Last Gathering: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

This morning the 8th grade choir sang an amazing rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. It made me think about how we start the year with “Fall is Here, Ring the Bell.” “Rally points,” as they were called by our scheduling consultant, give us a sense of group identity, guide us through transitions or break up monotony, and help remind us that time is passing. After five years of gatherings at OES and three years prior to that at Bement, the ritual of coming together to start the day every morning with a song, announcements, and birthdays has been one of my favorites.

Middle School Technology Handbook

I think a lot about how 1:1 programs share information. When I first became technology coordinator, I was desperately searching for resources in how to organized and articulate the program norms and policies to parents. Thankfully, the program itself had thoughtful foundations already in place from my predecessors and colleagues, Angela Hancock and Brad Baugher, and I was able to build one what they had already written. I also got a lot from Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht. I eventually wrote it all down in the form of the MS Tech Program Handbook, that I shared with everyone from our technology website. (I realize there is a bit of irony in calling it a “hand” book.)

This also goes along with our Responsible Use Agreement, which we show as a short, Common Craft style video that I made at the beginning of the year and then students fill out a check out form. I also sometimes review this with each grade during the year.

All of these resources have all been publicly accessible at some point, but I thought I would put them together here in case it is helpful for other 1:1 programs and coordinators. (Please reuse, remix, & attribute through twitter @pdxkali – Thanks!)

Parent Partnership: Video Games and Learning

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Click above for the presentation slides or download the pdf here.

Download the handout here.

I also mentioned two important books: It’s Complicated, by danah boyd, and Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal.

Recap:

This morning I gave a presentation on Video Games and Learning. I’ve wanted to have this discussion since I started as technology coordinator and since beginning the SimCity project. The focus of the presentation was on the opportunities presented by video games and the skills learned, hopefully providing an entry into why kids (and lots of adults!) play the games they do and why they enjoy them so much.

I tried to walk the line between research and practicality and tried to frame how we think and talk about video games rather than giving my opinions, though my positive bias is clear. I wish I could have had more time to devote to the current research on the transfer of skills from video games to other arenas and the effect of play violence in teenagers. But that is what graduate school is for!

The best part was my somewhat last minute decision to play MMTW, Massively Multiplayer Thumb War, as inspired by Jane McGonigal from ISTE last year. I felt like I couldn’t talk about games without playing one!

Overall, I hope that people come away holding worries at bay and looking with their kids towards the opportunities. Technology is neither good nor bad, though it does change what life affords and affects us as individuals and as communities. When I look at the world, I am fundamentally hopeful about what the future will be, and maybe growing up around the Scrabble board helped shape me that way.

“The Gamers of Today May Be the Leaders of Tomorrow”

Rethinking Education

Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson

I’m preparing for a parent presentation on video games, learning, and kids. It’s a subject I’ve wanted to bring to a parent meeting for a number of years, and I’m excited to finally have it scheduled on the calendar.

Here’s my basic outline:

  1. Inoculate – basically address some of the common objections outright and diffuse potential defensiveness
  2. Reframe the discussion of video games: why do kids like them? (spoiler: it’s not because they are easy)
  3. What can games teach us about learning? (Overview of the research and history of games in learning and flow)
  4. Discuss common ways we denigrate or undervalue gaming, many times without even realizing it

I’m hoping to weave in lots of examples from Minecraftedu and SimCity, since those are the two video games we currently use in our curriculum. (Although it could be argued both of these are not the typical video games people think of. Minecraft is really more of a sandbox/creative tool and SimCity is an open-ended simulation tool.)

Stay tuned for a post of resources for my presentation!

I’m taking this opportunity to return to a book I read last spring, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson. Just as with It’s Complicated, I’ll include some quotes, but know that the items that I pulled out specifically relate to my presentation on video games and don’t represent the entirety of the book.

  • My biggest picture observation is that we are in a time of enormous change in the structure of education, and educators have little control of this, which is probably why things are actually changing. Educators are conservative in their practice because of the design of the system. Change is upon us, whether it’s the internet, the computers, the nature of globalization and global problems, or the homeschool communities. I think this is exciting!
  • Watch a kid do math problems for homework. Watch a kid play a video game. When we know they are learning through the video game, why do we still feel in our gut that the math problems are more valuable? How did the popular culture and media so convince us into the idea that school and learning must be serious in order to be effective?

Notes from the book:

p. 9: 2 key arguments by technology enthusiasts:
1. “the world is changing and we will need to adapt schooling to prepare students for the changing world they are entering.

2. “technology gives us enhanced capabilities for educating learners, and … schools should embrace these capabilities to reshape education.”

Continue reading

White privilege is…

 

 

not having to wonder

  • whether a landlord would accept my application based on race.
  • whether my landlord would be the same race or if that would even be an issue.
  • whether I would be accepted in whatever neighborhood I chose.
  • whether I would be judged by the friends that I asked to go look at it.
  • whether I should look for certain neighborhoods.
  • whether my name would cause questions.
  • whether I could comfortably ride the bus for a commute.
  • whether new neighbors would question my family structure.
  • whether my race would have any bearing on my success in graduate school.

As many of (the few of you) who read my blog know, I’ll be leaving my job here at the end of the year and moving on to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. We’re just at the point of finding a rental, and as I was scouring craigslist and contacting landlords, I was reminded of White Like Me, by Tim Wise, which I read just after attending POCC.

CFG Presentation to Colleagues

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This past Monday at our Professional Growth and Development Day, our Critical Friends Group presented the tuning protocol to about 25 colleagues. We ran it as a fishbowl in order to model what the protocol actually looks like in real time.

I’ve bolded items that I said or facilitated and then give my reflections at the end.

Presentation

Call to order.

Each person introduces themselves.

Inoculations. These were done to address what we saw as some of the potential objections to our presentation. Each person took one.

  1. Thank you for being here and appreciation to Faculty Learning Group leaders for the opportunity – sometimes we feel like these days should be for personal preparation time, but this protocol is a great tool for helping guide conversations that make meetings more productive.
  2. Please don’t use technology during the presentation. We understand that everyone has other things on their mind or to do today, but we ask you to be present and actively engaged. This will take about 60 minutes and there will be a break afterwards to check email.
  3. Sometimes the structure can feel awkward or restrictive. We chose a protocol that really works to get to the hear of an issue or dilemma and provides the presenter with an opportunity to take a step back and look at it through other perspectives. And it really is about the presenter learning to work through her own dilemma, not for us to solve it for her.
  4. This protocol is also helpful for educators who are not classroom teachers. This can be an opportunity for you to present a dilemma or tension that you feel you need support with.

Why are we presenting this to you today? Continue reading

It’s Complicated, by danah boyd

It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens, by danah boyd

I just did a power read through of this book in order to pass it on to a friend before spring break. Wow. It is right on with what our tech department is saying and so important for parents and educators to read!

My biggest takeaways:

  1. Kids are doing what they’ve always done, technology just makes it look different, BUT technology does afford new possibilities, so some things may actually be different.
  2. Adults need to be engaged in social media with kids, but not always/everywhere and not as stalkers/surveillance, and kids need more geographic freedom and free time.
  3. Social networks online mirror social networks in real life, which are generally drawn along racial and socioeconomic lines, but even moreso. If an independent school is truly interested in increasing the socioeconomic diversity of its student body, it’s going to have to engage in the conversations with students about social media, because that will play a huge part in whether new students can navigate, adapt, and feel accepted in the new school while still preserving their identity in their non school community.
  4. Context collapse.

Here are some important points/quotes that I pulled out: Continue reading

By JKR Posted in Books

MIT’s App Inventor (or, What I’ve been up to)

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This weekend I learned how to programs apps for Android in order to do a computer science badge with the Girl Scouts. I had volunteered last fall to do an activity with them as a way to encourage girls towards computer careers.

Reflections:

  1. If finally makes sense to me why we teach Scratch. When I saw the blocks editor, I recognized the format immediately – and so did the 4th graders. They caught on pretty quickly, even if my explanations weren’t quite as practiced as would have been helpful.
  2. The girls had AMAZING ideas for apps. One where you bounce on a trampoline and try to break a glass ceiling. (As I was standing there teaching programming to girls, there was some meta awareness about them designing a game to break a glass ceiling.) One where you are animals and have to fight poachers. Another one where you get to go to a virtual school and experience what a day is like – wouldn’t that be an amazing tool for kids new a school from a very different background if they could walk through a day, kind of like an orientation? Sounds like this game from GLS.
  3. I love that I have a job where I get to learn new things with kids.
  4. In developing a pK-12 computer science curriculum, I think we need to decide which language we’re going to teach. I’m thinking right now it would make sense to begin with scratch and teach that up until midway through 6th grade, javascript from mid-6th grade through 8th grade, then java in upper school. Whichever we decide, I have more learning to do!

Tech Department Maker Day

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***Picture of the toy I designed and printed for Alexander***

I looked forward to it all week. I couldn’t wait. I was giddy with thoughts of minecraft, arduino, 3D printing, little bits, squishy circuits, and MaKey MaKey. What if kids felt this way when they arrived at school?

We arranged to use a classroom near the entrance to the school and left windows and doors open for passersby to look in. We had flocks of middle schoolers who had to be shooed out to class. But truly, this day was for us.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about my colleagues in the tech department is the organic way we lead and follow. Never-ending learning means that we alternate smoothly between teaching, watching, trying, listening, sharing, and thinking. There were numerous shout outs: “Look at what I just did!” or “I can’t figure out how” or “Ooooooh, good idea!”

We started with 3D printing. We have a MakerGear M2. Our art/tech expert walked us through the hardware, the printing interface, and the software. We used tinkercad.com because it’s online, free, and easy to export an .stl file.  We all set to work designing something, and I got the idea to make a die with six different icons not he faces. I jumped right in, but thank goodness other people use tutorials because they helped me use the workplane to orient the icons properly. Sometimes going slowly and following directions is useful!

I finished my design, downloaded the file, transferred it by USB, and loaded it into the queue. After 1 kernel panic, we had the printer off and going. See this time-lapse video I made in iMovie shortly after:

After lunch, we moved onto minecraftedu. All our middle schoolers now have it installed on their laptops (see my letters to students and parents). They deftly launched their own servers and were playing collaboratively (or PvP, roughly the same), so I did the same! I launched it on my computer, shared the IP address, and voila! We were all in the world together. This is my favorite part of gaming – having my friends there. I built a house, which I temporarily couldn’t find, having gone back to the spawn point without leaving a trail back to the house – oops! Mostly we explored and laughed and flew around, amazed at the possibilities for creativity. Oh, and we found out that you can design objects in tinkercad and export them into minecraft.  Mind. Blown.

With only an hour left in the “work” day, we shifted to arduino coding and circuits. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. I already understand circuits, so that part wasn’t a revelation, and the coding didn’t appeal to me in the same way Scratch and JavaScript do. I think what I need is an overarching project that motivates me to learn the details. Turns out, I’m not a tinkerer.

I never got to MaKey MaKey or squishy circuits, but I’ll find time to explore them in the next few weeks. I’m volunteer teaching some programming with our lower school Girl Scout troop in February, and I think we’re going to design video games in scratch that interface with a controller that is not the keyboard. Another opportunity to play!

It’s only work if you’d rather be somewhere else, and on this day I was so engaged I barely took the time to eat lunch. If only all learning could be this kind of self-directed, creative, collaborative, open-ended, play. Oh wait, it can be.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Chapel

Today, I shared a short reflection of my experience at POCC with the middle school during our weekly chapel service. I usually shy away from this sort of thing, but if I want to be engage more with this, I need to speak up when I have the chance. So here goes:

I had the privilege of attending the People of Color Conference last December. There, I attended a session about how white children are (or usually are not) socialized to talk about race. It made me realized that when I was a child, my parents and teachers never talked to me directly about race or privilege, though that in no way is meant to blame them. Although I knew people were different, I didn’t develop the language or skills to talk about my experiences. And learning to talk about race and privilege is a skill that you can learn.

At the Conference, I questioned why, as someone who identifies as white, I would be allowed or even invited to attend. I came away understanding that my role, as a person of privilege, is to be an ally to those with fewer privileges. In order to do that, I need to develop my own racial identity.

One of the concrete goals that I made after leaving the conference is to talk to my son about race and privilege so that he will grow up with the awareness and skills for understanding his privileges in a world that treats people differently.