Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes; 3 Reasons Why Teachers Should Play Pokemon Go


Curiosity got the best of me. For the past few weeks, neighborhood kids by the dozens, maybe hundreds, are heading outdoors, riding their bikes, meeting friends for a walk. Eagerly walking their dogs without provocation. What is the cause of this activity, this wellness revolution?

If you haven't heard about #PokemonGo, then you have been in perpetual airplane mode, or trapped beneath a large immovable object. At the urging of my kids, I downloaded the augmented reality (AR) app a few days ago and captured four Pokemon within a few minutes. I play a few minutes per day so that I can speak somewhat intelligently about the game if asked about it. I also find the learning potential of this very intriguing. Instead of getting on my soap box about the newest tech craze, I decided to ask local experts, 

"Why do you think your teachers should play Pokemon Go?"

My son, Trevor, 16, said, "Pokemon Go helps people learn about geography, relative location, distance, and global positioning."

My stepson, Billy, also 16, said, "This game can help teachers understand what augmented reality (AR) is. Teachers who want to gamify their classes have a good example to learn from."



Jamie, 14, was holding her iPhone while roller blading with several friends through the neighborhood park. She said, "Pokemon Go gets kids out of the house. It gives teachers something they can talk about with their students."

She's right. Every evening, several families can be seen walking down our street, their phones poised to capture a prized Snorlax or Mewtwo. Recent news reports indicate the number of daily Pokemon Go users exceeding 21 million players. For reference, that's more daily users than Twitter, Minecraft, or Netflix. Last week, a few thousand people converged at "the Bean" on Chicago's lakefront as part of a Pokemon meet up. In addition to the obvious competitive fun, collaboration, and teamwork is integral to this gaming experience.

Teachers and parents should play Pokemon Go so they can promote safe practices and guide moderation. The potential hazards of walking, riding, or driving while looking at your phone are easily understood. I'm spending quality time with my kids as they teach me rules and strategies to become a better player. Like other forms of social gaming and social media, Pokemon Go provides a way for teachers and students to interact, build relationships, and engage in relevant learning experiences. 


Related Reading



A Beginner's Guide to Pokemon Go - USA Today, Brett Molina


Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Learning; Squeezing 20 Pounds Into a 10 Pound Bag

It's a short summer because my district has adjusted our academic calendar to follow a collegiate semester model. Even though little of this if formally organized, I am still squeezing a lot of learning into the shortened summer break. Here's a summary of what I am reading, apps I am using for personal learning, and my favorite learning activity, traveling.


Future Wise: David Perkins asks educational leaders to discuss current curricula to determine how schools will deliver "lifeworthy" learning experiences. "What is worth learning in school?" is the prevailing question raised by this book.

Worlds of Making: Laura Fleming helps me develop a recipe for establishing a maker space in our newly remodeled media center. Particular attention is focused on school culture and addressing the "why" question of recreating learning spaces.

Mindset: When I find myself slipping into patterns of "fixed-mindset-ness" Carol Dweck helps me get my mind right. I'm re-reading Mindset for the 4th time in preparation of supporting a school-wide cultural shift with growth mindset as a focal point.

Innovator's Mindset: George Couros provides thought-provoking questions and suggested activities for closing the relevancy gap for learners, young and old, in our systems. Examples of innovative best practice are shared with the reader. My takeaway, innovation should be internally, and personally adopted before system-wide change can occur.

Launch: John Spencer and A. J. Juliani are helping me learn more about design thinking and how this strategy can be used to create meaningful learning experiences. I'm working my way through this book now. This book comes fully loaded with practical techniques that offer immediate implementation.

Mindstorms: Seymour Papert's book gets frequently quoted by several of my favorite bloggers; I recently purchased a used copy from a local college. Much of the material is beyond my current thinking, but Papert's argument of anyone being able to direct their learning personally under the right conditions is convincing. I would enjoy a book-study course about this material.

Duolingo: After years of talking about it, I'm dedicating a minimum of ten minutes per day to learn Spanish. Will I become fluent speaking a second language? Time will tell. This app is keeping me interested and engaged.

Ultimate Guitar: This app is giving me an excuse to get my guitar out of the closet more often. I've never learned to read music, so the tab system is allowing me to play along with more songs in my iTunes playlist.

Codecademy: My mom sent me a link to Codecademy, so I created an account. I have yet to start a coding course, but the options are numerous, and the process includes differentiation. I will keep you posted on this one.

Like others, I enjoy the adventure of travel. Meeting new people, or meeting people that I've previously only known virtually, enjoying new experiences, and seeing new sights are boosts to my curiosity. Traveling, for me, offers authentic challenges to our perspective and character. Traveling reveals the real me.

As I mature, I am becoming less interested in what people know, but grow increasingly interested in how people become better educated. As you can see, reading, writing, playing, and traveling make up the core of my learning. 

What about you? How are you learning this summer? Comments are welcome - thank you for sharing.







Thursday, July 7, 2016

Elevating Engagement; Revisiting Residency

When venturing out to world wide web, do we view the various landing points as tools or places? 

Many people consider Google search as a tool, but Twitter as a place. The key difference being we typically associate places as locations of social interaction and contribution. We establish residency by leaving traces of our identity behind as we move point to point. The longer we stay, and the more we engage with others, the further we move away from the visitor role towards residency. A few months ago, I wrote about mapping Internet usage based on the research of White and Le Cornu. I found this mapping activity to be personally enlightening, and it also helped me have focused conversations about the places our learners are most likely to interact and share.

Dave White explains visitors and residents are not separate classifications but rest on a continuum to help explain how people use the web and where places of engagement are likely to occur. The Internet mapping exercise helps visualize our web-based activities and explain our digital identity. When we combine White and Le Cornu's research with Stephen Downes and George Siemens's theory of connectivism (socially networked learning), we assume increased engagement and more relevant learning occurring towards the resident end of the V/R continuum. According to White, neither end of the continuum is favored over the other. However, we're facing dramatic declines in student engagement in school; it makes sense to learn as much as we can about how (tools) students use the web, and more importantly, where (places) they are likely to engage with other learners.




Next week, I am leading a workshop (SchoologyNEXT) investigating the premise that a learning management system (LMS) can also provide a personal learning environment (PLE). In other words, the LMS is thought of more readily by learners as a place than a tool. If this shift towards residency occurs can we expect increased student engagement? There's not much in the way of formal research in this area, but the relationship and impact seem plausible.


If students move towards residency, then increased interaction will elevate student engagement.

Full disclosure, I subscribe to the thinking popularized by Audrey Watters, Dean Shareski, Aaron Davis, and others who suggest that those who want to work and play transparently on the web should own a domain, a web-based residence. However, this leap to residential transparency is very dramatic for many teachers and students. The LMS, in our case, Schoology, provides easy entry, scaffolded practice, and a coherent center for web-based interaction. Can the LMS provide sanctuary for the digital nomad? Will this provide a stepping-stone towards personal residence?

How can we help learners move towards residency? 

Stephen Downes says these are the key elements of a personal learning environment:
  • A place for curated material
  • A place for creating content
  • A place for interaction
  • A place for reflection
  • A place for sharing 

Whether it's a learning management system or some other digital age tool, guiding students in the creation of a personal learning environment will help them move towards the resident end of the V/R continuum. It is here where content creation and interaction foster engagement, and for many, deeper, more meaningful learning. I am interested in your thoughts about this thesis. Can student engagement be elevated by guiding them down a path of web residency?


Related Reading


Visitors and Residents - David White






photo credit: The Writing Desk via photopin (license)