical thinkers, and more innovative ideas. Even beyond all that, we know as educators that these are critical skills and we've always worked to build them in our students.  We don't need mounds of surveys and data to tell us these are important skills, but it is important to note that there is a real uptick in the call for these skills as the world economy becomes more information and innovation driven.

Promoting innovation, creativity, and design in schools is not easy.  Many things work against this effort, most of which are frankly out of our control- increased testing and the pressure it creates, stacked curriculum and pacing guides, bell schedules, limited materials, and the very structure/space we have to work with, to name a few.  This effort is NOT easy, but it IS important.  It's what's right for students.



There's good news and bad news about promoting innovation and creativity in our classrooms.  My daughter always tells me to start with the bad news first, so she can leave in a better mood after hearing the good news second....so we'll start with the bad news!

The bad news is that we, as teachers, do many things throughout our day that squash our student's creativity.  Most of these things happen and we don't even realize it.  They mostly stem from the way we were ourselves taught growing up.  Many of them also originate in classes or PD we've been given in the past about how to manage a classroom, how to present lessons, and how to interact with kids.  So that's the bad news.

Now for the good news!  Unlike the barriers listed above that are out of our control- these actions and strategies are totally within our grasp to change. All we have to do is be mindful of them when we're asking students to do creative work and step back!

The teachers I've been able to work with on this have done a fantastic job of identifying a lot of these actions and behaviors and reflecting on how to change them to allow more creativity and innovative thought to flow in our schools.  Here's the list and our reactions and reflections on each.

Things to be mindful of when doing creative / innovative / design work with students:

Instead of…
Think about…
Providing a model of what you want to build
Letting kids start from scratch
Assigning a task (“Build a paper airplane”)
Generating a goal (“Make something that can fly across the room”)
Making kids work alone
Having kids work in partners or small groups
Limiting Materials
Providing a large range and asking kids what else they could use
Teaching kids how to improve their design
Having kids who have had success share their ideas with the class
Starting with research
“Ending” with research, then letting that research generate more questions and ideas for improvement
Stepping in to help/guide as kids build
Stepping back and letting them figure it out together
Providing rewards
Providing feedback
“Fixing” things for kids
Letting kids troubleshoot

In short, when doing creative work with kids:

  • Less us, more them
  • Be less helpful
  • Be open to surprises and new directions that kids want to take you

Good luck and have fun!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Promoting Innovation, Creativity, and Design in our Schools (Pt 1 of 2)

This is Part 1, where I'm writing about the two main types of innovation and their importance in schools....Part 2 is here, where I share ways that we as teachers often accidentally squash student innovation and creativity in the classroom- and how to be mindful of this problem!

Working through my county's digital learning transformation process has been and continues to be an exciting time for all involved.  We're truly targeting meaningful use of devices, listening to teachers and students, and have hired an outstanding team of facilitators.

Production labs, entrepreneurship programs, and makerspaces are cropping up within our county.  Some of our media specialists are starting to rethink what a library / media space should be all about.   Teachers are starting to seek digital tools as ways to encourage choice and personalized learning for students.  Along with this process we've been able to see some outstanding principals make a shift in their buildings toward innovation and creativity and away from standardization and rote learning.  

As part of this, I've been asked to come and speak to a few school staffs about innovation, creativity, and how we teachers often inadvertently squash these things in our classrooms.  It's a topic I'm passionate about because I've seen with my own eyes that when we give kids the opportunity to surprise us, they'll rarely disappoint.  

Before talking about innovation, I think it's important to distinguish between the two main types- sustained (incremental) innovation and disruptive innovation.  Both are incredibly important to focus on with kids.  

One way I share with teachers how these two types of innovation play out is through a design process- namely, building paper airplanes!



We follow the simple design process, Think - Make - Improve (credit to Stager/Martinez), where teachers are given an opportunity and materials to continuously improve their airplane designs.  Through this process I give some explicit instructions and strategies to guide their designs.  The task is to build a paper airplane that flies as far as possible.  Some of the planes they come up with are fantastic, some are plainly disastrous at accomplishing the task at hand.  




So we talk about "what is sustained/incremental innovation?" We land on a definition that revolves around "innovation that continuously improves a product, idea, or process, but does not fundamentally change it."  No matter what we add to our paper airplanes, they're still essentially a paper airplane.  Another example of sustained innovation would be pencil sharpeners.  We can make them electronic, we can make them last a lot longer, we can make them compatible with different sizes of pencils, we can add ways for the shavings to automatically trashed- but at the end of the day, we're still sharpening pencils.

Sustained/Incremental Innovation is extremely important- it's the bread and butter of design and is something we should be actively practicing with all students, in all areas of design (not just building and making, but in how we approach the arts, reading, math, social sciences, and all other subjects).


Disruptive Innovation
We then shift and talk about disruptive innovation.  We kick that conversation off with this video:


So, disruptive innovation is when a product, process, or idea is fundamentally changed so that it looks completely different than what it was before.  Many times, disruptive innovations are scaleable so they have a huge impact on the world.  Some of history's most impressive inventions are great examples of disruptive innovation:
  • The telephone fundamentally changed the way we communicate.
  • Ford's assembly line fundamentally changed manufacturing (and in turn, our education system, for the worse....but I digress).
  • The printing press fundamentally changed the nature of literacy.
  • The idea of democracy fundamentally changed the role and function of government.
  • The World Wide Web fundamentally changed the way we send and receive information.
And on and on....disruptive innovation can happen in a burst of insight or through hard, determined work.  It can often change the world, and quickly.  Or it can also fly under the radar.  But one thing is certain- it takes creativity, imagination, opportunity, and empowerment to happen.  And these are things that we as teachers often accidentally squash- sometimes in very well-meaning ways.

Tomorrow, I'll follow up with part two- how we inadvertently take creativity and innovation out of our classrooms, how to remain mindful of this, and how to approach things a bit differently to stoke these important flames in students!

Books I've been reading that greatly shape my understanding and thinking:
Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner
Invent to Learn, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez
Making Learning Whole, David Perkins

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"Next Level Gamification"

Yeah that's right- I used to lead druids, enchanters, warriors, rogues, wizards, and other misfits in raids on dragons.

So I've been gaming for a long time.  It used to be something folks might turn a nose up on, but nowadays I can wave my game freak flag fly with abandon.  I started with the Atari 2600.  I beat Pitfall, ET (which I don't agree is the worst Atari game ever- that would be Journey Escape, thank you very much), and pretty much owned my brothers and sisters in Combat.  I moved through Nintendo and the Sega Genesis and eventually fell in love with PC gaming.  My first decent PC gaming was on the Apple IIGS, with favorites like Zork and Might and Magic.  PC Games were huge for me and I loved the old MUDs, moving through those like +3 broad swords through butter.  I chewed through many a fantasy RPG, notably all the Baldur's Gates, Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, etc.  

All of which totally prepped me for my last big gaming obsession- Everquest.  The first MMORPG to make it big, EQ was awesome and there will never be another game like it....ever.  Not because it had the best graphics or interface- but rather because what EQ did was put a bunch of nerdy gamers into a world, without a map, without a handbook, without any spoilers or cheat codes- and we all had to figure it out together.  There were no answers when EQ started.  It was gaming at it's purest and best- people coming together from all over the world to figure out game mechanics, weaknesses, where the best loot dropped, developing strategies on harder encounters, mapping the world out for each other and above all- sharing, sharing sharing.

Yes, I was the nerdy guild officer.  Yes, I led raids on dragons, demonic bastards, and other nasties (I can't be sure, but I feel pretty confident saying I was the only kindergarten teacher on the planet that did this in their spare time...).  It may be surprising to some, but this was actually pretty hard work- wrangling people together, getting the right mix of classes, setting up the right groups, planning and implementing the right strategies, recovering after epic wipeout losses and trying again, making sure folks had the right equipment, getting fair and transparent loot distribution plans in place in case of success, plus loads of other variables made for hard sledding.  

This type of work, to me, is what "next level gamification" in classrooms should be all about.  Unfortunately, and to my huge disappointment, this isn't what many think about when they hear the term....  Last Friday, I went to an informal session during Hack Education whose organizer used that title as the jumping off point for conversation.  I wish I knew the young gentleman's name- he was very passionate about the work he had done with his students to "gamify" his classroom- turning points into XP points, awarding badges for behavior and work, keeping running leaderboards, calling projects "epic quests".  

As he was presenting all of this info and all the research behind it, all I could think in my head was "no no no no....please no...."  If this is what "gamifying" the classroom is all about- badges, extrinsic rewards, and glorifying status- then count me OUT.  I spoke up about my concerns about such a heavy focus on extrinsic rewards, which mountains of evidence shows diminishes human's interest and intrinsic motivation to learn the topic at hand (when you tie extrinsic rewards to behaviors and work, people work for the reward- not the learning or process- if you need more info on that, this guy can certainly point you in the right direction).  To my shock, there weren't many others to share this concern (at least not out loud).  I voiced it again and still the majority of the group wanted to press on to learn more about this gentleman's particular vision of a "gamified" classroom.  I decided to check out and go to another session- I'm not a wet blanket kinda guy and I didn't want to rain on anyone's parade- I just fundamentally disagree with the approach.

To me, the next level of gamification or gaming in the classroom should be much less about badges and much more about group problem solving and promoting the value of failure (or, better stated- iteration).  It should allow kids the opportunity to wrangle a motley crew together, strategize how to conquer a daunting task, give it a whirl.....then pick up the shattered pieces, figure out what went wrong and give it another go.

That's the kind of gamification I'm going to see if I can promote and we'll see how it goes...better than one's first stab at a dragon, I can only hope...

Forgive me blog, for I have sinned.

**Apologies for the slightly Catholic opening (I was, myself, slightly Catholic growing up and parts of it seemed to stick...)**

So it's time to come clean on a couple things:
  • Even though I wrote a book, I don't love to write.  
  • Because I don't love to write, writing a book totally burned me out on writing and I'm only barely recovering.
  • Even though I was always told my ELA-type scores and numbers were better than my math/science, I've always liked math/science a lot more.
  • I've convinced myself that in the past two years I haven't had time to blog much because of all the changeover in getting a new job, having a third awesome little girl, and a million other things.  But that's not true- it doesn't take long for me to share thoughts once I start tapping away.  
  • I like to share ideas, but I wonder how new friends and colleagues will take them.  Not worried, per se, just wondering.
  • I have about 20 draft posts that I've never fleshed out.  Maybe the idea that I have to flesh them out is the problem....maybe just quicker snippets is where I need to head!
So all of this adds up to me not really doing much blogging at all these past couple years.  But being at ISTE again has re-lit a bit of a bug in me to share.  So, blog, I beg for forgiveness for your neglect, gathering dust in the corners of the Ed Tech universe....  but I think I'm gonna drag you back into the light, polish you off, and see what kinds of stuff might pop out.