Monday, October 22, 2012

Conversations & Gaming serve a vital purpose

published links: E Literacy Changes Everything
                 gaming dialogue
The majority of homework in elementary schools and high schools tends to be practice or preparation leaving less than 30% for integration, interpretation opportunities (Brozo, 2010). The Common Core  is shifting assessment from a focus on skills and gains of knowledge to information analysis, critical evaluation, and expression of new understanding (CCSSI; This means our standard practices in education are not necessarily preparing students for the Common Core.  Instead of causing great alarm this lead me to reexamine isolated practices in our literacy program that could be improved to promote information analysis and new understanding.   Review of our fall diagnostic testing allowed me to isolate inference questions as a common miscue.  51 of our 127 students (grades 1-4) tested missed inference questions, second graders being most in need of skill development.  Repeat adherence to inference types of questions alone won't improve this skill. A combination of methods, direct and indirect rather than a single teaching method leads to the best learning. (NRP).Students need to build confidence and to enjoy learning. This means that our gaming day will be our most important developmental day of the week.

Fun games alone become the incentive for repetitive experience with literacy skills. Certain games, Draw Something, Scribblenaut are intentionally designed for indirect exposures to print text instigating skills such as interpretation and inference. Scribblenaut relies on gamers who solve a puzzle by implementing words that take on actions within the puzzle itself.  Like Mad Libs, the words you choose each time create a different scenarios. (wikipedia)  Draw Something relies on two alternating players who draw pictures to convey a definition of a word. Online players can see a drawing develop and scrambled letters which improve chances for a correct guess.  For emergent learners, unlimited attempts to play each game do lead to improved vocabulary and as a school tool we can increase the opportunity for word exposure and inference by making this part of the relationship that students share in a one to one tutorial.  
My administrator and I sat together and rewrote the rules for each game.  Our modifications meant simplifying the rules to increase discussion time for word choices and rationale.  We have provide mentors with time for helping students verbalize all possible definitions of a transformable word and to emphasize acceptance for creativity when a word choice is made.  Mentors would need to praise students for defending word choices and integration through drawing. Building the practice of delivery and defense is more important than winning a game.  My administrator and I had to sift through word banks in search of words that met the eleven different reading levels of our students.  What Scribblenaut did with five people and six months of dictionary and encyclopedic research to create a database of transformable words, we accomplished in one week (wikipedia). 
Parents can be a big help when it comes to gaming and education. Educators need to consider the contributions that supportive home  literacy practices offer because  motivation to read increases when parental involvement is taken into consideration (Jossey-Bass. Ying, Klinger, Living., Fox, & Doe, 2011).   Not all internet gaming is educational.  Even the educational games do little more than help student develop base skills on their own.  When adults use indirect gaming experiences as the catalyst for discussion or further investigation greater opportunity for print exposure and  domain specific comprehension arise (Brozo, 2010).  Many games now include links to twitter or Facebook in order to access suggestions offered by a greater audience.  This audience could and should take place in the home.  When my husband and I discuss the games our daughter is introducing we spend dinner time speculating on strategies and predicting outcomes.  Whereas the usual "how was your day?" delivers a quipped response, gaming discussions are prolonged into a family time, applying just learned concepts to new material (Willingham, 1998). 
Parents should not worry about being out of their element with educational gaming.  World of Warcraft is a great example of a game in which the text is written for high school reading levels, (higher than some newspapers) (Kimura, 2012).   A handy dictionary and a family discussion becomes a means for  fixing comprehension issues on the spot.  What happens if decisions made lead to failure? Good games rely on unlimited plays that lead to eventual measures of success.  And good discussions lead to deliberate intertextual connections beginning with simple questions:
  • Asking students "why they like a game?" and encouraging a detailed answer validates summative interpretation and judgement. (Blooms Taxonomy)
  • When parents & teachers model aloud that "the game reminds them of" (personal experience, another game or activity, a film or book)  it encourages text to self, text to text, text to world connections (Lenski). 
  • Students should be encouraged to make their own intertextual connections aloud. (Lenski)
  • Speculating on "what should we do to win?" develops prediction and strategic planning. (Kimura)
  • Asking students how a game could improve prompts analysis, critical examination and creativity (Marzano).
  • Carefully arguing that this game isn't real could lead to inquiry and investigation. 
  • Concluding what is then learned from the investigation builds argumentative defense and synthesis. (Blooms Taxonomy, Wiggins, Marzano)
  • Asking if they can help you play your own game is constructive collaboration and honors a student's sense of responsibility. (constructivism)
In conclusion, gaming proves to be an excellent vehicle for blending learning environments beyond classroom walls. Gaming builds relationships and rapport which is essential for healthy communities.

References: see link. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Flatdaddy tips & more E-Literacy

Screenleap       is a fantastic tool for distance learning. Flatdaddy needed to share Haiku learning platform with me. Using Screenleap, he talked me through the tutorial as I watched him navigate his own screen from my laptop here in New Mexico.  This tech to tech connection gave me the impression that screenleap could be a useful conferencing tool to use with my own students absent from class. Students who attend ski academy, who move temporarily, who hunt for weeks at a time would not have to have the excuse of losing a classroom connection.  Does this excuse students from meeting daily in the classroom?  I think it makes a class of students reliant on each other if what they are missing is truly interactive. This is why I teach lessons that revolve around situation gaming both online and offline. Admittedly, I can improve how I actually blend the learning environments.

image courtesy of Wikipedia. 
Scribblenaut was introduced to me by daughter.  It seems that elementary age up to adult are drawn to this emergent puzzle action video game. "Write Anything, Solve Everything"  The 2 dimensional graphics are simple while the complexity lies in understanding a puzzle without any written instruction. The player problem solves by recording words that become interactive objects in the game. The more nouns that are recorded in a notebook icon, the easier it is for the avatar to employ actions that lead to puzzle solving. Your thoughts, nouns,synonyms are  "tools to cut down trees" or items "to create a classroom"(scenarios).   For students unable to think of extended vocabulary there is a link to social networks like Facebook, Twitter with unlimited assistance.  Rules are learned through through repeat experience but rules change the more the game is played.  When a level is played more than three times, the game is designed to expect you to increase your vocabulary, identifying new words utilized as new tools for solving the same puzzle.  This is a super E Literacy tool for building vocabulary.
Wikipedia helped me understand that Scribblenaut used a "data driven approach, and a significant portion of the development time was spent researching nouns and their properties, and categorizing them into the Objectnaut database. Originally it was a Japanese game (created in 2009) under the name Flash Puzzle: Maxwell's Mysterious Notebook (ヒラメキパズル マックスウェルの不思議なノート Hirameki Pazuru: Makkusuweru no Fushigi na Nōto?) on January 27, 2011."

I really liked perusing this website that helped launch Scribblenaut,    Designers, publishers, bloggers, artists share forum space, edits, ideas, insider scooprs. Intertextuality abounds!
 Example blog from Kotaku hints at  true edutainment and rewards new perspectives on gaming. As educators we need to get students to synthesize bodies of evidence into something new, something that has never been done before.  Students need to critic, analyze and defend that creativty.  Funomena is an indie gaming company from San Francisco behind this the dialogue surrounding a game integrating pedometer and a fight against childhood obesity.  Phys ed teachers- check this out.  Mr. Robinson's health class could design games like this too. So, as a teacher, gaming, discussion, critic, inquiry, analysis, it is all at your fingertips. 

Thanks to the  Academy of Interactive Arts & Science I now know what cross curricular, cross genres appeal to the video culture.  Awards in music composition, design, etc. are cataloged at this site.  I found this category which gives the game player responsibility, similar to Scribblenaut.
Orcs Must Die! won best in strategy games. This is defined to be titles in which the user directs or manipulates resources to create a set of conditions that result in success as determined within the confines of the game. These games can offer the user the chance to simulate or to virtually reproduce an experience, real or imaginary, which would require some form of equipment. Strategy games emphasize the planning of tactics rather than the execution. 

Again- phys ed department, who says gaming isn't healthy? Fifa Soccer 12, simulates real game executions that could be utilized before and after playing soccer together in class. 

       I liked this webpage that listed other edutainment selections
       I didn't really review many games listed, just not enough time....

Games for Change- This is a favorite site of mine.
I downloaded the Ipad app for  Guess My Race- I think it mixes inference and investigation well. The descriptions of peoples' cultural heritage appeal to text to self connections. I would use this as a bellringer routine. Groups of students assigned to an Ipad would play each scenario, reading aloud and deciding their choice together.  We'd meet for a group discussion after and hopefully it would lead to demographic research.  This is a game which would be useful once or twice. I would expect students to congregate and collaborate on designing a new level for this game based on their research.  We would share our design with gamers at Games for Change. Ethnicities of China would be a level that would really stump many of my students. Can I design that?

What? The THING is Jewish? Smash that Stereotype slide show on history of comic book heroes that are not male, white and Christian.  Go PBS and Independent Lens.  So I can't stop I must play Hunt for the Noor Stone brought me to this great comic series, The 99.  And the documentary. As I'm playing I begin to look for literacy connections to gaming. I fear that I am draining the fun out of learning.  But it is true- this is a great example of improving reading comprehension for middle and high school students at differentiated levels of learning. I think it would appeal to informational text lovers.
Hunt for the Noor Stone 
 The game moves through still comic book images. The captions can be read by the player and are read aloud by an embedded voice. Once into the game, those who read with difficulty should partner with someone who reads quickly. Together, they can learn cultural etiquette, Arabic and history which leads to riddles solved throughout the game. The player needs to interpret what is found in the graphic images and maps.  A notebook icon keeps track of whatever knowledge is gained. The quicker a player can recall information, the quicker they can beat the clock.  I discovered that a player is blocked if they do not conform to expectations of etiquette as practiced in Arabic.

  • The timer runs quicker than my computer can load new pages, so I had to play through the first level three times. Luckily you can skip the reading of the introduction.
  • It didn't load on my Ipad.  
  • It isn't really like the 3D games our students might play on their own time but it is better than a textbook study.
Here are some less exciting links but useful to teaching:

Hotchalk lessons page      

Aesop's platform for organizing complicated schedules like one sub for several teachers.

Some games for purchase are drawing my attention:
The Curfew

  • My game picks were based on improving literacy that meets Common Core standards.  The Common Core expects all students to have fluency in writing, vocabulary and reading.  But this is not what will be assessed.  Assessment shifts from a focus on developing reading, writing skills and fluency to expressing understanding, reading critically, investigating inference. Students need to sythesize bodies of knowledge that will answer their own inquiries and show how they came to this conclusion.  Sounds like gaming to me!   

Monday, October 15, 2012

Zero is not a grade. Or is it?

My colleague, Jim, is a guidance counselor at my school.  From him I learned a few simple lessons about education.  I came to him with concern for a student who was unable to come to class on time or finish classwork. This student was refusing to learn or to pass.  Jim came to the classroom door and asked the student for a hall meeting.  The three of us stood there, Jim led the short conversation with three question, "Are you coming in late? Can you pass if you do the minimum in class? Do you want to graduate?"  
That student mumbled yes and yes and yes.  Jim said, Now repeat for Ms. Kaulbach what you will promise to do."  
The student looked at me, and repeated that he would come on time, he could do the classwork and that he wanted to pass. Jim looked him in the eye and reminded him that he said this in his own words, the responsibility was his and he would let himself down if he didn't do these three things.
The student did graduate, he was on time every day after that and he worked towards the minimum every day.  What I learned from my colleague was that simple tasks yield great rewards, making kids repeat what they learn is essential to not only learning but owning this education.

I have learned valuable, practical lessons from my colleagues over the years and now I am discovering the science to back the prevention of failure and repetitive opportunity for student ownership in learning. A retired colleague used to ask his class "how do we learn?" and in eery unison they answered, "by the miracle of repetition".  He always put an agenda on the board,  hand wrote his notes on the board for copying and kept a very simple grading system in his notebook.  His students always passed the unofficial standards based exam for economics.  All of his students passed.

The miracle of repetition, repeat, redoing assignments or tests are all opportunities for application of a just learned concept or new material (The Cognitive Scientist). Building background knowledge allows for more room in the working memory, which makes synthesis and analysis likely. Practice,  establishes minimum competence which is why even the student who copies someone else's answers should receive some reward. If we don't want students to value copying alone, it is up to teachers to include a second tier of application. All copied answers are a base knowledge to be used to solve puzzles or problems that has the possibility of more than one right answer.  

Failure is 50% not zero.  I still have a difficult time accepting this policy. My Vermont school is adjusting to schoolwide, mandatory reforms dividing our faculty as much as it brings us together.  Common grading polices especially concerning definition of failure is our current, divisive issue. Nationwide school systems struggle with discrepancies between actual and recommended practice. (Cox,2011). Grading policies have been individualized in education for so long that research matching methodology and student development are not well documented over time.  Google and  EBSCO Host search engines did present for me both the media storms and the science behind the practice. It is conclusive throughout most sources that grading practices are individualized and highly subjective. Most grades carry the weight of more than just mastery of a standard  and this shouldn't be. (Wormeli R, 2006). Grades should not embed an array of indicators such as ethics, discipline and responsibility. Nor should grades reflect all of the above and or reward, behavioral contracts etc. 
What should grades convey? This is the question that drew my research together. It should convey accountability which does not mean blame. Values, meaning and benefit to others form as a result of interaction (Wormeli). Grades are supposed to motivate students, keep them from failing often and early. (Cox,K. 2011). They should provide feedback, document progress or inform instructional decisions. Nothing else. Graded work should have a proportionate influence on an overall grade meaning that all grade intervals should be equal, failure should be 50%.  (Reeve,2004)

Links to more research:

Middle level Education- no zero           Video:  Tim Brown & assessment

                                                          video- What's Wrong with Traditional Grading?

As strong as the case against zeroes & grading is, practical application is difficult for teachers. I discovered a case study of a school similar to my own school. The study focused on interviews of reformers and resistors and why there were excellent leaders in teaching in both of those groups. By charting pieces of grading reform it was easy to isolate and discuss the areas with the greatest discrepancies. I wish our school had done this... I guess there is still time. 

 Field of teacher
Grade agreement / same course


minimum on tests

of late work
 no penalty





does not grade hw
total for actual study
A sample of 9 teachers resistant to reform out of 500 districtwide (Cox, 2011).

Identifying course or field for each teacher was useful to group discussion. Some courses have embedded mandates because they follow an administered program, ie- Collegeboard, Driver's Ed, etc.  Grade agreement for same course referred to the framework of a course being taught and graded the same by various teachers. The greatest objection focused on 50% testing and all of those in opposition were in agreement that "giving students 50% when they achieved a lower score does not prepare them for the real world."  One teacher did not grade homework (Biology teacher) and indicated that on the chart. While this teacher refused to reform, it was discovered that his own grading policies were in line with the intent of the reform, not allowing students to fail.  He replaced infrequent testing and homework with daily starters: opened ended short answer question/ tests that were reviewed, rewritten and used for study purposes on tests & exams. So, this study presented the question , what does a grade convey? Consistently, even the biology teacher was able to agree that grades need to reflect knowing, nothing more.  

Is 50% a real world value? There are many arguments in the media, on the internet over what is a real world connections.  It is impossible to determine what jobs, careers, futures our students will actually have so I eliminated this conflict from my study. It is self defeating to give all students the work  to match their future real world, it is self defeating to give all students the same assignment. The Cognitive Scientist also points out that it is "naive to think that students come to class equally prepared to excel."  Vygotsky, long ago, proved that not all children learn in the same amount of time but all are capable of learning either towards a minimum or to a specialized field or somewhere in between. Many variables affect learning and this is why repeat opportunity for success will reach all or most children.  My own daughter has progressed through 2nd grade without any failing labels but does know her limits.  If elementary teachers can teach students without (F)  Why can't we?

My role in literacy enables me to work individually and in groups.  The school practices enable us to pinpoint issues preventing student progress and work on them repeatedly until there is mastery.  Every student is self paced. Every student is self reliant,working on routine lessons until mentor/educators notice improvement. There is no grade nor failure. We promise progress at differentiated levels.  Teachers are able to let go of the responsibility of some learning and all of that failure. Students know that they are excelling and that overall grades will reflect this.  Because we work with students who would be failing and students who have accelerated beyond their peers we have to have uniform systems schoolwide. We take 92 students daily and could not do so if we had to create 6-8 separate plans for each student and each of their teacher's instructional methods. Students procure individualized results when schoolwide practices insists on repeat opportunity to develop and do not allow students to get away with not learning.  

The major benefit despite all of my own arguments for schoolwide agreement on grading is this.  It is easier to explain one policy to parents, it is easier for parents to explain or promote one policy to children than it is for everyone to understand everyone's best intentions.  There will be discrepancies even within one policy.  I learned this from working with AP and other scripted programs. I learned from our guidance counselor, less is more. I am learning now, 16 years into teaching that I can give up a great deal of my own practice for the good of the whole.  I can't have people belittle or find fault with what I have always done, that is not fair.  But I can come together if it individualized learning, this I learned from special educators.  They literally run around from classroom to classroom trying to meet one student's needs for each classroom teacher.  They have  accommodated each student and each teacher for years, balancing student's needs with perceived values of motivation, discipline etc.  My brief study of special ed law, and my attempt to move toward consistent practice has made me very sensitive to the nature of their work and the nature of child development which is still not fully understood.  One schoolwide policy would allow these educators more time to focus on students.

The greatest argument again redo/retake/ 50% failure is that the burden of work shifts to the teacher.  "I would have to grade more papers, write more tests, accept answers that were copied from others." I did offer retake, redo, 50% minimum failure over the last two years and I discovered how well it worked.
First- I did grade more because every student had to hand in work.  I always benefitted from teaching students who did no homework.  On those nights, I watched more tv.  I had created a policy that benefited me, not the students.  Students who did redo or do work late had to receive credit.  More students did work. I was busier, but not more than I should have been.  I should have policies that expect 100% return from each class.  If this burden of grading is too great, it is my own fault for trying to grade more than the mastery of the standard. (this I learned eventually)
After working for the collegeboard and learning to grade 200 essays per day, following the same rubric, I guess grading workloads are relative.
Second- some students waited for the repeat opportunity and some did copy my answers or friend's answers for full credit. It made me change the nature of the homework.  I discovered that by setting point values for total accomplishment per week, I could offer fewer points for tasks that build repetition and fluency and greater point values for concept understanding, in depth exploration and open ended questions (Danielson, Strom, &Kramer,2011).  I changed the classroom activity to focus on synthesis of those copied notes. Pick any 5 concepts from a list and group similar outcomes, competing perspectives, causation, etc. I could walk around the room and give some students 4 more concepts to integrate for homework, other students 2 concepts, other students redo with more meaning.  If they wrote this on the assignment and I gave my initials, it became a contract of learning, differentiated, reasonable, relevant. I discovered that common practice for types of homework looks like this:
elementary- 96% practice, 41% prep, 16% integration
high school- 92% practice, 41% prep, 29% integration

The research has benefits and it has costs.  There is no doubt that excellent teachers will sacrifice a great deal of time or tradition in order to make these reforms.  But what I have realized working on a literacy team in a school that is in its third year of schoolwide initiative is that All our standards and tests mean nothing unless the failure constructs a "ladder that extends to that student needing to crawl out of the hole" (Biology teacher from a case study by Cox, 2011).

Cox,K., (2011). Putting classroom grading on the table: a reform in progress. American Secondary 
         Education, 40(1), 67-87.

Reeves,D. (2004)The case against the Zero, Phi Delta Kappan, 86(4),  324-325.

Danielson, M., Strom,B., &Kramer,K. (2011). Real homework tasks: a pilot study of types, values, 
         and resource requirements. Educational Research Quarterly, 35(1), 17-32.

Wormeli, R.(2006). Accountability: teaching through assessment and feedback, not grading. 
         American Secondary Education, 34(3), 14-27.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Anecdotal Reports are strong assessments

Check this out!  Global Meeting Room for teachers by Google. 
I plan to use this tonight! (After my immediate research).

Moving away from grading students on single opportunities for learning has been the best change for me.  I have, over the years developed practices for survival.  I sincerely try to help kids learn, praise improvements, document failures and refusals but always offer other school time to help kids learn.  Handing out quarterly report cards has always been a tense time. Now, with Powerschool grading we are learning how powerful adding and subtracting work to a grade. Kids are motivated or panicked when they view their grades going up and down.  I used to have students calculate grades on paper each Friday.  It took lots of time but it was the equivalent of balancing a checkbook, with a conversation around missing work, excitement about high scores. etc.   Numerical scores are powerful but often the power has negative results.  Zeroes, failing grades are noticed quickly and although they might be temporary, it is awful to see a zero next to one's name. It makes you feel that nothing at all was accomplished, that no learning took place.  A zero for a student is like your spouse unfriending you on Facebook.  Without the context, the conversation, it is powerfully negative and then leaves you wary even of the positives that follow.

Basic Reading Inventory- Jerry Johns, 2008
Anecdotal reporting doesn't base a student's worth on a raw score and determine a hierarchical level of achievement in relation to others in a class.  Instead the report identifies with specificity, the skill, the language issue is in need of improvement.  The report identifies how a student misread or misunderstood a reading passage.  The checkmarks identify what kind of miscue and the number of times it was made.  Substitution, insertion, omission, reversal, repetitive error, self correction, meaning change happen when very strong and very weak readers read.  Sometimes this effects comprehension, sometimes it doesn't.  Second language learners have to retrain themselves to make a different sound for a similar letter in two different languages.  Their problem isn't comprehension but letter reversal.

From this report an educator or even a parent can begin working on the miscue that prevents comprehension

Basic Reading Inventory- Jerry Johns, 2008

With this form, the instructor/ educator has more time and space to take notes on how a student is reading and comprehending.

In the literacy program that I am currently engaged in. anecdotal reports combined with weekly itineraries are essential.
  weekly itineraries 

Everyone involved reviews the itinerary. It replaces the agenda on the chalkboard. Personalizing it with the student's name is meant to address the minute changes that match each student's individual development. The signature for the mentor is important. It documents that engagement with an adult.  The bold print helps identify the skill or practice that is detailed in the daily lesson.  Comments can range from positive acknowledgement, "good job" to "working on pronunciation", "needs images of grain or main as vocabulary definitions". 

It took me several weeks of working in the literacy program to suddenly realize how wonderful routines and anecdotal reporting worked. Not once is a student given the indication that they are behind or ahead of their peers.  They only focus on the skill and the vocabulary.  This means that they never need to give up or stop to wait for others to catch up. And the lesson repetition helps students read, review the itinerary on their own.  1st graders are already beginning to read this on their own.  I realized that many of the skill based lessons were done independently by the students. Teacher/mentors provided encouragement, and aid on specific miscues, but did not need to grade each activity.  The activities that are scored or reviewed and assessed are few, culminating as a result of repetition and revision.  The comprehension journals, mentor comments and reading lists help document student progression and student attention to tasks. In conclusion, teachers, mentors, students are equally busy but can focus on purpose in an efficient use of time.   

Immediately I went home and sifted through my own weekly itineraries, routines, threw some away and reorganized others.  I made a draft itinerary for 2 courses I teach.  I looked at the first 7-10 minutes of class and the last 5-7 minutes of class.  Students normally come in, hang out, text, gossip and forget to prepare for class.  In trying to make students more engaged last year I created entry routines and exit routines but found myself constantly grading and returning work.  I was doing more work developing meaningful inquiry, skill practice and assessing it. I was busier than ever before.  I did not manage these routines so that students were more self reliant.  
my weekly itineraries
  1. First-  Post the day's routines outside the classroom entrance. (klw chart, primary source document, latitude/longitude...) Use bold font and bright paper. (a student helper can do this)
  2. Move student folder files next to the classroom entrance.  Students will take their folder as they walk in.  (student helper can do this)
  3. Use the walls of the room for public display of color coded activity/ assignment sheets.  latitude/ longitudinal locations receive a wall pocket, primary source documents' pocket, etc. Students will get their own materials, I shouldn't waste time handing them out.  
  4. use this engaged activity time to hand back papers, quick conference, help individuals or groups, take attendance, set a timer, quickly look at email or just breathe and get ready for content.
  5. Begin scoring or reviewing previous work,  Assessed work is not taken each day but every other day.  That should give me three days to look at student work, comment and hand back. 
  6. walk around the room and use dialogue, quick view of student work to know where to start with intended content.  keep checklists and scrap paper handy for anything that you will need to address. 

According to Daniel Willingham, Why don't students like school? (2009), teachers should take or be given time to keep anecdotal reports on their own practice.  Recorded as a journal or a weekly itinerary and commenting on what worked and didn't is often lost when setting up routines. This is why routines will fall apart from year to year.  Even listing # of worksheets to keep on hand as extra is efficient management.   The middle level school teachers at our union school taught me this practice years ago.  I did try to follow it, but I never figured out how to improve it.  It was a time when few of my colleagues had time to share ideas or encourage such practices.  I never received encouragement from administrators to take this extra step.  Over time, I stopped.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

E Literacy changes everything

Who would've thought that a simple homemade toy, promoted through collaborative effort online, would lead to.... The Imagination Foundation?  Caine's Arcade. 

Or that simple, impossible design could be immediately useful.  This following blog inspired me to have my own students create housing based on our world studies of architecture.
Design Tavern
Cardboard Housing       Why not? Cardboard is accessible and free, so why not let students' base knowledge combined with imagination produce something real? In this case, no costs, no repercussions with the possibility of it something being put to real use. This led me to think- with so many possibilities being shared on social networks, what are high school teachers preparing students for?  

At the ISEA conference (International Science, Electronics &Art) 2012 Albuquerque,  the theme, Machine Wilderness provided a forum for global discourse on the blending of art, technology and nature. What was traditionally considered knowledge is no longer the same.  For example, the installations at ISEA or the Denver Art Show (2010) art became the space in which dialogue creates an awareness of human induced distinctions and a new thread of memory. A particular biocultural project threading DNA data through audio and imagery captured emergent patterns that became the art. When installations draw not only inquiry from artists but scientists as well, this network of physicists, computer experts, (lab directors of Los Alamos) and others view it with an intention to continue answering questions that are currently unanswered. 

Colleges and Universities are responding to this by dissolving the lines between artists, designers, scholars and inventors. 
Experiment being conducted with headphones
At the University of Denver, new majors have emerged in the computer sciences. dual majors, cross disciplines are meant to appeal to students who "seek to work in spaces beyond what is already defined & familiar." For instance, in the Emergent Digital Practices (art degree) :

  • an artist creating interactive tools to improve strained international relations
  • a computer programmer making design and story-telling decisions for a game about economics
  • a writer performing audio-visual remixes to challenge our ideas of narrative form
  • a scientist creating virtual spaces and experiences to visualize, explore and convey ideas about climate change
The intention is to infuse (EDP) the digital practices of E-literacy with  critical approaches to cultural technologies, media philosophy, the investigation of electronic and new media arts, and studies in science fiction, trans-global politics and science.

DU's Department of Computer Science is focused on innovation. The constructvists programs merging technology with creativity, left brain with right brain, art-speak with techno-talk, analog with digital. Students utilize skills, developing  new technologies that are changing the ways humans perceive, think, and communicate.  They too are meant to  use the platform of edutainment to critique  trans-global politics, forums  for scientists to explain themselves to other fields of knowledge and for imagination to challenge the pillars of reality.   
I did not just find this on the Denver website, I am fortunate to be in constant conversation with my uncle, a professor whose  fields of knowledge are not easy to define.  

Teachers are no longer responsible for what students learn, they are meant to provide a safe platform for learning to begin while allowing and expecting them to excel as much as they can.  This is a difficult task, not every student will excel as much as they can.  So, I ask again, what do we keep in education and what do we leave behind?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Distance learning, IPads & E Literacy

Distance learning.
My husband is separated from me and my daughter by 2,000 miles during my sabbatical here in Santa Fe. We are determined to continue our traditional family time despite the distances.  How can we engage in meaningful dialogues that lead to less loneliness, greater happiness and motivation to appreciate all that we can from life in a new environment?  Our experiment with distance learning began with our Ipad.  Facetime  allowed us to bring "Flatdaddy" to the dinner table and eat as a family.  We could watch the sunset or the quail scurry in the backyard or just brush our teeth together.  Flatdaddy enabled us to continue the nightly storytime while I used a few moments for other chores.  Eventually, reading to a flat screen wore off.  Technology and the virtual world is no replacement for the real person.  Our daughter was quick to point out that hugging Flatdaddy was not the same.   Reading chapter books lost its appeal as she could become easily distracted by her own environment and lose track of the meaning of the story.  Instead of giving up, we have learned to adapt and to try something new. Marc did fly out to visit for a week and this face to face time  allowed us to collaborate on a new plan. Reading is still important but we are picking shorter readings for bedtime. Joke books, short mysteries (American Girl series) while gaming is also giving us reason to dialogue.  With the Ipad in front of her and my Iphone in her hand, our daughter used the Draw Something app to send a picture of a word to her father. She watched him receive the drawing, afforded hints and could laugh at his attempt to decipher it. Then he would send one back.  She spent at least an hour in bed laughing, reading and writing to her father.  The interactions were engaging, unintentional but purposeful.  The same affect happens with Will Short's Sunday Puzzle.  We all listen to the puzzle podcast, shout out guesses, replay the podcast, and discuss puzzle solutions.  Draw Something is great and now Draw a stickman has a momentary appeal.

So what has this experiment taught me about education? E Literacy  has the potential to be an integral part of the education process.  It is a vehicle for discussion, inquiry and construction of great ideas.  It works best when it is combined with real face to face interaction.  If long periods of time pass between feedback with individuals, people become disengaged.   It is important to adapt and to not rely on one tool forever. Technology is supposed to spawn change which means that adults & children are part of that collective intelligence, sharing actions, reflection and negotiation. This is difficult for educators and parents used to control  and continuity. Our Constructivist experiment worked because instant response, interaction was an incentive for fostering habits of critical thinking, and articulate development of perspective. Our daughter became engaged within local and geographically dispersed communities whether intentional or not.   

Not all E Literacies can activate higher orders of thinking. Active, intuitive and visual Learning styles (Felder-Silverman) benefit the most.  Learning styles can change and preferences for a learning style can be stimulated when lessons offer change or self reliance as internet can offer. Experience with text in any form, audio, paper, on line can be quantified, resulting in greater fluency.  Media focus on the nation's illiteracy that has elevated the need to explore multiple pathways for delivering practices that will encourage individual educational development.  Student eagerness to utilize tools for learning is  integral to learning opportunities no longer confined to the walls of a particular classroom.  If possibilities in learning are truly endless, we need to score our students on possibility, not the end result or on one attempt on an assignment.  Home environments that foster experimentation and practice has greater impact on developmental growth than all the best teachers combined. But parents need to be partners of schools, they need to know what practices yield certain results.  That feedback becomes purposeful when students are given the power to use it for developing, editing, and collaborating on ideas. Each level of E-Literate engagement impact student development and progress.  Basic E-literate practices: reading websites, email, chat-rooms, and text messaging conversations  Compared to traditional literacy activities such as, reading newspapers, manuals, instructions, non-fiction, novels etc. still factor much lower (-.42 level of consistency with student scores and frequency of documented practice)  However, students who used e-literacies to engage in developing, editing and sharing ideas and were translating English through home language  scored consistently higher in testing results.   

What have I discovered to be useful in recent practice? 

A simple homemade toy, promoted through collaborative effort online, lead to.... The Imagination Foundation?  Caine's Arcade. 

And it is in line with an idea I hope to have high school students focus on in a world studies course:

Whether cardboard or real - gaming is "edutainment"  Posted on August 28, 2012 by Misook Kimura.

interactive reading websites for elementary education - 

my heroes                 fact,fragment,frenzy                  website links to elementary games

just add word and instant poetry      tons of resources for creating poems

poetry4kids                                scribblenaut

As an educator- I need to rely not only on founded traditions in education, peer reviewed journals but contemporary ideas promoted through social networks.  I recently began following the following blogs:

Vicki Davis                                The Tempered Radical                Edutopia

Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009).
A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools.
Educational Media International, 46(1), 3-16. Retrieved from Education Research Complete.

Guthrie, K. L., & McCracken, H. (2010). ReflectivePedagogy: Making Meaning in Experiential
Based Online Courses. Journal ofEducators Online, 7(2), 1-21. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Park, C. L., Crocker, C., Nussey, J., Springate, J.,& Hutchings, D. (2010). Evaluation of a Teaching Tool - Wiki - in Online  
            Graduate Education. Journal of Information Systems Education, 21(3),313-321. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Savery, J. R., BE VOCAL: Characteristics of successfulonline instructors. (2010). Journal of Interactive
Online Learning, 9(3), 141-152. Retrieved from Education ResearchComplete.

Weaver, T. (2011April). Emerging Forms of Biocultural Expression, Lecture conducted at the Santa Fe
Institute. New Mexico.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

ISEA promotes ELiteracy

ISEA promotes international interdisciplinary discourse and discovery.
Agnes Chavez & Alessandro Saccoia (Taos, New Mexico & Milan Italy)
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Dual Visualization, video mapping & social interactive projections on a wall. Virtual trees created from thoughts and messages. 
(x)trees is an algorithmic drawing of tree forms generated from tweets and SMS (text) messages. 
We walk into this space and become surrounded by the everchanging trees.  With each text, branches and leaves develop as a result of the text appearing and disappearing. The immersion helps us acknowledge interconnectivity between nature and technology and public opinion concerning tree planting worldwide.  Because anyone can tweet, facts, quotes and myth are published onto the space.
How does this work? The program scans Twitter for  key words that appear as seeds under each tree.  Then the message appears as a leaf at that moment in time. I was struck by how much the world knows and does not know about trees.

I immediately wondered if this projection on a high school wall, usually blank and uninformative couldn't be utilized in a similar fashion?  We have 6 sending towns of student populations at our school.  It would be interesting to project a map of Lamoille county with towns that lit up everytime someone projected a text identified with what it means to be from that hometown.  I think key words would help us control the propensity for inappropriate language, if that is an immediate worry for some and would give us pause about hometown pride, how we identify ourselves locally.  This project could change to project images to decifer how our school community feels about the second amendment, or worldwide- where Lamoille alum are or where Lamoille alum hope to go.  Oh the places we can go....

Olol: our land our light
Blue Wade & Kura Puke
(Los Angeles, CA & Wellington, New Zealand)
Utilizing cardboard, LEDs, ceramics and electronics with sponsorship from intel Corp., lead to a project that investigates how science, technology and indigenous knowledge can create meaningful, contemporary promotion of identity, agency and autonomy.
To me, it meant listening to a looping audio of a young man describing the importance of surfing as integral to his indigenous identity.  These cardboard robots became avatars for that artist.  I realize as a classroom teacher, I often teacher about indigenous populations of North America in a historic sense (up to 1970s). I don't really know how to connect students with contemporary studies of populations now.  This gives me many ideas about identity as a communal and individual concept.

Just as Intel, artist Thomas Greenbaum and students of a private school were able to work collaboratively on this residency project, Lamoille students could do the same with IBM, and the artists in residency in Johnson, Vermont.  I especially loved the poetic sounds of student voices and cardboard imagery.