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Posts Tagged ‘education’

  1. Back on the Cool Teacher Podcast

    May 16, 2013 by Josh Caldwell

    Looks like I missed the memo, but the second part of my Cool Teacher Podcast interview with Chris Haskell went up a few weeks ago. Check out our discussion on the first steps for teachers interested in classroom gaming.

  2. Why Gaming Part 1: When Students Rewrite the Rules

    March 2, 2013 by Josh Caldwell

    Rules, Rules, Rules

    I love getting the chance to chat with like-minded educators at conferences, and since I left NCCE last week I’ve been processing all of the great discussions and ideas. At the conference I presented about some of the classroom gaming I’ve been doing, but I also got so see a few other presentations on similar topics. It’s clear to me from the discussions I had after these sessions that the concept of gaming in education makes sense to a lot of educators, but often the parallels between gaming and learning are not immediately obvious, particularly when trying to make the argument for classroom gaming to school leadership. To help other educators understand and articulate the value of gaming in the classroom (both through gamification and playing games) I thought I’d write a few articles to focus on some specific benefits of gaming. My hope is that you can use these as discussion starters in your schools and districts to help get the gaming ball rolling. Given my track record of updates to this blog (read: I’m bad at updates), I don’t know how many of these I’ll do. Baby steps.

    Rules Are Fun!

    One of the prime reasons that we play and enjoy games is the constraints of their structured rules. It may seem counterintuitive to say that rules are fun, but rules provide players a framework within which they can strive for success. No rules means there’s nothing to challenge your progress. No challenge means no sense of achievement. In other words, we need rules and constraints for our successes to have any meaning. So why do the rules of a game produce an enjoyable and engaging experience that encourages progress, while the rules of school often produce a de-motivational experience that shuts down student progress? It all comes down to the perceived potential for success.


  3. Common Core State Standards at ASCD

    July 7, 2011 by David

    Although not an advertised topic for the ASCD Summer Conference, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) seemed to be a part of most of the sessions I visited. And for good reason: 43 states and DC have fully adopted them and are already working on a cross-walk from their current state standards to the Common Core. Oh, and by the 2014-15 school year there will be assessments created by two state consortia that will evaluate student progress on these new standards. I am disappointed that the state I taught in, Washington, has only provisionally adopted them pending the state legislature giving the final OK. The State’s lack in embracing the CCSS was part of the reason their application for the Race to the Top grant didn’t go very far, not to mention that delaying will only mean less time to get ready for those assessments and more educators feeling rushed to align their curriculum, not to mention simply become introduced to the standards and fully understand them. Heidi Hayes Jacobs put it this way: “Good information lowers anxiety. Lack of information causes it.”

    The speakers at the conference all recognized that the CCSS are the new reality but to a one, they emphasized the importance of really reading the standards, really understanding them, but cautioning that the goal is not to meet the Common Core Standards but to meet the standards along the way.

    Here are some of my favorite anecdotes about this idea:

    • Standards, or the CCSS, are like building codes: The ultimate goal is not to meet them. You don’t say, “I’m going to build a house to code!” That’s understood and says nothing about the design of the house.
    • When building a house you don’t make the blueprint up along the way. In other words, you still have to have a plan, or a goal. The standards inform this goal but don’t dictate it.
    • Content acquisition is the means, not the end.
    • Standards are the design considerations.

    Another theme that came up again and again was what some speakers called “unwrapping” or “unpacking” the CCSS. This close and careful reading of the standards has to do with taking an individual standard or anchors and pick out the verbs, nouns and noun phrases, and key qualifiers and determining their meaning local curriculum, instruction and assessment.

    For example, CCSS RI.8.9 says:

    Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.

    Paying attention to the important parts of speech you get:

    Analyze conflicting information and identify disagree(ment).

    As an English Language Arts teacher, or a teacher who expected the students to read in their class (hint: that’s everyone), it is also important to understand how this particular standard has increased in sophistication from, say 6th grade:

    Compare and contrast one author’s presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person).

    Furthermore, both of these standards are the grade level equivalent of the overall anchor (#9, in this case), or what the students should be able to do by the end of the year:

    Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

    Overall I am very happy that this educational movement for common standards is here and pleased that those advocating for it are reminding everyone that they are not the end goal, they are student learning and deep understanding. Which leads me to my next topic, Understanding by Design …

  4. ASCD Summer Conference

    July 6, 2011 by David

    If there was one theme I kept encountering over and over at the ASCD Summer Conference in Boston was that good education is hard work and you can’t just port over a program, make a few tweaks and WIN. A component of this theme is that educators really need to understand the philosophy and pedagogy behind great ideas like Understanding by Design or even the Common Core Standards before really working with them. It seemed like in every session I went to it was a good hour to two hours of background and scaffolding the instruction before the speakers touched upon the meat of what they were there to discuss.

    As mentioned, Common Core came up a lot and just as often were words reminding you to really read through the standards, give your staff time to really get to know them, and yet they are still just something to do along the way to real learning, they aren’t the goal. They inform the goal, but don’t dictate it.

    You still need a goal, what do you want students to know or do? When you are building a house you don’t make the blueprint along the way. Similarly, when you are building a house you don’t say, “I’m going to build it to code!” and leave it at that.

    I also enjoyed how everything at the conference (well, at least the sessions I went to) were woven together and they all built on each other: Use Understanding by Design to set some meaningful goals, create useful and credible assessments (GRASPS), meet the Common Core Standards along the way and put it all together with Curriculum Mapping.

    I will go into these later and in more detail but I am excited about all the great ideas I took away from the East Coast. Part of me wishes I had a district/school/class of my own so I could frame my thinking around them but I have always enjoyed thinking about ideas in their pure form, without being tied to a specific situation, or trying to fit them into a set structure; like trying to figure out how this new-fangled square peg will fit into the round hole we already have and works well for us, thank you very much.

  5. What are 21st Century Literacies?

    June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell


    What is information literacy in the context of an MMORPG?

    How do you assess learning in a tabletop RPG?

    What makes a proficient reader of graphic novels?

    How do readers approach text in video games?

    What literacies will be essential for 21st century learners?

    When will formal testing adapt to the shift from individual knowledge to social knowledge, and what will that assessment look like? (more…)

  6. Teaching Without Your Own Room – We Should All Be So Lucky

    June 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    I haven’t had a classroom of my own this year – I’ve been a vagrant, a wanderer, a man without a country – and I’ve grown to love it.

    Mostly. (more…)

  7. Video Game Level Design Reflects Challenges in Education

    May 5, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    Thanks to my PLN, I scan through a ton of education articles every day, parsing much more information than I could hope to encounter on my own. Sometimes, though, the best finds come when pursuing my other interests. Sometimes I just can’t help but view everything in my life through my teacher-glasses.

    Case in point, Shaun Inman’s post about video game level design.

    Good level design coaxes a player into first discovering then utilizing their abilities in a variety of situations. It requires balancing revelation and repetition.

    Mentally I replace “level” with “course” and “player” with “student” – all of the sudden I’m back to thinking about my students (how do they get into my head like that???).

    Shaun goes on to discuss the process of introducing and reinforcing basic skills and game parameters before presenting the player with tasks that require more sophisticated interactions. So, by gradually introducing new obstacles, players (students) are allowed to experience successful mastery of a skill before moving on to another. Then, just as players master the core skills, they’ve got to discover how those skills interact with other game elements. All of these building blocks have to be mastered and reinforced before a player can beat the game. You fail to master a skill, you don’t move on, you don’t win. The game doesn’t keep going without you, instead it ask you to practice until you’re reading to progress – at your own pace.

    What does this approach reveal about the learning aspect of games? Game design necessitates a balance of success and challenge; games that are near-impossible to succeed are no fun (except to the die-hards) and games that are too easy provide no engaging challenge. You can’t think about the final goal without deeply considering how to build in the frequent, achievable-yet-challenging goals that take you there.

    The message to educators – we need to spend more time on the level design. We need to teach players to run, jump, and shoot before we toss them at the final boss. We need to allow players to discover the parameters, reinforce skills, and make their own way through the levels. We can’t force a student a student onto level 2 when they haven’t mastered the skills to beat level 1.

    The article ends with some questions that will be very familiar to educators.

    How long should each level be? With what frequency do I introduce new concepts and threats? At what stage do single threat introductory screens become patronizing rather than educational? Repetition is necessary for learning but at what point does the lesson become too repetitive?

    I have a feeling that trial and error is the name of the game from this point on and a hope that experience will eventually start answering those questions before the handwringing sets in.


  8. RSA Animate – Thought Provoking Speeches, Profoundly Engaging Presentation

    April 4, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    I’m absolutely blown away by the RSA Animate videos, not just because the topics they discuss are fascinating, but because the way they are presented is so thoroughly engaging. The high-speed hand-drawn animations not only help illustrate (pun intended) the topics and themes, but they do so in a way that is far more effective than simple static images (ala PowerPoint). Why? I think it’s because there is constant visual stimulation to keep your attention rapt. But it’s not that constant stimulation alone that is effective – we’ve all seen offensively over-animated PowerPoints, right? These videos work because all of that animation contains meaning. As opposed to a few select images used to illustrate a few select points, the illustrations in these videos provide a full visual accompaniment to the auditory stimulus (practically word for word). Here are a couple of my favorites to check out.

    RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

    RSA Animate – The Internet in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?

    RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us