Teachers Teaching Teachers: Classroom Inquiry, CLMOOC and More

At the end of Teachers Teaching Teachers the other night, host Paul Allison asked for some final thoughts. I looked at my Google Hangout screen and saw Mia and Paul and Karen and Joel and Julie (she left when her phone died) and Michael and I could not help by say something about, “hanging around with some of my favorite people” is all I could muster for reflection.

As usual with TTT, we covered a lot of ground that began with classroom inquiry projects, moved into the ways that CLMOOC has informed our teaching, and shifted into other various topics.

Peace (and thanks to Paul and Karen for hosting TTT),

Pitching Game Design as Learning Practice

Writing and Game Design Compared

We’re near the end of this Make Cycle on gaming for the Making Learning Connected MOOC. There have been some interesting games made and played in the CLMOOC community, as well as some confusion about where to even begin and how gaming might have implications for the classroom.

I’ve long tried to make the pitch to other teachers that engaging students in game design is both a valuable learning experience and a motivating activity.  In the first year that my co-teachers and I implemented a game design unit between science and ELA, we set up a website to capture our own learning process and to share resources.

Check out Video Game Design

And you don’t need computers, either, to engage in the merits of gaming. Hack a game or invent a game to be played with cards or on the playground.

hacking uno
Or hack the game of chess.

Or have students engage in persuasive writing about the merits of gaming, or have them write a review about a game they play.

Use storyboarding a game as an analogy for drafting a piece of writing.

Gaming Storyboards 2013

Consider game design as a means to teach students about peer review and iterative process.

Playtesting Peer Review 2014

Connect game design to other curricular areas and then use a site like Gamestar Mechanic to build and publish authentic video games.

Yes, it might be a little uncomfortable for a teacher who is not a “gamer.” I am not a gamer. But I am intrigued by games, and when we do our science-based game design project each year, the hum of learning and activity and engagement is something to behold.

Peace (in the play),


Surfacing Connected Learning Principles

We’ve been toying with games at the Making Learning Connected MOOC all week but I was curious about how to map out some of the game ideas from everyone onto the principles of Connected Learning, which is the underpinning of the CLMOOC.

This Thinglink project is my attempt at doing that. Hover over the principles to find some links to games that meet the various elements of Connected Learning.

Peace (in the curate),

More Tinkering with Twine

Twining Around

Over at CLMOOC, some folks are playing with Twine this week for Interactive Fiction as game design. That brought me back onto Twine to play around with it a bit, too. Twine is a bit of a learning curve, but not too difficult.

Check out my story

Peace (in the twisting and turning of the twine),

#Celebrateteachers with #CLMOOC and Beyond

Teacher Challenge Collection

It’s interesting that this started in the Make Cycle on the theme of “games” of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. But Laura, who started the #celebrateteachers idea, pitched it as a game of tag. She suggested we riff off the Ice Bucket Challenge concept by writing or recording a post about a teacher who impacted our lives and then tagging other teachers to do the same.

The game is still unfolding …

My #celebrateteacher was easy in that I knew who I wanted to celebrate — Charlie Moran. But it was difficult to record because Charlie just recently passed away. He’s one of those towering presences in our writing project and in the field of composition and writing, and yet, he was so personal and friendly and supportive in so many ideas, particularly around pushing at the edges of digital literacies and technology.

I’ve been trying to curate/collect the posts on Google Plus from folks who have taken on the challenge and then tagged others. (But, my Collection is closed to only folks who follow me on G+ because I was worried about the sharing of personal stories) You’re reading this, so consider yourself tagged for the game. You now have 24 hours to write or share about an influential teacher and then tag three to five other teachers, asking that they do the same.

Why play this game?

For starters, anytime we can celebrate those influential figures in our lives, we should. Consider it a broadside against the increasingly negative view of the teaching profession. Second, this kind of game is the kind where everyone wins — you, for writing and remembering; your celebrated teacher (or the memory of them), for making an impact; and everyone else, for understanding how some teachers can change a learner, forever.

Tag. You’re it. Go make something.

Peace (in the reflection),

How Systems Thinking Impacts Game Design (and Play)

If you know me at all, you may know that my sons are HUGE fans of baseball. In fact, two of them are still playing summer baseball even after the spring baseball season ended. They play, and my wife and I watch, a lot of baseball. And we love it.

Baseball board game tourneyRecently, another parent of a little leaguer told me about a board game for baseball that is built on a complex system of stats of players. As my sons also collect baseball cards and invent their own games using the stats (still the best kind of game), I decided to get the APBA Baseball set. It was a bit costly (about 4o bucks) but I figured (or hoped) it would be worth it.

It is, for us. My kids love this game, and two of my sons and I have spent the last few days engaged in a modified baseball World Series of sorts, with a round robin series of play. I oversaw the LA Dodgers. Another son managed the Red Sox. The third, the Cardinals. My youngest son won the tournament yesterday. I took a series of images of our days of play:   Baseball board game tourney

I bring this up because the Making Learning Connected MOOC is engaged in considering games and systems for this week’s Make Cycle, and while most of us are engaged in the “game” part of things, it is actually the “systems” part of things that is most interesting, particularly from a learning perspective.

Systems thinking is concerned with the overall design of an experience (a game, or a business, or a production line, etc.) and how every single part in the system has a role in determining the various possible outcomes. So, if one element of the system gets tweaked or changed, it has a ripple effect down the line (sort of like that famous candy scene in I Love Lucy).

In game design, systems thinking is a core philosophy. Either the game designer changes elements as part of the iterative (or revision) process, to improve the game (think of all of those updates you get for your apps on your mobile devices) or they build potential changes into the gameplay itself, allowing the player to make choices and thus, affect the outcome of the game. If you think of that idea for a second, you quickly realize how complex the job of a game designer is.

Here is how the Make Cycle leaders put it in their newsletter announcement:

The systems within which we operate can be difficult to understand – and even more so, difficult to discuss. Games – in all their forms – are engaging tools for experimentation. As dynamic and interactive works of art, games can inspire us to tackle and engage with complexity. Plus, games, and the ways in which they are designed, enable us to experiment and have fun with failure: the ability to try, fail, and try again is a powerful tool.

I also wrote a bit about this systems thinking when reviewing the book Gaming the System, which is part of a series of excellent teaching resources around system thinking for the classroom. This quote still resonates with me:

A game can be considered a system because how the game is played and how the game play unfolds are the results of multiple interactions among different components … It’s important to be able to reflect not only on how a system might be functioning currently, but also on how a designer might have intended it to operate (or intended to change it). — page 200-201, Gaming the System

When my sons and I first opened up the APBA Baseball game, we were dumbfounded by how complex the game was. Page after page of how each “at bat” is impacted by stats, the roll of dice, the strength of the opposing pitcher …. all meant fairly replicate the actual play of a baseball game. After taking a breath, we dove into the rules, taking it step by step and then we did what you need to do when faced with a complex gaming system: we played the game, and learned as we went along. We made adjustments to our play.

There are still some elements we know we need to learn about: base running options, injuries to players, when best to pull and replace pitchers, etc. The system is complex and that complexity keeps drawing us in. If the system were simple, we’d be bored and I would be mad at spending $40 on the game. But we are still figuring out this system of board game baseball, and we’re almost ready for another world series of play.

Batter up.

Peace (in the system of thinking),

Ideas Become the Wire Frame for Making

I spent part of yesterday putting some finishing touches up on a new song I have been writing, in hopes of having the pieces in place to share with my band — Duke Rushmore — at our practice. Some songs, I can hear in the band, even as I am writing them, even though I know my friends will take the song in directions I probably can’t hear. I am comfortable letting the song go in places I did not imagine. Other songs … just never make the leap from my head to the band to the stage.

Last night, I pulled this new song — You Can Hold On if You Want To — out, and we played it for about 30 minutes, tinkering with parts and talking through dynamics and trying to get a feel for it, and it all began to fit together quite nicely. The lead singer was not there, so I took on the vocal duties instead of working on a saxophone part. The best part of the evening was when I was handing out the lyric sheet, and the drummer sat down and said:

I love that we get to be the first ones to see your songs. It’s like opening up a present.  I’ve seen a lot of your songs over the years and every time, it’s exciting to wonder what might happen.

If we didn’t play another note or song in practice, I would have been fine after a comment like that. His words show the connection and passion that we have for music and for friendship and for making something special, together. The songs I write (and others write, too) get shaped by the band, so that the song becomes “ours.”

As songwriters, we just bring in the wire frame. (In animation, the wire frame is the basic mock structure that things are built on or around, to make movement)

If I can take a leap here, moving from making music to developing a learning process, I think this is a sort of metaphor for the best of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. Lots of people are bringing ideas to the table, and others in the community/network are transforming those ideas into something new. Or collaborating together.

The ideas are the wire frame, and we are all building and exploring off of it. It’s like a jam session of possibilities. Take a riff and build a song. Make something interesting today.

Peace (in the muse),

What if #CLMOOC Became One Massive Open Online Game?

Systems flow

The Making Learning Connected MOOC is entering into a Make Cycle near and dear to my heart: game design and systems thinking. I am hoping people make some cool games, share some strategies for the classroom and just have fun.

I’ve decided to hack a game that I first created for the K12Online Conference, where I presented a keynote about game design in the classroom and then encouraged folks to play a game within the K12online community, for the CLMOOC. (And that game was variation of another that I tried get up and running for last year’s CLMOOC and failed … so this game iteration is just what I needed to redeem that idea and bring it back home to the CLMOOC).

The whole idea of this online game is to get folks to interact and connect with other folks and other work in the CLMOOC community. If that happens, everyone truly is a winner. Each element or round is about deepening connections and recognizing and honoring work being done either by themselves or by others. It’s a way of encouraging folks to move beyond their safe zones, in a fun way.

The Connected Game for CLMOOC

Instead of points, we will be using mookles. You’ll have to come to the launch page of The Connected Game: A CLMOOC Play to see what a mookle is (it sure is cute), and how you can get involved on the tally board (add your name and you are in the game). There are suggested “rules” that can be broken and hacked and ignored at any time, as long as the connected element is part of the playfulness.

Come play the game. Get connected.

Game on

Peace (on the board),

Considering Curation: Google Collections

Google Collections Remediated Poem

One of the more important questions of digital literacy, if you ask me, is how do we curate what we make into something manageable and something reflective. I have yet to come upon the perfect tool. I use Diigo’s Outliner at times. I keep a few magazines on Flipboard. Storify works for some things, and not for others. I could go on and on.

I noticed that Google recently unveiled a part of Google Plus called Collections. The Google folks suggest it is a way to gather up posts and images and more from Google Plus into something more manageable and shareable. (It’s also part of their push to give more preference to Google Photos and move away from Google Communities, I think.)

Last week, as I was working on a poem through various media in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, as part of the reMEDIAtion effort, I decided to give Collections a try, to see if it would help with curation of the work I was doing.

The result?

I don’t know. It’s OK. Just OK.

I was able share links, and add some reflections to put the piece into context. But I didn’t like I could not tinker with the order of posts, nor that I can’t seem to share the Collection outside of Google Plus (no doubt, part of Google’s plan to keep us inside the Google walls.) Try this link. Tell me if it brings you to my collection. Thanks.

But “Just OK” is not really all that good enough, right? Still searching for the perfect curation tool of the digital age. I am open to suggestions.

Peace (in the cure-ate),


A Little Stopmotiony Wagging of the Tail

Dog wag animation


(Click on image — or here — to get see animation — I decided to host in Flickr this time)

I was inspired by a very cool video put into the CLMOOC by Jill Dawson, and then even more inspired by her explanation of how she did what she did for the CLMOOC Make Bank, to give some animation a try again. Although Jill used different apps for hers, I decided to get back into Animation Desk, an app I have had for some time. It has been upgraded and has some different parts, so I am still figuring it all out again. There is a free and paid version, and I think I have the paid version from some free trial time period when it came out.

Jill’s Piece: Dog Days of Summer

Jill’s “How To Do This” Piece:

But it was fun … wanna try stopmotion? You can tinker even with any apps with a site called ParaPara Animation.

An example that I made in a few minutes:

Peace (in the frame),