Tabula Digita

Tabula Digita (Via Digital Illuminations.) Man! I really missed this at the closing session, which Eva and I did not attend. It did not appear to be a keynote or new content when I read the description in the program. My mistake. We missed Kathy Schrock and apparently we missed this, too:

Those of you at the closing session will remember that they announced that next year at NECC there would be a gaming tournament. They showed a movie previewing the game – one of the taglines was “Learn math or die trying.” It is a very interactive game focusing on algebra. The game is from Tabula Digita called Dimenxian. There is a demo version on their site.

I’ve mentioned Dimenxian here before and included it in my presentation as well. It seems the CEO of Tabula Digital, Ntiedo Etuk, was at NECC also and served as a panelist on a session that I also missed. It’s a big conference.

NECC “Final” Reflections

I’m sure I’ll continue to reflect on this conference, but I wanted to capture a few regrets right off the bat:

I got to have a conversation with Steve Dembo when I ran into him (with Jannita Demian) at the student showcase, but wish I would’ve had another chance to chat with him. In fact, I missed the Discovery booth altogether and wish I would’ve connected with the Discovery Educators a bit more in general. I only said hi to Hall Davidson in passing, too. Luckily I’ll see Steve and Jannita soon at the OCDE Blogging Institute, and as I understand it they are organizing some Discovery events for after. (By the way, click on the link to learn about the institute and to sign up… there’s still seats available! Guest speakers will include Steve [face to face], Will Richardson [via skype], and practicing teachers from Orange County who are using read/write web technologies in their classes!) I hope to develop a stronger connection to the Discovery community of enthusiastic educators.

I also regret not spending more time at the Apple booth! I got to see Robert Craven and Ted Lai a few times, but missed Jason Ediger the one time I went looking for him. I saw Kathy Shirley upstairs at the $100 laptop booth, but was being too introverted at the time to really connect with her. Thanks for coming over to say hi though, Kathy! I didn’t get to connect with any of the other SEs or ADEs whose company I’ve enjoyed over the years, and I didn’t meet anyone new at Apple. That’s something of a travesty at an event like NECC.

I had also told Jason I’d be podcasting in this feed, but the tools I had available lent themselves to blogging (and photoblogging and moblogging)… and, really, as comfortable as I am with performance (and despite my background in it), I think I communicate even more naturally as a writer (and I certainly have even more experience in writing). Ultimately, though, I’m sorry I didn’t branch out and do a podcast for the event, especially after going to all the trouble last weekend to make this feed iTunes compliant. Thanks, Jason, in any case, for helping me out with that and spurring me on to it. (Oh! I just discovered all the NECC content in iTunes! This conference isn’t over yet!)

I am sorry I missed the CUE Social. I think I should always rank social gatherings (and networking opportunities) ahead of session content at conferences. It is always the conversations I get the most out of, not the presentations.

Also, my own presentation was almost entirely one-way. I need to find a way to incorporate two-way teaching even into my conference presentations… at least then I’ll be able to legitimately complain about “sit and git” sessions. (Naturally, I also wish I had gone early to my preso, so I wouldn’t have been late.)

And of course, I need to find a better way to balance blogging and attending the conference. This is the most coverage I’d gotten up (I felt somewhat obliged since I was on the list of NECC bloggers), but it also kept me occupied for large chunks of time at the conference. At least using my new Treo was a blast… and actually limited the length of some of my posts. I imagine we’re all working on this one.

Finally, I went with the goal of trying to sus out the next big thing. Where do we go from here? What do I need to prepare for? (I really see my job as having to stay ahead of the teachers in order to help them make the frequent transitions demanded by today’s world – and those that will now benefit their students.) I know we have our work cut out for us spreading the word about the read/write web and helping teachers and students put it to good use, and I know we’re only at the very beginning of seeing video games and simulations in the classroom, but I am presuming there is something coming that I’m missing right now – and I didn’t find it at NECC. I know Robert Craven and I felt we didn’t see anything new at NECC, and even Stacy Deeble-Reynolds felt the same way after only a year and a half working in a department with Robert and I. (I’m presuming our other teammate, Mike Guerena, who unfortunately I never even ran into, felt the same way… he may have been at least as interested in the World Cup as the conference.) It seems Jeff Utecht also didn’t find what he was looking for, though I think I need to respond to his criticism of the constructivist sessions. :)

I also wish I had spent more time in the vendor exhibit hall. Perhaps then I would have found more new things, however commercial and incremental. What I did, see, though, fit well within my paradigm and understanding of educational technology. I suppose that’s good and ok for a professional educational technologist, though, eh? (Also, I really wish I had made time to see the US Department of Ed’s School 2.0 presentation. I wonder if that’s online anywhere… a quick search didn’t turn it up.)

In any case, the conference really was a great learning experience for me (especially professionally), and was inspirational in many ways. I am particularly inspired to become more involved in ISTE and to play a bigger role as a content producer next year. I will submit several more sessions – and they’ll be interactive. And, I’ll work out a system for blogging and podcasting efficiently before I go. Hey… I already can’t wait.

For now, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of the conference.

Now I have some more writing to do for my new business, and I have a ton of reading to do for my studies at Walden. I hope to continue blogging regularly now that I’m done at the OCDE on a daily basis, but you can expect me to slow back down a little bit. :)

In the meantime, I’m off to the gym. I’m craving exercise after a week on the road!


After lunch yesterday I followed David Warlick into a unique sort of session… the LOL @ NECC session. This was a series of humorous presentations by Saul Rockman, Michael Jay, Heidi Rogers, and Elliot Solloway. I was familiar with Solloway after my days managing handhelds for N-MUSD’s EETT grant, but the others were new to me, and as I spent much of the session listening as I blogged, I’m afraid I can’t give proper attribution or a proper write up of the session. I can say that at one point they had us wearing 3D Glasses (pictured) as we looked at assessment data and watched phrases such as “no test left behind” jump out at us. :)

It was nice to attend a mood lightening session at the end of the conference. I also appreciated the perspective offered by a conversation I had in the Sails Pavilion with a delightful young teacher-in-training from New Mexico (Brandy, I think), who was at the conference with her mother, a teacher showcasing at a poster session. It’s a very human endeavor we undertake – whole families join in, mine included (both my mother and Eva’s are teachers). I was also reminded just how important it is to meet people where they are. As this teacher-to-be was looking ahead to her future classroom, it seemed out of place for me to launch into an impassioned speech about the read-write web or video games in education… although I did explain that I was blogging the conference as I typed while we chatted. ;)

EdBlogger Meet Up

The EdBlogger Meet Up at NECC was a success – and a blast. I think thanks go to Will Richardson for posting the idea, David Jakes for suggesting the location, Steve Hargadon for creating the wiki (and the support blogging buttons – here’s mine), and all the participants for using the wiki and, well, participating.

I got to meet and talk with a lot of people I’d been wanting to meet face-to-face for sometime, including Will Richardson, David Warlick, and Adam Frey (of wikispaces). (This picture is Adam, Will, and I). I also got to meet David Jakes, Jeff Utech, Janice Stearns (from LAUSD), and many many others. (Here’s an image of Warlick standing behind Janice, Jakes, and Jeff – Warlick was taking pictures, too – with the coolest phone I’ve ever seen).

It’s funny. I left my bag at the hotel when I walked there and forgot to reload my business card holder before leaving. I was bummed I wouldn’t be able to hand out my new cards, but in the end I’m bummed I didn’t get to trade with people and bring home a stack of cards as reminders of everyone I met… and their blog address. I hope they all add their links to the wiki.

Here is an OPML file of everyone who has added their link so far (I’ll update this as time goes by – I’m subscribed to the changes at the wiki):

EdBloggerMeetUp.opml (UPDATED: 07/09/06 9:09am)

My OCDE colleagues Ranjit Mayadas and Stacy Deeble-Reynolds crashed the party. They’re not blogging (yet), but it was great to see them. (See Ranjit, and many edbloggers in this image.) Also, I was glad to see Courtney Peagler again before she left the conference. Now that we’re linking to her, she’ll have to start blogging again. ;)

The next morning Will called this the largest meet up of educational bloggers ever. I’m glad I was there. The conversations that happened there – and the connections made – were among the highlights of the conference for me. Perhaps the best thing to come out of it was the suggestion (in the comments of Will’s post) that we organize an edblogger conference. I suggested something similar (including elements of Dave Winer’s Hypercamp concept) a few months ago, but timing wasn’t right, as everyone was hard at work trying to get the online conference rolling. I’m sure it will be some time yet before we’re all ready, but I’m looking forward to it and am ready to contribute when the time comes.

Meanwhile, we’ve got our work cut out for us…

Thank you to everyone who was there for a fun evening.

Games and Simulations (Birds of a Feather)

Unfortunately I don’t have an image for this gathering of forward looking minds at NECC. Also unfortunately, it seems this BOF session was considerably smaller than last year. The organizers, Greg Jones and David Gibson (of simSchool and the Global Challenge Award), had planned to discuss starting a new NECC SIG this year, but scrapped that from the agenda given the small turnout. Still, this was a dozen people with amazing stories in one room to talk about the future of games and simulations in education.

David Gibson mentioned an upcoming book on Games and Simulations and Online Learning, a collection of research that he edited with Marc Prensky and Clark Aldrich. I’m definitely looking forward to that. David is also especially interested in unobtrusive assessment, which sounds like a good way to approach assessment, whether in a game or a traditional classroom. We also discussed a paper Greg had written. Other names that came up throughout the session included Chris Dede at Harvard, Saha Barab at Indiana University, Eric Klopfer at MIT, and Ron Stevens at UCLA.

We discussed serious games to some degree and had a good discussion about the challenges of development. We spent a lot of time talking about the issues related to having students and teachers design their own games, and covered modding (including Neverwinternights and MIT’s Revolution Mod). Someone also mentioned a program called car2ouche for programming games. There was also a suggestion to use Agent Sheets to do spread sheet simulations, or else something called Squeek.

One lady was running a STAR schools grants which focused on gaming – mostly on handhelds. I’ll keep my eye on those grants. There was some discussion of games for at risk math students, and then talk of a korean pda that differentiates content for kids based on their learning styles. They always have the option of choosing their preferred style, or the styles other people are choosing.

We got to the point where we recognized that this is a broad topic… and we questioned how to we help teachers get started. I suggested that a wiki aimed at an audience of teachers might not be a bad idea. Perhaps a beginners list-serv would help, too… something like what Steve Hargadon is doing for teachers beginning with Open Source.

The topic of aligning with state assessments came up, as did the question, “can we ignore assessment?”

I’m not sure the relevance, but I made a note regarding the shodor foundation, which teaches computational science, and their program, stella.

The end of the session was dominated by a participant (and educational game developer) from Taiwan I think. It sounded like he was doing some great extracurricular stuff with students there, but I think we were all biting our tongues at times (and I wondered if he knew where he was) because he kept saying over and over that we shouldn’t spend money on computers in schools – that schools were fine and we should leave them alone. You don’t hear that very often, particularly not in the largest gathering of educational technologists on the planet.

Sadly, though I thought I could catch the end of the CUE reception after this, I pretty much missed the whole thing, including all of the announcements. In retrospect, I think this was shortsighted in terms of the missed networking opportunity, which was not outweighed by the quality of discussion at the BOF session. Still, I’m glad I got to meet David and Greg and some of the others there – and got to see some new familiar faces.

Will Richardson’s Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything

Again, here’s a grainy photo from my Treo. At least it gives a visual to this post. You can see the back of Steve Glyer’s head well, too. In general, it was good to see some familiar faces here. :)

I’ve got a lot out of Will’s blog (and his book), so I wasn’t sure I’d hear anything new in his presentation… but he exceeded my expectations. The presentation slides were simply white text on a black background, but he included lots of audio, video, and live trips to the web – and he’s a dynamic (and funny) presenter.

The first surprise of the afternoon, though, was when he asked how many people were blogging the session. There was nearly 30 people raising their hands, myself included of course. Later in the session nearly everyone (close to 300 people I’d estimate from the room capacity) raised their hands! Not surprisingly, only about 10 people said they had MySpace accounts, although Will later shared that there were some conflicting – higher – estimates of this number.

He began the presentation with a humorous overview of the one red paperclip blog. Following this, he showed an anime version of the old Apple “switch” add with college student Ellen Fleiss.

Then he shared a variety of staggering web statistics, you know the kind about how many blog posts per second occur around the world and how many new MySpace accounts per day and so forth. He cited a figure claiming that there are now 69,000 educational blogs – up from about 7 when he started blogging. He also shared that there are 25+ million kids creating online. (Incidentally, I’d call that an educational success of our society whether or not the schools had anything to do with it! And they did, of course, they got us here. We just need schools now for the next step.) There was a great Tim O’Reilly quote about the Web 2.0 being a real turning point in human history. He peppered his presentation with impactful quotes from others, including Lawrence Lessig, Thomas Friedman (who called us uploaders), and Stephen Downes.

His point in sharing these statistics and quotes with us was the suggestion that for educators this should change our thinking about what happens in education.

Next he showed off some student created work. Several years ago thirteen year old podcaster Matthew bischoff was empowered to “broadcast” from his bedroom, and he is still teaching us. Will shared a school homepage created entirely by students (Hallelujia!), and he shared more of Darren Kuropatwa’s work with his math students.

Will point was that it’s not about the technology anymore, it’s about imagination – and this means big changes for schools. He listed several…

1. The web changes schools: He contrasted an old picture of desks in rows with the MIT OpenCourseware site. He said that his classroom is anywhere he has access to the internet. I feel the same way. The ethics of schooling are shifting (or should) from “do your own work” to “work with others.”

2. The web changes texts: He showed off the South african curriculum wiki and wikibooks. He even showed the recent changes. This is good for people trying to grasp wikis. He tied this to the “rip, mix, and learn” philosophy.

3. The web changes teaching: He sees teachers as connectors. He showed off his students’ Secret Life of Bees Blog on Google. He talked about connecting a student with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Scott Higham example, too… these were both familiar from the weblogs in ed video on his site. Will suggested that “teachers need to get out of the way sometimes.”

4. The web changes learning: He’s learned more from blogging than from any other educational experience… It’s been transformative. He proud of being a blogger now – rather than slightly ashamed. He mentioned the ideas of ubiquitous learning, or u-learning, or what Friedman calls being pervasively proximate. Most importantly, the learner decides what, when, where and how she learns… we’ve moved from just in case learning to just in time learning. He also called it nomadic learning. He shared a downes quote that suggested we now have “learning networks based on meaning not proximity.” Will then shared 43 Things and discussed learning as social process. He noted all the social networks in Wikipedia and that there are now 89 million accounts on My Space. He pointed out Digg, where the readers decide what’s important, and then ended by sharing the concept of Folksonomies.

5. The Web changes curriculum: At the very least, Kids can teach. Will shared a Videocast from alaska, the educational podcasts in iTunes, and a reenactment of Othello done in World of Warcraft. (Machinama!)

6. The Web Changes Literacy: He explained that text used to be valued as contqiners – and is now valued for links.

7. The web changes computing: He noted the rise in web-based applications.

Will ended his presentation with a series of questions… and challenges.

Some Questions:

To what extent do these changes demand we change curriculum?

What needs to change?

How does a teacher’s roll change?

How do we define literacy?

Some Challenges:

MySpace: He shared more statistics, and then said that we as educators need to have accounts. He demoed some content on My Space (I agree with others, btw, that these are particularly ugly web pages), and he lamented that “Old Spice” can be your friend on My Space. He worries about his daughter’s future in this society and emphasises that we need to teach My Space – and that it can be a vehicle for teaching things we find it difficult to teach in schools.

Change: During this discussion he included more statistics on the perceived importance of school (it’s dropping), and drop outs (they’re increasing). He directed us to go downstairs and check out the School 2.0 concept from the US Department of Education. I regret that I didn’t get to do this.

Control Issues: Right now we take away their learning tools at the door… and we risk irrellevance.

Will also mentioned his talking to 49 sups post and the comments it received. The one comment he read to us was beautiful… poetry. I wish I could find it again.

Finally, he concluded with a call for us to “Be imaginative” and a question to us: “What’s your paperclip?”

Despite the length of the post I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. You’ll just have to go see Will speak when you get the chance. Also, I know I could’ve included many more links, but I need to limit the time I spend on each post. Too bad I can’t make individual posts editable like a wiki. Man, I’d love that feature!

Video Games in Education Round Table

I attended the Overview of Educational Roles of Computer Games academic paper roundtable yesterday. It was well attended, as you can see. By the time I got there the table was full and I grabbed a chair from the other table in the room (unfortunately nobody showed up for that discussion and eventually the presenter left… and soon we had all her chairs). There are many people sitting behind me in this picture, and soon others filled in behind those you see here. (Yes, that’s Stacy Deeble-Reynolds and Ranjit Mayadas in the foreground – well, the backs of their heads anyway.)

The session wound up being structured around introductions, as the facilitator, Dr. David Moursund, interjected comments about each person’s interests. Some interesting things were covered. A paradox that came up early is the suggestion that tricking kids into learning (by using a video game) is not ideal, particularly when it comes to helping them develop higher order thinking skills, metacognition, and awareness of their own learning. However, students resist anything that is explicitly educational, even video games. I’ve seen this, too, and don’t know the answer. I think it may just be that an educational game will at least be better than an educational lecture. :)

There was consensus at least, that relying on extrinsic motivation was not ideal.

We also discussed the conflict between wanting each person to discover things that are important to them (part of what I mean when I talk about opportunities for inquiry) and wanting them to learn the things society expects (read, at least in California, as “the standards”).

There was some discussion of what makes a game educational. Moursund said that a good educational game should help kids learn about their learning, and he said even a game like Monopoly could do this. Several people concluded that the difference between an educational experience and simple game playing is the teacher. I suggested that it the learner is the first important factor, and if the learner isn’t able to make the leap from the game to thinking about their own learning, it then depends on the teacher. James Paul Gee, for instance, needs no teacher to find educational value in a commercial entertainment game. However, I’ve talked to students about some of the same games Gee writes about, and usually they don’t believe they are learning anything useful from the games. It may be that creating environments where students write about their game playing and their learning might support this kind of thinking. It also occurred to me that in the case of a player who can’t extract meaning on their own, and who doesn’t have a teacher, the games must help scaffold this process for them.

We touched on the importance of games literacy for teachers. Others also mentioned project based and problem based learning, and the importance of individualizing instruction – even in games.

There was also discussion about creating communities with games, and among instructors who use games. I was hoping we’d start a mailing list or something by the end, but the group disintegrated quickly. Still, I got to hear a lot of interesting people introduce themselves and their projects. I also had a few good conversations at the end of the session. I was particularly happy to meet Courtney Peagler, who is working on a curriculum to teach educators about using games with their students, and who it turned out was also attending Will Richardson’s read/write web presentation in the next hour. (My post on that is coming.) It’s always great to meet someone who has similar passions.

In general, this round table session was much more interactive than most. In fact, it felt a lot more like an event at a residency with Walden University than a conference event. However, this was a surprisingly contentious group, and unfortunately I found Dr. Moursund a bit too… professorial. At first I saw his interruptions as good facilitation, but in the end I wish I would’ve heard the others speak more. The conversations here have been the most valuable for me. I do have to thank Dr. Moursund, though for hosting this round table, and for sharing his writing – and sources – with us. He pointed out a few to me in particular that I expect will be useful.

and Life: A Pre-Presentation Morning

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. ;)

Context, Inquiry, and Collaboration: Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments

This morning I am presenting Context, Inquiry, and Collaboration: Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments at NECC in room SDCC 8 at 10am. If you are at the conference I hope you’ll come by. If you’re not here, I hope you’ll check out the slides below. In either case I hope these will serve as a useful reference for you as you explore this topic.

>Below is a link to the presentation in PDF format (Warning: 61.8 MB file – I’ll post a smaller one as soon as I can. It kept freezing as I tried to print to pdf this evening. Grr.):


I’ve also been inspired to begin a video games in education wiki to serve as an evolving resource for educators interested in this topic. I simply created the space, and need to return to it after the conference to add the content from my presentation. Meanwhile, feel free to contribute or discuss there:

If you attend the session, please leave a comment below, or link to this post from your own blog so I get the trackback. :)

UPDATE: The session was a blast. Though I was a couple minutes late (which was entirely my fault – and entirely embarrassing*) the opening anecdotes seemed to really warm up the crowd, and judging from the amount of interest and interesting discussions I had afterwards, it was a success. I particularly appreciated the “will you write an article for us” and “will you speak at our conference” type questions, but the winner for best question goes to Jeff Halstead from Spokane, WA, who asked me to say (in five minutes or less) what I would do to change a high school. Wow. I need a matchbox answer to that. I alternated between not knowing what to say and then wanting to go into what a challenging process it would be and how we would need to know the goals of the school and the interests of the stakeholders and PLCs and so on.

I still feel I probably tried to include too much (and I had to skip the new section on what kind of organizational change would be necessary for games to work in schools), but I’m glad I was getting the word out and asking a room full of teachers, technology coordinators, and administrators to consider the potential of games and simulations in the classroom.

*At least I could blame my out of sorts behavior on having my car wrecked by a valet that morning. But, too, I was happily distracted by conversations with Will Richardson, Robert Craven, Ted Lai, and a teacher from Australia whose name I didn’t catch – she had a unique perspective on the Nicholas Negropante keynote; she was concerned (and upset, I think) that he was not considering the poor of the south pacific. Thank you to Eva and Jenith (and others I think) who made sure I actually showed up in time! For some reason I was temporarily under the impression that I was speaking at 10:30! Sheesh!

UPDATE 2: Here are some links to posts about this session. I’ll add more as I discover them. Thanks to everyone who took notes or wrote about the session. :)

Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments-Mark Wagner (Via The Thinking Stick.)

NECC 2006 : Context, Inquiry, and Collaboration: Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments (Via C.)

Video Games as Constructionist Learning Environments (Via Bethany’s Education Blog.)

NECC: Video Games as Constructivist Learning Environments (Via pondering.)

21st Century Collaborative: Gaming in Education (Via 21st Century Collaborative.)

UPDATE 3: Thanks to Debbie Ferguson for sending me this picture (above) of me talking to folks following my presentation.

Posts to Come – Preso at 10am

I was snapping pics and moblogging all afternoon, but the sessions were so engaging, and my time between sessions so packed with conversation (mission accomplished from my resolution last night!) that I haven’t had time to finish anything and upload it. I have four more posts on the way, though, including one about the ed blogger meet up early this evening – or, well, yesterday at this point.

Meanwhile, following the meet up, I’ve spent some time making changes to my presentation for tomorrow. Basically, I’ll be trying to squeeze in more information than I ever have before. I hope that works out. :) I figure it’s an awareness piece for this crowd so the more leads and links I can leave them with the better. My next post will be my presentation, so the others won’t appear until after 11am tomorrow, when I am done speaking.

I have kept up on conference feeds though, and I have to say hats off to all of you who have continued blogging and posting images consistently throughout the conference. This “extended” conference experience has been a blast.