Gaming as a Pedagogy

Connecting the Dots…

In pursuit of reshaping teacher instructional practice, or pedagogy as it’s known, has brought about new instructional strategies to foster student learning in recent years. Finding the “perfect” digital pedagogies is still somewhat elusive in the complex field of teaching and learning, but much needed because students entering classrooms today are wired completely different. According to William D. Winn, the director of the Learning Center at the University of Washington’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory, children raised with technology, “think differently from the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It’s as though their cognitive structures are parallel, not sequential.” (Prensky, 2007). Thus, the big ideas of messy learning, noisy knowledge and challenge-based learning through purposeful play have me thinking lately about gameful learning as a pedagogy. Furthermore, Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk takes an entertaining look into gaming as a culture and as an important set of life skills needed for students to be future ready. Using a gaming mindset, I’d like to take a closer look at how an app like Goosechase can be utilized to hack concepts of gamification to achieve the value of digital play to support and deepen classroom learning, bolster student engagement and encourage collaborative teamwork.


Goosechase in the Classroom…

From the teacher perspective, the Goosechase app is an interactive gaming platform to foster active learning, engage students in problem-solving and higher-order thinking exercises, builds student agency, facilitates self-directed learning and utilizes motivation techniques to capitalize on the Generation Z/Alpha psyches. Think of the Goosechase product as a digital scavenger hunt on steroids. The app provides a simple gamification designed shell for teachers to construct and integrate game mechanics such as missions, points, progression and feedback into classroom curriculum either for one-setting, for a few days or even for multi-week use. Structuring the game starts with developing a game story and flow by determining the curricular and non-curricular learning targets and employing a backward lesson design process to build a robust and highly curricular connected gaming experience.

The actual game building process takes place by a teacher creating a free account through the www.goosechase.com website and then accessing that account still via the website to develop the individual gaming missions that link together in a linear or constructivist format. The number of missions an individual student or groups of students participates in is determined by the teacher’s curricular or assessment needs. For one setting of classroom play, around 6-8 missions is appropriate, for play over a couple of day think around 10-14 missions, and for multi-week play consider 18-20 missions or breaking the games into mini-series that students can level up. For each mission created, the teacher names the mission (being clever and/or having a theme is a must), assigns a specific number of points, determines how evidence will be collected and uses 300 characters or less to articulate the mission’s goals and requirements. The teacher can also add links to a mission to support access to additional resources. Once developed, missions can be coded to occur in a specified order or allowed to be played as user desired. While students are playing the game, additional missions can be added “on the fly” to accommodate new learning opportunities as they arise. Once missions are launched on the student side, the teacher has real-time access to game analytics including student submissions and a game leaderboard. Having real-time data affords the teacher the opportunity to identify any students or student groups that are struggling with the learning activities and provide any necessary intervention as needed.

From the student perspective, the Goosechase free app needs to be downloaded on an iOS or Android mobile device. If students are working in teams, only one student on the team needs to create an account. Once logged in, students search for the name of game to begin completing their missions. Students submit evidence to support their learning and although they receive their points right away when completing each mission, those points are subject to review by the teacher. Additionally, students can receive bonus points if their submissions are extra impressive.


From an Educator Lens…

Using gaming methods to integrate gamification experiences for gameful learning and assessment accomplishes many of the goals for both the ISTE Student Standards, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and Districts’ curriculum requirements if planned appropriately. Using the Goosechase app, students will leverage technology to demonstrate content competency through challenge-based missions and must possess digital citizenship skills in submitting their digital evidence and artifacts. Student can also have choice and voice in the curation of the digital resources that they will use to construct their knowledge as well as the potential to make learning meaningful for themselves and their teammates. Using all of the 4C’s, students will complete different missions along the way that can broaden their perspectives and enrich their understanding through purposeful technology-mediated learning. Leaderboards and experience points can offer transparency in the learning process and also potentially provide “surprise” elements to reward students for taking risks, failing forward, using perseverance and grit all while building a feeling of accomplishment of the learning goals. The CCSS’ are taken into consideration during the build process by the teachers to ensure that these gameful experiences are not viewed as fluffy or just for fun activities but rooted in an innovative and blended pedagogical way.


Recommended Improvement…

If I were to recommend one major change or update to the Goosechase app, I would encourage the creator of the app to cleanly split the business into two separate entities. Meaning, create a Goosechase business app and a Goosechase educational app. Doing so, would allow the vendor to better serve the very disparate user groups of the existing app, and perhaps provide a more reasonable pricing structure for non-profit institutions, offer help desk support with an educational bent, and possess the ability to offer additional specific “educational” app needs like running multiple games concurrently, sending signals to teams in action, and building in a robust feedback loop to perhaps find wider acceptance in the educational market.


Final Thoughts…

In an era of high-stakes testing and compliance progress monitoring, non-traditional pedagogies such as gamification and game-based learning get placed too often on the back burner in classrooms and/or are used primarily as filler Fridays or for end of the year fun. Through my experience running Goosechase games in a K-12 setting, students are very engaged, motivated through the missions because they realize that a larger audience will be looking at their hard work, and enjoy demonstrating content mastery in a non-traditional way. Goosechase has been a powerful learning and assessment tool to offer students experiential, self-directed, collaborative team learning. It’s time to consider moving gameful learning to the front burner!


Prensky, M. (2007). Digital game-based learning. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.

Visual Math Gaming

I have been very interested in math lately in a pondering and questioning kind of way. Perhaps because I see opportunities for improvement in the way math content is currently delivered. I recently happened across a great article from 2014 entitled, “Research on Children and Math: Underestimated and Unchallenged“, by Annie Murphy Paul, which explained why the perception that U.S. students are bad at math might indicate schools aren’t challenging students enough. I also just read a book by Jo Boaler titled Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, that addressed ways via a mindset shift to banish math anxiety and give students of all ages and abilities a clear roadmap of strategies to unleash their math potential. Finally, my many visits to classrooms have made me also realize just how language dependent that math has really become. As a district, we have been reimagining what a variety of core content areas can look like in the future and math is one of them. The product that I’m going to share a little insight on and one we are beginning to pilot in the 4th, 6th and 7th grades for the 3rd Trimester in my district is called ST Math.

ST Math is a game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning from foundational math concepts all the way up to algebraic skills. This blended learning tool is accessed through a web-browser, on an iOS or Android App, or even on a Kindle. From demoing the game at different grade levels, the learning experience seems to be very interactive, filled with a variety of graphically-rich animations that represent mathematical concepts to practice and develop deeper conceptual understanding, and an JiJi No BGopportunity to really grow a user’s problem-solving skills. Teachers determine the program placement for each student and then students are guided by JiJi, the penguin, and encouraged to intuitively navigate through the gaming environment. Every time a student demonstrates an understanding of a targeted math concept/skill, JiJi meanders across the screen to signal success as well as lead the student to the next challenging puzzle. ST Math also utilizes a teacher dashboard and offers embedded assessments, detailed progress monitoring and whiteboard integration.

According to MIND Research, the creator of the ST Math system, their mission is to “ensure that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems”. The ST Math program is closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards and our District curriculum. Potentially, this program closely aligns with our District Strategic Framework and Learner Profile in providing personalized learning through a scaffolded learning environment, removing the language barrier to learning math for students of all abilities, and equipping students’ spatial temporal reasoning abilities to better understand, explain, solve and master multi-step math problems. I’m really looking forward to observing the role that neuroscience plays in visual math instruction throughout the 3rd Trimester from both a student and teacher lens.


Sources:

Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass & Pfeiffer Imprints.

MIND Researchhttp://www.mindresearch.org/

MIND Research on Neuroscience – http://www.mindresearch.org/science/

ST Math Results – http://www.mindresearch.org/results/

 

Can You Digitally BreakoutEDU?

With many digital-based coding gaming tools in “pilot” mode throughout my district, it’s time to turn some attention on an educational game-based learning tool that can be used across the K-12 grade levels and subject areas. This hands-on tool is called BreakoutEDU and you can play the game with a set of boxes and locks or through a web-based version. Both options of this ultra-engaging gaming tool promote teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and troubleshooting by presenting learners with challenges to be solved. Although BreakoutEDU boxes are perhaps more “hip” and appealing, going digitally with BreakoutEDU is a quick and less expensive way to get started.


Let’s start with a quick overview on BreakoutEDU using Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” philosophy to build a foundational footing:

WHY use the game-based learning tool BreakoutEDU in an educational setting?

10-reasons-breakoutedu-sylvia-duckworth

Image Source: @MariaGalanis & @sylviaduckworth


HOW to use BreakoutEDU digitally & in box and lock form?

Consider using BreakoutEDU to:

  • Welcome students to their new classroom in the fall or at each Semester/Trimester changeover to build student engagement, getting to know your peers activity or getting to know the classroom and how it will run
  • Connect BreakoutEDU to a curricular component or as an activity to practice 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, etc.
  • Kick-off a Staff Professional Development session to build team capacity, practice communication strategies, learn new instructional content or even to learn a new building protocol
  • Want to know more? Check out these links: How to Get Started & Game Facilitation Slides

WHAT exactly is BreakoutEDU?

by James Sanders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWSoR-0DH8Q


Let’s dig a little deeper into the tech tool itself…consider me your “thinking aloud” tour guide. The best way to get started is to go to the www.breakoutedu.com/digitally landing page that provides a welcome message, access to featured games, FAQ’s, digital sandbox and more. From there, simply click on a featured game and begin to poke around. For example, I selected the “Trapped In Our Classroom” game to explore how this digital game works. The first thing that I notice right away is that a storyline appears at the top of the web page. This story seems to serve as the anchor for the BreakoutEDU experience. It’s interesting that there is a clickable link in the storyline called “abandoned classroom” that leads to some picture clues. Seeing that one clickable link, leads me to believe that there are other clickable links elsewhere on the web page, so I start hovering on images all over the page. I quickly discover that there are a series of book titles that all have individual links as well as images at the very bottom of the screen that also link to somewhere on the Internet. Probably one of the more noticeable items on a Digital BreakoutEDU web page is the digital locks section that must be “broken into” to successfully complete the game. I’m starting to put 2+2 together and realize that I have some investigative work to do on all of those clickable links. I’m thinking that they will produce the lock information indirectly and after a lot of collaboration and thinking power with a group of learners. Furthermore, I notice at the bottom of the game web page that I can email the game creator if students or I get stuck. That’s definitely comforting! Additionally below that email, I realize that I can get a “Hint” if I’m stuck. I’m feeling that this type of learning is a lot different than having scripted instructional materials with an answer key, and that’s a good thing.

As you can see from the brief “talking” tour above, a Digital BreakoutEDU game, that “breakouts” can be used to enhance or extend learning in a classroom or training setting for learners of all ages. In my mind, what makes BreakoutEDU a value-added learning tool is that it complements, is aligned with and really amplifies the ISTE Standards for Teachers & Students as highlighted below:

  • facilitates and inspires student learning, in particular the experience of breaking out amps up the innovative thinking and inventiveness that students must use to find some level of success through a variety of small failures to unlock the locks
  • fosters communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking because the random web links and hints in the game require constant thinking, discussing, testing, and retesting in a collaborative manner to succeed
  • models digital age work and empowers learners to take an active role in learning because the answers are not easily achieved, learners must navigate the digital resources and artifacts, curate their meaning and apply to the storyline to find success
  • allows learners to become innovative designers themselves through constructing their own BreakoutEDU digital game

If I had the chance to refine the digital version of BreakoutEDU, I would first survey teachers and students that have used the website before. From a teacher perspective, I would look to find out what additional supports might be needed for successful implementation in a classroom setting, what hurdles teachers feel are preventing them from facilitating a digital BreakoutEDU experience, and any ideas to improve the current landing page. From a student perspective, I would look to gather open-ended feedback about the gaming experience and then share that data back with the teachers so that they can see the value of running this type of learning experience. Additionally, I would add a “cheats” web link that was password protected to hide important facilitator information that cannot be conveyed on the actual game pages. Doing the aforementioned refinements might bring about a higher comfort level to the facilitator. On a positive note, the user base for this type of learning has grown so dramatically that BreakoutEDU has created User Groups by teaching discipline on Facebook which allows for social and focused discussions on facilitation tips and much more. As BreakoutEDU suggests, “It’s time for something different“! Give it a try and you’ll not only like it, but find it’s more than just a game…it’s a new way of thinking!

Purposeful Play with Puzzlets!

I’ve been blogging lately about a variety of newer educational technology tools that promote gamification and game-based learning for the K-5 classrooms to support coding, math, inquiry, storytelling, purposeful play, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. I would like to share another gamification tool called Puzzlets. Puzzlets Play Tray is a hardware accessory for a tablet or computer on an iOS or Android platform that allows students to build programs out of real Puzzlet pieces to navigate through an app-based gaming storyline. Puzzlets game pieces are grounded in computer science methodology with each game app focusing on a STEAM subject area. Although the vendor suggests that Puzzlets can be utilized for a K-8 student population, my guess with student prowess continuing to develop in the computer science arena, that the more appropriate grade range is K-5.

There is very little upfront set-up needed to get this technology tool up and running quickly in the classroom. Simply add an app, Cork the Volcano as an example, onto a mobile device and either hardwire the Puzzlets Play Tray or use the Bluetooth wireless connection. I would recommend that students work in pairs, with one student acting as the “navigator” by putting the instruction tiles together on the Play Tray while the other student is the “driver” of the app that advances the program throughout the gaming quest. Students level up by first participating in a “build mode” to plan and determine the possible solution to the challenge on the screen, then run the “play mode” button on the app to gauge their coding success as well as use trial and error to fix any programming problems so that they can guide their character successfully through the quest with the end goal of rescuing their island to “cork the volcano” with the treasures they’ve earned along their journey. Each level up requires a higher level of critical thinking, many more attempts through trial and error, and efficient coding because the quests become timed. As students develop their newfound programming skills, they can go back and replay previous levels to collect more treasures and also practice their enhanced coding skills. What is interesting about this gaming app is that directions and wording does not fill the screen or drive their learning, it is more about intuition, deep thinking and possible solutions. The Puzzlets gaming system currently offers three apps including Cork the Volcano which focuses on coding, Abacus Finch which focuses on math skills and Swatch Out which introduces color theory.

In eLearning educational gaming terms, Puzzlets Play Tray would be considered more of a gamification tool because:

  • it utilizes game design elements and mechanics to challenge and motivate the students
  • it takes an existing course of coding or math and adds gaming elements such as point systems, level progressions and achievement badges
  • the game is created to engage learners so that they become active participants in their own learning
  • the game elements are integrated to help the learner achieve their learning goals and objectives

Additionally, the Puzzlets gaming system pairs nicely with the current ISTE Standards for Students as they become:

  • Empowered learners to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating coding competency by mastery/leveling up
  • Knowledge constructors by using trial and error to solve the challenges screen by screen
  • Innovative designers by creating imaginative solutions to complete each path and level up in a timely fashion
  • Computational thinkers by testing solutions and leveraging their power as a collaborative team
  • Creative communicators in how the student teams use the platform pieces and app to reach their goals

Furthermore, through grit, failure and teamwork, students have the power to persevere and develop core academic and foundational technology skills. I think the vendor tagline says it all, “make game time, brain time”!

Meet Dash & Dot!

Having just spent last week at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), this blog post for my doctoral class on learning technologies is perfectly timed and extremely relevant. Echoing the requirement for the blog post was my same goal while attending the FETC Conference in that I am always looking for educational technology whether it be a device, app, website or program that fits together pedagogically with our district curriculum yet extends student thinking, application and creation. With coding becoming a large focus in my district in the lower grade levels, it is only natural that I would like to share my insight on Dash and Dot.

Dash and Dot are cute little teal educational robots that work together to teach children how to code from Pre-K through 3rd grade. Dash acts as the actual robot and Dot functions more as the remote control for Dash. At the simplest level of operation, a student can bo_and_yana_1075_724_sdirect Dash’s operations by drawing a line with his or her finger on a tablet through an app called Go. Students can also send Dash on missions to deliver messages or use Dot to act out a character in a story. As students develop a better understanding of how Dot and Dash operate and move, there are three other apps to support higher order thinking including Path, Wonder and Blockly. From a hardware perspective, the robots work with a variety of Android and iOS devices, but ideally, you will want to use a tablet for a larger work surface. Dash has a battery life of 90 minutes and Dot well over 2 hours and easily can be linked to almost all curricular subjects because learning how to code is like learning how to read, learning how to write, solving math problems, using physics and learning a foreign language.

Since the robots are driven by the apps, it is important to take a closer look at the other apps that support Dash and Dot and showcase how they connect to the teaching and learning process. Before reviewing the remaining apps and linking to the ISTE Student Standards, ISTE Teacher Standards and the Triple E Framework, it is important to remind teachers that using these robots in a classroom setting is best accomplished in student pairs or triads to elicit collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.

  • Regarding the ISTE Student Standards, Dash and Dot check the boxes on the majority of those standards including: #1 Creativity and Innovation, #2 Simple Communication and Collaboration (partially), #4 Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making, as well as #6 Technology Operations and Concepts. Using the Path app, students can plan, program and execute adventures. The ISTE Student Standards complement the students sharing their successes and failures of getting Dash and Dot to successfully complete their physical challenges and extend their newfound skills to apply to an authentic classroom challenge such as a problem solved through storytelling or actually creating a process for someone struggling on a task.
  • The Wonder app is a step up from the Path app and really supports the teacher and student in achieving higher order thinking. Using the ISTE Teacher Standards in conjunction with the Wonder app, the only box that really gets checked is the first ISTE Teacher Standard of Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. The Wonder app functions as picture-based language and guides students on a variety of challenges to learn how to code. The challenges run the gamut of traveling through the Arctic Wilderness or the African Grasslands or even to Outer Space. Students also learn how to turn Dot into a traveling companion of Dash with a variety of noises like a lion, trumpet or arcade. The Wonder app is the coding canvas for creative play. By designing these behaviors and interactions, it’s as if the robots have personalities and intelligence as well as afford hours of unstructured play with endless ideas and innovations brought to life.
  • The Blockly app is yet another bump in the higher order thinking process and continues to check the same boxes for both the ISTE Student & Teacher Standards. Blockly is a visual drag-and-drop programming tool that allows students to snap together commands just like you would puzzle pieces. This app offers the highest level of student practice in coding through sequencing challenges such as control flow, loops, algorithms, operations and conditionals as well as sensors and events. Applying the Triple E Framework Rubric on the Blockly app produced a score of 15 out of 18 possible points making the app an exceptional potential for classroom usage. The app received high marks on the engagement in learning component, mid-to-high marks on the enhancement of the learning goals and mid-to-high marks on the extension of the learning goals element. Key takeaways from applying the Triple E Framework was that the app afforded students the opportunity to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of programming, provided a bridge between student school learning and everyday life experiences, and offered the chance to build authentic life soft skills.

After playing with the technology and apps, I would offer the developer of the product a few suggestions. The one app I didn’t overly mention in this blog was the Xylo app which is a newer app centered on music. Although it teaches algorithm design, command sequence and loops, it’s not overly needed in my opinion at this point compared to the other apps and perhaps a little gimmicky. In the bigger picture, it might behoove the developer to create a new app that allows multiple robots to interface with one another and/or create a wetsuit that Dash and Dot can wear to head into water play. Overall, the developer has created a full-featured product, with a variety of apps and teacher curricular support content to fully utilize the robots in a lower elementary classroom setting that will support many of the required district, Common Core and NGSS standards.

OSMO is in the House!

osmo_3The district in which I work, lately has been the lucky recipient of a variety of new technology tools to integrate into the classroom setting. One of the tools taking a few elementary and special education classrooms by storm is OSMO. OSMO is a gaming accessory that is compatible with the full line of Apple iPads that have cameras in conjunction with specific free apps that get downloaded to support the hands-on play. OSMO promotes gaming for students aged 4-12 in the areas of creative problem-solving, art, STEM, and the Common Core curriculum standards. Additionally, OSMO supports a variety of languages too.

There is a little upfront set-up needed before OSMO can be actively used in a classroom setting. An adult must go to www.playosmo.com/start on the iPad designated as the classroom OSMO gaming system to begin the set-up process. Critical to the set-up process is writing down the activation code to link the account with the downloaded games. From there, the gaming base needs to get attached to the iPad as well as the red reflector that sits on top of the iPad camera. The last step in the process, is to select a Classroom (or teacher) avatar and create student profiles if there is a desire to track student progress down the road.

The OSMO gaming system offers a variety of games including Tangram, Words, Newton, Masterpiece, Numbers, Coding, Monster, and Pizza Co. Access to these games depends on what kits or games were purchased. Each OSMO game has a set of specific educational skills on which students can work in small collaborative groups (pairs preferred) or independently if tracking student usage and levels achieved is desired. With the Pizza Co. game, OSMO teaches students about real-world math, money, fractions and non-verbal communication skills. Whereas, the OSMO Numbers game focuses on teaching counting, addition and multiplication as outlined by the Common Core standards. Given my district’s push to include coding in the K-3 classrooms, I can see the OSMO Coding game challenging students to work in collaborative pairs to construct code and conquer a tree-shaking, strawberry-munching adventure.

In eLearning educational gaming terms, OSMO would be considered more of a game-based learning tool because it is tied directly to curriculum and teaches specific skills, as well as providing students with the opportunity to practice and acquire new skills in a fun and engaging way. Furthermore, using the SAMR model to evaluate OSMO’s impact in the teaching and learning process, this gaming system would hover on the lower half of the SAMR model between the Substitution and Augmentation levels depending on how the lesson or groups of lessons are constructed around this technology tool. The OSMO gaming system would make a great addition to any K-5 classroom and can be implemented as an independent workstation because it is very intuitive to the end-users, and won’t require too much troubleshooting. In fact, OSMO might become your virtual teaching assistant! To see OSMO in action, take a look at a couple of videos teachers in my district have created.

New Year, New Focus!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “DNA” in a K-12 educational systems type of way. Wonderings like, “What should be the DNA of a school district in 2030?” or “How can the genes (staff, students, parents, community) better use their talents to impact the future generation from a learning, global citizenship and career perspective?” or “What traits (skills & thinking) do our students need to possess to become successful and make a difference in the world in their lifetime?” and more importantly, “How will our teachers transition their mindsets, pedagogy and classroom experiences to support Generation Z and Generation Alpha students today, tomorrow and beyond?”

Just as the DNA of our student population is changing…Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and now Generation Alpha, so should our instructional approaches and the tools used to facilitate learning. Growing our practice sometimes requires us to revisit the past with a newfound lens. One big instructional approach that I personally feel did not get a fair shake the first time around was the concept of “gaming” in the classroom. The field of educational technology is in a much better position now to facilitate deeper usage of gaming types of tools to promote active learning in the classroom, encourage student collaboration, afford personalized learning, offer students immediate feedback, and encourage student voice and choice.

To get the conversations rolling again on purposeful eLearning gaming in the classroom, it’s important to look at the DNA of the two very distinct types of gaming currently available to support the teaching and learning process. In eLearning gaming, you’ll hear the terms gamification and game-based learning used interchangeably. Do they have similarities? You bet. Both approaches share “traits” such as game thinking, design and mechanics. Both types of gaming also engage players and solve problems. Digging a little deeper though into the DNA of gamification and game-based learning, they are similar yet quite different as the graphic illustrates below:

gamification-gamebased

Over the next month or so, I plan on posting a variety of blogs on gaming tools. Some will be from a gamification lens and others from a game-based learning perspective. To showcase a larger variety of gaming tools, thanks to my doctoral class at Central Michigan University, EDU807 Learning Tools, I’ll be collaborating with a peer of mine, Natalie Makulski, a 3rd Grade teacher from Botsford Elementary in Clarenceville Schools. We’ll each write multiple separate blogs about eLearning gaming and link our blogs to each other’s for a deeper storyline about why gaming should be revisited and utilized more often in the K-12 learning environment. Looking forward to sharing our thinking! Also, don’t be surprised if a few Saline Area Schools teachers pop in as guest bloggers too!

The BIG Finish!

It’s hard to believe that my first semester of doctoral coursework has come to a close. It’s been a wild ride filled with lots of reading, writing, questioning, pondering, studying, collaborating, etc. The final task for my educational technology research course was to create an “elevator pitch” to outline my research interests. This turned out to be a much harder task than I thought because I have “lots” of ideas from my many years of working in the field of education. Hot topics currently on my mind include:

  • Flipped classroom model – moving from passive to active learning for iGeneration teachers using Blendspace or a beta equivalent.
  • The need for multiple digital spaces to transform a teacher education program – a digital ecology focus.
  • Flexible technology-mediated pathways to foster the 4C’s in a teacher preservice program.
  • Removing the content to learn how to teach in a technology-mediated environment (yes I know this one is out there and crazy…but my years of experience tell me it’s not really that crazy – think themes & Finland:)

Overall, I learned that I really like working with teachers and future teachers to provide authentic and collaborative learning opportunities to push their thinking, pedagogy and technology immersion. In the end, I selected to create an elevator pitch on a Hybrid Learning Space for preservice teachers. Think of this hybrid approach as a place where identity and community get realized through a technology-mediated digital space as well as a way to modifying pedagogy across path, pace, time and place. It’s like a space to practice “school” in the 21st century! Shown below is my first attempt of many at sharing a research interest I have:

Hybrid Learning Space

Zeichner, K. (2010). Rethinking the connections between campus courses and field experiences in college- and university-based teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 89-99.

The author examines the work currently occurring around the country on the concept of hybrid spaces to more closely connect the campus courses and the field experiences in preservice teacher education programs. Zeichner states that many colleges and universities have been plagued for years for providing preservice teacher education programs that are disconnected to what is happening in the K-12 arena. He further states many reasons why the divide between campus and field-based teacher education has endured for so long, i.e., graduate students not interested in teacher education as a field of study, a new cohort of graduate students occurs each fall on campuses, few incentives for tenure-track staff to invest time in coordinating campus & field based components, outsourced placement process, etc. Additionally, there is a growing consensus that much of what teachers need to learn must be learned in and from practice rather than in preparing for practice (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). Thus, Zeichner states that there is much disagreement about the conditions for teacher learning that must exist for this practice to be educative and enduring and offers the concept of a third space (hybrid space) as a lens to discuss various kinds of boundary crossing experiences (p. 91-92).

The idea of a third space comes from the hybridity theory and recognizes that individuals draw on multiple discourses to make sense of the world (Bhabba, 1990). Zeichner defines third space as the creation of a hybrid space in which preservice teacher education programs bring together school and university-based teacher educators and practitioners and academic knowledge in new ways to enhance the learning of future teachers (p. 92). Additionally, the author studied “boundary crossing” experiences at some college and university teacher education programs to highlight a more synergistic and transformative way that a hybrid space supports preservice teacher learning instead of traditional practices. However, this is a big shift from the days of John Dewey who argued against unguided school experiences and was a big proponent of planned and purposeful school experiences for future teacher learning. As highlighted by the author, with the growing contemporary focus on rethinking and redesigning the connection of college and university coursework for preservice teacher education programs, is a hopeful sign that the aged teacher preparation model is on its way out (Zeichner, p. 95).

Although this article did not address a digital or better yet, a technology-mediated environment to the hybrid space, the concept explored still has significant value for the changing face of learning that is modified by time, space, place and pace. In my opinion, a hybrid space is an “ideal”, nonhierarchical environment where students, professors, practitioners, content experts and mentors can come together to: 1) meet and hold conversations, 2) ask questions & make sense of theories & practical applications, 3) learn from each other – lessons learned, perceptions, thought processes, 4) have social interactions with a diverse and global audience, and 5) even press “pause” as needed to work through ideas and concepts. I feel a hybrid space is potentially transformative to the field of education. To me, it is a space where authentic learning can take place and most matches the complexities that make up the ecology of teaching & learning. Additionally, I think it is natural to begin occurring in higher education, but do wonder when the K-12 school systems will begin to think about hybrid spaces for their teachers and students.

Works Cited:

Ball, D., & Cohen, D. (1999). Developing practice, developing practitioners: Toward a practice-based theory of professional education. In L. Darling-Hammond & G. Sykes (Eds.), Teaching as the learning profession (pp. 3-32). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bhabba, H. (1990). The third space. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity, community, culture and difference (pp. 207-221). London: Lawrence and Wishart.

Hammerness, K., Darling-Hammond, L., & Bransford, J. (2005). How teachers learn and develop. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world (pp. 358-398). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other Works Researched (for learning purposes):

Caldwell, G., Bilandzic, M., & Foth, M. (2012). Towards visualising people’s ecology of hybrid personal learning environments. Proceedings of the 4th Media Architecture Biennale Conference, November 15, pp. 13-22.

Lynch, T. (2015). Teacher education physical education: In search of a hybrid space. Cogent Education, 2(1), 1-23.

Nixon, H. (2011). ‘From bricks to clicks’: Hybrid commercial spaces in the landscape of early literacy and learning. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(2), 114-140.

O’Byrne, W. I., & Pytash, K. E. (2015). Hybrid and blended learning: Modifying pedagogy across path, pace, time, and place. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 59(2), 137-140.

Wood, M. B., & Turner, E. E. (2014). Bringing the teacher into teacher preparation: learning from mentor teachers in joint methods activities. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 18(1), 27-51.

Video Games in Adolescent Learning

Steinkuehler, C. (2010). Video games and digital literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(1), 61-63.

The author suggest that youth today is situated in a complex digital information-based environment within and outside of school. Although video games and reading have often been diametrically opposed by some, Steinkuehler asks the question of “What is the relationship between video games and reading”? According to Gee (2007), gaming is the production of meaning within the semiotic resources of a game. Thus, the author suggests that video games are about a back and forth between reading the game’s meanings and writing back into them with gaming tools (p. 61).  That means that video games occur in a narrative space that a player or group of players inscribes with their intentions.

Steinkuehler raises a very valid point in wondering why there is such an immense disconnect between games and classrooms. According to the author, there is little to no evidence that the highly literate lives of “gamers” have any positive effect on their in-school identity or performance. Given a lack of research, Steinkuehler offers an illustrative anecdotal story developed from running a quasi-natural lab space for adolescent gamers over a two-year time span. The student highlighted is a seventh grade boy from a working-class, single-parent family. In the casual learning lab, the student avidly read novels based on video game narratives and wrote three books of his own. The author described that the student’s reading and writing gave him authority and social capital from his peer group. Whereas, in the school setting, the student refused to finish a single reading assignment, complained about his teachers, his assignments, the school, and his entire identity. As the student progressed to eighth grade, Steinkeuhler and the casual learning lab team performed some testing that showed when the student was given what he chose to read, he could read four grades above his diagnosed reading levels instead of the three grade levels below with his social studies textbook. The author posits that the difference lay in his self-correction rate (p. 63). Thus, when the student self-selected a topic, one that he intended to use to improve his game-play, he persisted in the face of challenges, struggling through until he got the meaning.

I think that video games have gotten a bad reputation and that student gamers are often negatively stereotyped in schools and I’m not so sure that it is warranted anymore. In my opinion, video games are just like a good novel, they have themes, key characters, a storyline or two, play on emotions or virtue, etc. With that said, educators need to adjust their mindsets and consider ways in which video games can become a legitimate learning medium for students if they desire to go that route. There is something to be said about taking somebody’s passions and letting them learn school through them. The current literacy practice of just-right reading is not paying off for some middle school students. Maybe the intervention is not reading more just-right reading books, but possibly letting students play a video game to interact and grow their reading skills. We won’t know if it works, until we give it a try!

Works Cited:

Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave.