Reaction Paper #3: New Literacies

This week’s readings were the first chapter of A New Literacies Sampler (2007), edited by Lankshear and Knobel (whole thing is available as a pdf), and a program report from The Campaign for Grade-Level reading called “Pioneering Literacy.”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading begins their report on “Pioneering Literacy” with a focus on the importance of the environment and parent-child interactions in teaching reading. I like that they make the distinction between the presence of devices and how the technology is used, though I am often skeptical of reported hours of screen time and what is really meant by “60% of white and hispanic preschoolers … have played video games on a console.” There are a lot of value judgements going on in reporting their statistics, and readers will interpret the numbers as good or bad depending on their own personal bias.

Where I think the Campaign goes astray is that by using an old model of “bookspace” and literacy, they limit both the success of kids and limit the use of an iPad. The first point about “bookspace” points to their desire to find authoritative products or programs that will deliver literacy skills in a textual order that is recognizable to their schema for teaching literacy. The key line from Lankshear and Knobel is that “to bring a model of value that ‘belongs’ to a different kind of space is inappropriate and creates an impediment to actualizing the new space.” In other words, it doesn’t make sense to look to iPad apps and websites to reflect traditional approaches to literacy, and by doing so, it limits what that technology might actually be able to teach. For example, an app that does not explicitly teach reading comprehension as traditionally understood may do very well with new literacies, such as recognizing and adapting interaction based on the context, of which reading and understanding is a part. Further, if we look at the Discourse for being a student in school, language is certainly a part of that coordination, but focusing on that alone may not result in the Campaign’s goal for grade-level reading because there are other factors preventing children from marginalized groups from stretching to a secondary Discourse.

This report reminds me of the early reports on climate change that were trying to convince people that it was a real thing while scientists had already established consensus among themselves long ago. The Campaign may serve a valuable role in helping raise awareness by encouraging intentional use of media by families and educators, but I think they need to reconsider their own understanding of New Media and the “cyberspatial-postindustrial” world to help programs update their mindset, rather than just helping them “technologize.”

“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

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

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.

Beginning Courageous Conversations about Race, from Everyday Antiracism

At POCC, I picked up two books: White Like Me, by Tim Wise,
which I read cover to cover in the week following the conference,
and Everyday Antiracism, a collection of essays specifically for
teachers, edited by Mica Pollock. I’ve begun reading through the
essays and came to this one, Beginning Courageous Conversations
about Race. It has prompted me to finally write some of my
reflections about my experience at POCC. The four principles are
this: 1) Stay engaged. I think POCC more than any conference has
made me more reflective about who I am and who others are. I find
myself very aware of race and behaviors, constantly searching for
microaggressions and bringing it up in conversations with people,
almost probing to see if others are willing to talk about it. I
find myself seeking out people who have a more developed racial
identity so that I can listen to how they speak and what they
think. 2) Expect to experience discomfort. Oh yes. Falling silent
because you’re not sure how not to say the wrong thing? Yep.
Worrying that you’ve already said the wrong thing? Yep. I live in a
world where people mostly agree. And when we don’t, everyone is
very nice about it. When you begin to see terrible inequities and
racism in the fabric of your reality and it feels like you are the
only one seeing it, yes, you could say it’s uncomfortable, though
that’s a bit of an understatement. But even in my shifted world
view, I’m expected to carry on as though nothing’s changed, have
polite and thoughtful conversations, be nice about it, even when I
want everyone to be jumping up and down with urgency for the change
needed. At POCC, one of the best sessions I went to was about how
white children are racially socialized. I forget the prompting
statement, but a black man stood up and said something to the
effect of, “I’m tired of our kids having to suffer just so you
[white people] can keep figuring out how to cope with race!” This
really made an impression on me. It IS my responsibility NOW to be
racially competent. 3) Speak your truth. I have two thoughts on
this. I am grateful for the many people I have around me who are
always willing to engage with me. Second, I think I don’t always
recognize who is and who isn’t ready and able to. I tend to drop
small bombs in informal conversations with statements about how
uninclusive something is or the lack of diversity in children’s
books, for example. It might catch the other person off guard,
which is maybe why I do it, but I need to find more constructive
ways of engaging with others on this topic. 4) Expect and accept a
lack of closure. One of my beliefs that was shattered (in a good
way, though tough at the time) at POCC, is that the sheltered
environment of an independent school, where people are nice and
teachers are thoughtful and the harsh reality of the world is kept
away, is a good thing. Actually, it’s just a magnification of white
privilege. Yikes. I love the school I grew up at and the two
institutions at which I have taught, and never would I have thought
that what we were doing was actually worse than the real world!
Unpacking white privilege as it relates to independent schools is
an essential next step in my commitment to education and to who I
am as a person. I worry about sharing these thoughts publicly. In a
time when everything written can come back to haunt, I fear these
words will get taken out of context or that when I’ve gone further
down this journey, I’ll look back and judge my naïveté. But I will
be courageous and speak my truth and be gentle with myself, as I
would with others and hope they would with me. Thank you for
reading and being on this journey with me.

Schematic of Gamer Progression #videogamesandlearning @coursera

SchematicGamerProgression

I’m taking two classes through Coursera right now: Comic Books & Graphic Novels and Video Games & Learning. I’ve already read Persepolis and American Born Chinese for the comic book class. I’m really excited about supporting our 8th graders as they read Maus (and teachers as they teach it) this year and working with our art teacher on creating resources for teaching visual culture. Continue reading

Article Review: “Education as Design for Learning”

This fall I am working on a personal statement to articulate my core values and beliefs in education. In my research, I found “Education as Design for Learning,” an article by Richard Halverson and Erica Rosenfeld Halverson.

Perhaps this is an obvious statement, but I find that having the words to describe what you are thinking or observing is necessary  for thinking critically about it. When I am learning something, I need the big picture to hang the details on. Then, as I read, I can square my experience, understanding, and prior knowledge against the framework. Continue reading