The end of #FacebookFreeFebruary

What started as a big deal is no longer such a big deal. This elimination diet worked great!

  • After the first weekend of feeling cut off and alone, I realized that I needed the support that those people offer, so I allowed myself to go on Facebook for the two groups that are important to me: Mary’s Moms and the CrossFit Nutrition group.
  • I do not need to spend hours going through the “fakebooked” feed. See this mom’s rant against the perfect appearance that people put forward.
  • Will I reinstall the app? I’m not sure. I honestly feel like I wasted less time by not having it on my phone. I could still get to my groups when I wanted, but having that small barrier got me out of the reflex to open and scroll. Maybe I just shouldn’t have it on the first screen!
  • I’ve definitely shifted to posting on my blog and tweeting more. Success!

Bottom line: The online relationships will build are REAL, emotion, and important. When we tell kids to “just turn it off”, we ignore the importance, and we need to help them learn how to manage it in their lives.

Instagram #ParentPartnership #KeepingUpWithKids

Remember the themes of our partnership:

  • Create a Common Culture
  • Stay Informed
  • Start the Conversation

Definition of social networking: “The use of a dedicated Web site to communicate informally with other members of the site, by posting messages, photographs, etc.” (From Google)

  • Profile- and connections-based – Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn
  • Media sharing – Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest
  • Blogging – long posts – Blogger, WordPress
  • Microblogging – short posts – Twitter, Tumblr
  • Forums – interest-based
  • MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) Games – World of Warcraft


  • Take pictures and apply different effects
  • Automatic sharing to Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Picture sharing
  • Captions with Hashtags

Hashtag: word or phrase after the “#” sign. Meant as a way to tag posts so that you can search the stream. For example:

#Timbers #ftw #ilovepdx

  • You can follow people
  • You can comment on or like (heart) their pictures


  • iOS (iPad, iPod, iPhone) App

Setting restrictions on an iOS device #parentalcontrols

Instagram TOS (terms of service)

  • Must be 13
  • App is 12+
  • Just bought by Facebook

Great opportunities with Instagram


  • Privacy of pictures
  • Posting statuses using a picture

Devices everywhere!

Today I found myself using three devices to work on one presentation: my MacBook Air, iPad, and iPhone. All. At. Once.

There will be a forthcoming post on reflecting about the process leading up my first presentation, but this is a step in that process.

I’ve decided to use Prezi as my presentation tool because I prefer the visual layout. As someone who needs the overall picture to understand the details, it helps me have a stage where everything is laid out and then zoom in to each element. But this isn’t a post about Prezi, it’s about multi-devicing.

So I found the Prezi app for iPhone and iPad and decided to explore. I found that while I don’t really like editing on them, using them to present is really helpful. Since we have Apple TVs in a few classrooms, I can actually connect to projectors with my iPhone to practice giving my presentation, which I did today with two colleagues. The interface on the phone is quite good and I was able to go straight to certain frames when I wanted and I was able to control the video playback. If I were actually using it for a formal presentation I would lock the orientation so that it doesn’t flip back in forth as I gesture.

But the true multi-devicing came today when I was working on typing out my presentation. I wanted to go from the presentation to a full write up in order to refine my explanations, especially about games, which I posted here. I set up with my iPad on the presentation and my laptop open to type in Pages. It was incredibly helpful to have the iPad presentation separate from my laptop screen. I thought immediately about this article that I read about The Avenues, a for-profit high school in New York that issues it’s students both a laptop AND an iPad because they are used differently for different purposes, they do different things and engage different skills.

Since we are currently exploring what device makes the most for our program, whether that means a combination of a couple devices or something other than a laptop, it was interesting to find myself in the shoes of a student using all three devices differently to work on one presentation.

What do you think about students having more than one device? Do you know of a program out there that has done this?

What is it about games?

(While working on my NCCE presentation this morning, I decided to type out exactly what I’d like to say about games as I introduce my SimCity project. I will probably scale this back, but here’s the full, off-the-top-of-my-head version. Please leave comments and feedback on the content and organization or suggestions for resources!)

Games are play. We know the value of play (1) from all the research done that it encourages self-regulation, teaches cultural values and norms, develops creativity and real skills. One of my colleagues (@darkwolv) says that play allows you to explore ethics and morality in a pure way. There are clear rights and wrongs in a game, but you get to explore how you to handle it. For example, when little kids play doctor, they explore how they want to be treated when they are sick or hurt. When kids play multiplayer games like Call of Duty, they explore what it means to backstab a team member and the repercussions. How is play relevant to the real world? It allows us to temporarily leave reality, just as a good book or movie does. In this alternate space, we can develop real skills, such as cooperation with others, how to cope with and take responsibility, how to read and interpret data, cause and effect, etc.

Games give you a goal to work towards. (2) In soccer, it’s an obvious put-the-ball-in-the-net to score points and win. Even in an open-ended, real-time strategy game like SimCity where there is no way to beat or end the game, there are goals of growing your population and taking care of your sims. In school, the goal sometimes feels like getting the best grade or pleasing the teacher or getting the right degree to earn more money. If we are going to cultivate lifelong learners, the goal needs to lead students to learning and exploring.

Games give you, to quote Jane McGonigal (2), a sense of “heroic purpose”. If you look at American sports culture around high school sports, you see that successful high school athletes take on heroic proportion because of the emotion connected to winning. In World of Warcraft, you are logging in to save Azaroth. In this project, students got to be mayors of their city, not 7th graders. They had what I call “weightless” responsibilities. Because they are playing the role, there are no serious consequences to failure. Sometimes we give kids responsibilities that they are not ready for, like solving climate change, and instead of digging in and working on the problem, they shut down and disconnect. And we’re surprised? The weightless responsibility buoys the sense that they can succeed and makes them feel competent to succeed.

Games teach in context and allow you to learn as you go. You do not have to memorize the rules before you start. Take Angry Birds, for example. The first levels are simple and present the different types of birds one at a time. As you progress, exploding all the pigs gets harder and asks you to apply what you learned in previous levels. You wouldn’t start with the last level because each level improves your ability to play. Likewise, you do not get a guide to the types of birds and then try to use them. You discover their properties by trial and error. This is in contrast with much of how we teach. In math, for example, you are taught a formula first and then shown how to apply it to different scenarios just in case you come across something like it. How many times have you had to calculate the speed of a train going from New York to Chicago? Games, on the other hand, throw you into the fray and help you make sense of what needs to be done, and you learn how to do it by experimenting, exploring, failing, and succeeding.

The reason games are such effective teachers is in part because they are Goldilocks differentiators. They present exactly the right amount of challenge for every player that plays. For example, you can play scrabble when you are 7 or 70. The words you use will grow in complexity as your vocabulary expands and as you learn strategies for maximizing points. I love to do the New York Times crossword puzzle. Mondays are too easy but Saturday is too hard. Wednesdays are just right. A good game is designed intentionally to give you just the right amount of challenge. If it’s too hard or there are too many rules to memorize, you won’t play. By the same token, if it’s too easy, there’s no sense of accomplishment.

Games are fun! Without getting lost in all of these details, we know on a gut level that if something is called a game, it should be fun. Teachers, however, can feel that if their students are having fun, they are not learning. Playing games is seen as a frivolous, waste of time. Students should do “work” to learn. The exact opposite is true. Students learn MORE when they are having fun because they are engaged and alert. (3) With games, there is a sense of “hard fun,” where your work and effort results in success. This is what drives kids to practice free throws over and over so that when faced with a foul shot to win the game they can swish it.

Let’s take a moment to recap:

  • Development of creativity and skills, self-regulation, interpersonal skills
  • Exploration of morality and ethics
  • Goals
  • Heroic purpose and weightless responsibility
  • Learning in context
  • Appropriate challenges

Sounds like pretty good pedagogy to me!




(1) Rieber, L.P., Smith, L., & Noah, D. (1998). The value of serious play. Educational Technology38(6), 29-37.

(2) Jane McGonigal’s work: Ted TalkReality is Broken. Variety of other papers.

(3) Variety of sources:,, Play = Learning


I went on Facebook today. But not on impulse. Actually, I turned my computer on after the little one went to sleep and when I opened a new tab I saw the FB preview there… I resisted the urge until after I had done a couple things that I needed to do. I logged in and looked for pictures of a friend who just had a baby. I had 3 messages, so I read and replied, then I logged out. It feels good to have reconnected. I miss the people. And while it’s all well and good to say I should just make time to interact face to face, I don’t have the time or the flexibility in my schedule right now to do that.

This gets me to thinking about kids & Facebook (because it always comes back to kids). In their hyper-scheduled, overloaded worlds, they may not feel they have the time to hang out with friends face to face. Instead, they can do homework, watch a movie, Facebook chat with friends, catch up with statuses, and have a snack all at the same time, which is way more efficient. Maybe in order to help kids learn to disconnect, we need to give them back unstructured time, which adults could benefit from too.

Reading about gaming


I got an email today about SimCityEDU and a Google Hangout that is happening tomorrow at 1pm. Unfortunately, I’m already triple booked at that time, so I won’t get to hangout, but you can bet I’m going to watch the video later and review the twitter stream #playtimers. As I read more about the Institute of Play, I stumbled onto website after website. Rather than tweeting the whole stream, I figured there must be a better way to share and curate all the URLs I was finding. Diigo!

It took a little persistence, because I had to remember the password, download the extension, fool around with lists and tags, refresh a couple times, check that it was working… but ultimately I think I successfully have this SimCity list to share with you. Like I said, it’s a collection of website related to SimCityEDU and gaming in the classroom.

This all came after a few discussions today about gaming during the school day. More on that to follow. I’m not quite ready to process my opinions and write them in an articulate way.

For now, three shameless promotions related to all this:

  1. My SimCity presentation at NCCE in Portland, 9:45-10:45 Friday March 1
  2. Playing SimCity with 7th graders in science again this spring
  3. Presenting a poster of my project and research at ISTE in San Antonio at the end of June

Harder than I thought

So this month I’m not using Facebook. I find myself thinking of posts during the day, like “First trip to the gym with Alexander – he did great!” or “I ❤ Saturday mornings: gym, starbucks, breakfast, baby playtime”. I debated (and quickly decided against) tweeting my status. Since my twitter is primarily professional, I didn’t think the personal additions would be welcome. Also, I have a few friends I primarily connect with through messages on Facebook, so I am feeling cut off from them. Overall, I am feeling more alone and cut off than I expected to.

Already, this is revelatory to me in how we assume it’s no big deal for students to be asked to disconnect from social media during the school day. Presumably, adolescents are at the point in their lives where they are more focused on their peer relationships than I am, and, according to this NY Magazine article Why you never truly leave high school: “In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense.” While for me, it’s a mild sense of disconnection from friends, to my students, it could feel like the end of the world.

This short month might just feel pretty long, even to my post-adolescent brain!