This is a video I never got around to sharing, but I had joined Paul Allison, Chris Sloan and others at Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast a few months ago (!) to talk about gaming, game design and learning a few weeks ago. Here is the video of that discussion:
Nothing like some collaborative energy to celebrate a friend, and that’s what Maha, Simon and Susan and I have been up behind the scenes for our friend, Terry, whose birthday is today. We recorded a song, and then some thoughts — all via on online collaborative audio tool called Soundtrap (I’ll share out more about it later).
At the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in November (this post has been in my draft box for a bit of time), I attended a session by a representative of GlassLab Games, which has been working in a partnership with NWP folks to develop a video game app designed to teach elements of argument to middle school students.
The game is called Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy, and it is a free app from the Apple Store. Mat Frenz, of GlassLabs, was very knowledgeabout about game mechanics, and of why games are a natural way to pique the curiosity of students. He notes that good games can be an “engagement bridge” for students to learn difficult material, and the hope for Argubot Academy is that players “will master the mechanics of argument with the same passion as mastering the mechanics of Pokemon.” The game developers build some of the mechanics and look/feel/design of the game with echoes from the Pokemon universe.
Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy has a narrative of science, as the player is on a discovery mission and is forced to create “argubots” that are powered by the strands of strong argument claims and evidence. The player asks questions, explores the spaceship and then goes into “battle” against others with their argubots, seeing if their claims and evidence is strong enough to hold up to scrutiny. A teacher account allows you to track progress of students, and it charts out where strengths and weaknesses of the individual player/students are. That is all handy information.
I played the game a bit over the summer, when it was first released and promoted via NWP and Educator Innovator, and then again during the session, as Mat gave us an overview and tour of the game itself. I know a lot of teachers in the room were excited about. I have my slight reservations. First of all, my classroom does not have iPads, so for all practical purposes, the game is not in our future. I also found the game a bit too wordy, knowing my students as I do, although when I mentioned this is conversation with other teachers in the session, they disagreed with me. So, maybe it is my own perception. I am also not sure it would engage my students over multiple sessions, although Mat shared testimonials from teachers using the app, praising it as tool for engagement.
But, don’t listen to me. Give the app a try. It’s free, and a lot of thought has gone into the development. It might just work for you, particularly as we shift into higher gear away from persuasion and deep into argument. The game might be just the hook for your students.
For everyone who is in all of my various online networks and communities and adventures, I thank you. Here is a song, with some animated words, as my humble thanks for all the inspiration and support you give me throughout the year as I write and explore and learn.
I’m sorry I forgot your name. I apologize if my eyes darted quickly from your face to your name tag, and then back up to your eyes as you began to speak. Did I look confused? Lost? Or out of place when we were talking? I probably was. My brain was working to remember your name, to place you in my constellation. I blame Google for making me stupid. No. I blame genetics and memory cells. Darn you, Mom and Dad.
The fact is that as much as I love coming to educational conferences and hanging out with everyone in person after all the time that we spend in online spaces exploring writing and making cool stuff, I am finding it a wee bit trickier over the years to remember all of you when we finally get to a face-to-face situation. That’s not completely true. I never found it easy and I always thank the Conference Gods who provide us with name tags.
It’s not you; it’s me.
You seem to have no trouble remembering me. I appreciate that. Perhaps my restless online presence translates into a strong physical presence? <Cue laugh track>. Of course, you would not likely recognize me from my “dogtrax” avatar. Unless you squint your eyes, use your imagination and maybe do a few shots of whiskey first. And by the way, if we are at the same bar when you do that whiskey shot to spark your imagination, call me over. I am buying. We can imagine together.
Maybe it’s my walk and not my avatar that you recognize. My wife says I have a distinctive walk, and one of my former colleagues who I ran into at NCTE (no, I did not recognize her when she called out my name and she even taught two doors down the hall from me … 11 years ago … But still, I should have her face in my memory banks, right? Right. Sigh) said she recognized me from afar from the way I was walking down the hallway. I find that hard to believe. Do I have a funny walk? I personally think it is the rest of the world that is slightly off-kilter. I walk with perfectly normal strides.
But, if you recognized me by my walk or from my avatar or from some various hangout or whatever (maybe even from that whiskey bar), and I failed to do the same of you and your walk, I am so sorry. Perhaps your walk is on the so-called normal scale. There were a lot of people there, after all. (although now that I think of it, if we did hang out in that whiskey bar, both of our walks might be a bit funny by the end of our conversation.)
Still, when I hear someone saying “Kevin” or “Dogtrax” from across the room, I think: This .. is … so … cool. Someone I know is here. I get excited about the connection. I do. After all, what we do online should spill to what we do offline, if the possibility exists. When it happens, it’s an amazing connection, like some two-pronged electrical plug. Inevitably, though, I draw a blank when your hand reaches out to me and I feel dumb (again …. Google) and scramble my brain for your name. I mean, you took the trouble to remember me. I should remember you. I quickly calculate, what space were you in with me? What projects did we collaborate on? Are you sure we know each other? I don’t want you to ever think that what we did together is inconsequential nor without meaning, which is why a small panic builds inside of me. I valued our work. I just can’t retrieve your name from my data banks right at this second.
I have decided a strategy is in order. So I have begun stringing various name together, sort of like lights on the holiday tree. Or a run-on sentence. Names name names. I just need to make sure none of the lights go out on that string of ours, and I will be good to go. There’s a whole year to go until our next big conference. A whole year to learn how to remember.
Or a whole year to forget … Damn it. See you at the bar. I’ll be the funny-walking writer who looks a little confused. Come on over and let’s talk about things for a bit. Make sure you introduce yourself first.
I had this urge to create this comic as a sort of reflection point, drawing in connections that have me pushing my own ideas about what it means to be a writer in this digital age. Think of it as a token of gratitude for all those who are helping me along on this journey. I created the comic (making up representative characters for my friends: Simon, Terry, Anna, and Maha) in Bitstrips for Schools, and then moved it into a flipbook creator.
At one of the sessions I attended at the National Writing Project meeting, with the theme of expanding the contexts of composition, I sat at a table and made a brush bot. We ripped apart a cheap electric toothbrush, yanked out the motor, connected a battery with a soldering gun, and then used various arts materials to decorate our bots.
We then set them loose on the table. Meanwhile, we talked about the connections that this kind of Maker Faire work might have on the classroom, with connections to science (via circuits) and writing (via either fictional narratives of the bots or the expository texts that could go along with creating something like a bot — a “how to” do this text).
Mostly, it was fun, and frustrating, and with that frustration (why didn’t this work?), there was the exhilarating sense of success when it did work, and the bot ran around the table. Or scooted in circles. Same thing. We had lots of laughter and lots of helping each other out, and it reminded me the power of making things out of other things, and how I need to do more of that in my classroom.
It’s that time of year: the National Writing Project Annual Meeting takes place this week and I am excited to be heading down to DC tonight for tomorrow’s workshops and gatherings of friends and colleagues in the NWP network. I won’t be staying for NCTE this year, alas, and wish I were. But there are some pretty cool NWP sessions that I am looking forward to.
I am also co-facilitating with my good friends — Joe, Karen, Christina, and Mia (and Anna from afar, as one of our co-planners) — a session that is a spin-off from the Making Learning Connected MOOC, as we are exploring what “open learning” means. Our aim is to have participants experience an “open learning”-style session, with the CLMOOC as a sort of anchor point.
Consider joining us for this “sandbox” session, if you are at NWP. If this helps, here is our session (B sessions) description:
B12: Playing with Open Designs for Professional Learning
1:30pm – 3:00pm Gaylord, Hotel Ballroom Level, Azalea 1
Over the past two summers, Writing Project colleagues have been connecting with other educators around the world in a massive open online collaboration known as Making Learning Connected, or more commonly, CLMOOC. As designers, facilitators, and participants of CLMOOC, we can think of it as a giant online professional learning “sandbox” where we prototype and collaboratively design ways to connect learning for ourselves, as adults, and the youth with whom we work. Come join us to explore the open designs of CLMOOC and think about the implications for this kind of production-centered, interest-driven, and peer-supported connected learning and teaching in your own context.
(This post is part of the Connected Courses Daily Connect in which we are asked to blog in the “voice” of another blogger. I have chosen my National Writing Project friend, Mia Zamora, to emulate for her energetic optimism that she exudes in her writing across many spaces. Forgive me, Mia, if I mangle your voice here.)
(This is Mia, my friend)
I am realizing very quickly just how much possibility there is in everything that is unfolding in the Connected Course networks as well as other Connected Learning networks. Nothing compares to the ideals of so many of us educators coming together for such a deep exploration of Connected Learning! It’s fantastic!
“When I am learning I FEEL ALIVE.” – Mia
I was thinking about this message of teaching the other day. I returned to the concept of “Why I Teach” and isn’t that such a central question to all that we do in our lives? The responses that people posted to that query were intriguing. I do believe we can change the world for the better. We can always be learning, too, even as we teach. We CAN stay in tune with the world.
“Connected Learning is about re-imaging the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technologies and embraces hands on production and open networks.” — Mia
We all have our own learning pathways to follow, and each path will take us on a slightly different journey. The wonder of it is that our journeys often coincide with others along the way. And it is at those intersections where we meet that we can help each other along the way.
“We all feel we are part of a movement that will ultimately be world changing. We want to invite everyone along with us.” — Mia
Being in the midst of a project like Connected Courses, or even Making Learning Connected, is really being part of hubs of the giant wheel that is Connected Learning. Notice how all the pieces can fit together. If you take a step back, you can begin to see it all in motion. It’s that kind of viewpoint that makes being part of any venture all the more worthwhile.
“Magical things happen when we let ourselves unlearn the criterion of institutionalized conventions.” — Mia.
Peace (to Mia),
PS — Process Notes: This “writing in the voice of another blogger” is hard to do! I read Mia on a regular basis, but I had to examine her syntax style and the underlying mood of her writing. I then was struck with the dilemma of, Am I writing as Me (Kevin) in the voice of Mia? Or writing as Mia on my blog, as if she were visiting here? I never quite resolved that question, I realize, and somehow settled into a precarious balance of her positive writing style with some of my own thinking. A blend, then, of sorts. I worried that she might be offended that I zeroed in on her positive message, leaving out how deep she gets with her thinking about learning. I decided to pull in some of her own writing in quotes, to further give Mia a real voice here. I’m not sure it worked. Go to her blog to get the real Mia Zamora. The one I have borrowed here is only a replica.
As part of an effort to create an archive of the National Writing Project for its 40th year anniversary (called OurNWP), I went into our Western Massachusetts Writing Project video archives and pulled out a few short pieces that we have done in the past few years, usually around the National Day on Writing. I love how our voices come together as teacher, writers, colleagues.
I also donated to the cause, as the effort to create the archive is slated to require about $100,000 to complete and NWP is halfway there. I gave a donation in honor of a past WMWP Director, Charlie Moran, whose work in the field of writing, and with our writing project (as a founding member), paved the way for many a great idea, and whose thinking has always pushed me forward, particularly around the ideas of digital literacy.