Archive for the '…and Life' Category

Morning in Monterey, David Warlick, & Video Games in Education

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I’m enjoying the weather and the cool crisp air here in Monterey. This image is the view off the balcony of my 7th floor room. Not a bad place to spend a few days, eh? As Mike Guerena pointed out, it’s nice to be able to connect with nature between sessions of geeking out with educational technologists. (I have no idea how I scored such a cool room, btw.)

I’ve moblogged David Warlick’s keynote, and blow are the cleaned up version of my notes. Incidentally, this session is being video podcast by CLMS and CUE and I will link to it as soon as it is available. (I saw it on Amy Murphy’s iPod immediately after she filmed it! Through an inexpensive device, she recorded right to the iPod harddrive. Cool.)

David’s handouts are available at online. He also pointed out his video games and education online bookmarks. I was surprised (and pleased) to see just how much this topic then factored into the rest of his keynote. This also made me realize I need to get back to using FURL or Delicious. Back in February I imported all of my FURL links into this blog in an effort to provide one single feed of resources. I had been writing a lot in the FURL annotations – they were very brief blog posts really. I haven’t been able to keep that up, though, and now my link posts are languishing in draft form in MarsEdit.

At any rate, Warlick went on to explain that for “the first time in history, our job as eduators is to prepare our students for a future we cannot describe” and he advocated for telling a compelling (new) story that fits the marketplace and fit the future, resonates with our deeply held values. As is required by all keynoters, he then shared some examples from Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat (his joke, not mine), and he suggested that globalization is now “more about collaboration than competition.” As he said, “no country in walmart’s supply chain will go to war with another country in the supply chain.” He also asked “what kind of classrooms are going to prepare our kids to facilitate this kind of cooperation?”

He provided some great statistics about the aging workforce at NASA as a sort of scare tactic. And it works on me. I think it is a real problem that we do not have a young vibrant national space program.

David shared several stories about his son not investing in the technology, but rather investing in the story. For instance when he purchases video games, he doesn’t buy them for the engineering, but for the art and the immersive story.

David did acknowledge that we as a culture are very good at telling stories, but he also challenged us to be better.

He included a great introduction to the idea of The Long Tail and the new digital bazaar. As an example he shared that he has published his last two books through, a self publishing service that allows you to upload a book, cover art, etc… creates an online storefront to sell the book… and then prints it on demand for customers. Cool! I can’t wait to do that once my dissertation is finished. Maybe there’s no need for big publishing deals after all, at least not when you just want a book to support presentations or vice versa.

Incidentally, many of us talk about students creating a collaboratively authored class text… how cool would it be for them to see their work in print at the end of the year, or the end of a project? How cool!?

Warlick also included a segment on how different our kids are today, and he had a greaet joke/metaphor that he ran with for some time. He started by saying, “we love our kids, but let’s face it, they’re not human. They have powers that can reach through walls.” He went on to describe the alien tentacles they have that reach out via IM, texting, MySpace, online video games, etc.

He also shared a great video of his son’s mashup of audio from The Music Man broadway musical and his own in-home performance with different hats (and mustaches) on. Cool stuff. David didn’t teach him how to do it… and neither did teachers at the high school.

David also mentioned the digital divide between students who can’t do that sort of thing (or don’t have access to the technologies and skills to do it) and others like his son, and he called it is a huge national problem. I’d say it’s a huge global problem.

I loved his bit on IM speak… he said we should be in awe of what they have created collaboratively, and without a guiding committee, as their parents would have done. His wiki also linked to a recent blog post of his that linked to a story saying New Zealand students will be able to use IM speak in their national tests! His focus in the presentation was that if you’re writing to accomplish a goal – to communicate a message – then the question should be which format, IM speak or standard english, would better accomplish that goal? He used WOMBAT (Waste Of Money Brains and Time) as an example of what students value – they value money, so they can buy information (media).

Next he spent a good deal of time on a video games and learning slide. He discussed the learning that happens when playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, and he then cited ideas from Prensky, Gee, and Beck & Wade among others. This was a significant portion of his presentation. Referring to Beck, he discussed how gamers are competative, risk taking, socialable, believe in the role of luck, selfsconfident. He also related overhearing his son’s friends talk about video games the way he knew teachers hoped they would talk about Shakespear. He then discussed the way kids grow up being the hero… by failing and failong and failing until they get it right… while when he grew up there could only be one pitcher or one quarterback.

He finally came out and said that “video games are learning engines… this is who is teaching our students higher order thinking” and he suggested that “instead of the boss, we should become the strategy guide.” He cited an interview with Beck on this… but what an awesome quote!

When he moved on to talking about Google… I found this question particularly interesting: where were we asking those 1 billion questions a day before Google??

I also appreciated his quote from Vinod Khosla, “There is no longer a need to teach kids the facts.” Warlick went on to say that they need us to teach them how to work the information… to find the facts, choose which facts, use the facts… how to make the decisions about where to find the information.

As part of his information literacy examples he shared the bbc and wikipedia articles on the number of planets in the solar system. The news spread from the convention, to the mainstream media, and into Wikipedia in only 2 minutes. Many of the teachers in attendance seemed to know about Wikipedia, but many jotted down Technorati when he brought it up.

Later he said this: “people who know how to make themselves an expert – this is what needs to be coming out of our schools.”

Someone yesterday in conversation was trying to recall this statistic: David said that 57 percent of american teenagers have produced online content for authentic audiences. Vinod Khosla, though, says that content will not stay king… cultivating audience will be key. Warlick asks how can we do this with our classrooms. He also says how do we make our classrooms like videogames? He suggests that might be accomplished by incorporating more of the following elements into our classes:

- responsiveness
- convertible and conversbale rewards
- personal investment
- identity building
- dependability (the answer is there)

As I milled around for a chance to say hi to David again I was thrilled to see that much of the conversation attendees were having with him revolved around the ideas he shared about video games in education. Things are moving in the right direction. :)

When I got to talk to him myself, I brought up some things I thought would be great additions to his games segment, particularly serious games and games for change such as Food Force and PeaceMaker. Mike Guerena also shared our video games in education video with him as well.

I also just this morning got a new comment from David Williamson Shaffer on my old blog. Through the comment I discovered his new site, Epistemic Games: Building the Future of Education, and his new book, How Computer Games Help Children Learn. (I’m sure he’d be happy to learn that I just pre-ordered the book at Amazon.) I suspect these resources would interest David Warlick as well. :)

Tags: millenials, warlick, montereytech06

Focus on What’s Important

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I know this sounds like the title of an “and life” post, but this is just the next section in the paper I am writing about professional learning communities, school change, and… video games as an educational technology. I completed this draft while traveling yesterday.

I’m currently at the CLMS/CLHS/NHSA and CUE technology conference in Monterey. CUEtoYOU presented two sessions yesterday, and four more today, including my Podcasting session. Sadly, I got a bad review in the batch. But I suppose that’s part of the purpose of coming to conferences (as a learner who presents)… getting feedback and improving. Still, it’s tough to get an outlier like that, especially when I know I’m low on sleep and could’ve done much better. :(

I guess this is an “and Life” post after all. I’m reminding myself to focus on what’s important… I met with a room full of people who signed up for a podcasting class because they didn’t know what it was… and I taught a lot of people about podcasting with their students using free tools. And, of course, all day long I had some great conversations with other presenters and attendees. :)

At any rate, I just finished making some changes to my “practical blogging” presentation for tomorrow afternoon and am only now finding time to post this. Naturally I still have lots of posts to catch up on, including the Google Teacher Academy report/reflection (and my next post at, but for now I am turning in. I want to be able to get up and see David Warlick’s keynote in the morning… and not be quite so short on sleep tomorrow.

Please leave feedback if you read the following draft. I’m getting there with this final KAM…

3. Focus on What’s Important

School change of any kind involves so many variables, it is imperative that change agents focus on what is important. This ability to focus only on what is important is also a critical characteristic of successful professional learning communities.

DuFour and Eaker (1998) pointed out that “schools communicate what is important to them and what is valued by what they focus on” (p. 107). For instance, celebration, which plays an important role in sustaining a professional learning community, “reinforces shared values and signals what is important” (p. 143). However, this focus is also more than just a tool for clear communication. Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour, 2002, described a cultural shift in professional learning communities from “a focus on a wide variety of things and an effort to ‘get the plan turned in’ and then subsequently ignoring it to… a focus on a few important goals that will affect student learning… a vehicle for organized, sustained school improvement” (p. 24). This cultural shift is not limited to the organization; Hord recommended “recruiting external change agents who can ask the important questions” (p. 149) as a part of establishing and maintaining organizational focus.

Most importantly, professional learning community theorists call for schools to focus on student learning. DuFour and Eaker (1998) assert that “the curriculum is a critical component of a school that functions as a professional learning community” (p. 178) and that “the curriculum should reduce content and enable all parties to focus on essential and significant learning” (p. 179; see also Eaker, DuFour and DuFour, 2002, p. 19). Huffman & Hipp (2003) expressed a different but related take on this focus, saying that a professional learning community “focuses, first and foremost, upon learning on the part of professionals in the school as the way to increase learning on the part of students” (p. 76). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) agreed that “the ultimate purpose of the movement to the learning community model is to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for students” (p. 11). They also believed that “the primary focus of professional development is student outcomes; it is results driven and focused on curriculum and standards” (p. 52). As she explained the importance of developing collective values and visions, Hord (2004) described the importance of becoming student focused (p. 45). This focus on student learning is no less important to an educational technology initiative, including one that would include video games and simulations. In fact, improved student learning (and achievement) is the purpose behind introducing such technologies into schools.

This focus, in fact, is what DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) later identified as Big Idea #1 with respect to professional learning communities, “ensuring that students learn” (p. 32; see also DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker, 2006, p. 2). These authors offered two other big ideas that professional learning communities, and in a broader sense any change initiative, should focus on. Big Idea #2 is a focus on “a culture of collaboration” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 36; DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 3), a key to successful organizational change. Stone and Cuper (2006), too, advocated collaboration (p. 19, 46, 83), as do Hord (2004, p.52, 152), Huffman and Hipp (2003, p 62), and Roberts and Pruitt (2003, p. 137, 179). Big Idea #3, then, is to “focus on results” (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 44-45; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 134-148, 175; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 20, 31, 39; DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 4), or in other words to “focus on outcomes rather than on inputs or intentions” (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 63). Wald and Castleberry (2000) included this focus on results not only as a means for change, but also as the end of their “roller coaster of change” process (p. 42). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) also described professional learning communities that were “results driven and focused on curriculum” (p. 52), and Hord (2004) advocated “researching for results” (p. 124). It follows that any attempt to integrate educational technologies such as video games and simulations should maintain a similar focus on ensuring that students learn, creating a culture of collaboration, and on achieving results.

Capacity building is another important focus of professional learning communities. DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker (2006) explained their expectations by stating that “members of a PLC are not ‘invited’ to work with colleagues: they are called upon to be contributing members of a collective effort to improve the school’s capacity to help all students learn at high levels” (p. 8). They also believed that “leaders must start… shifting their focus from evaluating and supervising individuals to developing the capacity of both teams and the entire school to work collaboratively” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 239). Similarly, one of the outcomes of professional learning communities that Hord (2004) sought was an increase in “organizational capacity… the capacity of the staff to work well as a unit” (p. 12). Hord observed that “of equal importance to establishing shared decision-making structures was the ability of the principals to increase decision-making capacity among their staff” (p. 49). Huffman and Hipp (2003), too, called for professional learning communities to focus on “increase[ing] individual and organizational capacity” (p. 11; see also p. 31), and Kaagan (2004) discussed “collective capacity building” (p. 3). Stone and Cuper (2006) were even interested in developing students’ capacity; they promoted a philosophy of “each one, teach one… [which] designate[d] student peer leaders in the classroom” (p. 146). Once again the importance of risk-taking in the culture of a professional learning community is evident, as it is a necessary element of capacity building; Wald and Castleberry (2000) point out that “a climate that encourages risk taking is fundamental when staff members need to stretch beyond what they know and explore frontiers” (p. 24).

While the very act of focusing efforts on what has been identified as important to the organization can improve the likelihood of success for any change initiative, there are also particular elements worthy of focus in many cases. Based on the work of these professional learning community theorists, it seems that any school change effort, including the integration of video games and simulations as educational technologies, might benefit from a focus on ensuring student learning, creating a culture of collaboration, achieving results, and building capacity at all levels of the organization.


The Meaning of Borat

Monday, November 13th, 2006

The Meaning of Borat (Via Aaron Swartz.) Here’s a random post for you… it’s my favorite thing I’ve read about the movie Borat, which I saw (and enjoyed) this past weekend. This is also another great example of why I read Aaron Swartz – and it’s not because he was a co-author of RSS when he was 14.

My Favorite 9/11 Post

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Who Knows What Day It Is? (Via Borderland.) This post by Doug at Boderland is my favorite 9/11 post of the day. There are only ever going to be more and more young people who need to have these conversations and need to have these questions answered. I also wonder how relevant or immediate this day will be to young students. I know that they will live in the world forever changed by 9/11, but I also know how events like Martin Luther King Jr’s death, or JFKs death were vague “history” for me as a kid (and seemed to have happened a long time ago), and yet my parents’ generation remembered them and understood them intimately. Similarly, neither of my parents can remember d-day (both were actually born that week), but to their parents that was a vivid memory. I see this happening now with students like Doug’s – or like my wife Eva’s, who are in kindergarden… most were in the womb on September 11th, 2001. How we tell this story will be every bit as important as what happened, if not more so – from the perspective of our students and children.

I also found Scoble’s post stangely striking. I feel it is a big deal (and a tragedy of sorts) that his blog posts from 2001 are gone. I do back up my blog regularly… and I feel every piece of information (especially historical first hand accounts like Robert’s blog) that we keep is valuable to humanity as a whole… and that each piece that vanishes is a potentially costly loss. The power we have to publish is greatly diminished if the publications lack permanence… or at least staying power. Imagine the value of today’s blogs to future generations of humanity, who will almost certainly have tools to make sense of the volume of information!

Of course, I’m something of an information pack rat, but I think even Robert’s wishing he had his son’s pictures would be justification enough for someone (anyone) having backed them up. I left a comment on Scoble’s post, too.

Friendly Hippo

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Friendly Hippo (Via Stephen’s Untold Stories.) My family and I are big hippo fans… and Stephen Rahn has posted a fun video I want to share.

Welcome to the Blogosphere HBHS

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

This morning I am back at Huntington Beach High School for Day Three of their Tech Summer Camp. Yesterday Robert Craven and I joined them for four hours. I led them through a hands-on introduction to Audacity, and Robert gave them an orientation to their new Cannon A620 Digital Cameras and to Picasa. Today I started the day with my introduction to blogs and the read/write web, and Robert moved them forward into Podcasting. The sessions were short (less than 2 hours each) and there were a handful of setup and technical challenges, but boy did the 28 participants learn a lot – and boy did they seem to enjoy it. I always enjoy working with enthusiastic teachers… especially when they are choosing to come to a training during their summer break!

They didn’t get a lot of opportunities to explore what’s out there, so I left them with Will’s site, Dave’s site, and this site as places to start. (From there I’m sure they’ll be able to find dozens of other amazing educational blogs.) I am writing this post to welcome them to the blogosphere. :)

For my part, I really got spoiled by the Blogging Institute at the OCDE last month. I enjoyed having the time to really delve into questions. Thankfully, HBHS teachers can still visit my Blogging Institute category to explore the resources and links we generated at that event.

I know these things will only gain limited traction due to a one shot summer camp, but they’ve got some enthusiastic folks there (including Jamie Knight, the Loud Librarian), and I look forward to seeing how these seeds we’ve planted will grow at HBHS.

Lead a Balanced Life

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Lead a balanced life (Via Lifehacker.) Lifehacker is often a low signal to noise feed for me, but this was one of those (non-technical) gems that keeps me subscribed. This bit in particular caught my attention:

Recognize you have the right to be healthier than those around you.

I also followed the link through to the original post, where these ten tips are all elaborated (my own reflections are in parenthesis):

  1. Go home from work on time. (I started doing this before I quit. Now I need to stick to regular work hours. Both tactics have worked well.)
  2. Don’t be a yes person. (This one is still very difficult for me – and I’ve gotten much better.)
  3. Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. (I’ve been slowly getting better at this over the last few years… and I am finally starting to wake up without an alarm clock on a week day – and it’s much nicer.)
  4. Slow down. (This is still very hard for me, but I’m getting better… sometimes.)
  5. Don’t buy into the culture around you if you don’t want to. (I think I do well at this… but boy is it relative… do I buy into the edublogger culture too readily?)
  6. Create your own sub-culture involving your friends and family. (What a great idea! I’ve been missing this.)
  7. Recognize you have the right to be healthier than those around you. (The original post actually says “if everyone else around you drink too much coffee – that doesn’t mean you have to” – and I’ve been clean for almost six months! Still, I appreciate finding this reminder.)
  8. Do something meaningful with your spare time. (I think a PhD counts… but I miss playing guitar and writing songs… ah, but this is about volunteering. I still get a zero there – except that I work in education – and do lots of overtime for free.)
  9. Let go of the need to buy the next big thing. (It’s hard, but working for myself has suddenly made me much more thrifty.)
  10. Develop compassion, patience and tolerance for your fellow people. (This always takes work.)

The original post is worth a read, too.

I was also happy to see this related post – especially since I’ve made getting to the gym regularly a priority now that I set my own schedule: Exercise can make you a better entrepreneur (Via Lifehacker.) Others, including educators, can reap these benefits, too – particularly this one:

Growth: When you are working out, you are growing. Even if your only growing physically, your still on a path to a better place. This dynamic alone improves your mindset tremendously. There is no worse feeling then being stagnent.

Ultimately, if we can’t lead a balanced life, we can’t fully serve our students – or model a healthy life for them. I know I’m a “work-a-holic” because that’s what I knew growing up. I hope I’ll set a better example for my kids, my students, and participants in my professional development sessions. In fact, these “and Life” posts are an effort to do just that.

Incidentally, speaking of balance… I posted this while on a conference call. But is that good or not? ;)

UPDATE:I’m going to answer my own quesion – on balance I think that’s bad. In fact, I’d like to add one to this list.

11. Let yourself do one thing at a time. (This makes me so much more satisfied from moment to moment and at the end of the day… I can point to a few things I did well.)

Meanwhile… blog plans.

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Meanwhile, I can’t believe I went a solid week without posting… and directly following the blogging institute to boot. I have some ideas for clearing out my drafts folder (and sharing some lists of links if nothing else) and for getting on a blogging schedule as part of my new routine.

For now, though, I have a conference call followed by another meeting this afternoon (these are good things now that I’m working on my own) and I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

On the “and life” front, Eva and I discovered there is a Tuesday night live jazz night at the Pomodoro across the street. We’ll be checking that out for the first time tonight. :)

Vacation… and Blog Vacation

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

I know I just got back on the horse here, but Eva and I have an anniversary coming up this Sunday, and we’re taking a vacation to celebrate. I’ll be “off blog” for the duration. There may actually be some fun “and Life” posts in the next ten days, but your regularly scheduled Educational Technology programming will resume on the 23rd. :)

PS. I will check email and voicemail periodically – so if there is something critical, do leave me a message.

and Life: A Pre-Presentation Morning

Friday, July 7th, 2006

So… I’m having a classic pre-presentation morning. I thought my greatest concerns this morning would be the timing on my presentation and whether I could articulate well what an epistemic game is. But, as you can see, I had an unanticipated problem. Our valet this morning had a little trouble with driving a stick, as did the valet last night. Last night I had to back up very quickly to avoid getting hit as a valet rolled the Camero in front of me back down a hill. This morning, my valet rolled out of the parking spot backwards into a large Chevy truck (causing the dent you see in the picture), and then promptly shot forward into the Camry my car had been parked next to. So, he mashed the front and back corners of the car. Grr. Oh, well, at least now I have a fresh opening anecdote for the presentation at 10. The poor kid promptly lost his job. I suppose he could’ve used some more time in a driving simulator. ;)