Saturday, September 16, 2017

A New Recipe....Sat., Sept. 16, 2017

Sat., Sept. 2017

So we've now had twelve rapid, exciting days of school in the 2017-18 school year, and it appears promising.  Its amazing how the chemistry of a class changes based on the students in the class.  I feel like a chef trying to figure out how to amend the recipe in a few classes.  Some definitely need more sugar and some a lot less spice.  We're all starting to settle in and dust off those academic habits that were mothballed for the summer.  I'll keep you updated as the year progresses!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Schoolcraft - Mon., July 24, 2017

Mon., July 24, 2017

In the Games and Sims course I am taking this summer at Marlboro, I have become "Tiffany Star" and experienced and learned Jokaydia Grid, Second Life, and now Minecraft.  Each world is so different from each other and from school.  This last program is "Minecraft" and an article we read from James Paul Gee, "Good Video Games and Good Learning" made me think about how we could create "Schoolcraft."  Taking the key principles that Gee mentions and make them REAL in our schools.   For example, one of the principles is "risk taking" and that good video games lower the consequences of failure.  In schools, we operate on the "fear of failure" as "sticks" for students to learn.  We must innovate our schools by starting with our classrooms and making "failure a GOOD thing."  We also have to "customize a game to fit with the learning and playing styles."  Personalized learning will support this, but it's still so new and "risky" for educators when we are held to high stakes testing scores.  What if our SBAC tests were like video games, and preparing for them was a "well-ordered problem" - what a difference it would make in mastery of concepts for students.   Building a house in Minecraft requires math skills - four planks divide into tools, etc., so math content can be applied in a game setting.  I believe we must do the reverse, and make our schools/classrooms more like a game setting, if we truly want to engage today's learner for LIFELONG learning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resistance is Futile - Wed., July 19, 2017

Wed., July 19, 2017

On an infamous Star Trek Next Generation Episode, the "Borg" repeatedly said to all, "Resistance is Futile, prepare to be assimilated."  I remember at the time that my response was balderdash, technology does not have the power to be such a major part of who a person is.  Of course, there aren't true "cyborgs" as was on that episode, but there are students who live in a totally, and I mean totally different world than we do.

As classroom teachers, and principals, banning games or at least ignoring them is futile.  We must embrace them, learn them (as challenging as it is), and begin a conversation with our students about them.  As James Gee mentioned, students talk physics without being "required" to.  Learning can truly be in different formats, and gaming is one strategy whose time has come.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Maximizing Abilities - July 16, 2017

Sun., July 16, 2017

Taking five (5), yes five, grad classes this summer has been a challenge, but it's easier to overload when there aren't student's in the building.  Working as a principal and teacher and taking grad classes at the same time is more challenging.  I'll still have to take classes in the fall, but not as many hopefully because I'm "doubling up" now.

Two of the grad classes have had similar topics - accessibility for all.  With 504's and IEP's, equal access should automatically happen.  Needless to say, it doesn't because with those you have to have a diagnosed, documented disability that's affecting your ability to learn.   One of my classes had us watch a video about "Virtual Ability Island's" founder, Gentle Heron.  It's an uplifting, inspirational real life example of how to embrace diversity in the real world.  Gentle Heron said that she deals with "TABS" or Temporary Able Bodies, which we all know change as we age.  Real innovation about such an important topic.

In my other class, we talked about universal design and how all websites, etc. are to have access to all disabilities, known as Section 508.  There were several informative YouTube videos from Portland Community College called "To Care and Comply."  They pointed out that disabilities are barriers to learning, so it's to us as educators to open the door, NOT shut the door.  It's important, but more importantly is the RIGHT thing to do.  That's what VAI does as well.  There is no success without access virtually or in real life.  It's all about maximizing our abilities, no matter what they are.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Virtual Learning = Simulations?

Virtual Learning = Simulations? - Mon., June 19, 2017

Years ago when I was a young teacher I wanted my 6th grade students to get the "feel" and try to truly understand the concept of power and resources.  We divided the physical classroom up into regions and each region had specific resources.  One had the door, another had the water fountain, another had the pencil sharpener, another had the dictionaries, one had the calculators, etc.  Throughout the day we did regular class activities, and it wasn't long before the students in one "region" figured out they didn't have the resources they needed.  It's hard to describe here, but my students got it.  They got an early, primitive lesson that really stuck with them as we went through the year.   I learned then that if I wanted them to get big abstract concepts, I had to make it real.

So it's 2017, how do we make it "real" if it's virtual?  It's not REALLY real, but yet students think differently than we do now.  Our school uses a program called "Dreambox" which is game-based learning for Math and the students have excelled with it.

I think virtual learning is for classrooms what TV was in the 80's.  A way to bring the real world into the house, the classroom, the phone, the device of the students.  Learning can be anywhere, anytime, so virtual, game-based play must be developed and available for all students everywhere and not at a huge cost.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Vacation from Reality- Sun., June 18, 2017

Sun., June 18, 2017 - A Vacation from Reality

So in the Games and Sim course I'm taking, I've become an avatar and get to explore Jokaydia Grid which is beautiful and perfect and safe.  I was flying (1st hint I wasn't in Vermont anymore), and then accidentally landed in the water/ocean.   Rather than drowning I simply walked on the ocean floor to land, which was quite odd, but kind of nice at the same time.  There was no "risk," no "accident report" that had to be completed and sent to the SU and VSBIT.  It struck me then that the true draw for virtual games is that it is a "vacation" from reality.  The world is perfect, neat, no grass to be mowed, no barking dogs, etc.  Often when people are stressed, strategies recommended to them are mindfulness, yoga, walking in nature, bubble bath, massage, prayer, etc.  I've NEVER heard gaming recommended, but I'm going to add it to my list.  For a short visit, I'm taken away to land with no worries where I can relax and be safe.  Of course, you have to go to the right game to make this happen so I'm going to start a list of "Vacation from Reality" games for recharging the stressed, exhausted educators!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sun., May 28, 2017 - Lost & Found

Lost & Found - Sun., May 28, 2017

As a principal, teacher, and aunt,  I always believed that “gaming” and virtual reality was wrong.  Board games, i.e. Monopoly, Scrabble were the ONLY real games.  The “other” games were unhealthy and going to make killers of our youth.  (Of that last part,  some of that may sadly be true.)

So I was recently introduced to Jokaydia Grid and Second Life as part of a tech grad class I  am taking, and this post is an assignment, enjoyable though it is.  My first adventure into "virtual games" was exhilarating, petrifying, and addictive.  In Second Life I arrived and started on the "introduction" which helped me feel more confident in myself as an avatar there.  I kept getting passed by other avatars, so I started to remember what it was like in elementary school when I couldn't catch on to a new topic.  I could not jump no matter what I did.  I did what the screen said, but something else happened  overtime.

In Jokaydia Grid, When I first entered the world as an “avatar”  I felt literally lost.  I had no idea how to walk, run, much less fly.  I could feel my heart beating faster as I thought, “I don’t know what to do.” I started wondering around, but very slowly, very cautiously.  Like the real world, new places can be scary.  Luckily after a while, I ran into a teacher who helped me “find my way,” again just like reality.  I was lost, but then found. It was "safe." She had to leave, but I continued to explore. I now understand why students love this realm!  

Here’s a few photos of myself while I waited for friends to join me.  

I recently read a great article:  What is Gamification and in it, is this amazing Ted Talk, which you can view here. This is such a strange new world, but one I'm going to enjoy learning about and having great conversations with my students about! I'll be sharing more of my revelations about this experience as the course progresses! In the meantime, if you haven't gamed, why not?