Archive for October, 2014

Last week Bonnie Stewart joined our Social Media & Open Education class to chat about networked identity. I was expecting her to immediately talk about privacy and security but instead she started by asking us, “Who are you?”

Most of us identified ourselves with our working identity first, family roles second, and lovers of certain hobbies or things as an after thought. It’s interesting but not surprising that we usually lead out with our professional persona given the audience. As a teacher I get a kick out of seeing my young students recognize me when I’m out and about at a restaurant or grocery store. No where is the notion of multiple identities so blatantly exposed than in that moment when they see me as someone other than ‘their teacher!’

“Mom, is that…? Nope, can’t be!”

Photo Credit: evilpeacock via Compfight cc

So what about your network identity?  Who do you present yourself as when you’re online? For me there’s not much difference aside from the fact that I use different platforms for my professional and personal life…or at least tried to. I find my business and personal identities are merging there too as my PLN grows and as I tap into resources and information from various sources.

Is there no where personal or private? And, how do you know who you’re really talking to?

This semester as part of my studies I am spending a lot more time on Twitter than I had before. Like opening up my comment section on my blog I have also opened up my ‘follower’ capabilities so anyone can follow my twitter feed. This is exciting as people I reach out to turn around and follow me or people I don’t know Retweet my ramblings or resources I’ve found. (Thanks for the ego boost!;) It is really quite amazing to feel so supported and connected but admittedly this open access business is a little unnerving. Now honestly, I’m pretty sure no one really cares about some teacher on the Canadian prairies trying to figure it all out but after seeing some creepy videos about the dark side of cyberspace it kind of makes me wonder, “Who’s watching?”

(Thanks for the find Tammy Lee … I think!)

Maybe my colleague has it right in having multiple twitter accounts. Or perhaps that only provides the illusion of privacy and control? I went to great lengths to control my Facebook account years ago only to hear from a friend that my privacy settings were so high he couldn’t even ask me to ‘friend’ him! On the flipside, I didn’t realize how ridiculously easy it is to have your picture scooped until another friend snipped my profile pic off FB to use for a surprise gift. Hmmm…hope there’s no unwanted surprises out there. I can only thank God that social networking wasn’t around for my teen years. I cringe at some of the pictures I see my young cousins posting and wonder how long the ‘partier’ persona will follow them. FOREVER, that’s the scary thing!!

After drunken night at Chris' II_MMVI
Photo Credit: andronicusmax via Compfight cc

But privacy and identity security are only part of our online story. I found this great visual via Krista Gates’ blog post, Networking my identity: @kristabgates, outlining Mike Ribble‘s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

There are so many facets to the digital footprint we are creating. It’s not just about “Who’s watching?” but also what you’re leaving behind for others to see–not just with regard to personal information but equally important, your digital legacy. Instead of asking us, “What do you want to do?”, Bonnie Stewart encouraged us to consider, “What do you want to contribute?” What imprint do you want to leave?

Right now my children are barely conscious of the online world and so most of their exposure is through me and my husband. (But it’s coming soon I know!) We work hard to limit their gaming and screen time and I try hard to be as transparent as possible about what I’m doing with all the screen time I’m logging lately. I am very cognizant of who else is watching.



My major digital project for ECI 831 has morphed a little since its inception. I originally planned to work on student blogging for my project but given my half-time nature and the unsettled classroom dynamic I postponed that plan until later in the year. That left me looking for another project direction…

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Photo Credit: MC =) via Compfight cc

As a teacher new to the primary world I wanted to learn more about how to incorporate game-based learning into my teaching practice and so I set out to craft my project around that. I planned to look at how to engage young learners through games, technology and other play based methods and I thought the MOOC project option would be a great way to do it. I found three related MOOCs–Gamification in Education, iPads in the classroom and Getting Started with Minecraftedu–and got started.

As I completed the six module self-paced Gamification MOOC I was anxious to put my learning into practice before starting the iPad MOOC. Here are some of the game-based activities I’ve implemented thus far with my Grade 2s:

1. Rural or Urban – Students wrote rural and urban on opposite sides of a mini-whiteboard. I showed pictures on the board via the data projector and they had to guess rural or urban using their whiteboard ‘paddles’ as markers.

2. Compass Directions – Each student received a coloured paper arrow. I called out north, south, east or west and students had to point their arrow in the right direction. The last student pointing to the correct direction had to sit down until the round was over.

3. Scout Patrol Community Walk – Rather than simply go for a neighbourhood walk to learn about our community I staged the activity as an ordered scout patrol of this new planet to determine what the life forms were like and how they lived. The students loved being ‘Privates’ on patrol and the cross curricular hits (Drama, Phys. Ed and Social) were a bonus.

4. Survey Researcher – This was another staged learning activity where students were researchers for fictitious companies collecting data on favourite things, for example. In our next lesson they will create a bar graph to present their findings at a company meeting. We added a couple props-a company name tag, and clipboard-to make it more official!

Company Researcher pic

5. Helping the Hogwarts Owlery – Today (with the help of a couple of co-conspirators) our next adventure (and owl unit) began! An ‘owl’ delivered a letter from Professor Dumbledore requesting our help with the owls in the Hogwarts Owlery while Hagrid recovered from illness. The students at Hogwarts will do the actual work but require us to provide the information since they are busy studying for their OWLS;)! Should we require any prompting I bet we may just see another letter from the esteemed Professor Dumbledore! While the Harry Potter reference didn’t click with all of my young students, the excitement and number of reports of owl sightings went up tenfold:)! Again I’m excited to see the cross-curricular outcomes addressed in this staged adventure-from learning non-fiction text features to classifying and presenting information and of course, the obvious life science outcomes.

Letter from Dumbledore

In the midst of my game based learning I discovered that the free iPad MOOC I planned to take was unfortunately NOT free. (sad trombone…) Though it felt like I had too much lag time in between the next MOOC it did provide me the time to create the gaming experiences I described above.

At this point I was thinking I might just throw it all in and create one metagame for a local history unit I plan to introduce after Christmas. I want to again incorporate the drama element but include more technological features like having them solve puzzles or riddles on apps to earn clues or research online.

While I contemplate the metagame project the third MOOC begins! My young students, particularly the boys, are enthralled with Minecraft. Last spring I spent some time with a friend’s son getting familiar with the game but at the time I didn’t think it addressed enough curriculum outcomes to make it worth the hassle of attempting it with my grade threes given the short amount of time we had.

I’m hoping this Getting Started with Minecraftedu MOOC will push me over that threshold to attempting it with my students.

Onward and upward!

If you have any great game resources or ideas for my students please send them my way!





If you haven’t seen the LEGO movie yet I highly recommend you check it out and not just because there’s great effects and hilarious references for grown ups! It also has a great underlying message.

The premise is [SPOILER ALERT!!] that Lord Business wants all the Lego builders to follow the instructions so he can glue their perfect creations together permanently. The ‘Master Builders’, builders who use their imaginations instead, try to stop him. They mistakenly believe that Emmett, an ordinary builder, is a Master Builder and that he is ‘the Special’ or chosen one who will stop Lord Business from using his tool of mass destruction. As the plot reaches its climax, Emmett realizes that he CAN build using his imagination rather than instructions and that he is indeed ‘the Special.’

The LEGO® Movie – Official Main Trailer [HD]

This movie has had a lasting impact on my son. Frustrated by the tedious instructions for his Lego sets, he rarely played with them until after seeing this movie. Perhaps, with a little help from the movie’s hero, Emmett, he realized that he didn’t need to feel restricted by the instructions but rather could be free to use his imagination to create something original.

This message is ringing out loud and clear with the growth of the Maker Movement, Tinker time, and Genius Hours in our schools. Whatever you want to label it, it is hands on, student-directed learning and kids are learning a lot! I was really excited after last week’s class with Invent to Learn co-author and Maker movement proponent, Sylvia Martinez, to think about what offering this time could mean for students’ meaningful creating and learning in schools. I went searching for resources and found a lot of great stuff. Here are some of my finds…

Beyond Barbie – A great poster visual outlining different forms of play and how they could translate into ‘making’.

Flowchart by Anne Mayoral. Illustrations by Rob Nance.

This is a great jumping point where I found the following resources:

KidWind Project – windpower lessons complete with turbine and generator experiments

Siege Toys – Snap together desktop catapults and ballistas

Kinetic Creatures – Walking cardboard animal kits

Makedo-Construction tools for creative play

If that’s not enough to get you thinking there are a ton more on Jeremy Black’s blog post on Putting Maker Culture in the Classroom.

What I really like about the Maker movement is that it doesn’t necessarily require students (or their teachers;) to be computer savy or even tech savy in order to start.  I’m looking forward to bringing in some basic construction or craft materials and letting my students have at ‘er! We’ll add the technology pieces as we go.

The message is clear. Teachers, like Emmett, YOU are ‘the Special’. It starts with YOU. It is our job to ensure our students too hear that message–YOU are ‘the Special.’ Their imagination and motivation should be the only limits on their creativity and learning…not our fear or institutional restrictions. We can all be Master builders if only we Believe.
Maker tag crowd

Now to throw aside the instructions for our Kinex roller coaster, marble racer, Mouse Trap Game, TRIO blocks, and more…hmmm. What will we make today?

Last week Michael Wacker from EdTechTeam opened yet another world of tech tools for me by taking our class on a tour through Google Apps. Though I have some experience with Google Docs the speed with which he toured us around the new features was truly mind boogling! It was a little crazy with 40 of us all trying to edit the same doc at the same time but I did appreciate that we got to experience some new tools and ways of using them that I hadn’t done before.

My first experiences with sharing docs online (with Google and Dropbox) were clumsy and inefficient. However, this year my job share partner and I are collaborating using Google Docs and I love it! All of our daily lesson plans, long range plans and even our job share set up are shared on Google drive. I love that it saves automatically, we can embed links in the text, work on the document simultaneously and comment in real time or leave a message.

After Michael’s presentation I am amazed at all of the possibilities for implementing Google Apps into the classroom. While my head was spinning my classmates were busy finding resources. Check out Barbara Dewitt’s blog post for some awesome Google resources including some great tutorials. I especially loved the Google forms section on 32 Ways to Use Google Apps in the Classroom.

I have to pause to take a breath here…my inbox is so inundated with posts from my classmates about all of the wonderful tech ideas, apps and gadgets I need to try that I am overwhelmed!

If you’re feeling the same way I encourage you to read Kelly Christopherson’s post Drinking from the Fire Hydrant. He encourages us to slow down and reflect on what you and your students need and focus on that first. Drinking one glass at a time if you will.

Jenn Stewart summed it up nicely in her post, Connecting Lives with Digital Tools where she suggests teachers “focus on how the tools fit the learning at hand….Looking first at the students’ needs, then the outcomes, then looking at the tools that will help learning.” I also appreciated her thoughtful examination of collaborating online. She asks, “Are all faces being represented in the digital world?” Teachers have an amazing opportunity to ensure all students, not just the privileged, have access. Google Apps can be a great tool to give all students a voice.

Now, I just need to figure out how to do Google sharing with grade 2s…Suggestions?! 

The sixth and last module of my Gamification MOOC brought the concept of games in the classroom full circle for me. The most basic reason to use games with students is to make learning fun by adding a special element to grab their attention and engage them in the experience. The last module focused on that ‘active ingredient’ that tweaks a student’s attention. The MOOC likened it to selling snake oil…the buyer must only BELIEVE in the experience.


His very enthusiasm caused people to buy.”

The MOOC author, Dr. Tom Benjamin, discussed the pedagogical impact of a number of innovative methods including novelty, fortune teller (feedback likely to be true for anyone), John Henry (outperform a machine or standard), placebo, Hawthorne (social response to the ‘experiment’), and intermittent reinforcement.

With the novelty, placebo effects and others, there is a decay effect wherein the effect will wear off. Yet, just like in medicine the benefits of the placebo cannot be undervalued. Patients need to believe in the treatment just like students need to be engaged in the game.

Dr. Benjamin challenged us with the following task:

How would you level the playing the field for a traditional method

by adding placebo effects to make it fashionable and esoteric?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Traditional method – Lecture & answer questions
  • Level the playing field – team element, roll dice, draw for questions,
  • Placebo effects – earn points, earn levels (esoteric)
  • Fashionable – submit answers by video/pic using iPad; tweet answers

The second of three videos addressed tailoring games to the particular audience using their interests and personalities rather than abilities as direction. He suggested Holland’s RIASEC model as a framework for tapping all of those areas of interest. Once you target a task for game development teachers should look at the opposite RIASEC spectrum as well. A gamelet (mini-game) could be developed for each component and could help students with their weaker aspects. For example, someone strong in hands-on (Realistic) skills would benefit from a game to help with the opposite component like role playing to strengthen Social skills.

RIASEC model


Here is a metagame (unit) I sketched out about Owls using the RIASEC model:

Gr. 2 Life science Animal Unit – Owls

  • Realistic – Look at images of owls, Outdoor Ed Owl presentation, Burrowing Owl exhibit
  • Investigative – What kind of owls live in Saskatchewan? Find out data about owls
  • Artistic – Create a visual art project in conjunction with a creative writing story about owls
  • Social – Work in teams on the investigative portion
  • Enterprising – Raise awareness about owl habitat and the owl’s role in our ecosystem
  • Conventional – put together a report of your findings; complete a unit quiz

What I thought was very interesting and gave a lot of credibility to the MOOC was that Dr. Benjamin did not tout games as the only answer to education nor did he suggest a list of ‘must-have’ software or apps. He said educators shouldn’t waste games on things that are already popular and easy to learn but rather start with the resources we already have and gamify when necessary. Creating those gamelets is the opportunity to add the flash that software and apps can offer. However, the true power of the game for education lies in the gamemaster’s ability to set up the structure of the game and set the scene to motivate and engage our young learners. 


Isn’t it every kid’s dream to don a cape and save the world? How can we implement the element of the Hero’s Journey or Superhero Stages into educational games? How can we tap every kid’s ‘super power’ or, alternatively, bestow a ‘super power’ upon them?



Photo Credit:  Malabooboo via Compfight cc

Module 5 of my gamification MOOC looked at these questions and outlined how to use the structure of the hero’s journey or Superhero Stages (below) to create hero scenarios for learning.

Hero’s Journey / Superhero Stages

  • Common Day
  • Call to Adventure / Discover their superpower in small daily activities
  • Exraordinary Trials
  • Help from a Wise Mentor / Decision to use their powers daily OR Save them for the greater good
  • Achieving the Goal/Boon
  • Self-Knowledge Gained in the Process / Develop an ambiguous relationship with their powers and the responsibilities that come with them
  • Return to the Ordinary World
  • Application of the Boon

Students are encouraged to identify with the main character or hero in the metagame (such as a unit of study or cross-curricular challenge). The hero then faces trials in the form of puzzles, clues, tasks, and competitions (gamelets within the larger metagame). The reward or boon is the prize or intrinsic value of completing the mission.

Students can display special powers within small group tasks or classroom jobs. Each can be given a special role. They can obtain new powers by being given the new job (and a physical token ie. a hat), by completing a certain number of tasks, by trading up, by chance (roll/draw), or by being assigned by the gamemaster (teacher).

Kids are definitely motivated when they are the expert or the helper. Giving kids special roles within groups can help them take ownership of the task. When they can see themselves in these positive roles they are motivated to do amazing things!

This MOOC was initially run with a cohort of students well over a year ago and now remains online as a self-paced MOOC. In this module I took more advantage of checking back through the student chat area to get further explanation and more ideas of how to use the concepts. The chat offered reinforcement and also additional ways to think about the concepts. I would appreciate having that group of students to bounce ideas off and to be accountable to. I can see that when the cohort originally took the course, they posted their homework answers in the chat but no where in the self-paced version do you have to submit your work until the module quizzes. I think that learning with a cohort would be more valuable for me as it would help further my learning and provide more accountability for assessment purposes. 

I’m back in the saddle of my Gamification MOOC! Here are my thoughts on modules 3 & 4 discussing the applications of gamification in education–the motivation for enrolling in this MOOC in the first place.

Why gamify?

Points to Ponder . . .

1. Games don’t necessarily enhance the learning results. However, they can provide the motivation to learn in the first place.

This surprised me. I thought games would guarantee better learning. Apparently not so!

2. The status of the prizes doesn’t necessarily enhance motivation. Students will covet the ‘prize’, whatever it is, simply because it’s difficult to obtain. It’s all about changing the perception of the activity. Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer had it all figured out when he turned his ‘whitewashing job’ into a coveted and marketable activity:

via Games in Education-Gamification MOOC by Dr. Tom Benjamin

This makes complete sense. Mention the word ‘game’ in a primary classroom (probably any classroom!) and eyes light up like a dog’s seeing its owner grab the leash!

3. Although a game isn’t standardized like a test it can be used as assessment.  However, assessing using games requires students to complete enough rounds or attempts. It’s all in the statistical analysis.

Hmmm…Ok, at this point in the MOOC I’m beginning to feel a little inundated by theory and sorely lacking a background in statistical analysis! 

4. Games can’t always make it easy to learn something difficult but maybe they can make us feel better about ourselves as we try! There are a myriad of ways to level the playing field in a game from the inclusion of a set number of rounds (like a 3 period game) or abrupt changes in conditions (like ‘trump’) to different weightings (like a 3 point shot) or an unseen but finite pool (like the ‘crib’ hand).

Chance generators or levelers provide the unpredictability necessary in a game and are easy enough to understand until I try to apply them in a classroom game situation. More contextual examples please!

5.  A game design providing a scenario can help level the playing field. A scenario or other meta-activity (project) can incorporate a number of ‘boring’ or ‘difficult’ objectives that are turned into mini-games or gamelets. Including cross-curricular outcomes can expand the connections for students and make for a richer, more diverse game environment.

Hey! I’ve even used this one before! My grade 3 students were a team journalists discovering Iqualuit last year.

6. Intermittent rewards are the most motivating. It’s the reason gamblers get addicted to the slots!

Ok, how can I incorporate Skinner’s intermittent reward theory into classroom games? Right now we have a ‘golden broom award’ for the cleanest tables at the end of our school day. Is this an example of prize status or intermittent rewards? My son’s music teacher has a vending machine for student practise. Some weeks it’s open; some weeks it’s not. Bingo!

7. Students will employ the ‘Grasshopper Effect’ to balance out any cognitive dissonance they experience. If you ate a grasshopper at the request of a respected peer you could admit you didn’t like it; if you did it for someone you didn’t respect you’d need to find another reason for complying in order to rid yourself of the inner conflict.

So, by offering all the bells and whistles are we denying our students from learning the intrinsic value of education? Should we be gamifying in education or not?

More questions than answers generally means there’s a lot more to learn. On to module 5!

I discovered blogging about a year and a half ago when I suddenly had some extra time on my hands. I had broken my pelvis in a freak toboggan accident (true story!) and ended up off work for about 4 months!

While I was recovering, I decided to spend that extra down time catching up on some of the technological advancements that had passed me by. I had started facebook while on maternity leave years before and enjoyed the social connection it gave me. It was nice to be back around the ‘water cooler’ rather than feeling so isolated. So now, with more time off but no baby to care for nor physical capacity to do any home projects, I turned again to my computer, this time to do some professional development that I hoped would serve me well when I got back to teaching.

In those months of laying around between physio appointments and day-time talk-shows, I investigated Twitter, Pinterest, Skype, iPads and started this blog as a practice blog. Here’s a quote from my ED TEch page from back when I started:

BLOGGING- I think this technology has me most captivated! Through tweets, Facebook posts, and random surfing I have found links to many amazing educators with inspiring blogs and uses for blogs. I am working hard to get this personal blog up and running as a practice for a future classroom blog. I have spent A LOT of time trying to create my site but I’m really enjoying the process! My next step is to develop my blogroll, link in some resources and figure out this business of RSS feeds.

Though my initial reason for starting this blog was to practise for a classroom blog, I found that it provided me an avenue to voice some of the personal, professional and parenting struggles I was experiencing as well as some of my triumphs along the way. It became my new ‘journal’, edited for public consumption of course, to share my feelings and work out my thoughts. It was nice to be tapping that creative part of me that I had put to the side for awhile while I was busy parenting and teaching.

As you can see from my archives I have not been a faithful blogger since then but have recently revisited blogging for a class I’m taking. It’s so nice to be writing again, even with the idea of assessment ever present in the background. It’s also neat to get the occasional comment from an old friend or random internet surfer! What an amazing feeling to know that someone you don’t even know took the time to read your post and make a connection with you by commenting. So cool! I can see how valuable a writing tool ‘audience’ can be, especially for students just getting started. What a great way to support their literacy development through blogging!

We aren’t quite ready to implement student blogging in our grade two class this fall (we’ve got our hands full just settling in to our new routines!) but I am looking forward to adding this to our skill set as the year progresses. I know they will be just as thrilled as I am when they finally click publish button picand share what they’ve got with the world.

Thanks for reading!