Colin's Sandbox

Archive for February, 2014

How I play games and embracing change

by on Feb.28, 2014, under #etlead

What’s Your Bartle Sign?

Just for completeness’s sake I took the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology and was instantly flummoxed.  I haven’t ever really played a MMORPG, at least not for the past 15 years.  So therefore most of the questions didn’t really evoke a valid response to me; I have never been part of a guild, I don’t kill in arenas, I haven’t really seek out areas to explore, so I just tried to answer the questions as best I could imagining that I was in a game of the sort.


I guess that means I’m an explorer, which makes sense, since I tended to answer the questions from the mindset of someone who’d rather build stuff, learn new things, and sometimes work with others than one who takes lusty pride in destroying others in-game. (continue reading…)

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Reflections on #aste2014: #etlead Week 6

by on Feb.24, 2014, under #etlead

ASTE is almost over, and while I’ve been excited to have been a part of the conference I will be happy to be home with my family!

This week’s #etlead essential question was concerning the differences between “then and now” when it comes to educational environments.  It would be interesting to jump in the time machine and show up at the first ASTE, held back in 1981, a year or so before I started my formal education. (continue reading…)

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#etlead On the changing face of educational technology

by on Feb.22, 2014, under #etlead

I’ll be the first to admit: I am a procrastinator at times. There I was, sitting in the airport in Juneau, bound for Anchorage, when I heard the call go out: flight 67 was to be delayed for about 1.5 hours! Perfect! Now I’ll get to my blog post, and on time even!  But this was no ordinary trip, this was the journey to ASTE, and I was bound to run into someone I knew in the airport.  Sure enough, Annie Mackovjack, HS language arts teacher from Gustavus, AK, and one of my favorite teachers out there, happened to be sitting in the lounge and I had to catch up, leaving me with little time to complete it before I turn in.  So in the interest of punctuality over completeness, this blog post will be short, and I’ll likely expand on it over the weekend as I trek down nostalgia lane.

The topic this week is that of self-examination: essentially, what was the learning environment like when I was a student and how is the teaching culture that I’m involved with different today?

Seely Brown and Thomas describe “A Tale of Two Cultures”: the old culture of learning was “mechanistic”, a “teaching-based” environment in which students were taught, and the new culture, which places the student front and center, the “learner-based” environment.  Another way to describe this difference in culture: “sage on the stage” (teacher focused) vs. “guide on the side” (learner focused).

Direct instruction, in the form of lecture, was the predominant culture of learning when I was a student in the 80’s and 90’s.  I can’t complain too much; it has brought me to where I am today after all.  I was fortunate to have some teachers who were excellent lecturers and brought to the classroom the relevance, weight, and history of the content and their enthusiasm couldn’t be contained.  Those teachers more than made up for the others to whom I never made a connection, who seemed more interested in making sure the students did things their way and most importantly (my perception, anyhow), didn’t cause any disruptions in class.

A lecture, delivered from the “sage on the stage”, can be a powerful tool, but only when it used to light a fire, to show students the connections between different content areas, demonstrate urgency, the call to action, perhaps offer students their first glimpse into a much larger world.  In my view it has a tendency to become blunt with overuse, like any other tool, and disconnects the audience.  On the other side of the argument is often pitched the work of John Dewey, Vygotsky, and others – the constructivist viewpoint – whereby learners construct the meaning of the lesson themselves, primarily through doing.  Teachers are there to guide the inquiry of the students, the proverbial “guide on the side”.

As in anything else in education, there is no clear-cut path through the woods.  Wuppermann and Schwerdt argue in an article in EducationNext for a return to greater levels of direct instruction techniques to maximize achievement in math and science.  This is countered by many valid points brought up in the comments: primarily concerning the validity of the test data used, derived from the “Trends in International Math and Science Study“: is the data being measured reflective of so-called “21st Century Skills” emphasizing collaboration and creative problem solving?  In addition, this focus on the teacher presumes that the teacher is the primary provider of knowledge, and as the Internet becomes more and more available to every student with a mobile device, I believe that the students will become disconnected quickly as they move up through the ranks.  The study cited only looked at 8th grade results, so it’s hard to get a sense of that hypothesis off-hand, even if you accept the validity of the data.

Like many other dichotomies presented in education though, I believe this one also to be false; you can have your cake and eat it too.  Don’t be wary of the lecture, just use it effectively.  The hot topic in this regard is “flipping” the classroom, taking the lecture to the students on their own time when they can focus on the material (ideally in small chunks) and go back over it if they need to.  The teacher can still “bring it” in the classroom for that necessary and personal face-to-face feel, but will have more time to work on real problems and projects with the students in the classroom itself.  Paul Anderson (bozemanbiology on YouTube) offers, in my view, the exemplar version of the flipped lecture.  The lectures are typically short, supported by pictures and text, and engaging to watch.  I’m long removed from the biology classroom, and in the past year I’ve probably watched an even dozen of his lectures while cooking dinner.

So is flipping the classroom and providing students with short lectures at home the end-all solution?  At the end of the day, the teacher, the professional, needs to balance this just like every other tool in the bag, and actively seek to find the approach that works for their students.

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#etlead Week 5 reflection

by on Feb.19, 2014, under #etlead


Artwork generated via

I spent the better part of the past few days around preparing, giving, and formatting session notes for the Minecraft for Beginners Google Hangout for the Gamifi-ED OOC.  Prior to that I was taking an active role in many of the other Gamifi-ED sessions and that’s been very rewarding, although has taken quite a bit of time.  Somewhere in all of that I was able to read Dave Burgess’s book, Teach Like a Pirate, and I found that the specifics on presentation hooks was very helpful.  I’m going to be working with another educator this upcoming Sunday during ASTE and I’m hoping to take some of those lessons and parlay that into the session.  Wondering how I can get music in there?  One thing that I will definitely pay attention too though is the transitions between different segments of the presentation: very important for maintaining that *feel* of a good ride. (continue reading…)

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#etlead Maintaining excellence in innovation

by on Feb.15, 2014, under #etlead

How do we maintain excellence as we innovate?

When I contemplated this week’s essential question I admit I was stumped – how can you know what you are doing is objectively “excellent”, when you are truly innovating, that is, to “do something in a new way”, or “to have new ideas about how something can be done” (Merriam-Webster).  How do you measure that what you have done is an improvement, or at least maintains the same high standard that you have set for yourself in your work? (continue reading…)

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