Pervasive Games as a Model for Pervasive Learning

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This thing that I have become so passionate about goes by many names. Games-based learning, quest-based learning, gamification, etc. etc. etc. Some of these names have positive connotations and at least one of them has some very, very negative connotations. I tend to use games-based learning and gamification interchangeably and I often tag posts that focus on games-based learning with the gamification tag, even though I don’t consider what I am doing gamification. I suppose I do this because teachers who are interested in one are often also interested in the other and, like me, may use one or the other depending on the course and the students. I have found, though, that I am moving farther and farther away from gamification and closer and closer towards turning my courses into full-fledged games. Hence, I see what I am doing as games-based learning; while my students aren’t playing video games (which typically characterizes GBL), they are playing a game; the game just happens to be the class. Sometimes this game involves role playing face-to-face or via a virtual environment like Second Life;  sometimes it involves completing quests to unlock new quests; sometimes the role-play and the questing center around a shared narrative that the players create via their decisions and actions; and it always involves communicating and collaborating with other players via social media.  If you add all of those things up, I think that there’s a pretty good argument to be made that what I am really doing–and what I want to do better–is turning learning into a pervasive game.

In Pervasive Games: Theory and Design, Markus Montola defines a pervasive game as “a game that has one or more salient features that expand the contractual magic circle of play spatially, temporally, or socially.” In other words:

In pervasive games, the magic circle is expanded in one or more ways: The game no longer takes place in certain times or certain places, and the participants are no longer certain. Pervasive games pervade, bend, and blur the traditional boundaries of game, bleeding from the domain of the game to the domain of the ordinary.

There are some common characteristics of pervasive games that illustrate this expansion: the whole world becomes a playground (players’ everyday environments become the game space), there is no such thing as a temporally-defined play session (play can and does occur at any time), and playing with outsiders (people who happen to be present in the game space during game play can become inadvertent and unsuspecting NPC’s). To further illustrate what a pervasive game is, I’ll use the example of Google’s Ingress. In Ingress, the player takes on the role of the game token (a flesh avatar) and their phone takes on the role of a weapon within the game. The objective of the game is to use their phone’s GPS to locate and “hack” portals of energy that are leaking out into the surrounding environment. These portals are located in the player’s local community: historical landmarks, governmental buildings, art installations, etc. The player is competing to claim as many portals as possible for their faction (either the Enlightenment or the Resistance) before players aligned with the other faction can do so. There is also a narrative thread that provides meaning to the energy, the portals, and the player’s role in and motivation for capturing them that the player can discover by locating and solving puzzles via websites, social media, and the portals themselves. The game is much more complicated than my summary suggests and I think that this video documenting one particular world-wide Ingress “operation” can do a better job of illustrating the capacity for pervasive gaming to engage and motivate:

So, what does this have to do with learning? If we consider the rhetoric that surrounds education right now, we can clearly see the connection. The new mantra of education is “21st Century Skills.” What specifically characterizes 21st Century Skills is debatable and has not been exactly pinned down. But what is clear is that the majority of schools–both K12 and higher education institutions–are not doing a very good job of helping their students attain these skills. We know that at least some of these skills include abilities such as problem-solving, disciplinary flexibility, adaptability, networking, collaboration and cooperation, technological adeptness, creativity, critical and analytical reading and thinking, and the willingness to be a lifelong learner. These skills are essential to surviving and thriving in the new information-based economy–one characterized by frequent career changes, a technology-dependent infrastructure, and the need for innovation and creative problem-solving within a global context. The old-school (pardon the pun) method of education just does not teach these kinds of skills or prepare our students for this kind of economy. In order to develop this new kind of mindset, we need to encourage our students to recognize and embrace learning opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom; to make connections between disciplines and between those disciplines and their passions; to transfer their social networking and technology skills from Facebook, YouTube, and video games to the classroom and, eventually, their careers; and to apply what they’ve learned about collaboration and cooperation from MMORPG’s and ARG’s to problem-based learning scenarios and service learning projects. So, in many ways we really want learning to be like a pervasive game: always “on;” expanded beyond a single physical space or time frame; encouraging connections across multiple platforms and environments; triggering and integrating multiple ways of thinking, interpreting, learning, problem-solving, and acting; and requiring creative interactions with both other people and the local environment.

I don’t think that you necessarily have to turn your class into a pervasive game in order to achieve this kind of learning. But I think that by studying pervasive games and how they work to engage and motivate players, we can figure out how to better prepare our students to adopt pervasive learning attitudes and habits. Here are some techniques outlined in Pervasive Games: Theory and Design that I think teachers could co-opt and integrate in order to encourage pervasive learning:

  • integrate authentic physical space and physical artifacts as game content to encourage players to interact with their local community in new and exploratory ways; use the community’s ambience and history to make it part of the game; use the game to direct players to interesting locations at interesting times
  • make the player’s body a de facto game token
  • integrate virtual and augmented reality to mix the physical and virtual game content
  • spatial expansion is about discovery and changing perception–> expose the unseen and make the familiar strange
  • temporal expansion makes play available at all times–> the game is always “on”
  • the rules of the game can change over time to scaffold play and keep players’ interest
  • design tangible experiences–> the player is doing something incredible through their own efforts that they’ll want to talk about afterwards
  • surpass expectations–> establish expectations then squash them with an unexpected maneuver
  • escalate previous experiences
  • link task structures so that success in one challenge directly influences the chances of success in another
  • force collaboration through interdependence
  • make players do things for real (find a book, scale a wall, create a chemical reaction, navigate a landscape)
  • foster networking to ramp up collective knowledge
  • create the 360 degree illusion–> indexical environment (real space), indexical activity (real action), immersive role-play
  • this is not a game–> use ordinary reality as a sourcebook
  • sustain a responsive game world–> lots and lots of interactive feedback (between game master and players and players and players)
  • the goal is for a collective story to emerge; the players tell the story based on their communal experiences; you shouldn’t have to tell the story to them
  • foster arenas where the story can emerge–> discussion forums, debrief party, etc.
  • design for sensory immersion–> audiovisual, 3-D, stereophonic surroundings
  • design for challenge-based immersion–> create a satisfying balance of challenges and abilities
  • design for imaginative immersion–> becoming absorbed with the stories and worlds and feeling for or identifying with a game character
  • create alternate endings and allow the players to determine the true ending

I’ll leave how to apply these strategies to a learning context up to your imagination. But I believe that they provide some very fertile ground for transforming learning for our students in the same ways that pervasive games have transformed what it means to play a game.

Dave Szulborski said of Alternate Reality Games–a type of pervasive game–that “[i]n an ARG, the goal is not to immerse the player in the artificial world of the game; instead, a successful game immerses the world of the game into the everyday life of the player.” I believe that in education, the goal is not to immerse the learner in the artificial world of school, but instead to immerse learning into the everyday life of the learner. Pervasive games offer a set of guiding principles that could very well help us do just that.

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What Games Teach Our Students That We Can’t

I had planned this blog post to be a continuation of my discussion of how I have gamified my FYC class this semester, but I’ve decided to instead share an interchange that occurred between my son and me this week. I think it illustrates the impact that games and gaming can have on our students in a way much more powerful than anything I’ve read or observed so far.

This past week was 9 weeks exam time at my son’s school. Like me, my son is not a very good test-taker: he experiences test anxiety, both emotionally and physically (suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome flare-ups on test days) and does not perform as well under timed conditions as he does under conditions in which he can work at his own pace. Normally, I don’t push him to do schoolwork if he does not have assigned homework, but this past week his free time was replaced with reviewing and practicing for his 9 weeks exams. As usual, he knew his stuff. Until, that is, it was time to review for his History exam. To my dismay, he did not know any of the information on the study guide. This was so shocking because he is such a history buff; his preferred genre is nonfiction dealing with military history and he loves attending anything that includes historical re-enactments or handicrafts. I’m not sure why he was so unfamiliar with the information on the study guide, since his daily grades do not reflect that he is in any way struggling with the material; in fact, he has an A in the class. But the mystery of why the information seemed like foreign material to him was one that would have to wait to be solved; more importantly, I needed to get him familiar enough with the material to pass the exam the next day.

It was a difficult task, to say the least. Because he was not familiar with the context of the information, it became an issue of him memorizing the definitions to vocabulary words and the answers to questions that seemed to have been randomly pulled from the chapters of his history textbook (one example: What thing is true of both the Adena and Hopewell indians?). I tried as best I could to teach him about the context and importance of the terms and questions in the time that we had, but it’s nearly impossible to make up for 9 weeks of context in 3-4 hours. He especially struggled with understanding the concepts of scarcity and specialization. This is understandable considering that he has never experienced scarcity (at least not to a degree significant enough to harm him or make his life difficult) and does not live in a society in which individuals/families have to manufacture goods based on the resources immediately available to them.

Suddenly, in the middle of a fifth or sixth attempt to help him understand the concept of scarcity, he had a lightbulb moment. He looked at me with that look that comes over a student’s face when they finally understand something in a way that makes it both relatable and relevant.

It’s like in Minecraft! If you need to make something out of wood, a stick will only give you so many planks of wood. And if you’re hungry and all you can find is a baby pig, if you kill a baby pig, you don’t get any meat to eat.

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Because he lives in a post-industrial society, my son lives in an age in which the currency is knowledge (as illustrated by his school’s reliance on periodic standardized tests that require the memorization of facts and terms). He could memorize the definition of scarcity, but that does not help him to understand what scarcity really is and how it impacts someone’s life, much less what it’s like to actually experience scarcity, which is probably the only way to truly understand it. Of course we don’t want our children to experience scarcity of food or other basic needs (although far, far too many of our children do experience scarcity on a daily basis). But we do want them to understand scarcity so they can empathize with those who are experiencing it and will have a desire to figure out ways to address scarcity to prevent the suffering that it entails.

I’m not arguing that playing Minecraft will make my son a more empathetic person or teach him how to solve scarcity issues in the world. But because of Minecraft, he is better able to understand what scarcity is and understanding is the first step towards empathy and action. Games allow our students to experience concepts first-hand in ways that reading a textbook and memorizing information cannot; they provide a safe environment for them to gain an understanding of other people’s viewpoints, whether it’s someone who faces the task of locating enough food to help them survive one more day, as in Minecraft, or someone who faces the task of restructuring their daily lives amid a global oil crisis, as in World Without Oil. It’s not so much the rewards systems and motivational factor of games that we should be focusing on, but the opportunity for our students to learn via concrete experiences rather than abstract concepts.

 

Making Some STEAM: Learning by Making, Not Testing

photo credit: thaumazin via photopin cc
photo credit: thaumazin via photopin cc

In my last blog post, I discussed the classroom as makerspace. The maker movement takes its cue directly from John Dewey’s theory of learning by doing:

The school must represent present life–life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the playground.

While Dewey is still a common read for students of education, many of today’s classrooms are a far cry from Dewey’s vision. As the publisher of Make magazine, Dale Dougherty, points out: “Schools seem to have forgotten that students learn best when they are engaged; in fact, the biggest problem in schools is boredom. Students sit passively, expected to absorb all the content that is thrown at them without much context. The context that’s missing is the real world.” One of the driving forces behind this contextless content vacuum is the centralization and standardization of education, which developed in tandem with the Industrial Revolution. As a result, according to Steve Wheeler, today’s schools specialize in what he terms a “manufactured education:”synchronization of behavior, compartmentalization of content and skills, and centralization of power and knowledge (in the form of the teacher). This kind of education mirrors the processes inherent in the factory model and is, Wheeler contends, still viewed as “the most efficient, cost-effective way to train the workforce for the future.” One example that Sir Ken Robinson provides of how the factory model shaped our education practices is that of educating children in batches by age (or, as Robinson terms it, “date of manufacture”). Both Wheeler and Robinson argue that we should be educating children based on their abilities and not their date of birth.

Another component of education born out of the industrial age is standardization. Factory workers needed to be docile and subservient to their superiors in order to maintain both efficiency and quality standards (out-of-the-box thinkers need not have applied). To this end, the classroom was modeled upon military standards of orderliness, routine, and conformity. In “Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy,” Henry A. Giroux contends that “pedagogy is now subordinated to the narrow regime of teaching to the test coupled with an often harsh system of disciplinary control, both of which mutually reinforce each other. . . . Too many classrooms at all levels of schooling now resemble a ‘dead zone,’ where any vestige of critical thinking, self-reflection and imagination quickly migrate to sites outside of the school.” Such ways of thinking not only threaten the order and routine but are also hard to quantify and standardize. Our current assessment models mirror this need for military-like precision, with everything reduced to one correct answer (Dougherty). In this system, Dougherty points out, “the test has become a substitute for direct experience,” and, as a result, “many kids have come to see school as isolated and artificial, disconnected from the community.” In other words, the complete opposite of Dewey’s theory of what education should be.

The major problem with this focus on a factory model of education–aside from the student boredom and apathy that it engenders–is that we are no longer an industrial society. Instead, we have transitioned into what Alvin Toffler describes as the third wave of civilization; this civilization has written “a new code of behavior for us and carries us beyond standardization, synchonisation and centralization, beyond the concentration of energy, money and power.” This civilization values the imagination and innovative thinking of Steve Jobs over the docile, routinized behavior of the factory worker. But most classroom environments do not reflect these values and deny students the kind of education advocated by Paulo Freire, who “rejected regimes of educational degradation organized around the demands of market, instrumentalized knowledge and the priority of training over the pursuit of imagination, critical thinking and the teaching of freedom and social responsibility” (Giroux). But imagination, critical thinking, and the ability to lead a self-managed life are the very abilities necessary for success and active participation in the new civilization.

The current need to measure and standardize narrows our focus on what teachers and students can do in the classroom and what qualifies as “learning.” Learning must be something we can see and measure and weigh and scale and stamp with a degree of correctness. But critical thinking and imagination are not easily quantified and are therefore suspect and resisted. This is where the maker movement can be essential to bridging the gap between the need to assess and the need to reinvigorate the kinds of thinking and doing we ask of our students. As Dougherty argues, “‘Making creates evidence of learning.’ The thing you make . . . is evidence that you did something, and there is also an entire process behind making that can be talked about and shared with others.” These processes and the thinking behind them are the very things that I am now trying to focus my students on by integrating such practices as the research slam, challenge-based learning, and the kinds of in-class maker activities discussed in my last post. And the real beauty of challenging students to make something is that doing so requires more than just one discipline or one way of thinking about the world. Rather than compartmentalizing learning and abilities, making allows students to use any and every discipline that will allow them to create something that reflects their thinking and, more often than not, requires them to combine those disciplines in a critical way. It can be a challenge for students who have been inculcated in the standardized, compartmentalized factory model of learning for twelve or more years, but the challenge and struggle is, I have found, well worth the end result.

Some Thoughts on Open Access and MOOC-ifying an Online Course

photo credit: dsearls via photopin cc
photo credit: dsearls via photopin cc

I was deeply saddened to hear of the suicide of Aaron Swartz. He stood for something that I believe in very deeply–open access and a creative commons. As a tribute to Swartz, academics have been encouraged to publish their work openly and share it using the hashtag #pdftribute. Since all of my academic work is already open access–published either here or at other websites–as tribute, I wanted to post about some of the issues concerning open access that I’ve been contemplating lately. I did participate in #pdftribute by creating a page on this blog where I will be listing links to the other work that I do, all of which will always be openly accessible.

For the past few years I have completely boycotted Blackboard, my university’s LMS. Instead, I create websites or blogs for my classes, usually on WordPress or Weebly, and I pay out-of-pocket in order to have access to a Pro version of the latter (which also gives up to 40 of my students Pro accounts). I also have my students create blogs, where they publish almost all of their work for the class. In the case of my Oral Communication class, students create an entire website that features their work over the course of the term. My hybrid FYC students also use Google+ as a virtual classroom and, while our interactions on the class circle are not necessarily public, students can and often do share those interactions with other circles and/or publicly. My reasons for making as much of a class as possible openly available is twofold: 1) I think that an essential part of educating our students involves teaching them how to be responsible digital citizens; 2) I believe that education should truly be “public” in every sense of the word and I want as much as what happens in my  classes as possible to be accessible to anyone who wishes to take part in it or discover/return to it whenever and wherever they desire.

For the first time I am teaching a completely online course, Survey of English Literature II. I was given the course on the third day of Spring classes, half-way through the first week of the term. I suppose I should have panicked (and at first I did a little), but it just so happens that I was recently a vicarious observer and occasional participant in #MOOCMOOC, so I had a few tricks up my sleeve to help get an initial course–or anti-course–out there for students to start participating in. I also kept in mind the arguments made in Jesse Stommel’s recent Hybrid Pedagogy article “Online Learning: A User’s Guide to Forking Education.”  I especially wanted to avoid the kinds of structures that typically characterize and constrain online courses:

Draconian learning management systems, hierarchical discussion forum tools, and automated grading systems replace the playful work of teachers and students with overly simplified algorithms that interface with far too few of the dynamic variables that make learning so visceral and lively.

Rather than struggle to throw together such an instructor-driven, top-down experience, I did just enough to get an environment established which the students can take over and make their own, collaborating to do the “work” of teaching each other (and me) about the authors, texts, and time periods covered by the course description. There are no video lectures, no discussion boards (in the traditional sense), no rubrics, a syllabus and schedule that students have been invited to help create and revise, a final exam that will be created by the class, and an assessment format that is based on how much participation the student is willing to dedicate. There’s a list of suggested readings but I have neither tied those readings to any kind of points system nor instituted any punishments for not completing any particular reading. If a student wishes to read a text, they may; if they don’t want to read it, they are free to not do so without compromising their success in the course. You can view the syllabus and schedule on the course website, Survey of English Literature. We will be using a Google+ class circle for our discussion forum, but anyone is invited to join this circle; just let me know and I will be happy to share the circle with you.

I have written about my reservations regarding MOOC’s and those reservations are still at the forefront of my resistance to the idea of trying to scale a class. However, the idea of an open, online learning environment that allows for and encourages connections beyond a specific physical, or even virtual, space and invites students to map, create, and share their own learning path is, for me, the most promising and important one embedded within the MOOC concept. And I think it is an idea that correlates with and supports Swartz’s vision for an open culture. Below is Swartz’s Open Access Manifesto. May it be yours, too.

Tomorrow Never Knows: Theory into Praxis in the Composition Class

photo credit: innoxiuss via photopin cc
photo credit: innoxiuss via photopin cc

In my last post I looked backward at some of the radical pedagogical practices that worked for my students and me this past term. In this post I look forward to the some of the radical pedagogical theories I’m putting into practice.

In my recent Hybrid Pedagogy post “Bring Your Own Disruption: Rhizomatic Learning in the Composition Class,” I outline a radical (for me and my department) new theory of First-Year Composition.

My recent post here, “Extreme Makeover: First-Year Composition Edition,” outlined how I initially planned to put that theory into praxis.

My most recent vision for the organic, rhizomatic FYC course can be found in the syllabus that I created for my FYC 1 class using
Thinglink.

I also recently blogged about my ideas regarding incorporating immersive role-play into the second-semester FYC course I’ll be teaching this term. Those initial questions and ideas coalesced into an experimental class that I hope will both engage the students and encourage them to adopt some of the practices and beliefs inherent in my new theory of the rhizomatic FYC class. As I point out to students:

In many ways, role-play gaming has a lot in common with writing. Just like dedicated gamers become immersed in the game, good writers become immersed in their writing and research. As Colby & Colby point out:

Immersion occurs because gamers learn as they play: solving puzzles, learning strategies, and meeting the challenges of the game while staying within the constraints of the game world.

Replace, if you will, the words “gamers” and “game” with “writers” and “writing” and you’ll have an accurate description of the act of writing. Gamers don’t listen to lectures on how to play the game; they learn to play the game by playing it, making mistakes, learning from their mistakes, trying again, and sharing tricks and cheats with fellow players. Similarly, as Joseph Epstein argues, “[W]riting cannot be taught, though it can be learned.” No writer ever learned to write by listening to someone lecture about how to write. Instead, they immerse themselves in the role of writer, learning how to listen, think, take notes, research, and write like a writer by trying, failing, learning from their failures, trying again, and studying other writers. Andrea Lunsford has argued that all writing is performance. If so, then writing is just another kind of role-playing game.

I am both alive with hope and plagued by doubt.

How will students respond to these classes? Will they revel in the open-endedness, the autonomy, the experimentation? Or will they balk and resist?

What risks am I taking by putting theory into praxis? It’s a scary prospect, considering how important many stakeholders (including myself) view the FYC class to be.

Drew Loewe recently tweeted:

Am I just tinkering with FYC and ignoring the underlying problems? What underlying problems does my theory ignore? How can my praxis address them?

Goodbye, Hello: In Which I Look Backwards Before Going Forwards

photo credit: Avard Woolaver via photopin cc
photo credit: Avard Woolaver via photopin cc

The Fall semester has come to an end and the Spring term is about to begin. Each new term brings with it heightened anticipation as we feverishly map journeys of discovery for our students and blueprint what we hope will be engaging and challenging learning environments. It is a strange season of flux as we look forward with one eye and backward with the other, reflecting on what worked and what failed before so that we know what to recycle, repurpose, and reconsider and what to chalk up to experience. We share much with gardeners, who spend the fallow season plotting and planning, first allowing space for the necessary and the reliable, then squeezing in some untried novelties, deciding what needs to be rotated to revitalize the soil, prepping the ground, sowing the seeds, then waiting patiently for the fruits to flower, tending, weeding, brooding, second-guessing, nurturing, assessing.

Before finalizing my Spring classes, I wanted to reflect, in writing, on some of my more experimental practices from the Fall, especially those about which I promised to post follow-ups.

In “Flips, Cartwheels, and 360’s? Oh my?” I posed the question: “What if I asked my hybrid FYC students to help design a 21st century university?” I wondered if they would be willing or able to accept my challenge. I’m happy to report that they accepted it wholeheartedly and did not disappoint me or the 21st Century Classroom Initiative Committee members who attended their presentations (more on those in a bit). I handed the class a real and intensely relevant problem to solve with no conditions or requirements attached (other than the fact that they had to be able to explain their work in 15 minutes or less). Some of the solutions that students developed were phenomenally outstanding. You can see a sampling of what they came up with at Storify.

In a subsequent post, “This Is What a Final Exam Should Look Like,” I shared my discovery of the research slam–part poster session, part poetry slam–and pondered the questions: “What if final exams looked more like [research slams]? What if students shared their learning with one another in the kind of interactive, experiential, small-group method encouraged by the research slam? . . . How powerful would that be?” Pretty powerful, I thought. And it was. Students arrived early and set up their presentations: a collage of tri-folds, laptops, brochures, and scale models. Small groups of students moved from display to display, as the presenters gave a 15 minutes or less overview of their project and answered questions from the audience. Members of the 21st Century Classroom Initiative were also in attendance, asking questions, jotting down student email addresses, asking for links to presentation materials. I wandered from station to station, filming snippets of presentations and conversations. The room was saturated with voices–discussing, questioning, responding, laughing, debating, critiquing. After such a heady experience, I don’t know that I could ever go back to the traditional final exam–those bent heads; those cramped fingers; those flat, stale pieces of paper; that deathly silence.

In “I’m Bringing Paper Back (‘Cause It’s Still Sexy),” I discussed my plans to strike a balance between the digital and the physical in my classes. I had students digitally and collaboratively annotate one of the texts we read, but I provided hardcopies of their annotations in class and had students use them to develop discussion questions. We also practiced blogging on paper first and students responded so favorably that I plan to have next semester’s classes perform peer review on paper versions of every blog post. I’m slowly falling back in love with paper, especially after reading Jody Shipka’s Toward a Composition Made Whole (which I’ve blogged about a lot recently), and I think it will be making an even bigger comeback next term.

In “Hacking Assessment: Redesigning the Numbers Game,” I continued reflecting on my ongoing battle with assessment. I considered two kinds of assessment, in particular, this past term: peer assessment and contract grading. As I reported in a subsequent post, I ended up giving peer assessment a try in my Basic English Skills class with great success, so much so that it is the primary form of formative assessment in both of my FYC courses next term. Contract grading was less of a success, though that had more to do with my lack of clear communication than anything else. Despite providing exhaustive guidelines, on the end-of-term course assessments several students expressed discomfort with not knowing whether or not each criteria was being met as the semester progressed. On the plus side, I’ve only had two grade complaints so far. I plan to improve my communication with students regarding their progress on grade-level criteria and will provide them with assignment checklists so they can have a visual representation of what they have and have not completed.

In “Remediating Remedial Composition,” I expressed trepidation with some of the radical ideas I had for my Basic English Skills class. Overall, I think the class was a success. Quite a few students disappeared (as is unfortunately typical of remedial classes), but only 4 of the 18 students who finished the class did not receive credit for it. I had to drop the VoiceThread assignment (it was technically too overwhelming in an already tech-heavy class), but the blogs turned out to be very interesting (though not mechanically superior) and I discovered another awesomely invigorating collaborative writing method in the silent dialogues I had students complete in Google Docs (another novelty that will be added to my tried-and-true writing practices).

Overall, I would rate the Fall 2012 semester a success for me, but more so for my students. There were those stellar presentations in my FYC classes giving voice to college students facing a radically revolutionized socioeconomic future and needing a radically revolutionized learning environment to prepare them for it. My Basic English Skills students made great strides in pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones and relying on one another for writing support and nurturance. And my Oral Communication students went above and beyond my expectations as they created public service campaigns that not only raised awareness of important issues but provided a means to act on those issues in positive and impactful ways. I think I’m a little closer to a system of assessment that I believe to be both meaningful and fair. I’ve discovered some awesome techniques to integrate into my composition classes and am especially excited by those that foster collaborative writing practices. And from now on I’ll actually look forward to my final exams rather than dreading and rueing them.

And so it’s time to begin a new semester and a new adventure with a whole new set of experiments and discoveries to anticipate.

“Hoe while it is spring, and enjoy the best anticipations.” ~Charles Dudley Warner

CoRE Partnership Building Workshop

  1. CoRE stands for Collaborative Regional Education, a partnership between regional preschools, K12 schools, and Jacksonville State University. On Nov. 1, 2012, we unveiled our hopes and plans for CoRE. These are my notes from the workshop.
    The first talk of the workshop was by Dr. Billie McConnell and Mr. George Saltsman of Abilene Christian University.
  2. TanyaSasser
    3 trends in Ed.: rich media, social connections, content access; all coalesce into mobility #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 06:59:26
  3. TanyaSasser
    Facebook has 1,000,000% of images in Library of Congress #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:00:29
  4. TanyaSasser
    75% of all homeless youth use social media #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:01:18
  5. TanyaSasser
    7 out of 10 children are tablet users #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:02:28
  6. TanyaSasser
    Problem of print age was finding info.; the problem of the digital age is assessing info. #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:06:23
  7. TanyaSasser
    Teachers: if you are giving your Ss the answers and/or giving them the questions, you are robbing them #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:08:04
  8. TanyaSasser
    Mobile tech is restructuring formal learning and informal learning and redefining literacy, community, & authority #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:11:34
  9. TanyaSasser
    21st c learning needs to be student-centered and use tech w/a purpose #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:17:16
  10. TanyaSasser
    Standardized testing means there’s only one answer and it’s the only one that’s right: standardizes thinking #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:25:34
  11. TanyaSasser
    By putting tech in the teacher’s hands w/minimal training, we’re still supporting old pedagogy but expect different outcomes #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:27:22
  12. TanyaSasser
    There’s still a disconnect between learning and learning; tech is slowly abandoned & old status quo is re-established #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:28:37
  13. This note should read “There’s still a disconnect between learning and technology . . .”
  14. TanyaSasser
    When tech fails, we blame the tech & hope the next great tech will be the answer #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:29:19
  15. TanyaSasser
    Ss need: access to today’s tools; prepared for global, technological, informational, & collaborative world; to learn independently #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:31:38
  16. TanyaSasser
    Future teachers will continue to think inside the box if WE continue to teach inside the box b/c they don’t know anything else #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:33:12
  17. TanyaSasser
    Standardization kills creativity: kindergarteners are most creative; creativity decreases w/ each year in school #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:34:51
  18. TanyaSasser
    When we teach Bloom’s from bottom up we never make it 2 the top (due 2 time & test prep) but Ss learn 2 think 4 themselves at the top #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:37:43
  19. TanyaSasser
    Some kids are good at memorizing things and make A’s without having to think about the content #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:39:38
  20. TanyaSasser
    Some people think college’s job is to teach kids to think #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:40:13
  21. TanyaSasser
    What if we taught Bloom’s backwards? What if I gave you the problem before the knowledge/understanding of content? #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:41:15
  22. TanyaSasser
    What if we make Ss go get the knowledge needed to solve the problem? Makes information immediately relevant #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:42:14
  23. TanyaSasser
    What if Ss don’t need the teacher to learn the information? What if they learn on their own or from peers? #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:43:50
  24. TanyaSasser
    Or they may choose to learn from teacher. #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:44:09
  25. TanyaSasser
    We don’t know what the world will look like 5 yrs from now, but we’re preparing Ss for it #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:46:37
  26. TanyaSasser
    We like to use word “rigorous,” but really mean “hard.” This is not a viable model. Outcomes are not going to change. #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:48:51
  27. TanyaSasser
    HEAT framework for 21st c learning: higher-order thinking, engages learner, authentic learning, technology use #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:50:19
  28. TanyaSasser
    Focus should be on learning, not technology for tech integration to be successful #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:53:41
  29. TanyaSasser
    What do we want Ss to look like at the end of elementary, middle school, and high school? #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:54:52
  30. TanyaSasser
    Teaching & learning and technology need to be wholly integrated as one; 21st c is not about tech, it’s about people solving problems #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:56:16
  31. TanyaSasser
    Tech is a tool to solve a problem, not find answers that already exist #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:57:02
  32. TanyaSasser
    21st c classroom needs to be about thinking, collaborating, and creating #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:57:51
  33. TanyaSasser
    We’ve got to change the culture of school, not just the pedagogy or the tech or where we spend money #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 07:59:14
  34. TanyaSasser
    To create culture change, 15%-30% is all you need for critical mass–committed sardines; allow rest to self-select out #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:00:33
  35. TanyaSasser
    Teacher prof development has to be ongoing and long-term; hit or miss PD doesn’t work #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:01:19
  36. TanyaSasser
    Preschool, K12, and higher ed. have to be co-learners and co-teachers to make culture change #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:03:12
  37. TanyaSasser
    We have to start learning from our failures in education #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:04:21
  38. TanyaSasser
    PD can’t just be about learning how to use technology #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:05:01
  39. TanyaSasser
    We tend to use tech in the same standardized ways we use everything else, then tech becomes a part of the problem #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:06:36
  40. TanyaSasser
    Ss don’t want to use tech for standardized learning (giving/collecting assignments, taking tests, fill-in-the-blank) #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:07:40
  41. TanyaSasser
    Focus on teachers who are willing and desirous of ed. reform first; the rest will follow via their influence and successes #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:49:16
  42. TanyaSasser
    Ed. reform needs to be system-wide so we’re all sharing same vision, going in the same direction, and focused on same outcomes #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:50:51
  43. The second talk was given by Dr. Alicia Simmons, Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Research at JSU.
  44. TanyaSasser
    Research and evaluation are important to measure success and effectiveness of change #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:51:33
  45. TanyaSasser
    Research and evaluation allow us to share what works with others #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:52:04
  46. TanyaSasser
    Dual enrollment increases first-time freshman retention, even with Ss with low entrance scores #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:52:58
  47. TanyaSasser
    Dual enrollment is an integral part of PK12/higher ed. partnership #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:53:50
  48. TanyaSasser
    Teacher prep is essential to ed. reform #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 08:54:37
  49. The third talk was given by Monte Rector of Apple.
  50. TanyaSasser
    Education is not a business; it’s a personal experience #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 09:00:58
  51. TanyaSasser
    Culture eats strategy every day of the week. #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 09:08:40
  52. TanyaSasser
    Our culture needs to be learning. #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 09:09:05
  53. TanyaSasser
    Schools need to be learning ecosystems #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 09:11:27
  54. TanyaSasser
    Without collaboration and cooperation, ecosystems can’t survive; all members of ecosystem are interdependent #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 09:13:33
  55. The final talk was given by Jolanda Westerhof of AASCU.
  56. TanyaSasser
    Ed has been arranged marriage: PK12=placement service, higher ed was selective ivory tower detached from process of preparing the Ss #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:49:21
  57. TanyaSasser
    3 domains of college readiness: academic, social, and personal #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:51:07
  58. TanyaSasser
    88% of dropouts were struggling in 3rd grade #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:52:34
  59. TanyaSasser
    High school is too little too late (same can be said of college) #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:53:03
  60. TanyaSasser
    We need long-term investments in ed that we may not see payoff for immediately #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:54:40
  61. TanyaSasser
    Don’t wait for change to come from others #pk20
    Thu, Nov 01 2012 10:58:00