• Category Archives Rants, Raves, and Soap Boxes…
  • A Letter to My Brilliant & Humble Friend, David Warlick

    Screen shot 2014-07-01 at 1.10.43 AM My friend David Warlick, who blogs at < http://2cents.onlearning.us >  posted, “Why You Won’t See Me at ISTE ’14”  back in April of this past spring.  I’ll let you read that and then come back.  No…really… Go ahead– I’ll be here…

    I adore David, and we’ve had many “spirited” discussions over the years.  David has challenged my thinking and re-framed ideas for me, and, in true southern gentleman form, has always managed to do so by posing questions that allow me to consider other possibilities–entertain new solutions, and maybe even  change my mind.. David is not one to tell you, “You’re wrong…it’s like this…” Rather, he will set the  scene with enough information, a gentle nudge, and a warm smile, and when all is said and done, you’ll wrap up your chat with a hug, and walk away with a changed outlook  feeling it was your idea all along.   The fly on the wall might see David smile as you part; and not a dismissive head-shaking smile meant to establish superiority, but instead a genuine, warm, “isn’t the universe a fascinating place” sort of easy smile.

    So, long past it’s due date, here is my response to this Ed Tech giant (Noooo—I am not overextending here– David is an ED Tech giant.  Not convinced?  Did you ever use Citation MachineYep–his–  Class Blogmeisteralso his–and  software is just the beginnig. ok?)

    Dear David,

     I waited David, I really did –I actually let months pass before I responded to your post. In fact, I had tucked the idea away in the land of good intentions. where all is forgiven if the items parked there float off into the nether…)  But this afternoon, as I reviewed some materials I am sharing at ISTE ’14, I remembered that you are not going to be there. Then I remembered that last week, when I reached out to Joyce (Valenza) about visa info for my trip to Australia in August (yay for Oz librarians!), she said that she would not be there either. (I believe there”s usually a conflict between ISTE and the ALA Conference each year—this year they overlap but ALA is in Vegas@$#!!!)

    Next, my darling dearest Bernajean Porter shared with me that she will not attend this year (the first time in 20+) but instead she will be working her learning wonder in South Africa… and the list started to grow.  I will respect the privacy of those who haven’t been specific about the reasons why they are skipping Atlanta,. None-the-less, my little “witch-hunt” determined that the list of presenters who will be MIA this year because of the “wisdom” of the ISTE selection committee seems inordinately extensive.   So, in the spirit of full disclosure, allow me to say:

    1. Although I have been asked, I have never participated in that selection process, so I don’t know the mechanics of the  actual procedure or how “blind” it really is. (Methinks perhaps too blind?)

    2. Funding is always an issue.  My district always paid for my ISTE Conference participation until a few years ago when the economy tanked & everything changed.  Since then I’ve either run an event for ISTE (last year it was the Leadership Symposium Augmented Reality Experience where any of my WoW Gamer Educators who were attending ISTE, stepped up, volunteered and ran an amazing ARG experience that spanned the month prior to the conference and concluded with Jane McGonical joining us for Q&A.on site)

    3. Before that, I co-hosted the Opening Kickoff with Mario Armstrong, and in 2011 I was pleased to be one of the featured speakers at the Kickoff (along with Julie Lindsey and Adam Bellow).

    My point is that for each of these ISTE conferences (2011-2013) my registration, travel, and hotel were reimbursed to compensate  (and honor)  my time and expertise.    I was a happy ISTE camper!

    Plus, as you know well, David, –there is NO ONE better to work for/with than Jennifer Ragan-Fore, Jessica Medaille, or any of their crew!

    Think about it, David.  Most of the well respected, keynote speakers I know attend ISTE and don’t charge a dime for the same work that generates them thousands of dollars elsewhere.

    But let’s talk about, “after the spotlight”– when it’s just me and my program–deciding who, what , and where might yield me some legitimate, eye opening, “aha” learning!  Where did I look?  Well, for the most part, I head to the seasoned pros– to the presenters who bring a wealth of rich experience from their conference travels- back home to ISTE  –for free.  

    I go to see you, David –and  Joyce Valenza and  Sylvia Martinez, and Bernajean Porter and Julie Lindsay– I listen to Steve Hargadon and Audrey Waters, and tune up my librarian skills with Michelle Luhtala and Gwyneth Jones— at some point I’ll probably  get to go head to head with Will Richardson or grab Adam Bellow’s ear, or perhaps Steven Heppel and I can grab a bite and argue the merits of gamification while Gary Stager munches on overpriced fondue and sneers at the whole thing!  It’s fabulous, it’s my time with my PLN– where I actually leave with more than I had when I arrived; it’s ISTE.

    Now, please understand, this is NOT to say that 1st time presenters don’t  show up with some really innovative stuff that knocks your socks off; (case in point Rory Newcomb from ASB!) However,  the majority of what I see in sessions is either simplistic fluff that I can’t really use (“build a better Power Point”  isn’t as satirical as you may think…and may actually be useful for someone…somewhere) OR it’s a deluge of  “representative” presenters on leave from the vendor floor, which seems to be more and more central to the conference’s primary focus each passing year; blatantly serving corporate interests.

    The worst part is that the more of “that stuff” which is served up and presented tp teachers –the more teachers start to think that that’s what they need– and once again they are turned away from activities that support empowerment —of renewing the inherent well of teacher creativity and innovation– critically important for those who hold this sacred vocation – and do not require any transaction of dollars.   

    The investment is time and energy-=-the exchange of ideas and success stories–and dismal failures–that help evolve best practices. You are always a part of that portion of ISTE, DAvid–you know of what I speak.

    Friends, if your team of teachers has to travel to Atlanta (let’s just say travel=$300.00) pay upwards of $150.00 per night for housing, dish out $269 for registration (after the $100.00 membership fee) and then cover assorted and sundry cabs, meals, etc. JUST to learn how to use their promethean boards (which they probably didn’t request) –and manage high stake testing, then something is very …very ..wrong. But then we educators know that something is very, very, wrong.  The issue is that we used to look to organizations like ISTE to counter those maladies–and not feed them.

    The Twitter fiasco that ensued right after ISTE sent out their accept/reject notices this year ( https://storify.com/dancallahan/the-best-of-rejectediste14 crowd out the more authentic voices in instructional technology. )  was probably the most entertaining TweetChat (Twitter hashtag #rejectediste14)  I’d seen in ages.  In spite of the snarky nature of the comments, I realized that many of the luminaries I seek out each year–had somehow fallen short of the requisite presentation zen, and been passed over.

    However, a quick search of the program yields 345 returns for the term common core, 143 for standardized testing,  116 for STEM, 105 for tablet, and yes…35 for Power Point.

    I fly to Atlanta Friday afternoon – after closing my classroom for the summer at SMS. When I get to ISTE, I’m one of about 5 gaming teachers who will be assisting Marianne Malmstrom (Knowclue) with her MineCraft Workshops and events. We will also have a panel at some point, and I’ll be presenting in the Games and Simulations PlaygroundVirtual Worlds Playground or whatever they’re calling it now—I’ll be there sharing the remarkable year I had back in the classroom, serving 6th graders a game-based hero’s journey humanities curriculum and most nights writing the curriculum, and aligning it to the %@$!#% CCLS, so that I might teach it in the AM —and I’ll be sharing that curriculum, PLUS the original WoWinSchool Curriculum from Craig Lawson and Lucas Gillispie that started this whole approach.
    I’ll be looking for Paul Darvasi , a Canadian high school english teacher I met at Games in Education < http://gamesineducation.org/ > an annual FREE conference for teachers in upstate New York. Paul took the senior year english class –where they’ve basically already all checked out— and turned it into one of the most engaging and complex learning experiences I’ve encountered in a long time (see One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when you get to his site < http://www.ludiclearning.org/ >

    I’ll be looking for teachers like Rory Newcomb who teaches at The American School of Bombay. I met Rory when ASB invited me to India to facilitate a WoW in School workshop at their ASB Unplugged Conference. Rory is young, uber smart, and has the freedom at ASB to approach learning in new and unusual w3ays—which has yielded a remarkable program and approach to teaching science!

    I will also tap into the conference vibe–and see—see if it’s just me –or if ISTE has ventured in a direction that just doesn’t sit with my philosophy- –or with the philosophy that brought me to my first ISTE conference many many years ago.

    Perhaps it isn’t ISTE or the new leadership at the helm deserving of the blame. Perhaps ISTE is doing exactly as it is meant to do–reflect the current state of technology in education —  Here’s the Mission Statement –followed by the Vision Statement  (BTW– I was asked and served on that rebranding committee—-  but that’s anther rant,…errr post.

    “The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) is the premier nonprofit organization serving educators and education leaders committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world.”
    “The vision of ISTE is a world where all learners thrive, achieve and contribute.
    As the creator and steward of the definitive education technology standards, ISTE’s mission is to empower learners to flourish in a connected world by cultivating a passionate professional learning community, linking educators and partners, leveraging knowledge and expertise, advocating for strategic policies, and continually improving learning and teaching.”

    Sounds good, eh?

    At the risk of sounding a dullard…antiquated and misguided, I am left with a burning question…Who’s conference is it anyway?

    David, when scholars of your ilk are dissuaded from attending an event where so many might benefit from your expertise (and learn some lessons in humility if they pay close attention to your demeanor…and I count myself in that last group) then it’s time for the event to rethink —regroup–and reenvision the conference and truly align it with the mission.  From where I’m standing ISTE has the “linking educators and partners (*vendors) down really well.  How about the rest?

    So David, you need to know that you will be sorely missed, on so many levels!  I will carry on and do my best to connect and listen more than I speak (in your honor)  I will also adopt your new mission as my own:

    “To explore the  intersection between

    play, passion, and purpose”  

    David, I’m wise enough to know that change is inevitable, but I’m foolish enough to think that people have just GOT to come to their senses and remember what it is we are supposed to be accomplishing in our role as teachers…

    In my opinion,  that sacred vocation in practice  looks much more like “some role-playing old codger telling stories and speculating about…what education looks like ten years from now, if we continue to do our jobs well and resist the corporate-ization of public education,”  than it does,  “vendors and speakers in Atlanta who claim to know how to fix education, how this practice or product will improve resource efficiency, teacher effectiveness and student performance.

    Come back, David.

    PLEASE come back.

    We are in dire need of your…2¢ Worth!



  • The Children are Waiting…


    I was asked by my good friend , Jill Berkowitz, to write a guest post  for Education Week’s Leadership 360 Blog.  Jill asked me to  explain the value of games and to direct it to an audience of leaders who were more than likely non-gamers and non-believers.  Quite simply, that meant that I would need to provide some rationale, some concrete experience- and then some possible steps to move into action.  However, while writing this piece, the fact that  “leaders” would be  reading was always bouncing around in my head and I’m afraid that the inevitable diatribe eventually surfaced.  The host of the series, Education Week, was much kinder to it’s readers than I am to you —-as they divided the piece into three weekly segments.  No such luck here—it lives in its entirety.  Here’s where we separate the devotee from the curious, casual, or lurker.  Go grab a coffee–I’ll wait.

    Part 1

    My students will be playing games in our class this year—and this is the work ethic I hope to encourage—the “questing disposition” that, as a gamer, I have come to know and understand. Jane McGonigal alludes to it in her most recent TED Talk. Numerous books, presentations, and research papers exploring the use of games for learning are now flooding mass media. A Google search of “games in education” will yield about 1,180,000,000 results. The concept, once confined to discussions between those “geeky techy-type teachers”, is now a topic that can be found at most every education conference. So, here you shall have one educator’s opinion–as I sort through some of the controversy surrounding the use of video games in school in order to help make some sense of it all. Full disclosure–I have been using virtual worlds and games in my teaching since 1997 when I used Caravans© to supplement my third grade social studies curriculum. I am much more than a believer—I am an evangelist.

    Let’s start with why. Why the huge buzz around games in education? Since the vast collection of literature surrounding computer games and learning has been around for at least two decades, why now? As I see it, there are a number of reasons.

      1. Games are everywhere today – played by almost everyone. As of early January 2013, Zynga games had over 265 million monthly active users. The popularity of console and handheld games in recent years has tended to “redefine the nature of games, opening up the possibility for new kinds of games in the marketplace and putting powerful and inexpensive platforms in the hands of tens of millions of people” (Klopfer et al, 2009). Rather than take up your time and space with all of the statistics- here’s a link to the most current data from the Entertainment Software Association.
      2. Because there is now a huge repertoire of games available on varied platforms from computers and consoles to hand-held devices and cell phones, and people are actually revisiting the spirit of play- even if it’s for five minutes in the waiting room.
      3. The conversation has also been spurred on by the latest perceived crisis in education. Regardless of whether or not you buy into the headline reports that the U.S. lags behind their global peers in math and science or other studies that show only 17 percent of U.S. 12th-grade students are proficient in math or demonstrate any interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, (STEM), there is no doubt that right now our nation cannot fill job vacancies in STEM associated fields. According to a 2012 study from Change the Equation, an organization that supports STEM education, business leaders across the nation have sounded an alarm. They cannot find the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent they need to stay competitive. (Changetheequation.org)

    The good news is video games are hotbeds of STEM! Eric Klopfer, associate professor of education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology states, “Video games can enable STEM education from elementary school all the way through college as they teach skills such as analytical thinking, multitasking, strategizing, problem-solving, and team building. Traditional learning has provided superficial learning through textbooks. Games are best at teaching a deeper level of learning” (Klopfer, in Chitra, 2012). Those of us who are proponents of games in education must consider this a really good thing, right? ? Well, yes…sort of.

    Yes, I’m very excited about the prospects of wider acceptance of using video games to support learning. What’s the appeal? Why am I so passionate about using games in education? Well, the pros most often cited are the motivational aspect of games, and the potential of experiential learning through simulation. Plus, who can argue against the opportunity to support literacy via games that offer rich complex narratives set in lush fantasy worlds, which challenge curiosity, increase extended engagement, or promote teamwork and collaboration? Games-based learning affords my students agency and autonomy in an authentic situated learning platform. They get to choose their path to mastery.

    But in my years of using games in the classroom, I’ve seen some other things at work – things much more powerful and alluring – the freedom that functioning as avatar allows. In most of the games we use, my students are able to construct the identity of their character, or avatar, and, therefore, right from the start there is a personal investment. The process of ownership has begun. This ability to function as avatar is foundational to the risk-taking, persistence and problem solving called for in a well-designed video game. Theories can be tested over and over because failure is no longer stigmatized. It is anticipated and respected as part of the process. There’s a sign in my classroom. It says, “FAIL HARDER!” Where is this attitude in the rest of education?

    I have seen the power firsthand…time and time again. I’ve seen reluctant readers and writes become versed and adept at the craft once inspired by the agency and ownership of their learning. I’ve seen the strange and beautiful evolution of a group of students merge and evolve into a well-honed team of players, often with an unlikely candidate at the helm. I’ve watched kids fail, and try again, and fail again, and learn something new each time until they were successful. I’ve watched kids mentor each other, develop and articulate a set of values and play by them, and I’ve seen those values transfer to the physical world.

    Then, they go to their next class, sit at a desk in a row of desks, fill in a bubble sheet, or take notes about a lecture, or work from a textbook, or a worksheet. Learning is serious. Learning is hard work. Education is slow to change.

    Part 2

    It seems we just can’t seem to get past some obstacles. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that games and the associated notion of play are powerful ingredients in learning? The research supports it, pioneering teachers have documented their successes, and the U.S. government has even created a White House position to lead the investigation and direct the progress of games in learning. Yet, educational leaders and policy makers continue to cross their arms, dig in their heels, and frown over their glasses at the mere mention of video games in school.

    Part of the reason for this is the negative media hype surrounding video games—so let’s dispense with that once and for all. USC Professor Henry Jenkins published a document entitled, Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked . In it, he systematically addressed the 8 most popular claims around video game violence. In addition, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) clearly delineates these three indisputable facts on their website:images

    FACT: Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.

    FACT: Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. – and some with far more violence – are also sold in foreign markets. However, the level of violent crime in these foreign markets is considerably lower than that in the U.S., suggesting that influences such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other factors are more relevant to understanding the cause of any particular crime. In fact, an analysis by The Washington Post of the 10 largest video game markets across the globe found no statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related deaths.

    Finally, FACT: Numerous authorities, including the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Surgeon General, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between violent programming and violent behavior. The truth is there is no scientific research that validates a link between computer and video games and violence, despite lots of overheated rhetoric from the industry’s detractors. Instead, a host of respected researchers has concluded that there is no link between media violence and violent crime (ESA, 2013).

    v-games-and-violence-2The facts, the studies, and plain old common sense all counter the hype that there is any causal connection between video games and youth violence. “For most kids and most parents, the bottom-line results of our research can be summed up in a single word: relax. While concerns about the effects of violent video games are understandable, they’re basically no different from the unfounded concerns previous generations had about the new media of their day” (Kutner & Olson, 2009).

    OK, so let’s imagine that we can move past the question of violence. What are other impediments to widespread adoption of video games in school? To begin with, there is an obvious difference between serious or educational games (games designed with clear educational outcomes in mind) and the commercial off the shelf games (COTS) designed purely for entertainment. This divide is characterized by a number of differences in purpose, design, and funding. While the “educational” games may be well intentioned, most are nothing more than electronic worksheets or skill and drill with animation in between. In this teacher’s opinion, the best of educational games can’t compete with the commercial off the shelf (COTS) offerings produced by billion dollar behemoth corporations, and those are the games our students are playing off campus. When all that we offer is the “educational flavor” all that we are going to get is a disenfranchised kid- who reports, “I guess it’s better than a worksheet…barely.”

    Not only do COTS have state of the art graphics, soundtracks, and mechanics to attract and maintain their player base, but also these well-designed commercial offerings have science on their side. Game designers rely on the psychology of happiness to leverage the gameplay, crafting their products in such a way that a task or a quest is presented at the perfect degree of difficulty to keep the player engaged and willing to keep trying, yet not so complex that the player becomes frustrated and quits—similar to what the educational theorists refer to as the “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978) or what Seymour Papert called, “hard fun”. “…every one likes hard challenging things to do. But they have to be the right things matched to the individual and to the culture of the times” (Papert, 2002). The analytics behind the interface constantly determine a player’s skill level, and produce challenges that sit at that “sweet spot” that keeps a player engaged and in a flow state.

    But there are also impediments from a very practical vantage point. Most games are not cost effective, and those that offer freeversions have placed such extreme limitations on them that the gameplay is severely compromised and diminished. Very few COTS have made any effort to accommodate the unique demands of school networks or budgets.

    Some notable exceptions to this are VALVE, who produce STEAM, the dominant game distribution platform that released Portal2 to educators at no cost, and, on the horizon is SimCityEDU— a collaboration between Institute of Play, the Entertainment Software Association, Electronic Arts, Educational Testing Service, Pearson’s Center for Digital Data, Analytics & Adaptive Learning and others.

    However, all too often teachers are unable to find games that will support or enhance their mandated curriculum, and there doesn’t appear to be a “sweet spot” for those who are subjugated to “high stakes” testing. Entrenched in a vicious cycle of preparing students for the tests, administering the tests, gathering the data and analyzing it, and then, armed with the latest test results that indicate where their students are falling short, teachers can initiate another round of the cycle, aiming their instruction directly at those identified weak spots. The thinking behind this madness is that this skill and drill, data driven instruction will yield higher test scores, which in turn will generate positive teacher evaluations. This will then assure the teachers are employed for another year and all will be well… except, we will have produced a generation of young people who cannot think. Even if test scores improve, it is at the cost of a quality education. We have poured the Kool-Aid, and these children (and their parents) are gulping it down without a moment’s consideration that perhaps something is amiss. After all, this is the way it has always been…at desks, in rows, with a bubble sheet, a textbook and a No. 2 pencil.


    The young people who have learned to “play school,” that is those who have managed to acquiesce and excel in the “No.2 pencil rigor” of standardized test driven education, will continue along this path towards the holy grail of a college degree. The big lie that education tells is that a college degree is the certain key to future success, happiness, and the mythic American dream. Regardless of intent, by designing our “one size fits all” test driven pedagogy, we have proliferated that lie and have patently failed our young people by neglecting to provide any setting, circumstance or opportunity to unearth, investigate or pursue their passion

    This pedagogical approach does not teach the skills that STEM careers require: strategic thinking, planning, communication, negotiating skills, group decision-making, or data handling. Personal skills such as initiative and persistence, spatial and motor skills such as coordination and speed of reflexes, social skills such as teamwork and communication, intellectual skills such as problem-solving are also missing. I know of some video games that offer this all.

    In addition to teachers learning how to identify when and how a game might support the curriculum (or not) on the “con” side of things, we should add the struggle with fitting gameplay into a typical school schedule. Also, as in a traditional classroom, teachers are the key components in effective game-based learning. It is the teacher who steers the learning, and serves to guide and mentor the social/emotional culture that is formed around the game. Educators will need time and support to navigate these new waters and they need leaders who understand the value of gaming and support those who want to take the initiative of creating a new path.

    Part 3

    Finally, what about assessment? Do we have time to introduce gaming as a new approach to learning when the assessments are themselves rooted in older soil? Traditional assessments contradict game-based learning. New models and methods of ascertaining mastery must be explored. As James Gee explains, “…One thing games don’t really do is separate learning and assessment. They don’t say learn some stuff and then later we’ll take a test. They’re giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve that you’re on” (Gee, 2003). Most teacher preparation programs would embrace that as good teaching.

    testAs teachers begin to investigate game-based pedagogy, they have demonstrated their predilection for peer support, and some are organizing themselves into communities of practice, establishing networks to compare notes, ask questions, offer advice and support and share resources. One popular group is G.A.M.E. (Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education) and another is The Cognitive Dissonance Educator Guild in World of Warcraft (Sister of Elune server, Alliance)

    So, change is happening—albeit very, very, slowly. It is happening one teacher at a time. It is truly bottom up change. The anthropologist Margaret Mead observed “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” There is a slowly growing change movement infiltrating our schools. But, children are typically not patient and we do not want another generation to leave schools without this experience.

    It is possible that to legislate that schools not only be required to teach academics, but to teach academics harnessing these games. We don’t advocate for more legislation but we surely know the power of policy to change the locus of attention. These are the tools that this generation of learners already uses outside school. Informal groups of adolescent gaming friends are forming in nearly every community across the country. Along with that STEM skillset, such an initiative would be nurturing behaviors that help children be confident, successful, contributing members of the school community.

    But, we also know that creating school cultures like that will take time. While gaming seems a most compelling route to this solution, the reluctance of the powers that be to embrace these new tools is creating a vacuum that the business world will be all too happy to fill and if history is any marker, the end result will be “games” that marginalize all of the deep,The children are wating in rows... complex, and reflective practice well designed games have to offer.

    We really need to move on this! Games have proven to be a vehicle that exists right now, that can help our children appreciate the breadth of science, technology, engineering and math beyond the lab coat and may just unleash a passion for such characteristics in the world around them. An added bonus is that gaming has proven to be a successful vehicle for confronting some of the most difficult social ailments. But are we asking too much when we ask for this change to happen sooner rather than later?

    Let’s come full circle. I know that this September, I’ll watch and listen as my colleagues peruse their new class rosters and lament as they tally the number of IEP, AIS, ELL, and special education students on their lists, forced to contend with the reality of how these “low achievers” might impact their evaluation.

    This leaves me pondering the fate of those students who either will not or cannot abide this current educational structure. By remaining stuck in this high stakes testing and Common Core atesting hamster wheel, we negate the love of learning, we amplify the have vs. have not status, and we validate the stereotypes that continue to plague true educational reform. By continuing to champion the idea of common expectations for all, we are disavowing the unique spark of promise and potential within every child. Yes, this change needs to happen and it needs to happen now because it is the children who are waiting. They are waiting …in rows.


    RESOURCES, REFERENCES and INFLUENCES – Please let me know if I omitted any sources–much of this was  wee hour rambling!
    Chitra, Sethi. “Can Video Games Reshape STEM Education?” ASME. ASME, 15 09 2012. Web. 28 Jul. 2013. .
    Changetheequation.org, (2012). Stem vital signs.
    Entertainment Software Association (ESA). (2013). Games & violence.
    Federation of American Scientists. (2006). R&D challenges in games for learning. Report of The Learning Federation.
    Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave/ St. Martin’s.
    Groff, J., Howells, C. & Cranmer, S. (2010). The impact of games in the classroom: Evidence from schools in Scotland. Bristol, Futurelab.
    Ito, M. (2008). Education V. Entertainment: A Cultural History of Children’s Software, In Katie Salen (Ed.), Ecology of Games. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning.
    Ito, M. (2006). Engineering Play: Children’s software and the cultural politics of edutainment. Discourse, 27(2), 139-160(22).
    Jenkins, H. (2004, September 27). Reality bytes: Eight myths about video games debunked .
    Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., & Salen, K. (2009). Moving learning games forward:obstacles opportunities and openess.
    Kutner, Lawrence, PH.D. and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Video Games And What Parents Can Do. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
    Sandford, S., Ulicsak, M., Facer, K., & Rudd, T. Teaching With Games (2006).
    Schaffer, D. (2006). How computer games help children learn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
    Squire, K.D. (2006). From content to context: Video games as designed experiences. Educational Researcher, 35(8),
    Squire, K., & Steinkuehler, C. (2005). Meet the gamers. Library Journal, April 15.19-29.
    Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between Learning and Development (pp. 79-91). In Mind in Society. (Trans. M. Cole). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • What have We Become…

       Avatar n my shoulder  I really wanted my first post here- to be one of brimming with hope and promise– Reality check!  When outcomes of a district budget fiasco resulted in my being reassigned to the classroom- I vowed to document the experience.

    I planned  on tracing the transition of the  projects and programs I’ve developed over the last years into  53 minute Carnegie units—and sharing the rekindling of my first fires–those that sparked when I served  students in the third and later 4th grades –fires that  have stayed with me over the years  while away from the classroom—embedded in my teacher soul.   But I must have forgotten what it’s like to be a first year teacher (which is essentially  my situation after ten years in instructional tech and library media)  My memory had clouded over the scores of detailed, tiresome tasks that must be done each day–and the  planning–and the meetings–and the pull-outs, and the parent calls and conferences, and the arranging of rooms and the garage sale hunting for bits  and pieces that might transform a stark industrial room into a classroom that is welcoming —a place where children may actually want to spend their time. Yep!  I’d forgotten the bells and the interruptions that prohibit any semblance of flow in our learning time.

           Wrapping up week one, I was just glad to have succeeded in committing fifty names to faces.   By week two, I became resigned to a dining room table buried under books and journals and papers.  And by week three, when the inevitable  sniffles and scratchy throat heralded the mandatory  head-cold, I knew I was back!  As if in some skewed version of the hero’s journey -I had come full circle–and was back to where I had started seventeen years ago–the core of my calling– the classroom.  There and back again; back to earnest, inquisitive faces, back to easy grins and shining eyes, and back to building trust, serving respect, and making magic whenever we can.

    As in years past, our opening days were ripe with ritual; fire drills, hearing tests, and assemblies outlining rules and regulations.  Details of dress codes and role-play scenarios portraying how to “best the bully” fulfilled mandates from the latest state legislation…and finally, in week three–I thought perhaps we might get down to the business of learning.

          So there I was — in my head I was already composing  my opening blog post— describing my ingenious method of introducing  sixth graders to Joseph Campbell with three heroes;  a quick peek down the rabbit hole to check in with Alice, a visit to Bag End to greet Bilbo Baggins, and Percy Jackson would serve  as the catalyst to connect mythos and narrative as we navigate this tangled web we call humanities.

          However, the recounting of my magical triad fell by the wayside when one of those  “beginning of the year” traditions  actually stopped me in my tracks, broke the trance I had devised in my mind’s eye- and smacked me back to the harsh reality that is public education today.

    It was, oddly enough, Picture Day that yielded the indisputable evidence of the tragic state of affairs in education.   In truth, picture day itself went off without a hitch.  A smattering of my students showed up in “extra effort” garb, but it wasn’t until  we received our prints that this story really takes shape.   The wake up call came in a crisp white envelope with a  clear plastic window —each one revealing one of my students grinning.  Oh — what’s this? How lovely!  A package of prints for each teacher as well!   And look! They’ve even included a sign for my door!  Now,  anyone who wants to do a minimal amount of snooping will be able to ascertain the name of the photography company, but suffice to say I have worked in three different districts, in three different states, and this particular company serviced  all three districts.  In fact, according to their website, they are the world’s largest  school photography retailers…
         So my friends, here is what the world’s largest school photography company  deemed an appropriate “gift” for the teachers.  Since we need our photos taken  for our ID badges each year, we receive a package with  a sheet of wallet sized portraits, as well as a 3X 5 .  This year, the company threw in a sign for our  classroom doors.  Please consider that of all the sentiments they could have chosen  to best appeal to all teachers, this is the one they  deemed most universally appropriate.

    Wouldn't every teacher want one of these to grace the classroom door?
    Wouldn’t every teacher want one of these to grace the classroom door?

    Of course, I tweeted out my bewilderment,  disillusionment, anger, and frustration immediately  and my PLN saved me with good humor.    Aaron Smith (@theartguy)  shot this “correction” back to me — almost twitch speed!

    The initial edit…

    and then  a few seconds  later–even  better:


    Despite my  librarian roots, the “SHHHH” has got to go as well…

    What greater evidence do we need to see that the school culture has shifted to one of high test accountability,  No. 2 pencil rigor?  There it is.  It has now been established as the core of what we do…We are testing academies.

    What have we become?  What are we doing to our children?  In my mind it is nothing short of criminal.

    *Please note that the views and opinions, rants and raves expressed within these posts are solely my own and are noway meant to reflect the opinions of my employer or any entity for whom I consult.