The Game Is Part of the Story of Us

I’ve been in and out of the Making Learning Connected MOOC in the past few days because I was up in New Hampshire with old friends. We gather every year (for at least the past 20 years) to catch on our lives and play what we call our own Pool Championship of the World. We have a whole round robin system of playing and we gather from quite a long distance to come together,

I was thinking about my long weekend with my friends because the CLMOOC Make Cycle of gaming is sort of winding down (although the cycles are always open for anyone to jump in when they want) with a call for some reflection by facilitators Joe and Terry about what has been going on with games this past week or so.

In New Hampshire, we played billiards. But what we really did was tell stories, and we used the game itself as an anchor to stay connected with each other. Our tournament is a means to bring us together, and yes, we play both seriously and for fun, and yet, the game itself is little more than a connective anchor that we share together.

The game is part of the story of us.

And I think that is true of what happened this week in the CLMOOC, as hashtag play became game pieces on Twitter, poetry was passed around and tinkered with, photos became a means for rule creation for very short narratives, current events led participants to create games to make commentary, video games were played and created, and I even led a Folded Story game in which many people added lines to an unfolding story that none of us knew how it would end.

I ended up doing a podcast of the entire story, using Vocaroo. (It’s 9 minutes long, so grab a drink and snack before you listen)

Audio recording and upload >>

Games are getting a lot of attention these days in education circle, and Joe and Terry kicked off this Make Cycle by reminding us of the stories that lay behind the games we play and the games we create. This can be a point of contention in the gaming world — whether a game needs a narrative arc or not. For us, in the CLMOOC, the answer is a resounding “yes” because, just like with my friends and our pool championship, the games are now part the story of us.

Media bubbles
(Part of Scott’s Game of Using a Common Photo for a 15 Word Story)

Peace (beyond the game),


We’ve invited participants in the CLMOOC to add themselves to our map. It’s a nifty way to see where we all are geographically, even as we hang out in some of the same spaces for our making, connecting and playing.

Peace (along the navigation lines),

Listening in: Hacking Chess in the Classroom

hack chess collage 2013
This is a podcast/radio program that I worked on with other folks in the DS106 Headless Course, and my piece about my students “hacking” the game of chess in the classroom ties in nicely to our work in the Making Learning Connected MOOC right now. The piece is more of a “sound story” than a traditional radio piece.

Listen to my students remix the rules of Chess

And if you are interested, here is the entire program of our group: The Merry Hacksters.

Peace (in the hack),



Variations on a Game: Tic Tac KaBoom

I created this version of Tic Tac Toe for a digital writing camp for high school students, where game design dovetailed with digital literacy. We played Tic Tac KaBoom on the interactive whiteboard, which was interesting, and then students made their own variations of Tic Tac Toe. The “lesson” was around making rules in clear, concise writing (another focus of the camp program) while having fun.

Tic Tac KaBoom by KevinHodgson

You can see my youngest son listed as a “game advisor” — he was my playtester.

Peace (in the game),


The #CLMOOC Video Game (and How to Make Your Own)

clmooc game

(Click on image to play the video game)

I did a variation of this last year, but have tinkered with the Making Learning Connected video game for this year, and this week, as we move into the theme of games and stories, it seemed very appropriate to share it out.

Play the game!

But don’t just play the game. Make your own video game.

Here’s how you do it:

First, create an account in Gamestar Mechanic. It’s free for the basic level. I could write a lot about Gamestar but let me just say that it is a video game design site built for students, and they earn experience i game design elements while playing “Quests” and building their own games. You don’t need to do the Quests to build a game, however (You just can’t publish it to the world until you finish the first Quest).

When you are in Gamestar, go to your “workshop” area (you will see the link along the banner) and click on “Build New Game.”
Gamestar Tutorial

This will bring you to the game construction area, where you can begin to make your video game.

Gamestar Tutorial

You can add text and the “story narrative” to the game.
Gamestar Mechanic

Here’s an example of a simple start to a maze game.
Gamestar Tutorial

Have fun. Build games. Learn about design. Think of your students.

Peace (in the screen),


Variations on a Game: Summer Ball Story Cube

hacking bball
This week, the Making Learning Connected MOOC dives into games, with a focus on the stories behind the games and all that comes with the narrative design. I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about games over the years, as I have an entire unit for my sixth graders around video game design which is the highlight for the year for many of them.

As we begin our discussions, I started to think about the game of baseball, and how a neighbor/friend/youth coach volunteers and runs an informal Summer Ball program for any kid under the age of 14 in our city. Three days a week, from July until November (some years), this friend (who would rather not be named and got mad at me one year when I nominated him for a local community recognition) loosely organizes kids (sometimes there are up to 60 kids; sometimes around 20) into the game of baseball.

But he spices it up on a regular basis, adding twists to rules and, well, “hacking the game of baseball” to make it interesting for kids, and they just love it when he calls out a rule change. He does this for a variety of reasons — to keep the kids engaged, to change the pace of play, to teach the traditional game of baseball through the lens of alteration.

My own boys have been playing Summer Ball for almost 10 years, with the youngest now the only one allowed in (cut off age is 14, when the batter is too strong for the young kids). One interesting aspect is the mix of ages of kids, where there are 8 year old kids hanging out with 13 year old kids in a very informal gathering, learning from the older kids (some good; some bad) in a way that beckons back to my own neighborhood experiences. It’s a determined move by my neighbor to get kids away from their devices and away from formal activities, and into something more natural and freeflowing. While mostly boys, there are some girls who play, too.

In that vein, I offer up this Story Cube, from a site called Slides, that allows you to construct a presentation that allows you to move around the square surfaces of an invisible project. Ideally, a circle would be best for this! But hey, you take what you can get.

Peace (on the field),

Reflecting on a Week of Meme-Making

So you wanna make a meme
What a meme-filled week we had at the Making Learning Connected MOOC! And what a range of discussions that our meme-making inspired, particularly around the concepts of cultural currency, who gets left out of the conversations, the concept of privilege, what constitutes a meme, and more.

There are still plenty of folks in the CLMOOC who are scratching their heads about all of this meme business, but that’s OK — it might be one of those topics that takes time to simmer and stew before understanding comes around. There does not have go be instant understanding when it comes to the topics in the CLMOOC.

You are so meme

I’d like to share out a few pieces that went beyond the making of memes, as I think they showcase the flavor of the discussions. Of course, you are invited to join us at any time, too.

  • Rebecca Powell started a thread of discussion in our Google Plus space about privilege and memes, and the result was a far-ranging talk of a handful of us on the theme. I like this post because it shows us questioning, pushing back at our thinking, and sharing ideas in a positive way. We don’t really come to any conclusions but, personally, I am thinking of memes in a different light right now. Thanks, Rebecca!
  • Shyam Sharma and Maha Bali collaborated on a very deep piece for EdConteXts about their work on memes in the CLMOOC, bringing together blog posts that both of them wrote during the week about cultural connections to meme sharing and meme making, and how without those cultural touchpoints, they felt left out of the conversations. This reflective stance is so important, for not only do we not want people in the CLMOOC feeling on the outside looking in, we also do not want our students to feel that way. I love how Shyam and Maha end their piece, with a call for all of us to “open our ears and eyes and hearts if we want to truly take advantage of the web of people and ideas as educators.”
  • Chris Campbell’s extension of memes into cinema and videos, and remix, is the perfect leap from one form of media (still image) to another, and I love how he shows as well as shares his ideas in his blog post. Chris’s piece sparked some great conversation within the MOOC itself. One thread of those converations had to do with sampling of music and repositioning melodies of old into songs of the new (I am stretching the topic a bit here but it is something I think about when I listen to HipHop). Music as meme? Of course!

At point during the Make Cycle, I grabbed as many of the memes that I could, and put them into an Animoto video. At that point, there were about 125 memes, and many more flowed in after the video was finished. I shared the video in our spaces and asked the questions:

  • What do we notice about the memes when pulled together as a collection?
  • What does the collection say about us as a community?

I didn’t get much response — that’s OK — but I have been thinking about it, and here is what comes to mind as I watch the video again with my questions in mind.

  • While Peter Kittle and crew did use the World Cup biting incident to spur on some modern memes, most of this collection either referenced cultural events from years past or no cultural events at all. However, someone did note that a potential lesson for students would be to take a current event, synthesize it down into a meme, and post it to a public space — which sounds intriguing;
  • Most of the reference points were American-centered in nature and do not reflect a world-view;
  • We used a lot of the meme-generator sites instead of making our own memes with our own images, probably out of ease but when you do that, you lose agency as a maker;
  • There were fewer LOL cats than I would have thought, which might reflect a generational pull of our crew. Or maybe, we are just tired of the cats. Dogs, anyone?;
  • Playing with language — syntax, purposeful errors, spelling — was relatively rare. Again, this might reflect our community of mostly teachers whose natural impulse is to not write/publish ungrammatical work, even memes that situate such errors as part of the construction of the composition (I know I feel that tension when I try to write that way intentionally);
  • You can see lots of people experimenting with what a meme is, and if you scroll through the conversations, there is still a lot of wondering about what makes a meme a meme, and ” Did I do this right?” Thus, some of our projects work as memes, and some are just artful statements on life (Is there a difference? I think so, but maybe I am wrong. This continues to be a rich source of discussion);
  • I wondered if any of our memes would go viral, beyond the CLMOOC. Not as far as I can see, but a movement to gather up a collection of political memes that take a poke at the Education Reform/Testing Industry could have legs in educational circles, if we can get our act together to make that happen.

mo money meme
(Remix your own version of this meme)

What do you think? Check out the Meme Game (which Terry Elliott shared with us) and see how many you recognize and if you recognize the context. I was solid on a few, had some inklings on some others and was clueless on the rest. Interesting …

Peace (in the viral world),


Find Your Muse: Making an Animated Meme

I’ve tinkered with animated GIFs before (most notably, with DS106) and when I saw a fellow traveler in the Making Learning Connected MOOC world sharing an animated GIF meme, I thought: I gotta try that.

So, I did. Here’s how I went about it.

First, I found a clip on YouTube that I liked (of Lisa Simpson playing her saxophone).

Then, I grabbed the url of that video and went into a site called Make a Gif, which does what it sounds like it does: it creates animated GIF files out of YouTube videos. I took just the first three seconds of the video, as the loop of Lisa playing while Homer kicks back and dreams of other things while Lisa kicks out her saxophone jams.

Then, I went into an online photo editor called EZGif, which allows you to layer in text on top of animated GIF files.

I’ve run into problems hosting animated GIF files before and I have found that if I use Flickr and grab the “original” image (not the embed code that Flickr gives you, as that will flatten the GIF down to a static image) via copy/paste, and place that original upload file directly into my blog post, it will remain animated.

The result?


Pretty nifty, eh? Go give it a try and share out what you made as part of this Make Cycle around memes. We’re moving to shift gears out of this Make Cycle but it never really ends. You can enter into the conversation with the CLMOOC whenever you arrive.

Peace (in the sharing),