Archive for February, 2008

Blogs and Wikis for Gifted Students

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

On Saturday, I presented two sessions at the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) Conference. These were slightly customized versions of two of my most frequently presented topics:

Interestingly, except for one slide in which I connected the things I was talking about to specific terminology often used in GATE education, I didn’t need to customize my usual presentations much for use with gifted students. (I find this is true with ELL students as well.) Read/write web technologies – like blogs and wikis – lend themselves to just the sort of individualized learning that such programs are striving for.

I am also sympathetic to a comment I received by email from one of my colleagues who read the interactive demo post from the blogging workshop. I’m sharing his thoughts here in a slightly edited excerpt:

Gifted students conferences simply outline what we should be doing with all of our students. All educators need to subscribe to the notion that every child is gifted. Schools should endeavor to more fully develop each kid’s gifts in equal fashion.

Ironically, I still support gifted education, at least for now. I think I see both sides of the argument clearly. As a student I personally benefited from good GATE programs… and detested bad ones. And as a teacher I was particularly thankful to not teach in a place where the best students were pulled out and segregated from others (except in a few AP classes and similarly specialized courses). Still, in the same way that I hate to see people not use technology with any of their students because not all of them have access at home, I think it is lunacy (and societal suicide to some degree) to hold back everyone to a lowest common denominator in education. Perhaps, though, if more schools were in fact fully developing each student’s gifts, then the need for separate GATE education might not be so strong.

I suspect if I call for comments on this reflection I might receive some interesting ones indeed, but have at it. I’d be particularly interested in hearing from any educators working with gifted students, especially any from the conference who might still be tuning in.

Researcher’s Log 2008-02-18

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Data collection for my Delphi study was completed as planned on February 8th. (As if on cue, Clark was born the next morning!)

I received 12 completed surveys in response to the final consensus check. Thankfully, this was the minimum number I set out to gather – so the level of attrition was acceptable, especially through rounds 2 and 3 and the final consensus check. Twenty-four experts initially agreed to participate in the study. Of these, only 15 people actually completed round one. Thirteen completed round 2, and twelve completed both round 3 and the final consensus check. So, following round 1, the attrition rate was only 20%. Those who left the study were not among the significant dissenting opinions.

In the final consensus check, consensus was defined in the following way:

For the purposes of this study, consensus is defined as the state in which the results are “at least acceptable to every member [of the expert panel], if not exactly as they would have wished.” (Reid, 1988, as cited in Williams & Webb, 1994, p. 182).

Participants were then asked to rate their level of consensus with each of six summaries on the following scale (Participants were also invited to leave additional comments after rating their level of consensus with each summary):

  • 5. Complete Consensus – I am in agreement with everything stated in this summary. The results are acceptable to me, if not exactly as I would have wished.
  • 4. High Level of Consensus – I agree with most of what is stated in this summary, and I disagree in only minor or insignificant ways. The results are acceptable to me.
  • 3. Moderate Level of Consensus – I agree with much of what is stated in this summary, but I also disagree in some ways. The results are acceptable to me.
  • 2. Low Level of Consensus – I agree with some of what is stated in this summary, but I also disagree in some major or significant ways. However, the results are still acceptable to me.
  • 1. No consensus – I disagree with most or all of what is stated in this summary. The results are not acceptable to me.

These ratings were used to find a level of consensus between the participants. Though many participants selected “5. Complete Consensus” in response to individual items, no items received that rating from all participants, so it would be inaccurate to report that there was complete consensus on any of the summarized themes. However, the participants ratings were averaged and the following scale was used to determine the level of consensus among the participants:

  • 5.0 Complete Consensus
  • 4.50-4.99 Very High Level of Consensus
  • 3.50-4.49 High Level of Consensus
  • 2.50-3.49 Moderate Level of Consensus
  • 1.50-2.49 Low Level of Consensus
  • 0.00-1.49 No Consensus
By this scale, there was a high level of consensus on four themes and a very high level of consensus on two additional themes. Out of 72 individual responses (12 participants responded to 6 summarized themes), 34 were “complete consensus,” 27 were “high level of consensus,” 10 were “moderate level of consensus,” and only one was “low level of consensus.” In other words, only one participant responded with a low level of consensus, and even then only responded in this way to one theme. No participants selected “no consensus” in response to any themes. Most dissenting opinions were minor and all will be addressed in the final report.

At this point in the process I have several new tasks ahead of me.

  • Final Data Analysis: I will code and complete analysis of the Final Consensus Check comments. These will be used to modify the summaries used in the final consensus check for their final appearance in my report.
  • Confirmability Measures: I will work with two of my colleagues, both of whom have recently completed in a doctoral dissertation focused on educational technology. They will aid me in a peer debriefing, in serving as devil’s advocates, and (in one case) in serving as an external auditor of my Delphi methodology.
  • I will complete a literature realignment to account for the months between completion of my proposal and the beginning of this dissertation draft.

Then I can move on to rewrite chapters 1 through 3 to reflect the actual implementation of this study – and to compose chapters 4 and 5 to report my results and discuss their implications. Though I had hoped to have a draft of my dissertation by March 1st, I don’t think that is possible at this point. However, I still hope to have a draft completed sometime in March. I think it’s time to take on no new work until this is done… especially with a new baby in the house.

“Blog If You Love Learning” for Gifted Students

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

I’m here with educators who teach gifted students, and we’re talking about blogs and the read/write web. I’m asking them these three familiar questions (participant responses are in italics):

  • What is a blog? An online journal, social interaction, a place to share opinions & hobbies, interactive tool for communication, web-based, it’s a web log.
  • What is the read/write web? The interactive part of the web – where you can read and respond.
  • What do these technologies mean for your students? It’s more collaborative, it’s a quick publishing tool (for younger students), it’s free, it’s very accessible, it gives students an audience beyond the teacher.

This is enough to get us started, so we’re off…

Welcome Clark Kelley Wagner To The World

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

After a night of labor, Eva gave birth to Clark Kelley Wagner via emergency c-section at 7:07am February 9, 2008. He was 7 pounds 12 ounces and 20 inches long. His umbillical cord was wrapped around his neck and tied in a knot (like a noose), but he recovered quickly and he’s a healthy little boy. His mother is recovering well, too, and they are both enjoying a midnight feeding as I write this (on my Treo) at 4:45 am, less than 24 hours after he was born. What an adventure we’ve all begun.

UPDATE: There’s a few more pictures of Clark on the Eva’s family’s blog.

I’ll be posting a best of category once I can go through the 2 gigs of images I’ve already taken. ;)

UPDATE 2: See Eva’s class blog for more fun pictures of Clark Kelley.

Tablet-top Role Playing Games in Education?

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

I received an interesting email yesterday. Here is an abbreviated version:

Mark,The world of serious games – as in serious _video_ games – is fairly new to me. I know that there are a lot of people writing and talking about the use of video games in education. Since I come from a tabletop role-playing (i. e. Dungeons & Dragons and its myriad descendants) background, I was wondering whether you have any thoughts about using tabletop role-playing in an educational context? It would be very interesting to hear what, for me, would be a view from the outside about the pros and cons of this approach.

– Matthijs

This prompted me to write a brief response that I want to share here. It’s a topic I’ve touched on here before, and which I hope to return to in the future:

Matthijis,There are many ways in which I think tabletop role playing games might be better for educational purposes than MMORPGs. More actual role-playing tends to take place in a table-top game, and naturally table-top games are considerably more open ended and can thus be much more nuanced on an many levels – and much easier to differentiate for individual students’ needs.

However, the need for many (quality) gamemasters is a challenge that makes it difficult to give each student the attention they need. Also where a human gamemaster might excel in fllexibility, he or she loses in computation (in comparison to a computer). It makes it difficult to keep up the pace of a game. Also, and this might be the most difficult challenge, while the need to exercise the imagination might be a pedagogical bonus it does severely limit the accessibility of the game for many. It would loose the motivational and engagement factors often associated with video games. The bottom line is FAR fewer people enjoy playing table top role playing games than video games.

Thanks for getting me to think about this. It’s a topic I want to pursue more when I’ve finished my dissertation. I’m most interested, though, in how we can make modern multiplayer videogames (especially role-playing games of all sorts) more like table-top role playing games so that we might capture more of their benefits without taking on all of these drawbacks.


I’d love to read any comments in response to this – or other thoughts on the topic.

Links for 2008-02-09

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Videogame Resources for a Superintendent

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Weeks of phone tag went into making it happen, but this morning I finally had a conference call with Mike Brusa, superintendent of Taft City School District, and his colleague Greg Mudge, who attended my Learning to Game and Gaming to Learn workshop at the CUE conference last year.

Mr. Brusa is a 51 year old gamer. He has a level 70 warrior in World of Warcraft, and two “alts,” a level 25 Dwarf blacksmith, and a level 10 Elf druid. With my limited experience with World of Warcraft, I can confidently say he’s put a lot of time into the game. Happily, and not surprisingly, he plays with his son. He is also a superintendent – one of the ones who is brought in to change the culture of a district. In our conversation his driving question was “what can we do to the system to make it more positive for the kids?”

Ultimately, he’s sees the dynamic, social, and global nature of his gaming community as a positive alternative to the often “flat” culture of classrooms. (In this sense he doesn’t mean “flat” as in Freidman’s “the world is flat” or Davis and Lindsey’s “flat classroom.” He means it is static and boring as opposed to dynamic and exciting.)

He wants to create “a classroom environment with the face of a video game” – or in other words, he’s interested in creating what would essentially be a “3D virtual school.” Many states are launching virtual high school programs, but in a “flat” text based format (think Blackboard). He would like to see something where students have avatars and can interact socially. In essence, he believes that Blackboard cannot have the same sense of community. While this is certainly arguable, I suppose something like what he’s looking for could include the sort of features I am looking for in an educational MMO as well, including educational quests where students learn by doing instead of memorizing. Brusa was particularly interested in students playing “scenarios” (he preferred the word to “game”).

Needless to say it was exciting to speak with someone in a position of formal authority who is pursuing ideas like this. Greg Mudge contacted me on his behalf so that I could share resources with them. I shared a few contacts and ideas during the phone call, but to follow up I sent them an email pointing them toward some of my blog posts on the subject.

I am writing this post for two reasons:

1.) To share the email I sent to them with all of you.
2.) To help connect Superintendent Brusa with others who might be interested in his cause, particularly any game developers who might be interested in what he has to say. He makes a good rough argument for the financial benefits of investing in something like this.

So, first here is the email with links pointing to some of my posts on the subject:

Mike (and Greg),

It was great to get to chat with you this morning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on this subject. I look forward to seeing the white paper you’ve pulled together.

In addition to the information I shared over the phone, I think the best way to give you access to the things I’ve come across over the past three and a half years is to point you toward my blog. I’ve identified some of the best posts, series of posts, and categories to start with…

Know any good books on educational gaming? (This includes my recommended reading list):

Videogames in Education: New Reading (This is a recent update to the list above):

My “In A Nutshell” Series (This summarizes the issues in my lit. review. Note that these are in reverse chronological order, so you might start with the first one on March 27, 2007 and work your way forward in time.):

My Dissertation Category (54 posts, including some of my recent frustrations with my school, which you can ignore):

Games in Education Category (445 posts in all):

You’ll find a lot in here to get you started, including the names of many more people you can contact. You’ve definitely caught the vision and it’s exciting to see someone with your formal authority (as a superintendent) interested in changing the system to this degree – or rather, interested in creating a new system. I look forward to keeping in touch and corresponding about these issues and your efforts as we move forward.


Second, please leave a comment if you are interested in being involved in something like this. Are you an educator or game designer interested in seeing a 3D virtual school with the face of a video game? We want to hear from you.

Links for 2008-02-06

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Yes We Can – Barack Obama Music Video

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

YouTube – Yes We Can – Barack Obama Music Video (Via Mike Porcelli.) I’ve opened this video a few times from Twitter links, but at Porch’s urging I finally watched it this morning. I loved it. Vote today if it’s your turn.

UPDATE: I think the following email may be important to pass on here as well, at least for Californians.

Mark —

Californians have reported problems voting as “Decline to State” voters, commonly referred to as “unaffiliated,” “independent” or “non-partisan” voters.

Please read this email for clarification of how “Decline to State” (DTS) voters can vote in today’s election for Barack Obama. Even if you’ve already voted, please make sure this information gets to as many voters as possible.

DTS voters have the right to vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic Presidential Primary.

DTS voters must identify themselves as DTS or non-partisan voters and ask to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary when they arrive at their polling location. They will get instructions from a poll worker on how to vote in the Democratic Primary. If a voter gets into the voting booth and finds that he or she does not have an option to vote for Barack Obama, the voter should not cast his or her ballot. Instead, he or she should return the partially filled-out or unmarked ballot to the poll worker, and ask the poll worker to seek clarification from the supervisor at the polling location or from the County Registrar of Voters.

In Los Angeles County, DTS voters will be given a non-partisan ballot which they must take into a “Democratic” booth. They must mark both the “Democratic” bubble and the bubble for Barack Obama.

If you or anyone you know has any problems voting today, please contact the local County Registrar of Voters or one of our election protection hotlines at:

Los Angeles:

San Francisco/Bay Area:

Oakland/East Bay Area:

San Diego:


Thank you for your support.

Buffy Wicks
California Field Director
Obama for America
P.S. — Please share this information with your friends and family as soon as you can. Help make sure everyone who wants to vote for Barack in California has the opportunity:

Researcher’s Log 2008-02-03

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Today I completed the summaries and emailed the (link to the) final consensus check to all 12 remaining participants. I also looked forward to the confirmability measures I mentioned in the proposal. Some I have covered, such as member-checking, rich thick description, negative or discrepant information, and “prolonged time in the field.” Some I need to look up in order to address them: triangulation and bias clarification. And some I need to recruit help with. For instance, I will need to recruit as many as three peers to serve as a devils advocate for the results, to aid me in a peer debriefing, and to perform an external audit. I have some peers in mind, but am prepared to use as few as one other person for these roles, because I do not expect to find very many peers willing to make the necessary time commitment. I will send out emails to these people next time I work – Wednesday at the latest.

In any case, I will send a reminder to all participants on Wednesday because the final consensus check is due on Friday (the 8th). I plan to complete the final analysis on the 9th and to begin the remaining confirmability measures immediately. I will also begin rewriting chapters 1-3 and drafting the final chapters of the dissertation. I still hope to complete a draft of the dissertation by March 1st.

Of course, all of this is contingent on when Eva has the baby, which is due in two days on the 5th.