A Video Game Idea

I’d thought about this early this summer while my daughter was in the hospital. In amongst catching up with a back-log of professional reading, building out and refining her personal learning network, fleshing out lesson ideas, and concept mapping her teaching strategies – and getting well – she ran a restaurant. It was on her iPad, periodically beckoning her reading or browsing because it was time to open up the store, put the soup on, come up with discounts, and post signage, all to enjoy a successful mock revenue generating establishment, Restaurant Story.

I was imagining a similar style of game, but with a different focus — all brought back to mind when school administration guru, Scott McLeod posted a question on his blog, “How would you Revise Principal Preparation?” At present, he has 33 comments that are well worth the time reading, including some rather outlandish ideas from me.

But the game idea came back, a CMS style video game that challenges you to build out and maintain a school. You might start with a one room school house, adding on as you earn credit — adding a library, gym, laboratories, wings of classrooms, etc. The player would also manage a budget, allocate funds, add courses, and hire staff.

The goal of this game IS NOT generating the best test scores. No! No!

The goal of your school is to graduate the next Winton Marsellas, a team of biologists who cure cancer, the next Kurt Vontegut or the staff of an award winning trend-zine.

Would a game like this, that might become popular, serve to change the conversation about schooling?  I’m just dreaming!

 

Reflections on TEDxLondon: The Education Revolution

As I said in my previous post about TEDxLondon, I spent Saturday listening to and watching sixteen thinkers and doers talk about an education revolution. Their talks were divided into three parts:

  • What’s Wrong?
  • What’s Right?
  • What’s Next?
It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

I’ll say here and first that one of the aspects of this education-oriented TEDx that impressed me was that the presenters were not all educators talking about the same thing’s they’d be talking about at an education conference. Their ideas were mostly sideways tilted, thought-provoking, and brain tickling, and typically lasted for less than ten minutes.

It started with an orienting talk from Sir Ken Robinson, videoconferenced in from his new home — Los Angeles. In that talk he said that the fundamental reasons for education were Economic (grow/sustain economy), Cultural (awareness of one’s own culture and that of others), and Personal (self-knowledge: who am I? What are my talents and aspirations? What is my future?). He said that going back to the basics means a renewed focus on these three fundamentals, not the 3Rs. Supporting this idea, a following speaker shared an African proverb that was new to me.

Unless we continue to initiate our (children) into the village, they will burn it down just to feel the heat.

Another statement that prompted my note taking was Dan Roberts, “Technology is not a new tool for learning. It’s a whole new way of learning.” it’s one of those ideas that’s a no-brainer for many of us, yet not understanding this one very simple concept is proving to be a huge barrier to transforming education. Roberts went on to say (my paraphrasing) that education will be irrelevant unless we pay attention to how kids live and learn outside the classroom and carry that into our more formal learning environment. It’s not a simple task and there is still much that we do not know about their ‘native’ learning experiences.

This was illustrated by Nick Stanhopes’ Historypin (vid).  It is probably my background as a history teacher, but this one sizzled my brain. Stanhopes said, “Every spot on the planet has an amazing column of history running out behind it,” and much of that history is recorded in photographs.

Historypin aligns collected and submitted photographs, with their stories, to a map and to current street views of specific locations. When a learner can see the image of a historic event, or even more subtle local occurrences, overlaying the spot as it is now, then history comes alive, because it gets connected.  It’s about context.

Within context, questions come, and isn’t that where you want learners to be — asking questions.  Ewan McIntosh gave a brilliantly talk about the power of questions and problems.  He said that questions are incredibly important, and that we need to do everything we can to make sure that children keep asking them.

What really wrinkled my brain was an entertaining demonstration of interactive electronic music by Tim Exile.  As he talked, he would capture the audio of various phrases, and then replay them as music with pitch, reverb, and rhythm — twisting, turning, and tapping at a wild array of electronic devices.

Then he introduced an online real time community where members uploaded sound files, and he mixed them in, creating an almost organic stew of “music.”  It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

There was so much more that I could comment on, but the question arises, what is the education revolution?

The education revolution

  1. ..is not about new tools. It’s a new approach to learning and teaching
  2. ..does not separate knowledge, it layers knowledge
  3. The Education Revolution is understanding that learning happens best within a context that is real, has color and flavor, and provokes new questions.
  4. ..is alchemy.  It is resourcefully, inventively, and responsibly mixing information; boiling it into new knowledge, new action, new relationships, and into richer personal identities, cultural understandings, and greater opportunities.

What would you add?

Games and Rules

When I was young I played baseball and football (wasn’t fast enough for basketball and couldn’t jump with a flip). Soccer hadn’t arrived in small town America yet, and rugby was just another word for football, we thought — and we didn’t even know that football was just another word for soccer. But I digress.

I played these two sports. I knew their rules and developed skills based on those rules — and played them for years. We also played Checkers, Go Fish, and hours and hours of Monopoly. We learned the rules and played the same rules for the duration of our childhoods. The rules didn’t change.

Fast forward to my children, the millennials. My son was telling me about a brand new video game he’s purchased. It is another immersive world game with its own set of rules, goals and game dynamics. This particular game is a sequel to another game whose rules he can only deduce since he’s never played it.

My point is this. I and my generation grew up playing a highly defined and culture-defining set of games, whose rules stayed constant and stayed with us. My children’s generation is growing up constantly learning new games, learning new rules, and achieving new goals. If this observation is correct, what are the implications. Does this contribute to some of the uniquenesses of this generation, both good and bad.

And I wonder if having to constantly cultivate new leaning schemes and communities to adjust to new information environments is exactly the kind of childhood necessary for inheriting a rapidly changing world.

Where in the World is the United States

Tabla_periódica_sobre_datos_de_Internet_en_el_mundo_#infografia_#infographic_#internet_»_InfoGraphic-a-Day-20110828-154706.jpg

This is from an infographic that will appear next week in Infographic-A-Day (IGaD). I found it from TICs y Formación, one of the infographics blogs that I monitor through my iPad.  It’s a Periodic Table of World Internet Facts.  It’s a frequently used theme, a periodic table, for expressing information.  I like to use the Period Table of Elements as an example of how “There’s nothing new about infographics!”

To the far right of the table are a set of lists, the top ten of countries around the world concerning their use of the Internet.  Here are four of the lists:

Top 10 (Number of Users)

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Japan
  4. India
  5. Brazil
  6. Germany
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Russia
  9. France
  10. South Korea
Top 10 (% of Population)

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Netherlands
  5. Denmark
  6. Finland
  7. Australia
  8. New Zealand
  9. Luxemborg
  10. South Korea
Top 10 (Bandwidth Speed)

  1. Japan
  2. (South) Korea
  3. France
  4. Finland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Germany
  7. Australia
  8. Denmark
  9. Portugal
  10. Iceland
Top 10 (Fastest Growing)

  1. China
  2. Japan
  3. India
  4. South Korea
  5. Australia
  6. Taiwan
  7. Malaysia
  8. Hong Kong
  9. Singapore
  10. New Zealand

As an educator, I believe that there is much to be excited about in the world of teaching and learning. At the same time — and in the autumn of my career — I am haunted by a nation (my nation) that seems less than inclined to invest in itself — except for an elite part of itself.

 

What I Hope for My Children

About ten stitched photos from the Prairie in Utah

I’ve had one of those weeks that I try not to put myself through anymore. It was six audiences, seven airports, two airlines, two hotel chains and way too much fast food. My entire August use to be like that, but I’m through. These were invitations I simply couldn’t say no to.

Doing fewer gigs, I’m personalizing my presentations a little more, but all three of these centered around student engagement and digital natives. Of course, typing these two terms makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, because they are overused catch phrases that have become so much a part of edu-speak that I simply can’t be confident that you take the same meaning in the reading, that I intend in the typing. So, as a personal exercise, I want to write my definitions, for each, right here.

Student Engagement: Learning that results from mental muscle, where the learner solves a problem or accomplishes a goal by planning and applying self-inventory, inquiry, exploration, experimentation, discovery, intellectual alchemy and inventiveness; gaining knowledge and skills that are personally and immediately valuable to the learner (increasing self-value); and in some elemental way surprises the teacher.

Digital Natives: The generations who have always known and have included as an element of their culture digital information and communication technologies, resulting in a uniquely intuitive but historically limiting perspective on literacy (using information to accomplish goals).

There! That was fun.

But the main thing that got me writing this morning was a comment from one of the Texas teachers I presented to earlier in the week. She said that the challenges of becoming the kind of teacher who engages today’s children in the learning they need to accomplish today seem overwhelming. But, she continued,

“As a parent, it is exactly the kind of teacher that my teenage children need right now.”

Right Now!

 

Transformative Questions

Theme photo from the presentation…

I’m in Eden Prairie Minnesota today opening up a conference whose principal question is, “How do we create a culture of learners that thrive in the 21st century?” I will be doing an adapted version of a presentation that is most often called, “Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience,” where I identify and illustrate a number of qualities of our children’s outside-the-classroom information experiences. Those qualities are,

  • That the experience is responsive,
  • It provokes conversation,
  • It inspires personal investment, and
  • It’s guided by safely-made mistakes.

This presentation culminates with a set of transformative questions that might guide teachers (librarians and administrators) in creating learning experiences and environments that are more relevant to our learners ‘native’ information experiences and skills.

I may have posted these before, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it is perfectly ok to repeat yourself in your own blog.

Classroom Teachers:

  1. How might I alter this assignment or project so that it “Responds” to the learner? How can the experience “Talk Back?”
  2. How might I plant barriers within the assignment that force learners to “Question” their way through — to value the “questions” not just for “answers?”
  3. How can I ban silence in my classroom, provoking “Conversation” with my assignments and projects, expecting learners to exchange ideas and knowledge?
  4. How can I make their learning worth “Investing” in? How might the outcomes of their learning be of value to themselves and to others?
  5. How am I daring my students to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog?

Teacher Librarians:

  1. How can I make my library “Respond?” How can I make it “Talk Back?”
  2. How might it become a place that evokes “Questions” — not just answers?
  3. How can I ban silence, provoke “Conversation,” and expect patrons to explicitly exchange knowledge?
  4. How can I make this library a place that inspires “personal Invest”?
  5. How am I daring my students to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog — expanding and enriching the information experience?

Administrators:

  1. How does the learning here “Respond” to the learner? How does the learning “Talk Back” to the learner and to the community?
  2. Have my classrooms banned silence? Do the learning experiences “Provoke Conversation” by expecting learners to exchange knowledge?
  3. Are my classrooms places that student “Questions” as much as their answers?
  4. How do the learning environments in my school inspire learners to invest their time and skills for something larger?
  5. How are learners being dared to make the “Mistakes” that feed the learning dialog and how am I a part of that dialog?