Archive for May, 2008

Dissertation: MMORPGs in Education

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

I’ve shared this news in many ways over the last few weeks, but I don’t believe it’s appeared on this blog yet: I’m done with my Ph.D!

On May 8th, 2008 the chief academic officer approved my dissertation. The spring quarter ended (and my degree was conferred) this past Sunday, May 25th. The commencement is July 26th in Minneapolis should I choose to attend, but I’m already sensing the relief as I can now focus on my work – and enjoy weekends off for the first time in nearly five years.

However, I’m online and writing this right now because I owe something to all of the people who participated in, and contributed to, my study… I need to share the results. So, I’ve created a page dedicated to this research (you’ll also find an easily accessible link in the sidebar of this blog for when this post is long lost to the archives):

Dissertation: MMORPGs in Education

My research focused on video games and learning in general, and my study specifically explored the potential benefits and drawbacks of using Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games as constructivist learning environments. The Delphi study was a survey of expert opinion meant to generate consensus around certain predictions. In the end, it seems the games hold a great deal of promise as educational environments, but there are many logistical and cultural challenges to implementation in formal K-12 education.

I know it’s only a small contribution to the literature, but I’m proud of my contribution and the way it was executed. I hope that this study might help other researchers, educators, and game developers when the time is right.In the meantime, feel free to check it out if you are interested. I’m always interested in comments or feedback on my research – especially while it’s still fresh in my mind. ;)

Last Day to Apply: Google Teacher Academy

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Today is the last day to apply for the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, Ca coming up on June 25:

The Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, Academy participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region. More…

Full Disclosure: I work as a consultant for CUE, a non-profit organization which is hired by Google to produce and coordinate the Google Teacher Academy. However, no one asked me (or paid me specifically) to post this. I just think it’s one of the most exciting projects I’m associated with, and I look forward to seeing the best possible applicants at the event. :)

Links for 2008-05-24

Saturday, May 24th, 2008
  • Immune Attack » Home
    Here’s another new serious game: Immune Attack is an educational video game that introduces basic concepts of human immunology to high school and entry-level college students. Thanks, Clarence Fisher for the tweet.
    (tags: edugames seriousgames gamesforhealth)

Reaction to Candidates Education Policies

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I started blogging in part as an effort to share the things I was already writing for work and for school. For two years this meant I often was posting to my blog responses I had written for the my class discussion forums as part of my already underway Ph.D. program. Then I was done with classes and spent the next two years completing KAMs and working on my dissertation. For the last year or so, though, the University has created online “classes” for students with the same mentor. There are very few discussion requirements in these “research forums” but one of the last things I needed to finish this quarter was a response to the following question… and since it’s relevant to what I discuss on this blog – and to politics in this country in general – I thought I’d share it here.

The Prompt:

I was once told that two things that are never discussed in a bar are religion and politics. Since we are not in a bar (at least I hope we aren’t…who knows what goes on in e-learning behind closed doors…lol), we are going to venture into politics this month. Review the educational stance of each candidate (McCain, Obama, and Clinton), especially any positions taken on NCLB, and discuss. I stress discuss, be objective and gentle. No flaming and no arguments. I don’t want to know who you are for, just want you to discuss the issues, something that it seems no candidate is very good at nowadays. Enjoy!

My Response:

Hi, all. I’m coming a bit late to the party, but here’s my two cents as an educational technologist. I’ve focused my response solely on the positions stated on the candidates web sites, thus giving them the benefit of judging them by the message they want to be judged by.

I suppose it will come as no surprise to any of you that I found McCain’s position to be the least robust. He supports “excellence, choice, and competition.” Sadly, other than a nod to equity, his position doesn’t address excellence. Five of the eight paragraphs in his position address choice and competition, which go hand in hand for him. It’s clear he supports changes that will make it possible for parents to choose the school their child attends and for schools to compete for parents’ “business.” I suppose some sort of voucher system might make this possible, but his site does not address the specifics. Also, from my perspective, the issues I would care about are not addressed at all. There is no discussion of preparing our students for the 21st Century, of innovative teaching, or of educational technology in any form.

Clinton’s position focuses on “improving our schools.” She provides much more detail on her background, especially with respect to handicapped education and after school programs. Regarding K-12 education, she plans to end NCLB (a stance that ought to be popular with educators if my experience is any guide). Other policies that caught my eye were her positions on creating “green” schools, multiple pathways to graduation, additional after-school programs, and opportunities for internships or job programs. These strike me as plans that might include some innovative teaching or educational technology, but sadly these things are missing from her position as well.

Obama’s position focuses on “a world class education.” (Personally, I find this phrase tired – and can’t help wondering what it means to the people that use it.) He hopes to reform and fully fund NCLB. His reforms would include new types of assessments (he suggests that teaching to standardized tests isn’t working) and solutions that would support rather than punish struggling schools. He explicitly supports math and science education, but I suspect that isn’t nearly as important as teaching more right-brained skills to our students at this point. He also supports additional after-school and summer learning programs, which again might support more innovative teaching or educational technology. Regarding teachers, Obama describes plans to recruit, prepare, retain, and reward teachers. Again, the issues I am most interested in are absent from the message he puts forth on his web site.

However, unlike the other candidates, Obama also includes a link to more details, a 15 page PDF expanding on the plans he describes on his site. In this, it is clear that some innovative teaching and learning – and some educational technology – plays a role in his plan. For instance, this excerpt struck me as important:

“This [plan for reforming NCLB by improving assessments] include(s) funds for states to implement a broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present and defend their ideas. These assessments will provide immediate feedback so that teachers can begin improving student learning right away.”

Though I’d rather see him start from scratch with NCLB, this strikes me as the most substantial and attractive thing I saw on any of these sites. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of his more detailed plan, technology only appears in his discussions of math and science education. Given his general message of hope and change, I would like to see more of each in his education policy. The focus on STEM education is primarily a fear based response to changes in the world. I would rather see a candidate put forth an education policy that strongly advocates major changes in education, including a focus on creating a creative and empowered population of life long learners. But what I would like to see would be a different (and longer) post altogether. ;)

Ultimately, I think the sad truth is that all of these candidates are far removed from the realities of the classroom – and even further removed from the sort of best practice that is supported by research and by the innovations of our colleagues in the field of educational technology.

I also recognize that politics can be a touchy subject, but at this point I’d love to hear responses from any of you as well – I imagine most of you have also given this a lot of though, perhaps even considerably more than I have. And, as my classmate’s responses revealed there is a lot more available regarding the candidates positions than is shared on their websites, and I’d be grateful for anything you all can share here.

Links for 2008-05-22

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Learning to Network and Networking to Learn

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Today was Day 2 of the Technology Conference for Administrators at Tenaya Lodge just outside Yosemite. I presented Learning to Network and Networking to Learn as the second of two keynotes (the first was Chris Walsh’s Learning Everywhere All The Time). A few things about this experience are worth sharing here.

First of all, of course, I want to share the workshop wiki for Learning to Network and Networking to Learn, which include the slides, outline, and links to all the examples I mentioned – or planned to mention. ;)

Though the examples shared include many read/write web tools (such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, social networking, twitter and more), this workshop focuses on moving “beyond the tools” to look at what it means to create and participate in an online Personal Learning Network (PLN). So I thought it appropriate to include people from my PLN in the presentation. The slides were presented through Google Docs, so a related sidebar discussion did crop up. Happily it also included a surprising number of people who were in the room with their own laptops. If you look at the presentation you’ll also see I included very small text in the lower left corner of each slide meant to help the online visitors participate in and contribute to the presentation. (This is an idea I believe I picked up from Jen Jones.) However, this only works synchronously… people had to be available at the time I was presenting to take part.

So, the night before I added a discussion question to the wiki and posted an invitation to twitter asking people to share their stories about the impact of their PLN. The responses were rich and provided another means for the participants to continue their learning after the presentation. This is actually the biggest “take away” I have from this event in terms of something new that worked. In any case, the invitation to share still stands. I’d love to pass on your stories to future workshop participants (or even those from today who return to the wiki).

I had tested ustream just prior to the presentation and hoped to set it up at the beginning, but things were two well choreographed to allow that. The program was running behind and my introduction was smooth, so I didn’t take the time to setup the recording at the podium. However, with about 20 minutes to go in the presentation it came time to talk about ustream, so I went ahead and fired it up. Shortly after I hit record and at least captured the last few minutes of the presentation. I’ve often resisted ustreaming my presentations because it seems to take away from my focus on the participants in the room – and because it can put the face-to-face participants “on the spot” and actually reduce participation. In this case it seemed to go over well, though, and I’d like to try to find more ways to bring it into a session in a way that contributes value, not just wow factor.

When I remember not to shut the window, I’ve also taken to using Jing to capture a screencast of the sidebar conversations in these events (after the fact). I simply scroll through the conversation (quickly) and record it for review later. Here are two examples that captured some of the “backchannel chat” happening today: Google Docs Chat & Ustream Chat. (I think I lost some of the ustream chat and perhaps some of the Google chat by closing the windows at one point, though.)

Now that I’m sharing these, I wish I’d be better about capturing everything… and about following along with the chat and encouraging them to answer the questions and contribute. This is something else I’ve found – that unless I recruit someone else to moderate the conversation it tends to drift away from the presentation. ;)

The last thing I want to share is a compliment/criticism I received at the end of the day. One participant, a principal I believe, came up to tell me that he was more engaged in my keynote than any other session at the conference, primarily because the back channel chat allowed him to interact with some of the others in the room and from around the world. This was fantastic! But, he was telling me this after also participating in my Two-Way Teaching with the Two-Way Web breakout session in the afternoon, which wound up focusing on blogs and wikis. This session was more about how to use the tools and it included more educational examples – and more opportunities to ask questions – so it was fairly interactive (and practical) for a one hour breakout. However, he said that even though this session was “every bit as important” it was less engaging… because I didn’t include the back channel chat and online participation. For me, it was an awesome illustration of the truth of what “we” back channel chat and learn-by-doing advocates preach – and a reminder that I need to always put my best practices into play, not just when I’m modeling them.

I may know something about “Networking to Learn” now, but I’m definitely still sorting out this “Networking to Teach” business. Still, today seemed like a good day and the things I’ve shared here are bits I can build on for the future.

Seven Recent Workshop Wikis

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Here’s a few of the workshop wikis I’ve used recently, which I thought might be worth sharing here.

Intro to Tablet PC – This is the latest version of my Intro to Tablet PC workshop. We had to do this in three hours, though, and only got through the Education Pack and Experience Pack.

Tablet Sharing – This page is for Tech Lead Teachers who meet every other month as part of a Tablet PC Pilot project. This included my previous sketchcasting workshop and then some. There’s a few more example sketchcasts in this outline. We also covered Jing… and because there was time left I showed them a document camera and then ZiPhone – and how to jailbreak their iPhones. :)

Document Camera Workshop – This is a new workshop for me and it went well. The wiki isn’t terribly rich yet, but it provides a structure for training teachers of various levels how to use a document camera in the classroom and includes links to several quality resources for additional ideas and inspiration.

Projector Workshop – CUE does projector workshops from time to time (either 3 or 6 hour versions) and I used to wonder how on Earth that time was filled, even though I understood it was more about how to teach with a projector rather than how to use a projector. This wiki represents my first go at running a projector workshop myself. It was 90 minutes of interactive demo followed by 90 minutes of practice time where teachers got to team up and work on the things they most wanted to try. It went well for me, and there are lots of links on this wiki for anyone else attempting something similar.

Google in Education – This is the outline of my short Google Workshop, which is largely delivered as a demo that the participants can follow along with hands-on. I most recently delivered this to teachers in Redondo Beach, and wished I could do all three days of the Search, Learn, Share training below.

Search, Learn, Share – This wiki was originally created by Chris Walsh and I to support a workshop based on the original Google Teacher Academy. I recently expanded it into three half-day Saturday workshops for private schools, which you can access in the sidebar. I’m very happy with how this worked out, and think there’s enough structure here for other professional developers to put it to use without much work.

Images, Impact, and Interaction – This is another new workshop for me… rather than how to use Powerpoint, this is how to design better presentations, with a focus on creating interactive experiences for the students. It went well, and again there are plenty of links to good resources here.

I’d love any feedback you might have on any of these workshop wikis. And, of course, feel free to contribute to them or put them to use, as long as you respect the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. ;)

UPDATE: See my Workshops page for a more complete list of workshops. Most are wikis, and several are newly updated.

Links for 2008-05-09

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Link: What is Big Tree Learning?

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

What is Big Tree Learning? My friend and colleague, Chris Walsh, father of the Google Teacher Academy, has a new venture. Big Tree Learning is an online education company helping high school students succeed in school and be better prepared for college. You can get involved this summer as a Teaching Fellow (or “Rock Star Teacher”) helping to develop curriculum with them in San Francisco. Cool name for a learning company, too, eh?

Links for 2008-05-08

Thursday, May 8th, 2008