Caine’s Arcade and the Global Cardboard Challenge

Maybe I have been out of this loop but I had not heard of the story of Caine’s Arcade, but it is fascinating on a number of levels. First, there’s this young kid who used cardboard and odd parts to create his own arcade in his dad’s shop (Maker Movement reference). Then, there is a fimmaker who stumbles into the arcade, is fascinated by the invention of games out of cardboard and creates a documentary movie. Finally, the story goes viral, people all over line up to play and a scholarship for the boy is funded beyond belief.

And now, there is a Global Cardboard Challenge being planned for October 6 by the Imagination Foundation. Here, kids are challenged to create their own games and play out of cardboard, just as Caine did. I wonder if I can pull together something for my classes on that day — some kind of Make Game activity, and have them become part of the global activities on that day (which, I see, is a Saturday …) Or maybe I can do something with my own kids at home.

If there is one thing that schools often have a lot of it, it is cardboard, right?

Peace (in the play),



Summer of Video: The Bike Trail Project

The other day, I shared out what my youngest son has been up to with a flip video camera, but really, he has been mostly inspired by his 14 year old brother, who has developed a real gift and feel for video. This stretches way back to when I taught him about stopmotion. (see his old website where he posted a bunch of his movies)
This summer, I saw a contest through a local group that promotes our rail trail/bike path, and I suggested that he create a video and enter (and maybe win some prize money). He got together with a bunch of friends, and they created two videos. The first one is slightly funny (or hilarious, depending on your age) and the second one is more serious, with interviews of folks on the trail.
My son did all the editing in iMovie, which I never taught him. I like how he is seeing the editing process as composition (notice the slow-down effects, the moving between interviewees, and angles.) Both videos came out great, particularly when you consider that no adult had anything to do with the planning, shooting and editing.
The Fun One:

And The Serious One:

Peace (on the rail),


When Education is (Big) Business

Business and the Core


Two posts this week have me thinking about the ways that business is shoehorning its way into our classrooms, and how alert we have to be to those influences, and those who are influencing our policy makers at the upper levels. Of course, most of this stems from the Common Core implementation now underway in most states. Businesses see an opportunity they just can’t pass up: a nervous market facing deadline pressures (school superintendents, curriculum coordinators) and unsuspecting clientele (teachers, students), plus public cash. I know that sounds a bit cynical, but it feels more and more to me as if schools are the next open market.

First, Bill Fitzgerald over at Funny Monkey posted a few pieces about start-up businesses trying to carve out a niche in education. It seems to me that everywhere we turn, some app developer or business venture is trying to get a piece of the educational action. Maybe it has always been this way, but the Common Core movement has really opened up the floodgates, or at least that’s how I perceive it. Bill first notes that one start-up site (which includes a news collection that I subscribe to) appeared less about education, and more about the commercial aspects.

“From a quick visit to their site, it felt as much like an advertising portal as an informational resource. Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time there, but I didn’t see much in the way that would compel a longer visit either – but that could be a design issue, and I digress.” — Bill Fitzgerald

In a second post, Bill notes how start-up ventures don’t always “get” what is needed in the classroom. He said some companies are good at building “widgets” that meet a specific need, but may not have real value when in the room with real students.

“… this creates another collision point as startups careen into education: many people building educational products fail to understand why, where, or how their product fits into the process of learning. Some of this can be chalked up to unfamiliarity, and some of it can be chalked up to hubris, but there are a lot of funded startups building products that only look good on a pitch – when they get shoehorned into a classroom, they stand out like a substitute teacher trying to get kids excited about phonics.” — Bill Fitzgerald

Then, Paul Bogush crafted a piece this morning in which he dove into some test questions from his state of Connecticut, which is part of the Smarter Balance consortium for Common Core assessments. (We’re a PARCC state up here to his north, so I am curious about differences, etc.). Paul has written before about the business connections to the Common Core movement, and tried to make clear who is behind the movement.

This morning, in his post entitled “In Bed with the Enemy,” Paul investigated some of the resources being used for the test questions that are aimed at his students, and realized that almost all of the online sources and sites being used were owned or at least partially-owned by the educational giant, Pearson.

Paul ends with this:

“I don’t think anyone would teach using a unit on tolerance given to them by the enemies of civil rights.  No teacher would put up with that.  But yet, teachers (including myself) will start off this year fully supporting the Common Core in the classroom.  I feel as though every day when I come home I need to take a shower, because I have spent my day in bed with the enemy.” — Paul Bogush

As teachers, we need to always have our eye out on these kinds of developments. Hey, the Common Core talk about “close reading” of texts and supports media literacy skills, and Bill and Paul are doing that with their writing. Are the rest of us doing it, too? Are we being critical enough of the resources we bring into our classrooms?

Peace (in the money),


Video Share: Design Thinking and Education

This an interesting view of a teacher reflecting on how design ideas can reshape learning experiences for students. While the video does not go into too many specifics, it is clear she and her colleagues and the school are undergoing inquiry to couple design ideas with education. I’m curious to know more about what that means, and how a school begins.

I was intrigued by this description at the Design Thinking for Educators site:

(Design is) involves storytelling, sorting and condensing thoughts, until a compelling point of view and clear direction for ideation emerge.

(The video was shared by VideoAmy over at Edutopia. See her entire playlist around design ideas in education for more information – you can also view the IDEO site, which is a design consultant that produced the video. They have a whole section on education).

Why Design Thinking? from Design Thinking for Educators on Vimeo.

It’s interesting because a recent issue of Smithsonian Magazine is themed around design, and the legacy of Steve Jobs at Apple. The idea of simplicity, but not simple, is what is intriguing, I think, and how to make the form of something match it function without interfering with the function. In education, this raises questions about the roles of the classroom, the layout of the classroom and school, the experiences of students in a given day, and all the ways that we interact with other adults and with students.
Peace (in the design),

Responding to an Inquiry Look at my Blog

This is kind of interesting. I saw a tweet from a friend, Lacy, that I had “joined them” as a mentor text. Nice! And I didn’t even know I was there! But it was pretty cool to see chart paper notes from the session (not quite sure what the session was) as viewer/reader/participant commented about what they were seeing at my blog (as they think about their own blogs — that seems to be the activity).

I decided to take the image of the chart paper notes, and use Thinglink to add some response notes back to them. One of the elements of online tools is this ever-decreasing space between writers and readers, and back again. And I appreciated how this group’s reflections helped me see my blog from another angle.

Peace (off the poster),


Considering Web Literacies/Digital Literacies

I appreciate the inquiry and exploration and sharing by Doug Belshaw here. It’s interesting to think of web literacies as part of the larger digital literacies umbrella, and separating one from the other as a source of exploration is fascinating. It seems like Doug’s work with Mozilla Foundation around these issues might evolve into something larger, and it may be worth keeping an eye on as we think about the ways that literacies are shifting with the influences of technology and media.
Peace (in the inquiry),

Time Magazine: The Wireless Issue

Time Magazine has a fascinating cover story and article collection (plus global survey results) about the ways in which mobile technology is changing our lives. When you consider how relatively quickly wireless connections and handheld devices have caught on, you realize again that we are in the midst of profound culture changes around the world. How it will all unfold is really unknown, and this is something that we teachers grapple with in our classroom. How do you teach skills for a world that is still unknown and unsettled, and shifting just about every week?

The magazine points to ten ways that mobile technology is shaking things up. (Yeah, you need to be a subscriber to read the entire articles but this gives you a glimpse anyway)

1. Elections Will Never Be The Same

2. Doing Good By Texting

3. Bye-Bye, Wallets

4. The Phone Knows All

5. Your Life Is Fully Mobile

6. The Grid Is Winning

7. A Camera Goes Anywhere

8. Toys Get Unplugged

9. Gadgets Go To Class

10. Disease Can’t Hide

I, of course, was curious about the piece about schools. The article focuses in on how schools are grappling with kids and mobile devices, and the pros of allowing students to use their own cell phones in class (powerful computing, instant access, real literacy) with the cons (running afoul of federal law, cheating, distractions). Me? I remain mixed on the idea. I can see possibilities of allowing students to bring their own devices out in class (and I have experimented with it, to mixed results) but I worry about equity issues, distractions and the ability to effectively monitor activity.
The other piece that intrigued me was the gadgets. Some neat stuff there, including the Eye-fi that can convert a camera into a wireless sender of photos. Interesting.
Peace (in the changing times),

Connections and Disconnections: Life Inc.

Life Inc. The Movie from Douglas Rushkoff on Vimeo.

Check out this very interesting short film by Douglas Rushkoff called Life Inc. that explores modern life in different tangents, as impacted by corporate influence in our lives.

“People are accepting the ground rules … unaware of the fact that these rules were written by people at a very specific moment in history with a very specific agenda in mind… there’s no way to prosper in this world without selling out.” — Rushkoff

If true, what does that mean for us and our students? He advocates finding time for more personal connections between people, and taking the time to care about others, not about money or jobs.
Peace (in the thinking),